A soldier from Helldivers gives a patriotic salute while their comrade burns an alien corpse to death in the background.
A soldier from Helldivers gives a patriotic salute while their comrade burns an alien corpse to death in the background.

Nestled on page eight of Helldivers 2's free warbond is an unassuming gun—the SG-85 Slugger. I didn't pay much mind to the Slugger for a long time, or even bother unlocking it, because it's a variant of the Punisher, a shotgun I don't like. That changed when my friend informed me that the Slugger isn't really a shotgun—it's a shotgun-shaped rifle that fires slugs that can unalive anything in seconds. It's so good at killing that I feel like I'm cheating when I use it.

So I wasn't surprised when the Slugger got the biggest nerfs in yesterday's Helldivers 2 patch that also buffed sniper rifles, flame damage, and heavy armor. Arrowhead hit the popular gun where it hurts:

  • Reduced stagger.

  • Reduced damage from 280 to 250.

  • Reduced demolition force.

Responding to feedback on the Helldivers Discord server, senior game designer Alexus Kravchenko said the Slugger changes came down to the fact that it was a shotgun that didn't behave like a shotgun.

"The truth is, [the] Slugger was just hands down the best sniper rifle out there, which is not fitting for, you know, a shotgun," Kravchenko wrote.

It's true: The Slugger can't equip a scope, but its high accuracy and low damage dropoff made it a better option for precision shooters than, say, the Diligence Counter-Sniper rifle that's specifically designed for the role. Makes sense to me, but if the goal was to make the Slugger less of a long-range gun, I wonder why Arrowhead chose to reduce its overall damage instead of increasing its damage dropoff. I suppose an across the board damage nerf accomplishes the same thing as long as the Slugger still feels strong at its intended ranges (short-to-medium, apparently).

helldivers 2 discord
helldivers 2 discord

Some fans pointed out to Kravchenko that, instead of nerfing the Slugger for being too sniper-like, it'd make more sense to buff the snipers to be more Slugger-like. Arrowhead has talked in the past about why  "Don't Nerf, Only Buff" is a bad design philosophy for a PvE game, but in this case, Arrowhead is doing both.

"We are looking into the sniper rifles as well. We buffed the [Diligence Counter-Sniper], Dominator, and [Anti-Materiel Rifle] in this patch, so I'd say we're getting there," he wrote, reinforcing his previous point. "A sniper rifle shouldn't match a shotgun, those have totally different use cases."

Those sniper rifle changes refer to two big buffs in yesterday's patch that increased the AMR support weapon's damage by a whopping 30% and upgraded the Counter-Sniper primary weapon to medium armor piercing. I'm having a lot more fun with snipers now.

As for what's on the docket for Helldivers 2's next balancing patch, which is likely weeks away if the current pattern persists: Kravchenko says to expect changes to the Punisher Plasma.