Do you remember that episode of The Simpson where Mr Burns is playing Ms. Pac-Man? "That's it. That's it. Come closer," he says, kiting the unsuspecting ghosts towards a power pill. "Mwwwaaahaha! Ironic, isn't it? The hunter has become the hunted. Oh God Smithers, I feel so alive!" That's the exact emotion I feel when gunning down shielded hobgoblins in Destiny 2. Allow me to explain.
Throughout Destiny's five-year lifespan, hobgoblins have been dickheads. Upon taking the slightest amount of damage, these robot snipers pop a flaming shield that renders them invulnerable for what feels like an ice age. During this downtime you have two options: 1) Break off and fight other enemies, at which point the hobgoblin will recommence shooting you in the brain. 2) Stand there like you're queuing for a toilet at a party whilst its friends light you up. Presumably while laughing in binary.
With the advent of Shadowkeep, this problem has not only gone away, killing hobgoblins has become one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Shadowkeep introduced something called the Seasonal Artifact. Unlocked via XP, the artifact gives players access to a limited selection of weapon and armor mods with niche but powerful effects. These mods include stuff like 'Oppressive Darkness', which applies a weakening debuff to any enemy hit by a void grenade, and Thunder Coil, which massively juices up all your arc melee blows.
These mods will go away at the end of the season when the current artifact is replaced by a new one with a different set of mods. Because of that limited lifespan, Bungie has been able to experiment with far more esoteric mods than have previously been possible. However, of the current suite, Anti-Barrier Rounds is the most ubiquitous.
Its description states: "Shield piercing rounds designed to bypass combatant defenses. Strong against Barrier Champions." Barrier Champions are one of three new special enemy types introduced in Shadowkeep which require specific types of damage—Anti-Barrier, Overload and Unstoppable—to defeat efficiently. Champions have proved a welcome addition to the combat sandbox, because in relevant activities it becomes almost akin to a match-three minigame when thinking about your loadout and fireteam comp.
But the reason Anti-Barrier Rounds is such a standout is because it does more than just bodies the respective Champion type. As players swiftly discovered, it also lets you shoot clean through hobgoblins' flame shields. And friends, let me tell you, hosing those assholes down with an SMG while they're behind a fiery wall is an illicit, borderline erotic, thrill.
But wait, there's more. Anti-Barrier Rounds can shoot through those enormous rotating shields on Vex Hydras (which is sure to be useful when we eventually face the Undying Mind). And they can fire through the shields of Cabal chonky bois too. How about Hive Knights? Yep. Pop them in the face as they're cowering behind those boney cupboard doors.
Okay, so good perk is good. You get it. But we're not done. There's more synergy to be unlocked by the munificent brilliance of Anti-Barrier Rounds thanks to an armor mod in the seasonal artifact called Breach Refractor. It's description states: "Grants grenade energy on final blows with shield-piercing weapons or when a member of your fireteam shuts down a barrier Champion's ability."
Thanks to a glitch, you can actually apply two copies of this mod to your chest piece (see here for how), but honestly the effect is potent with just one Breach Refractor mod equipped. Every kill you get with Anti-Barrier rounds now charges your grenade ability. Next, try using a perk like Demolitionist on your SMG or Auto-Rifle for additional grenade energy on kills. Finally consider an exotic like Nezarec's Sin or Verity's Brow for Warlock, both of which will speed your grenade charge further when specced for correctly. Result: it's raining pineapples.
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Destiny 2 Shadowkeep roadmap - what to expect
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep exotics - all we know so far
Destiny 2 Season Pass - price, rewards, and more
Destiny 2 leveling - zoom your way to cap
Destiny 2 weapons - the best guns to grind for
Given how good grenades are in Shadowkeep, again thanks to the seasonal artifact (remember that Oppressive Darkness mod I mentioned earlier), it's possible to create truly degenerate builds. Which is kinda weird given that Luke Smith wrote a three-part, trillion-word epic about how guardians had become too powerful and the creep needed to be reined in, but whatever.
I do feel like Bungie has delivered on Smith's other stated goal of creating more build diversity and adding depth to our character sheets. The only downside to Anti-Barrier Rounds is that it has made SMGs—let's be honest, I mean Recluse—even more meta than they already were. Which is odd given that Recluse is so strong that Bungie decided to nerf, uh… [checks notes] … the entire concept of 'pinnacle' weapons.
Anyway, that's a small price to pay for being able to stick it to hobgoblins. The seasonal artifact is such a success that the arrival of a new one December when Season of Dawn drops is my most anticipated thing in Destiny 2. Hopefully there's a mod that renders you immune to boss stomps.