Huge changes coming to Destiny 2's masterwork armor and weapons

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen image.
(Image credit: Bungie)

As an avid reader of the This Week at Bungie blog, I have long since made my peace with the way Destiny 2 balance changes tend to be a mixture of 'giveth' and 'confusingly taketh away'. Today's entry, which focuses on changes to how masterwork armor and weapons function, is a perfect example of the form. On the one hand we're getting some much-requested quality of life stuff. On the other it's going to become more fiddly to generate Orbs of Light. 

Below I'll break down each of the major changes, which go live with the arrival of The Witch Queen on 22 February (and start of Season 16). I'll also give some analysis on what I expect the impact to be. Let's begin with the good stuff:

You'll be able to unlock all mods in the seasonal artifact 

The mods in the seasonal artifact play a massive part in determining the weapon meta and play style for several months, so being arbitrarily locked out of over half of them always felt like a strange throttle on creativity and build crafting. From Season 16 onwards, provided you grind out enough XP, you'll be able to try all 25 out.

"For each unlock after the 12th, increased XP will be required for the next Artifact mod unlock, so the choice of which order to unlock mods still requires some decision-making," explained Bungie. "And if you change your mind? You can still reset your Artifact and make your picks again."

This has felt needed for a while, and I even asked game director Joe Blackburn about exactly this change in our interview last September.

Autos will no longer suck ass at stunning Overloads

According to the post, next season's Champion-stunning mods will include anti-barrier scout and bow, Unstoppable glaive (the new weapon type being added with the Witch Queen), and Overload auto rifle and SMG. Thankfully, Bungie said it has done some work to make the latter two more reliable.

Previously using automatic weapons on Overload champions involved shooting them until you reached the middle of the mag at which point they would theoretically stun. In practice, the result was notoriously reliable, especially when compared to bows or hand cannons with explosive perks. The return of anti-barrier scout means you really should make sure you get a Dead Man's Tale with Vorpal Weapon before the Presage mission gets sunset. It's going to be an absolute beast. 

Destiny 2 vault space discussion imagery.

Presumably it'll be the glaive's ranged attack that stuns Unstoppable champions, as I don't want to get in poking distance. (Image credit: Bungie)

The cost of switching elements on gear is being slashed

Currently it costs an exorbitant amount of upgrade materials to swap the elemental affinity (ie Void, Arc, Solar or Stasis) on a piece of armor. As a result, players end up hoarding vast wardrobes or armor in their vaults to accommodate loadouts which require mods that can only be slotted into a corresponding elemental piece. To alleviate that pressure, Bungie is cutting the cost wildly: "A fully Masterworked piece of Legendary armor can be changed to another energy type for the cost of 10,000 Glimmer and one Upgrade Module, while a fully Masterworked piece of Exotic armor can be changed to another energy type for the cost of 20,000 Glimmer and one Upgrade Module." 

The only bummer is that it costs anything at all, as this prevents third-party tools such as Destiny Item Manager from using the API to handle the switch as part of its (excellent) loadout system. Hopefully we'll get there eventually, but in the meantime I'm not going to stop begging for vault space.

Generating Orbs won't be tied to masterwork weapons

The final change is the most surprising one, and I can only read it as a backdoor nerf to our overall power. Right now it's very easy to generate Orbs of Light by getting multikills with masterworked weapons. Orbs matter because they juice up your super meter and proc various effects via the Charged with Light mod system. Clearly Bungie feels it's a bit too easy, because that's no longer going to be a thing. Instead, in order for multi-kills to generate orbs, you'll need to slot a new helmet mod that will generate orbs on multikills—but only from weapons of a corresponding element. So in order to maximise the effect, you'd want to run, for example, a solar helmet mod with a matching solar energy and power weapon. 

These new mods will be free to all players, and it sounds like there will be a kinetic version also, as Bungie specifically mentions being able to generate orbs from Thorn. Indeed, one of the obvious benefits of this change is that exotic weapons like Thorn, which can't currently be masterworked with an exotic catalyst, will now be able to generate orbs.

This is the one change that feels pretty fiddly to me. Our armor mod slots are already way overcrowded, and in PvE given that you tend to want to run an ammo finder at all times, it's going to make it very hard to justify using stuff like targeting mods over these new orb generation ones.

Interestingly Bungie mentions that part of the motivation for this change is that the new weapon crafting system will require players to generate orbs as part of the process of building your god roll gun. I expect we'll hear more about that in the coming weeks. There is another potential silver lining: At present, the orb generation functionality takes up some of the 'perk budget' on weapons.

Perhaps the freed up space could be used for additional perks. Or, in other words: Outlaw, Headstone and Firefly on the same gun is definitely happening. 

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.