Last season, while loading into matchmade activities, I would sometimes inspect my soon-to-be teammates and despair. Usually because one of them was 'The Bow Guy'. And look, I get it: Bows in Destiny 2 are really cool. You want to feel like a sexy space ninja delivering pointy death from the shadows. You probably have a poster of Legolas on your wall. But surely at some point you looked at the actual damage you were doing and realised that using harsh language on the aliens was a more viable option. Bows were too slow and too weak. Sexy but overrated. The Beats headphones of Destiny 2 weapons.
That changed this season when bows got a +10% damage buff against minor (ie rank and file) enemies, which was just enough to make them feel like a crispy option for clearing trash mobs. Then came the real juice, in the form of the exotic catalyst for the Trinity Ghoul bow, which turned an otherwise joke weapon into arguably the best AoE option in the game. The catalyst upgrade makes Trinity Ghoul's signature 'lightning rod' perk much, much easier to proc. Suddenly you're able to flash-fry whole waves of enemies without worrying about niceties like, oh, aiming. In short, bows are back on the menu, and I no longer judge my rando single-serving companions for equipping one.
But Tim, why are you banging on about bows, when I came here for some hot sword action? Haven't you not so much buried the lede as sunk the lede's body into the Mariana Trench? Yes, dear reader, but only because you need to know that this season swords are enjoying an even bigger glow up than bows.
As with bows, Destiny's swords are inherently cool—they scratch the lightsaber itch while also playing into the game's magical knight tropes. And unlike bows, swords were already good last season—in large part thanks to a mod from the seasonal artifact called Passive Guard. Once slotted, this gave you a substantial damage reduction whenever your sword was out, which enabled a super aggressive play style.
Honestly, because almost all of Destiny's bosses have some sort of ludicrous close-range stomp attack, Passive Guard felt pretty much essential and I worried that, with it now gone, swords would be back to meme status. Happily that's not the case. This season's artifact has a new mod, called Lucent Blade, which uses the Charged with Light system (read our guide here) to give swords a chunky damage buff. The other big factor in the renaissance of Destiny's oversized cutlery has been the release of two new swords, both which can be acquired from this season's Umbral Engrams.
These swords are actually reprised versions of exotic weapons from Destiny 1, and as such each has a unique heavy attack. However these new versions are legendary weapons, meaning you can also run them in a loadout with an exotic—like Witherhoard, the brilliant new grenade launcher also released this season, or, hey, that cool Trinity Ghoul you may have heard about.
Of the two new swords, Temptation's Hook is based on Bolt Caster and fires a spinning disc of electro death, making it useful for dealing substantial damage from a distance as well as up close. According to the analysis by the ever-excellent nerds on the Massive Breakdown team, Temptation's Hook does slightly less damage than other swords in the Adaptive class, but with perks like Vorpal Weapon and Relentless Strikes plus a Boss Spec mod, it still absolutely slays.
However, the big daddy of swords this season is the Falling Guillotine. This absolute lad of a sword looks like a tri-pronged purple tuning fork, but hits like an extinction event asteroid. It's unlocked from rank 30 of the season pass, after which you can target it from Umbral Engrams by focusing them before decryption at Drifter's talking dustbin. Which you're going to want to do because hoo boy is this sword the stone cold nuts when it comes to boss DPS.
Falling Guillotine is based on Dark Drinker, which means its heavy attack is a whirling carousel of void evisceration. The perks you're looking for here, in terms of maximum boss damage, are Jagged Edge, Relentless Strikes and Whirlwind Blade. The combo is one heavy spin attack, followed by 5 light attacks—rinse and repeat. Throw in other debuffs and buffs, like my beloved Oppressive Darkness grenade and the Lucent Blade mod, and yellow bar enemies just get deleted.
In fact, Falling Guillotine is doing so much damage that it might actually be bugged. YouTuber Ehroar noted that Falling Guillotine seems to do an additional chunk of damage a second or so after the initial heavy attack, but with no accompanying animation. Bungie hasn't commented yet, but I did notice one of the Hearthstone designers offering an alternative explanation, which if I'm reading it right suggests the damage is correct, but displays wrong due to server/client issues.
Whatever the case, Falling Guillotine is the meta when it comes to killing big stuff fast. When I look around The Tower, almost everyone has a purple chopper equipped. Not since the glory days of Gjallarhorn, the infamous exotic rocket launcher from Destiny 1, has a single heavy weapon felt so dominant. Which is what always happens when something is both fun and strong, I just didn't expect the second coming to be a sword. As a result I've already started to worry about when the Falling Guillotine nerf is going to come.
Bungie is notorious for hammering down nails that stick out too far, and when it comes to weapon balance that means anything which it perceives as being overused or crowding out other options. It's a mentality that's seen previously ubiquitous weapons like Izangi's Burden and Whisper of the Worm hit hard.
Right now if you're not using Falling Guillotine, you're pretty much playing wrong, which means a nerf is surely inbound. It has great ammo economy, does disgusting damage, and makes you feel like an absolute badass. In that world, there's no way I ever equip a linear fusion rifle which <checks notes> does none of those things. Hopefully if Bungie does decide to change Falling Guillotine, it takes a light touch. Swords are the most fun part of this season so far, and it'd be a shame to see them cast back to the hipsters-only shadows.
Next time: We talk sidearms.