Destiny 2’s Hunters Have Lost All Identity

We were stuck in the Vault of Glass for hours. My team was doing everything in their power to take down the Master variant of Templar in hopes of claiming our own Timelost Fatebringer. Alas, our damage output wasn’t enough to finish the boss. I started to pitch a few ideas.

“What if I use Tether to debuff the boss?” I asked.

“Tether doesn’t stack with Particle Deconstruction anymore,” a friend told me.

“OK, what about Revenant? I can slow Templar to activate Focusing Lens.”

“That only applies to whoever spawns Well of Radiance now.”

“Golden Gun?”

“Sure, but Thundercrash deals more damage.”

So there I was, stuck between using Golden Gun or switching to my Titan. I ended up using my Golden Gun Hunter in a stubborn attempt to prove that Hunters can still pump out great damage. We did not defeat the Templar that night.

This has been the experience of many Hunter mains for months now, but it has truly reached a fever pitch with the release of the Bungie 30th Anniversary Pack. Nerfs to dodge cooldowns, Duskfield Grenades, ability cooldowns in general, and the presence of debuff mods every season have made Hunters undesirable for most PvE content. It’s gotten so bad that some Hunter mains have been kicked from groups solely for their class of choice.

So how did we get to this point? Most community members have pointed to the Breach And Clear mod in Season of the Splicer, but I feel this slow descent into obsolescence started with the release of Shadowkeep. This expansion did two things:

  1. It added a seasonal Artifact that gives Exotic-tier effects that rotate quarterly.
  2. Buff and debuff stacking were effectively removed.

The Artifact was and still is a great idea. It gives Bungie an avenue to increase player power without worrying about the ramifications of power creep since these effects are temporary. However, only three seasons have lacked a debuff mod since Shadowkeep was released—Dawn, Worthy, and Hunt. More seasons have had debuff mods than not, resulting in many players expecting mods like Particle Deconstruction with each season. And since we live in a world where Stasis exists, the Nighstalker's Shadowshot Super has lost all value. None of this would be a real issue if debuffs could stack, but that was removed during Shadowkeep as well.

Hunters could always fall back on Golden Gun—just as Warlocks have Well of Radiance and Titans have Ward of Dawn—but it's become less sought after ever since Titans received the Cuirass of the Falling Star Exotic. Now, Titans can dish out slightly more damage than Golden Gun in a single slam that also kills nearby targets. Most LFG teams now look for Titans to fulfill the DPS role Golden Gun used to fill, even if Golden Gun is much safer to use.

The only remaining use for Hunters has been to inflict slow through their Revenant Super, activating an Artifact mod called Focusing Lens that stacks with other buffs. Sadly, Bungie removed this interaction with the 30th Anniversary Pack. That patch also nerfed both Hunter dodges in hopes of making the class ability less potent in the Crucible. While that was certainly achieved, it also nerfed Hunters in PvE. Specs like Bottom Tree Nightstalker were tuned around frequently dodging and using your melee, something you can't do as frequently now unless you run The Sixth Coyote or Omnioculus. And if you're a player that loved using Dragon's Shadow or Wormhusk Crown, you can forget about using Gambler's Dodge.

Destiny has never followed the MMO holy trinity—tank, healer, and DPS—for balancing its classes. Bungie instead relied on flavor and minor mechanical differences to give each class an identity. Warlocks are space wizards that manipulate their abilities to gain unique benefits. It’s why they can consume grenades to gain buffs, convert Stasis grenades into ice turrets, or use their melee to activate a life steal effect. Titans are space marines that act as immovable objects. Instead of relying solely on space magic, Titans wield their fists and use more physical tools like barricades to stay alive.

Hunters are supposed to be Destiny’s take on space cowboys and bounty hunters, and the first Destiny reflected this well. Hunters had mobile Supers, a mix of ranged and utility melee abilities, and the Nightstalker’s Shadowshot Super doubled as excellent crowd control and Super regeneration for your team. When all else failed, you could also rely on invisibility to get yourself out of trouble.

Everything I just listed has been rendered obsolete or less impactful in Destiny 2:

  • Mobile Supers are no longer a gimmick since every class has roaming Supers.
  • Debuffs are given out by the Artifact too frequently, making Shadowshot obsolete.
  • Stasis has made Shadowshot’s crowd control irrelevant for most content.
  • Thundercrash has taken Golden Gun’s place as the best DPS Super, even if Golden Gun is much safer to use.
  • Generating Super energy is less impactful with the existence of Power Preservation, Masterwork weapons, and Raid Banners.
  • Dodge nerfs have impacted all Hunter melee abilities, Nightstalker’s invisibility uptime, and the effectiveness of certain Exotics.

As a Hunter main, it’s been heartbreaking seeing this whole meta shift unfold. I’ve spent dozens of Masterwork materials and hundreds of hours making Hunter builds that excel in PvE and PvP. The worst part is that I’m in a small minority of players that can afford to make such builds. I own every Combat Style mod and have over 300 pieces of high-stat armor in my Vault. I can farm Nightfalls at any time to get Ascendant Shards. Very, very few players can say the same. Yet even a player like myself seriously struggles to make Hunters stand out from their Warlock and Titan contemporaries. I can’t imagine how casual players get by.

To be clear, I do not want any class nerfed. I just want Hunters to feel useful again. Let Shadowshot stack with Artifact debuffs. Make Bottom Tree Golden Gun deal slightly more damage than Thundercrash if you land all three headshots. Give Arcstrider something. Revert the Duskfield changes. Those would be some great first steps to giving back some of the identity that Hunters lost months ago.

Bungie has the perfect opportunity to fix these issues with the Void 3.0 rework that’s coming with The Witch Queen. Nightstalker is one of the Hunter’s best PvE subclasses, so this rework will either make or break Hunters for the foreseeable future. There’s a chance to revitalize the Hunter with some unique mechanics that set it apart from the other Void subclasses. But this is also a chance for Bungie to homogenize all of the classes even further with class-agnostic Fragments and buffs. For the sake of all Hunter mains, I hope Bungie opts for the former.

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