“Halo 5 has a well balanced sandbox, almost everything is worth picking up”
Chances are, if someone talks about what Halo 5 does right, you’ll hear a variation on the above sentence. And it is half true, everything is worth picking up.
But thats not the most important part of sandbox balancing in Halo. It is an important element, an element that Halo CE - Reach in some areas failed at. But other elements are important, like balancing for ease if use or designing a weapon matrix for a pick up based game.
So I will now explain why the Halo 5 sandbox has some large flaws with larger knock on implications, and how we can improve it going forward.
The first obvious one, automatics. In Halo 5 they make CQC encounters very uninteresting. “but they are CQC weapons!” and they SHOULD be, and they are inherently very easy to use in CQC by having large reticules with a lot of leeway for missing (similar to a shotgun, the tradeoff being more range/less lethality). I believe I speak for alot of players when I say we should value the strafe battles that arise in CQC with the precision weapons, they are straight up battle where all that matters is player skill. In Halo 5, those situations are far less common or even desirable, because it’s better to just AR/Trust/Melee the opponent than have a strafe duel, which is also far easier. There is a better display of skill in a CQC strafe of than pressing Y to use the automatic.
Automatics are not skillful weapons. They are random, forgiving and easy to use by design because this gives them an inherent advantage in CQC. They don’t need faster than precision weapon Killtime potential on top of this too. They should be capable of a fast shoot + Beatdown (like H2A/ Reach Spiker) But the optimum killtime should be slower than utility weapons because they are inherently easier to use. Some suggest making them skillful in various ways, personally I think that misses the point of automatics in Halo.
I hole-heartedly agree that automatics for a long time, have been bad, even factoring in balancing for ease of use. Halo 4/H2A Automatic balancing was a solid middleground between useful and balancing for skill. The AR in H2A is REALLY well designed, as is the ODST SMG.
Halo 4 of course had the issue of massively scaled maps (for sprinting) But automatics with the typical Halo game scaling in mind. This ties into a Halo 5’s balancing issue for automatics. Even the 4v4 Maps in Halo 5 are pretty massively upscaled and as maps got bigger, there became less situations where traditionally designed weapons automatic weapons had their inherent advantage. And so they had to be buffed to the point the because OP in CQC just to be relevant. This is an example of how thr movement abilities have had rippling effects on the design of Halo.
moving onto to issues with precision utility weapons, though the automatics have share this issue to a lesser extent.
We can agree that the Magnum is your medium/long range utility weapon and the AR is your CQC utility weapon right? Ok well the next issue is that the precision rifles like the BR, DMR, Carbine, H2 BR and to a lesser extent the Light Rifle and the automatics like the SMG and Storm Rifle are just blatantly better precision utility and CQC utility weapons. The rifles have no meaningful downsides over the Pistol, and in a CQC duel the SMG and Storm Rifle have no meaningful downsides over an AR. They are just better versions of your spawning equipments respective roles. The TTK differences are fractions of fractions of a second, and due to netcode, is irrelevant. When a player spawns in and has a Magnum and his opponent(s) have BRs, his opponent has a utility role weapon that surpasses the respawning players in every way. More magnetism, aim assist, forgiving burst fire, red reticule range, easier BXRing, more kills per mag etc. There’s no situations in which a Magnum can take advantage of a weakness on the BR. It’s not like when you have to fight a Sniper, Shotgun, Grenade Launcher, Brute Shot etc in another Halo, where your utility weapon can take advantage of the opponents weapons weaker situations. In Magnum vs BR, the BR is always better and this extends to all the precision utility weapons. Same logic to CQC fights involving the AR vs other Automatics, but at least the AR actually can outrange the other Automatics and has this upside vs the other two.
Halo 5 power weapons are overly lethal and forgiving, while the spawn utility precision weapon is skillful and difficult to use. In Halo CE, the Magnum was skillful but powerful, and the power weapons were VERY lethal and spawned rapidly, so it balanced out. In Halo 2, the Utility weapon had hilarious levels of magnetism, aim assist and was far less lethal than the CE pistol, but so were the power weapons. In Halo 3, the BR hit a middle ground between CEs shot leading and H2’s ease of use, and became even less lethal, but so did the power weapons. In all these games, Bungie attempted to keep the utility weapon and power weapons on par with one another. In Halo 5 the power weapons are more lethal and more forgiving than ever before, while the pistol is the possibly most skillfull precision utility weapon since CE.
These issues defeat the purpose of having a utility weapon. Infact I would go as far to say they cause the magnum to fail at being a utility weapon on some levels. The utility precision weapon needs to be on par with the map pick ups in it’s utilitarian role, to keep respawning players in the fight. It has the same inherent flaws as AR/SMG starts in Halo 2/3, just the Magnum and AR are made much more relevant, but it is still an imbalance.
This all culminates in a sandbox that creates a lot potential for steamrolling and is therefore poorly balanced. Furthermore, weapon placement variety on maps has plummeted. Think about the Pit in H3: 2 Snipers, Rockets, Sword, 2 Brute Shots, 2 Shotguns, OS, Camo, Plasma Pistol, Needlers (kinda).
Name one map in H5 with that level of unique role weapons/pick ups on one 4v4 map. You can’t.
Halo 5 has the weapon balancing of a tiered unlock system, where each tier is better than the last, when an arena shooter should have a matrix, a matrix has no true power weapon, only weapons with distinctive roles the do well in that gives them an edge in a situation or let’s them take up their intended role. They are intended to provide niche counterparts to the utility weapon. At social level, players are not likely to notice the difference, but at a remotely comeptitive level, you really can. And even the best Forgers in the community are sharing this view, as we struggle to find balanced and interesting weapon sets for our maps.
If a weapon has a high lethality output, and is capable of being used in a multitude of situations, it should be skillful (Sniper, Grenade Launcher)
If a weapon is easy to use, it should have lower lethality and/or very niche role (Shotgun, Automatics, Needler, Brute Shot, Sword etc)
The only exception to this rule in traditional Halo is rockets, which is used as a powerful set up breaker, and is made easy, lethal and multipurpose to make it very good at that role. In Halo 5 we have the majority of the Sandbox being easy, lethal and having very generous range.