Hey Bungie, we need to talk about Thorn...

Anyone who plays Destiny with regularity will know there's a dark scourge casting a shadow over its PvP multiplayer. The scourge's name is Thorn, a hand-cannon used by a disproportionate number of players in Crucible because of the distinct advantages offered by its unique abilities and well-balanced stats. It's currently one of the best weapons in Destiny. Are you dead in Crucible? You were probably killed by someone using Thorn. And you're furious about it. Many are calling for the weapon to be nerfed, its stats reduced to create a perceived parity in Crucible. But is that really the answer?

I'll be honest: I hate Thorn. Every time I find myself staring at the respawn screen, being notified that I was killed by a Thorn user, a little nugget of my substantial love for Destiny is chipped away. I'm an experienced player, and I know there are ways to counter the weapon's substantial perks (specifically, the Mark of the Devourer ability, which wipes your shield and erodes health over time). Red Death, for example, recovers the health drained by Thorn when - or rather 'if' - you eliminate your enemy. Snipers with high stability trump Thorn's damage over distance, shotguns combined with stealth abilities will allow you to close the range on a Thorn-user for a one-shot kill, and heavies like Truth provide a point-and-shoot option that eliminates foes without really having to aim. I'm versed in all these tactics, but then again I've played Destiny for over 250 hours.

So, for me, it's a case of finding solutions to a puzzle Bungie has posed its players. And the answer isn't begging the developers to make the conundrum less difficult. It’s about armour. If Bungie is smart - and years of experience suggests it is - the developer will use the Thorn controversy to its advantage. Expanding the range of armour abilities and perks, along with a few more creative weapon options, will do just that.

Let me give you an example. What if you could buy / unlock a pair of boots from the Crucible vendor that offers resistance - or even a health buff - when facing Thorn fire? So, instead of draining your health, this leg armour would actually heal you for a short time. Suddenly, you're on the offensive against Thorn, and the advantage is with you. Face a player using Mida Multitool, though, and you're shit out of luck. Every time you respawn, you'd have the option to change your loadout and alter the balance of a fight. Strategic planning of weapon and armour sets has long been a characteristic of high-level PvE play, so this would bring Crucible more in line.

Plus, it would make a huge difference to PvP matches. Most times, you know half-way through a match whether you're going to win or lose. However, the ability to start swinging the game in your favour because you have armour that counters the opposition's most powerful weapons? Now that would change things. And there should be little or no complaints about specific perks being over powered. Don't like the fact someone is smashing your Thorn with their special chest-piece? Pick a different weapon, and change your tactics. Prove that you're a smarter player than them. It's a wonderful leveller.

Given the ubiquity of Thorn in PvP, it does feel like the onus is on Bungie to help players level the playing field, rather than abandoning them completely. Right now, the answer to Thorn is to counter it with a different, equally difficult to attain, weapon or to use Thorn yourself, essentially fighting fire with fire. Or should that be Void damage with Void damage? I accept that skilled players will always find ways to counter dominant weapons, but there's no shortage of skill in Crucible. In other words, the guy or girl wielding Thorn is likely just as savvy as you. After all, they put in the effort to beat the punishing Exotic bounty required to unlock the weapon, so you're not facing green-faced newbies toting a gun they don't understand. So, the answer isn't 'git gud' to 'beat Thorn'.

Another problem with nerfing a specific weapon is... well, it doesn't work. Reduce the stats of one gun - like Bungie did with Suros Regime early in the game's lifespan - and people inevitably find another go-to firearm.

The answer rests with customisation and player choice. It's not all about punishing the skilled players, forcing them to fight on equal terms with newcomers or players who are yet to unlock the gun. It's about giving everyone the option to counter specific play-styles by widening customisation options. The problem, right now, is that you can only fight force with force. Getting your ass kicked by Thorn? Well, there are a handful of different weapon solutions to beat it, or you can neuter the threat by obtaining the hand cannon yourself. However, as we've seen, that only leads to more people picking the same weapons. Suddenly everyone has Thorn, Red Death, Vex Mythoclast, Truth... and everyone else is watching from the respawn screen.

If Bungie expanded the remit of armour to better deal with the sometimes over-powered nature of their weapons, it'd kill two birds with one stone. Armour is currently quite dull compared to weaponry, its perks less essential to success (beyond the buffs afforded by the single piece of Exotic armour you can wear). Overhauling it, and allowing players to respec their armour perks as they can with new guns, would make people care more about their set-ups, and add even more personalisation to Destiny - something the developers have already described as key, since the House of Wolves update. And who knows... maybe it'll solve a little problem called Thorn, without simply shifting the focus onto another weapon that will inevitably take its place.

Andy Hartup