Wasteland Diaries: Weapon balance

Rock, scissors, paper. It's not quite that simple when referring to the three weapon classes in Fallen Earth. You have the two ranged disciplines: rifles and pistols. And then you have melee weapons. They all have distinct advantages in combat, and they are all viable in PvP and PvE when played properly. There is a lot of debate about weapon balance on the forums and in the game (gotta love global chat) about weapon balance.

I come from the school of thought that believes the weapons are currently as balanced as they have ever been. Many people will disagree with me on that point. But the vast majority of people who agree that the combat is well-balanced in Fallen Earth's current system are my contemporaries who have been PvPing since alpha, beta or launch. Many newer, less experienced players feel that certain weapon classes are overpowered or useless. I say that is not the case. Continue past the cut and I'll explain why I feel that way.

Before the 1.4 patch, when you could run loads of buffs and contingencies all simultaneously, melee specialists were very tough. The six-second stuns and the speed buffs pretty much nullified any range advantage the pew-pewers had. Of course, the ranged guys could use all of the same tricks, but the melee circle reticle certainly makes hitting your target much easier. Even though things are vastly different now, if I had to choose a class that was the top dog, it would be melee. I give melee weapons a slight edge (no pun intended) because of Knockdown.

Knockdown is still the bane of all clones. For some it is a crutch, and for most it is a death-knell. To me, it's what puts melee weapons in the lead. But it's a very slight lead, and the balancing act is close to perfection. It truly is a damn shame that we will be getting an entirely new set of skills because the combat system has gone from clunky and unbalanced to quite balanced and almost elegant.

The advantages for melee are many. There is only one disadvantage, but it's a big one: the range of your attack. Granted, sometimes those Kinetic Hammers can hit you from pretty far away, but I don't think that's intended by design. That one disadvantage is outweighed by ease of hitting (remember the circle reticle?), no need for ammo (or stopping attacking to reload) and high DPS (damage-per-second). Melee users also have a plethora of stuns, snares and DoTs (damage-over-time) to round out their arsenal. And did I mention Knockdown?

Dual-wielding is the only way to go these days, ever since damage shields and the Tesla Coat were nullified into oblivion. They were a bit of a liability when you took damage for each swing, but now, since damage shields are largely negligible, swing away. Two-handed melee weapons still have their place and are preferred by some players, but putting all of your eggs in one basket with a lot of frontloaded damage is a bit risky if you ask me. Missing can be costly, but they can do massive amounts of damage with a critical headshot and end a fight before a burst-heal prolongs it. Admittedly, it is much easier to employ grenades when using a two-hander.

Pistols boast the highest DPS but are much harder to keep on target than melee weapons. But a pistoleer with good aim is truly an engine of destruction. Dual-wielded pistols have the best DPS available and have a better range than a melee weapon. Some pistols have ranges that even rival those of battle rifles. Pistols actually look really good on paper and sound too good to be true, except for a few things: They have a severe lack of abilities associated with them, and they are much more difficult to hit with than a melee weapon. There are sawed-off shotguns that also fit into the pistol class but can't be dual-wielded. They do have the easy-to-hit-with shotgun reticle, though.

Pistols also have a two-handed weapon in the form of submachineguns, otherwise known as SMGs. They are probably the most laughed-at weapon type in Fallen Earth, but I have found a great use for them. Many SMGs do not have the damage potential of assault rifles, but they do have the range and usually a superior magazine capacity. While they may not be viable as a main weapon, they are certainly handy as a backup when an engagement is in the vicinity of the 50-meter range.

Riflemen are the most versitile class. They are also, hands down, the best class for PvE. Nothing beats a scoped rifle for slaughtering hapless mobs before they even see you. The rifle class is blessed with the best of all three worlds. It has an excellent set of abilities akin to melee and far better than the pistol set. It has a variety of different weapons with different ranges. There's the assault rifle with its tremendous DPS (not quite as good as dual pistols) if you can hold it on target. You have the medium-ranged battle rifle, which bridges the gap between assault and sniper. And then you have the sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are the longest ranged weapons in the game and hit very hard. With abilities like Thundershot, One Shot and Agonizing Wound, you need to dive for cover fast. If you get focused by a few snipers, you won't be around long.

Another thing that makes the rifle class the most versatile is the many different types of weapons available. The rifleman also gets access to the shotguns. In fact, in close and medium range engagements, most riflemen use shotguns. Shotguns have low DPS, but they have high damage per shot and are just as easy to hit with as a melee weapon is, having the same circle reticle. The rifle class also has the rocket launcher, which isn't a very effective weapon unless used in certain circumstances, like on crowds of enemies or in groups. The rocketeer attack of doom is a sight to behold.

I have used every single weapon type in Fallen Earth to good effect in PvP and PvE, so if anyone tries to tell you that the weapons are imbalanced, he isn't trying hard enough. When employed properly and skillfully, nearly every weapon in FE is useful and deadly when used in conjunction with its abilities. The new combat system will allow for a cross-use on abilities (i.e., using melee abilities with a rifle) and will make dual-speccing more viable. But until then, everything is about as balanced as can be. I wouldn't shed a tear if Knockdown went away, but we are close to the new system, so why bother? Until next week, keep the pointy end toward your enemies and I'll see you here in one piece.

Ed Marshall has been playing Fallen Earth since beta and leads the KAOS clan. Wasteland Diaries is his weekly column that covers all aspects of Fallen Earth: PvE, RP and PvP. To contact Ed, send an email to, find him on the official forums as Casey Royer, or hunt him down in the wastelands as Nufan, Original, Death Incarnate, and Knuckles Mcsquee.