A few days ago, Gearbox released a hefty patch for the PC version of Borderlands 2. Among the various bug fixes, they slipped in a controversial tweak to the already-controversial Bee shield, significantly nerfing the capabilities of The Bee and all other amp shields. Before the patch, The Bee was insanely over-powered, especially in conjunction with high pellet-count, rapid fire weapons like the Conference Call, because the extra amp damage of the shield was applied to every pellet. If a Conference Call shotgun normally did 5,000x20 (100,000) damage, a Bee shield would add 50,000x20 (1,000,000) extra damage, essentially multiplying the total damage by a factor of 10. It was able to kill epic raid bosses in mere seconds.
The new patch changes the behavior of amp shields so that the extra amp damage is now divided among all the pellets; instead of dealing 50,000x20 damage per shot, it's a flat 50,000 damage per shot. The Bee itself now also has about a 50% longer recharge delay, maybe a 20% slower recharge rate, and deals about 15% less damage (these are just estimates based on memory). Even with all of these changes, The Bee still offers the best offensive damage-per-second in the game, compared to any other shield, but the nerf feels like Gearbox just gave us the middle finger in what may be the biggest "fuck you" from a game developer in my recent memory. Why do I say this? Well, for a lot of reasons.
1. The difficulty balancing in BL2 was already absurdly hard when entering New Game+. After a certain point the game stops being "challenging" and simply becomes "cheap" -- cheap as in a single bullet from an enemy depleting your shields, and three more hits dropping you to your knees, when it takes you an entire clip from an electric weapon to deplete an enemy's shield. Cheap as in bosses who do insane AOE slams on the entire arena, almost impossible to dodge unless you're already far enough away, which brings you down from full shields and full health to a meager 10% HP, only to be immediately hit with another undodgeable sweeping attack.
The game pretty much forced you to play a certain way: being extremely conservative, hanging back, slowly inching forward with a sniper rifle, and pressing your face against cover waiting for health and shields to regenerate. Instead of simply playing the way that was the most fun for your playstyle, you had to play along with the game's forced, tedious grindfest. The Bee shield was one of very few options for offsetting this insane difficulty imbalance, since it basically just brought your damage output up to par with the enemies'.
Thanks, Terra, for knocking me up into this sweet safe spot
2. Legendary loot was already way too rare and took way too long to acquire. Unless you were extremely lucky or actually went out of your way searching for legendary loot, you were unlikely ever to encounter any orange equipment or unique character heads/skins. Farming bosses is basically just a tedious waste of time -- even before the patch with the over-powered Bee/CC combo, you could still spend dozens of hours farming a single boss trying to get a single item.
Even once you got that item you weren't going to have much context in which to use it, since you'd have already beaten the game and/or completed all of your other goals. With the nerf to the Bee, farming is an even bigger waste of time, since it takes 10x longer (or more) to kill bosses, and it's more stressful to boot. Gearbox even went so far as to raise the health of Terramorphous in addition to reducing your damage output potential, so there's almost no point in trying anymore unless you're a masochist.
3. If you spent a few dozen hours legitimately trying to farm a Bee and Conference Call so that you could legitimately farm other bosses, trying to acquire fun new gear for your build and new ways to customize your character's appearance, then Gearbox have basically just nullified all of your hard work and effort. I myself just got a level 50 CC less than 48 hours before the nerf, after spending two or three weeks sporadically farming the final boss trying to get one. If I'd known the nerf was going to happen so soon, or that it would be so severe, I probably would've spent my time doing something else instead.
And thank you for finally, finally dying.
4. Borderlands 2 is predominantly a single-player game that's sometimes played with close, personal friends. It is not a massively-multiplayer online game. The presence of an over-powered weapon or combination of gear doesn't universally affect everyone who plays BL2. Even when you're playing co-op, you're in a much more controlled environment than a typical MMO -- if I'm playing with two friends and we don't want to use the Bee/CC, our game isn't affected by some other people somewhere else using the Bee/CC because we, like the vast majority of players, are in our own isolated world.
The bottom line is that before the patch, you could choose not to use the Bee/CC if you thought that combo was "cheap" or if you wanted a challenge. If you wanted to farm a unique character head or legendary weapon, The Bee was an option simply for the sake of efficiency; if you were going to be farming the boss anyway, The Bee would enable the same net result, just in less time. People like me only ever used The Bee for farming, but whereas before, we had a choice whether or not to use it, now Gearbox have essentially forced the decision for us.
5. There are already so many different ways to cheat and exploit the game, that it seems kind of silly and almost counter-productive to nerf a legitimate gameplay strategy in the interest of keeping the game "balanced," while doing nothing to prevent actual cheating. It's kind of like Gearbox are punishing the players who wanted to stay legit, thus encouraging more cheating. After all, if they're going to make it this hard to get something as simple as cosmetic character heads, you may as well skip all the tedious farming and just modify the heads into your save file, or download a save file that already has them.
Vermivorous is basically impossible to spawn, anyway
The only justification I can imagine for nerfing The Bee like this is that Gearbox wanted to make epic raid bosses like Terramorphous, Vermivorous, and Hyperious require four players to beat, and to encourage more online play. But was there no other way to accomplish this? If you ask me, it should still be possible to beat these bosses in single-player because people don't always have three other friends with whom to play, and your friends aren't always available at the same times, anyway. Besides that, people generally don't like playing this kind of game with random strangers online.
Supposing you group up with three other people and manage to beat one of these bosses, and supposing after killing it 20+ times it finally drops a legendary piece of equipment, how do you decide who gets it? Is it just a mad dash under the rules of "finder's keepers" and "first come first served," or do you agree to kill the boss hundreds and hundreds of times until you get four of the same item? It's ultimately much simpler and more reliable to farm solo, so that you don't have to put up with these kinds of issues. If they wanted to encourage more online play for these bosses, they should alter the way rewards are distributed so that everyone gets an item. It would also help if they boosted the drop rate for full groups from "basically never" to at least "sometimes."
One of very few legendaries I've actually encountered in multiplayer
Basically, I'm just annoyed because Gearbox made it a royal pain in the ass to farm gear now. The whole point of this game is to "shoot and loot," with the loot being about 50% of the draw. You play through the game once for the sake of the story, and then the only reason to stick around is to get better loot and to keep improving your character. The Bee was the one thing making this a feasible end-game goal, the one thing keeping me sane in wasting so much time farming these bosses. Without it, you get much, much less reward for your time and effort, and it becomes a much bigger chore to keep playing.
It's almost like Gearbox nerfed The Bee to get people to spend more time playing their game, trying to accomplish their end-game goals. Yet ironically, by nerfing The Bee they may have just gotten people to play less -- I for one have lost most of my incentive to keep farming. I guess I'll just live without some of the fun loot I was hoping to get, or cheat to get it, now.