So during our brainstorm I had the thought of going and playing some Metro: Last Light to get a feel for how it handles pneumatic weapons (and a coilgun). For those unaware, Metro: Last Light is the sequel to Metro 2033, which is the spiritual progenitor, so to speak, of the pneumatic bolt driver (Henceforth PBD) and pneumatic assault rifle (Henceforth PAR) in Cataclysm. Their id codes are even named after the Metro weapons, Helsing and Tihar. I played around with them a bit, made some observations, and have some ideas for how to balance them in Cataclysm.
The Tihar (PAR) uses 15mm (keep in mind .50 cal is 12.7mm) ball bearings, takes roughly 20 seconds to reload fully (air and magazine) and uses a swappable magazine of 15 bearings.
Interestingly, this had far better accuracy. It has far less arc and spread. Decent damage, but pretty bad against armor. Generally used as a silent sniper, but works well as a battle rifle in a pinch. Ammo is cheap, but not reusable. Also, really big. Like big rifle sized big.
The Helsing (PBD) uses standard crossbow bolts, takes roughly 15 seconds to fully reload, and uses a swappable magazine of 8 bolts.
Less accurate, especially at long ranges due to a frankly excessive amount of drop, though it would probably be fine if there were a scope with ranges. Fine damage, but only with full charge and at short ranges. At long range it’s hard to hit anything. Not huge, more-or-less SMG or carbine sized, though heavy looking.
Common features are basically that both use magazines, both lose power as their pressure drops, and neither have much armor penetration to speak of.
I like the idea of making the PAR more in line with the Metro version, I.E more a sniper rifle than an assault rifle. I don’t think most bearings are 15mm, and that’s pretty massive, so I think it would be pretty safe to assume they’re more like 9mm or so. I’d imagine 15mm doing immense damage at any decent speed (and having some impressive recoil) but having no chance against any decent armor. Same for 9mm, but to a lesser extent for both, and probably having much higher range. An actual assault rifle might be useful in addition, but I can’t imagine it doing meaningful damage at any reasonable reload time. That’s how the PAR currently is an nobody uses it so eh, possible stretch goal.
As for the PBD, I think substantially reduced damage and possibly slightly reduced reload time would be a fair way to bring it in line. Making it a burst-fire bow instead of crossbow should make it less of an ultimate weapon, and help to bring crossbows into the light. That said, a dispersion/range decrease would also be in order, which brings me to my next topic…
The detachable magazines. I’ve been against these previously because they could really ruin balance, but I’m beginning to be of the mind that it might be fun to turn the PBD into a sort of mid-range bolt SMG. Nowhere near the damage of the crossbows, but 8 bolts in quick succession is nothing to be sneezed at. Especially if you can reload another 8 with a few quick pumps of air and a magazine change.
From there, a find-only commercial airbow could be added as the pneumatic bolt sniper, and require long reload times and special arrows.
Personally, I like these new balance roles because they fill ones that don’t really exist, or aren’t well filled. The PBD could act like a high-end repeating crossbow, while the PAR would be more of a silent sniper. Of course it would have unparalleled range (50 tiles?) among the bolt/arrow/pneumatic weapons, but it would have awful armor penetration to make up for it, and pretty substantial reload times.
Coilguns may also be worth looking into, since currently the only one shoots nails. Having another that shoots bearings, or allowing the current one to shoot bearings, could be fun.