I love the idea of the pneumatic assault rifle as a “reward” for reaching high levels of… err, fabrication, mechanics? Can’t remember. For the uninitiated, it’s a weapon that crafts from pretty basic materials (smash up a car and you’ve got them basic) and fires “pebbles”: rock + hammer/another rock = 10 pebbles = effectively infinite ammo. And, unless I’m mistaken, it’s silent. It makes logical sense, is awesome, and is great for ranged characters to have a “free to use” hunting/zombie killing weapon.
The only downside to the PAR is that you have to load it shot-by-shot and it only holds 15 shots, but considering I can load 1 burst’s worth in the time it takes a zombie to move one space, that’s pretty much nothing. That and if you’re playing a “ranged only” character and a HARD_TO_SHOOT monster shows up you’re boned, but that’s a downside of the playstyle not the weapon itself.
The trouble is, it’s way too powerful for a “free bullets” weapon. It kills the Thing in a single clip, before it can even get close to me - I’m not sure how tough it’s supposed to be, but I’m reasonably certain it’s not intended to be an equal threat to, say, a squirrel. I’m throwing away Rivtech guns because while they’re theoretically more powerful than the PAR, being able to down a zombie in one or two hits instead of fifteen, the only situations in which carrying just the PAR is contraindicated that I’ve encountered so far have been encounters with enemies that have armor it can’t punch through. That pretty much means chicken walkers and tankbots, which come rarely enough that I can just fire off one of the five or six LAWs I have in my trunk from crash-sites. That, and the aforementioned encounters with HARD_TO_SHOOT monsters, in which case I fire off my flashbang & shockwave CBMs and shoot them anyway, since hey - free ammo. Those don’t happen all that often and would be pretty much equally threatening if I was using any other gun anyway.
On a side note, maybe shotguns should ignore/partially mitigate HARD_TO_SHOOT? That is kinda the idea of a shotgun.
I still very much like that the PAR exists and would like it to continue to do so more-or-less unchanged, so here’s some ideas on how it can be altered:
First and simplest idea is to alter the damage. Right now it does roughly 10 damage per shot; maybe 2 or 3 would be appropriate. It should be less powerful than, say, the Beretta 9mil; right now it does damage on-par except in perfectly silent full auto.
Possibly in addition to that, make it not completely silent. Having an assault rifle that does not summon the horde is one of the main appeals of the weapon, but on the other hand, pneumatics can be very loud. Certainly the action, the escaping air, and especially the (irregular, considering it’s a smashed rock) projectile banging off of the walls of the barrel should make some noise. Or possibly the weapon still makes no meaningful noise when firing, but the projectiles rattle around in the hopper whenever you move with it wielded.
You could also raise the barrier to entry. This is my least favorite idea, actually; I think it’s at an appropriate difficulty to make as it is. However, it does feel awfully cheap for such a powerful and complex weapon. Maybe make it require gunsmithing tools or exotic components. One solution I do kinda like is to have a nerfed free-ammo assault rifle that can be crafted simply and then have the PAR as it exists now or even slightly stronger as an “end-game” weapon; “I’m level 20 in every skill and have access to truck-fulls of the best technology known to man, gooddamn bees should not even be an attrition threat to me.” Lasers fill this niche already though, come to think of it, especially if one has the UPS biomod.
A solution that also introduces neat mechanics and gritty realism would be to emphasize the pneumatic nature of the weapon; you should have to crank it up before firing. Maybe one good pressure-up could take two minutes to do and last for fifty shots or so; the PAR would be great for hunting and still excellent as your default “something popped out at me while I was working” weapon, but as soon as you encounter a horde of zombies or a bunch of blobs you should switch to something else. Maybe even have damage decrease with pressure; the first two bursts do 10 damage a shot, next three do 6, any more than that and you’re basically just throwing them at the target. You could also have craftable/obtainable compressed air canisters that are semi-expensive and big but mitigate the nerfed weapon’s crappiness at crowd control… for a while.
In addition to that, you could also have there be a risk of the tank failing and rendering the weapon temporarily useless every time you crank it up. Now there’s a certain chance of things suddenly getting a little hairy, and that’s fun. You could also have the weapon degrade as it’s firing, though maintaining a weapon in Cata is such a trivial task that the only real effect it would have would be to make it even worse at extreme crowd control, and I think there’s more fun ways.
One more thought would be to fix the ammo, not the weapon. Smashed bits of rock are going to be aerodynamically unstable; the pressurized air is going to bang them against the barrel multiple times before they leave the weapon, the atmosphere is going to deflect them well away from your target past a couple feet or so, and even then they’re not going to go very far. The PAR can also fire the marbles you find on Child Zombies; maybe the free rock ammo is only really suitable for soft targets at near-melee range, while marbles and craftable, semi-expensive saboted and finned metal slugs go further and hit harder.
If anyone has any more ideas or thinks I’m wrong about how the weapon should be balanced I’d love to hear it. But in my opinion, as it stands there’s no reason to use any other gun once you have the PAR, and that’s no fun.