Don't overlook these small changes and their potentially massive effects.
The line between “broken” and “underpowered” is a thin one when it comes to weapon balance. In games where weapon choice matters as much as mechanical skill and positioninggames like Apex Legendsit’s important to make sure that each weapon both feels unique and stays in line with every other weapon. Small changes are often all that’s needed to raise a weapon up or take it down a peg; for this reason, balance is best achieved with a light touch, not a sledgehammer.
Because of the immense difference small changes can make, many Apex players scan the game’s patch notes religiously for weapon adjustments. These players know that even the lightest tweak can shift the game’s entire meta in a new direction. Such is the case with recent changes to two of Apex‘s oldest weapons: the Prowler Burst PDW and the Sentinel. While their respective changes might have seemed small in the wake of all the new cosmetics coming to the game with season 15’s Spellbound collection event, a closer look reveals that these updates could have major ramifications for Apex’s meta.
The Prowler Burst PDW, generally referred to as just “the Prowler,” was the recipient of one of these meta-shaking changes. The Spellbound patch notes explain that when the event starts on Jan. 10, the Prowler’s damage per bullet will be increased from 14 to 15; this change applies to body shots. The Prowler fires burst rounds of five, meaning that if you hit a body shot with all five bullets in a round, you’ll deal 15 multiplied by five damage, or 75 damage total. This is up from the old total of 14 multiplied by five, or 70.
This change might not seem all that significant, but consider this: assuming you don’t have an extended heavy magazine equipped, the Prowler can fire four rounds of five bullets, or 20 total. Previously, hitting an enemy with every single bullet from every single round in a Prowler with no extended magazine would result in 70 multiplied by four or 280 damage, which is enough to down an opposing player with a red EVO shield. (With a red shield equipped, an enemy would have 225 HP total: 125 of shield and 100 of health.) To down the enemy, you’d have to hit every single shot.
With the change applied, a Prowler with no extended magazine now deals 75 multiplied by four for 300 damage in a complete magazine, assuming you hit every shot. If you reduce that to three rounds instead of four, the total is 75 multiplied by three for 225. That’s exactly how much damage you need to deal to down a player with a red shieldand because of the change, it now takes one less burst round than before.
This adjustment makes the Prowler much more forgiving in the endgame in particular. Assuming no attachmentswhich is a little ludicrous in the last few rings, but bear with usyou could miss up to five single shots total and still have the potential to down an enemy in a single magazine. And that doesn’t even take headshots into account, which deal more damage than body shots. While this also doesn’t consider leg shots, which deal less damage, or shots that impact enemies with the Fortified passive, which reduces damage, it’s still an incredible power increase that could bring the Prowler to the forefront of the meta once again. (And it doesn’t even need the Selectfire Receiver this time around.)
The other potentially meta-shaking change comes to the Sentinel, Apex’s very own bolt-action sniper rifle. While it’s normally a lethal weapon, particularly if you land a long-range headshot, its damage can be increased even further if you “amp” it before shooting. Doing so results in one of the best animations in the game, in our humble opinion, and dramatically ups the weapon’s damage potential.
Previously, amping a Sentinel required two shield cells, which were consumed upon completion of the charge. In a change marked in Spellbound’s patch notes, the development team at Respawn Entertainment shared that amping a Sentinel will now only require one shield cell rather than two. No changes were made to the amp duration or the increased damage dealt during amped status, making this a major buff.
This adjustment goes to show that important balance changes don’t always affect a weapon’s direct damage. Prior to the buff, part of the “meta play” around using a Sentinel was making a decision about how best to use your shield cells: should you use them to amp your weapon to potentially deal more damage (and risk wasting them if you don’t engage an enemy squad), or should you save them to heal during a fight? Sure, you can always carry more shield cells with you, but that comes at the opportunity cost of carrying something else, like ammo or other healing items.
Now that only one cell is required to amp a Sentinel, the decision isn’t such a tricky one to make. Most players have at least one shield cell sitting around in their inventory, and losing one isn’t as big of a deal, particularly at the beginning of the game. Using one cell to charge the Sentinel means the opportunity cost is one inventory spacewhich is immediately given back to you if one cell is all you’re carryingand one section of shield, which is less impactful than two.
With this change, expect charged Sentinels to become much more common in battle royale matches. Sniper rifles have never been Apex’s most popular weapon category, but this adjustment has the potential to turn the tide since it makes the Sentinel a much more appealing weapon to use. An amped Sentinel does 176 damage on a headshot and 88 on a body shot, meaning anyone with a white shield can be taken out with a single headshot. Fire off two and you’ll down anyone with any shield. Kraber who?
It’s often true that big things come in small packages; these two changes are proof of that. While Apex’s meta may not shift immediately, things could change as players of all skill levels learn their way around the Prowler and the Sentinel. When combined with the damage decrease that Anvil Receiver-compatible weapons sustained in the same patch and the very small pool of hop-ups that’s on the ground right now, we could be looking at an entirely new meta in the next few weeksand it’s all thanks to these two small changes.