In one of my very first articles for the Tip.It Times, I lamented the complete and utter lack of high level equipment for rangers, compared to what's available to melee characters. Where rangers are basically limited to Armadyl armour, Kharil armour, black dragonhide and the ranger helmet, melee characters have three different sets of God Wars armour, four different sets of Barrows armour and of course the dragon items, as well as countless 'unique' items such as the Dragonfire shield, the spirit shields and Granite Armour. In the weapons department we have the same problem. Whereas the viable options for rangers are limited to the rune crossbow, the dark bow, Kharil's Crossbow, the crystal bow and the magic bows, the dragon melee weapons alone outnumber the amount of good high level ranged weapons, and then there's also four different godswords, the Abyssal Whip, granite and obsidian weapons, and many others. With weapons, the situation is pretty much the same.
However, with the introduction of the hand cannon, Jagex seems to have taken a serious stab at creating a ranged weapon that can rival the godswords in destructive power. The hand cannon and its ammunition are both unique drops that can only be obtained from level 100 Chaos Dwarf Hand Cannoneers, which are accessible only after completing the Forgiveness of a Chaos Dwarf quest. Quest completion is also a condition to wield it.
So, is this hand cannon the godsword-equivalent that ranged players have been clamouring for, or is it yet another failed attempt at offering non-melee players the high level content they so desperately need? To answer this question, we'll have to take a look at various aspects of the new weapon, with the most important being the two that determine how useful a weapon actually is: the requirements to wield it, and its effectiveness in combat.
Now, one of the things that immediately stands out about the hand cannon is that it requires the player to complete a series of three quests before being able to equip it, which is something that generally applies only to dragon armour and the spirit shields. This means that the hand cannon has a very long list of indirect requirements. The full list of skill requirements to complete all the quests needed to wield the hand cannon is as follows:
- 10 Fishing
- 12 Crafting
- 14 Thieving
- 17 Farming
- 22 Cooking
- 30 Defense
- 33 Magic
- 40 Mining
- 50 Smithing
- 61 Hunter
- 61 Firemaking
- 69 Strength
Most of these twelve requirements aren't too bad, but the last two are, in my opinion, ridiculous. After all, the only requirement to wield a godsword is 75 attack. Actually obtaining the pieces for yourself and combining them into a complete blade requires more skills, but complete godswords bought straight off the Grand Exchange can be wielded immediately (assuming the player has 75 attack), whereas the hand cannon requires the completion of several quests no matter how you obtained it.
And to complete those quests, you need 61 firemaking. Now I understand that Firemaking is (one of the) easiest to train skills in all the game, and I'll admit that needing a high Firemaking level to wield makes sense from a thematic standpoint. However, it simply doesn't make sense to have a non-combat requirement like that from a strictly mechanical standpoint. The only other items that require a non-combat skill just to wield them are the crystal bow and shield, which require level 50 agility to wield. That's just to wield, not to stop them from exploding or anything fancy like that. Of course 61 is just the bare minimum, due to the fact that Firemaking is also needed to keep the hand cannon from exploding (more on that later). Because of the fact that a higher Firemaking level reduces (but never completely eliminates) this risk, players basically need 99 Firemaking to wield the hand cannon at optimal efficiency.
And then there's the strength level requirement, which is just nonsense in my opinion. Let's, for a moment, imagine a melee weapon that also required 69 ranged to wield. From there, let's imagine the riots that would be started on the RSOF over the utter ridiculousness of such an item. It simply makes no sense for rangers to need a high melee skill to wield a ranged weapon. In fact, the requirement is so high that my own ranger character, which has a ranged-based combat level of 74 based on 45 Attack, 45 Strength, 50 Defense, 64 HP, 51 prayer, 74 ranged and 31 summoning, would actually get a melee based combat level if I were to get 69 strength, even without the additional HP levels I'd get from training for it. I understand high level equipment needs high level requirements, but I think we can all agree that the requirement of your ranger no longer being a ranger is a bit over the top.
So it has some very strange requirements, but at least it's actually great in combat, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, it has pretty impressive stats, with a range bonus that matches that of the Rune Crossbow and a ranged strength bonus that's actually higher than anything currently in the game for the hand cannon shot. It can hit up to 56, twice in quick succession if the special attack was used. I think it's fair to say that this is at least equal to most high level melee weapons.
However, the random explosion problem that I mentioned earlier completely cripples this as a viable high level choice, in my opinion. Of course this can easily be countered by bringing extras, especially since it's relatively cheap, but the problem with this is that in high level situations, such as God Wars Dungeon boss fights and Tormented Demon hunting, every equipment slot counts. This means that a ranger using a hand cannon in such situations will have to make a choice between bringing one less potion or healing item, or risking becoming completely defenseless right in the middle of the trip.
So from a thematic standpoint, the cannon's design is wonderful, and it makes sense to need a high Firemaking skill to better control it. However, as cool as it might seem thematically, it simply doesn't work out well in the practical game world. After all, players want a weapon that they know they can rely on when they need it most. The relatively low price of the hand cannon barely makes up for this, as I'd gladly pay ten or even fifty times the current GE price if it meant I no longer had to worry about the thing blowing up in my face just as I was being chased by a Tormented Demon.
The strength requirement is equally ridiculous. Players can lug around backpacks full of granite and wooden logs without problem, so it doesn't make sense to slap on that high strength requirement. As with the Firemaking requirement, the Strength requirement makes sense from a purely thematic standpoint (needing to be strong enough to activate a mechanism to open a secret door), but its practical application simply doesn't work.
The combat performances are very good, with a high ranged bonus, an even higher ranged strength bonus and an impressive special attack. However, the reliability problems mean that it will never be on the same level as a godsword, because the chance of the cannon blowing up when you need it the most hangs over your head like Damocles' cannonball. The lower Grand Exchange price might mean that it'll be easier to replace when it does blow up, but it doesn't take away the problem of suddenly being defenseless while up to your neck in demons or dragons.
So in the end, I'm afraid the hand cannon is nothing more than a dud. It looks good on paper and it has some brilliant moments, but the fact that it seems to have been designed from more of a thematic standpoint than a practical standpoint seems to have completely ruined its potential. High damage and accuracy are pointless when they're coupled to unreasonably high requirements and poor reliability. As far as I'm concerned, it's back to the drawing board for the hand cannon. It seems like whoever was in charge of the new Living Rock area, with its many safe spots and monsters with high HP and low defense, seems to know exactly what rangers need, so I suggest they put them in charge of the next big ranged weapon.