The current handheld weapon selection is not only lacking in variety, but has only the wrong kind of variety for this game. The upgrades to the Automatic Rifle are basic stat changes that barely add anything to the feel of progression in survival. Worse, the Elite AR is, almost without exception, the most effective handheld weapon in any scenario, removing any kind of interesting decision in the late game. Because of this, I'm suggesting these changes:
- Scrap the weapon upgrade system. If we want to have future weapons, they would likely need to conform to the framework of two beneficial sidegrades and one elite weapon. This becomes difficult to use properly as soon as weapons that aren't normal guns come into play, and SE would benefit much more from the aforementioned weapons than it would from several variants of normal guns. Progression can easily come from other sources, and handheld weapons are at best an engineer's last resort.
- Add reloading. Seriously, the R key is unbound by default IIRC and we already have bottles with a fill value. It can't be too hard to repurpose that code to deal with firing and reloading. Even though the hotbar creates some awkward management, it shouldn't be difficult to simply pick the first inventory slot with a gun.
New Weapon: Mag-pistol
The basic weapon. It's cheap, with low range, damage, capacity, and rate of fire, and uses power as well as ammo to fire. Both the gun and ammo would be made in a Survival Kit with only Iron and Nickel, and it would replace the Automatic Rifle (and ammo) that come in the drop pod. The only reason to use it is that it's better than going hand-to-hand with a Sabiroid.
New Weapon: Rocket Launcher
This should be the go-to weapon if you need to deal damage to a large grid and don't have a ship. It would be slow-firing, with an ammo capacity of one, large, and inaccurate, but it can do the job. If you can carry enough ammo around to actually score a hit. Of course, it uses standard rockets for ammo and the rockets deal normal rocket damage.
I'd have it take Cobalt to make, so that new players don't immediately go for it as a weapon and to set up a neat bit of proper progression if Keen ever takes the Uranium and Platinum out of rockets to make them viable.
Weapon Rebalance: Automatic Rifle
The default AR isn't bad. I'd decrease range and accuracy a little though, as it seems strange that you can deal effective damage at the same range as a Gatling Turret on a ship. Also, so that the Rocket Launcher has a more strongly defined role as an offensive weapon against large grids vs. the AR's more defensive role that's actually useful against small ships.
I've tried to go for minimalism in this, because of SE's focus on ship building instead of suit-based PvP and limited dev time. The Mag-pistol is necessary to survive a planet with hostiles turned on unless you find Magnesium immediately. The AR is necessary to deal effective damage at a distance. The Rocket Launcher is necessary to damage buildings or structures without a ship. All three of them use already-existing mechanics, so they shouldn't be difficult to implement, and they additionally create a rough sort of progression without having one optimal solution to suit combat at the top.
This is my first real suggestion, so I'd definitely like feedback. I can't notice all the issues, and I'm always trying to improve my ideas.