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- Cabal (War-faring humanoid aliens wearing suits of power armor)
- Fallen (Insectoid scavenger aliens)
- Hive (Aliens hosting parasitic worms)
- Vex (Time-traveling cybernetic machines)
- Taken (Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal that have been twisted and corrupted by the Darkness)
- Scorn (Undead Fallen)
Across all enemy factions, enemies come in one of four toughness levels:
- Base: Indicated by a red health bar, this is the weakest and most common toughness level. Base enemies can be found everywhere and may drop Primary or Special ammo.
- Elite: Indicated by a dull orange health bar, Elite enemies are much tougher to kill than their base variants and often use more powerful weaponry as well. They tend to appear within group-oriented content such as Heroic Public Events and all kinds of Strikes.
- Common Elite Prefixes: Resilient (humanoid Fallen), Unyielding (Fallen Servitors), Honored (Cabal), Quantum (Vex), Ravenous (Taken), Revenant (Hive), Axis (Infinite Forest Elites)
- The Elite toughness level is the lowest acceptable toughness level for a "Powerful Fallen" (relevant for a particular Relics of the Golden Age quest step involving Drang).
- Major: Indicated by a unique name and a bright orange health bar which is visually divided into three segments. Majors are the weaker of the two boss-tier toughness levels, usually serving as the bosses of Lost Sectors and as minibosses within Story Missions and Strikes.
- Ultra: Indicated by a unique name (and sometimes a unique enemy model) and a large yellow health bar which is visually divided into three segments, Ultras are the stronger of the two boss-tier toughness levels, usually serving as the final bosses of many Story Missions, Strikes and Raids. Note that Ultra health levels (compared to Normal health levels) vary greatly depending on the difficulty and expected fireteam size of the content in which they appear (e.g. Story Mission Ultras, designed to be taken on alone, have much less health than Raid Ultras, designed to be taken on by a 6-man fireteam).
Enemy units within each faction fulfill one of several archetypes:
- Fodder: Enemies in this category have low health and individually can be dispatched easily. To make up for their weakness, melee and explosive Fodder units often appear in packs while ranged Fodder units usually attempt to stay near cover.
- Soldier: Enemies in this category are the rank and file of each faction, possessing both average health and average lethality. Most Soldier units use ranged attacks by default, but will switch to melee in close range or launch explosives to flush players out of cover as needed.
- Commander: Enemies in this category are the heavy hitters of each faction, having both high health and high lethality. Explosive ranged weapons can often be found in the hands of Commander units.
- Many Commander units are protected by elemental shields which are resistant to Kinetic Weapons and prevent precision damage but are vulnerable to Energy and Power Weapons as well as offensive Subclass abilities and melee attacks while carrying elemental orbs (e.g. melee attacks while carrying a Fusion Cell in The Arms Dealer deal Solar damage). Breaking such a shield with a matching-element attack will cause it to explode, staggering and dealing damage to the Commander and any nearby units based on the shield's maximum health.
- Artillery: Enemies in this category have high health and very high lethality. Artillery units should be prioritized over all other units whenever they appear - not only does focused fire destroy these units quickly, but it usually interrupts their attacks as well, especially when directed onto a weak point.