I frequently play on KotH servers that rotate the stock maps, and I have found that the least popular KotH map that comes up is Nucleus. It seems everyone loves Harvest and Lakeside, find Sawmill and Viaduct tolerable, but they seem to hate Nucleus. I personally cannot figure out why!
So why is Nucleus a good map?
Lack of Spammability on the Central Point
One thing that Viaduct and Sawmill, and to a lesser extent, Harvest, suffer from is the ever-present spam around the final point. Soldiers and Demomen lob rockets, grenades, and stickies onto the point as if they were on a golf course practicing their chipping.
You can’t really do this as much on Nucleus. The point is surrounded by either low walls that provide you with some cover or long walkways bounded by sheer drops into nothingness. The easiest way to spam the point is to stand on one of the walkways and lob your projectiles at the people standing on the point, but because the walkways are so exposed to the rest of the map, it is easy for a sniper to kill you or a pyro to send you on a long fall.
You can also lob rockets from the walkway circling the inside border of the map, but again, you have the problem of being exposed. Scouts, Snipers (depending on where you are), and Pyros can ruin your day very quickly. Not to mention spies.
Lack of Amazing Sniper Sightlines
Harvest has so many sniper sightlines it isn’t even funny. The main part of Lakeside is basically one big sniper sightline. Nucleus, however, is different. While there is a big open area, the sniper lanes on the main level are limited, partially due to the curving walkways (which make sniping harder due to the person almost always having a lot of lateral movement relative to you), and partially due to the blocks of crates and doorways that a person can duck into to briefly avoid you. Not to mention the massive amounts of flanking routes, making you very exposed to flanking classes no matter where you stand.
Even the sniper ledges up on the top are exposed. It is a short staircase from the enemy spawn to your back, making sniping from there extremely precarious.
The Front Lines are Extremely Mobile
There are so many flanking routes on Nucleus it isn’t even funny. It seems no matter where you are, you can be attacked from at least three different directions. This is bad news for snipers, heavies, and medics, who prefer enemies coming from a single direction. Engineers also dislike this, because there usually isn’t a front line to help guard them while they build a level 3 sentry. If you see a level 3 sentry, it is usually back at your own spawn, and it doesn’t last very long.
Therefore, it is so easy for your team to be spread out all across the map. Seriously, it is common for the majority of each team to be closer to the enemy’s spawn than their own! And at the same time!
This is a cool-looking map. Seriously, it is. The darkness with the green-blue color scheme gives a classic evil-science-lab-feel, which fits fairly well into the TF2 setting.
The big smooth curves add a lot to the look of the map. I love boxes and rectangles, but smooth curves make for a nice change when you compare Nucleus to maps like Hightower, 2fort, Dustbowl, and Turbine. Or *shudder* Orange…
I love that the pyro’s flames and the medic’s medigun beams really stand out on this map. It’s pretty cool to have my beam of healz glowing brightly while I stand on the white laboratory-like point, laughing at the enemy team trying to prevent me from capturing the point that is rightfully mine.
Machina beams stand out even more, which is not so great for the soon-to-be-dead snipers. Serves them right for using the Machina, heh heh heh.
It Requires More Awareness
You really learn situational awareness on this map, especially as a sniper and medic. Since any given spot on the map has at least three directions from which you can be attacked, you learn to use every nook, cranny, and teammate for cover. You learn where and when to crouch, how to stand with your back to a wall as much as possible, and how to check your surroundings every few seconds.
The razorback is pretty much required for snipers on this map, due to how easily they can be backstabbed unless there is a friendly pyro watching their backs.
The Relative Uselessness of Sticky Jumping and Rocket Jumping
I want to say that I love sticky and rocket jumping. They add a great deal of mobility to two of the slower classes. That being said, it is nice to have a map where the options for each are limited. It is annoying on maps like Upward, Harvest, and especially Hightower to constantly have to watch the skies for incoming soldiers and demomen.
The point is largely protected from both rocket and sticky jumping, though a really good sticky jumper can manage to squeak through the narrow opening. However, the penalty for failure is almost certain death due to the pit surrounding the point. The curved nature of the map and relatively low ceilings in many places makes instantly traversing the map very difficult. Sure, you can jump up to some of the ledges surrounding the inside ring of the map, but you are very exposed up there.
Explosive jumping isn’t useless on Nucleus, but it is not as amazing as it is on other maps.
I happen to have a soft spot for Nucleus. Unlike my soft spot for Egypt, I actually have good reasons for this. And therefore it pains me to see how many people try to change the map as soon as it switches to Nucleus. Please give this map a second chance!