Everyone loves Granary, right? No? Oh. Some people love Granary, right? Either way, it’s a favourite for the competitive players out there, as it’s got lots of high and low ground, it’s not too hard to defend and other stuff which I don’t really get.
But back in the day, there was also Arena_Granary. Like a couple of other maps, particularly Badlands, Granary was converted into an arena map for the release, of, well, Arena mode. Of course, Arena mode never really got going. People got frustrated with waiting forever to respawn, especially if there was a Spy hiding with the Cloak and Dagger. The central control point was supposed to help fix this problem, allowing a team to cap and win if the other team is being one massive, hiveminded coward, but that’s never really worked well. Even today, there’s a strange stigma about winning a match by capping.
Arena does have some good maps, but it also has some bad maps. Watchtower is an example of a bad Arena map, as it’s all high ledges and big falls, with a very awkward control point, making it VERY Sniper friendly. It’s also very handy for Gunslinger Engineers, as it’s easy to deny a large area. An example of a good map is Ravine, which currently lacks a King of the Hill version of its Arena-based self. It contained both tight and open spaces, with alternate routes to each side of the map, giving a wonderful sense of balance to everything. Ravine though does not make a great Versus Saxton Hale map though as there are lots of high up spots where an entire team can camp.
Unfortunately, Arena_Granary falls into the not-so-good Arena map category. This seems rather backwards, since CP_Granary is thought to be one of the best maps around. CP_Granary contains three distinct areas, the sheltered main and second control points compared to the more open last control point, high ground and low ground between them, alternate routes for everyone no matter what class they are and pleasantly placed ammo and health kits which sit at just the right distance to force you to choose between losing your position or risking more damage. One thing I always liked was the high ground and low ground aspects, as every point had a way to defend and a way to attack.
Why does Arena_Granary not do all this then? Because most of the map is cut out. Arena maps have always been much smaller than their original counterparts (unless they were designed strictly for Arena) but unlike Arena_Badlands, Granary suffers greatly from having far too much removed. Arena_Badlands has a central control point that is relatively open, even after Valve took a knife to it. Arena_Granary is tiny. It’s minuscule. It’s pathetic.
Arena_Granary is literally that central control point and two corridors. From the spawn room, there are only three ways out to the control point, two of which are in the same direction. If you head out to the right, Snipers can get you the second you appear, or jumpers can get you from across the map by taking the higher ramp route. Go the other way and it’s a very tight path from which it is easy to spam. The containers around the point offer some protection from the spam all around you but it’s always easy for a Scout, Demoman or Soldier to sneak around and get you.
The biggest issue though is the sentry gun. Because Arena_Granary is so small, if you set up a sentry on a high up area, generally on the Sniper ledges, its range locks off a large chunk of map. Throw in the Wrangler and it’s got the entire control point covered. Of course, you can always kill the Engineers first, but since the main ammo kit appears right in front of the spawn room, an Engineer will often build his dispenser there and should you kill his sentry, he’ll be back in no time with another one.
It’s a shame that Granary’s version of Arena Mode is so poor. Perhaps if it and other Arena maps were better, Arena would be used for more than just Versus Saxton Hale today.