Hello everyone! One of my favorite things about Team Fortress 2 is the idea of having 9 completely different classes work together and intertwine roles to complete objectives. Some classes like the scout are considered the pinnacle of skill to TF2 competitive players while the heavy and the engineer are fairly simple to newcomers to the FPS genre. The demoman is usually credited with having the greatest skill curve but the soldier is considered the ‘best’ and most ‘balanced’ class. Let me explain why many people share this common opinion.
1. Skill Curve
The soldier is not the normal cookie cutter class of most FPSs as he boasts no SMG nor knife. Despite this, his weapons are easy and simple to use for beginners and veterans alike. This makes him appreciated at all levels of play.
The rocket launcher is an effective weapon (even if you have poor aim) due to its fairly large splash. It is a fairly effective spam weapon but it can also be used as an advanced mobility tool. The rocket jump technique is a highly effective and skill-indexed method of turning the fat lazy soldier into a soaring eagle blasting rockets all over the place. Rocket jumping is incredibly difficult to master, just try one of the numerous jump maps. Not only this, but prediction is an important part of using the rocket launcher as it is a projectile weapon, not a hitscan weapon. Airshots are surprising difficult to master and juggling is an important yet sometimes strenuous skill to master.
The soldier’s secondary is the shotgun, the most basic weapon in TF2. It is nothing special but using the shotgun effectively is more difficult than it seems. Lastly, his melee is kinda useless and has no stock ability but the Market Gardener (essentially what I consider stock) can be used as an ambush or pick weapon.
2. No OP/Broken Unlocks
Very few people accuse the soldier of using overpowered weaponry. One of the main reasons the Engineer is hated is because of his arsenal of broken unlocks. The soldier does not have any game-breaking weapons even though he has the most unlocks (22) of any class. This is because soldier is easy to balance to and most of his unlocks are simple +stat/-stat weapons. Just take a look at this list assembled by Poptarts. No soldier weapon until the 1’s!
That is not to say all of his unlocks are perfect (I could write a blog post on the state of soldier unlocks). Many of his situational unlocks are slightly too powerful (Beggar’s Bazooka, Battalion’s Backup), some are terrible (Air Strike, Mantreads, Cow Mangler 5000), some are boring (Equalizer, Black Box), and some are just plain upgrades (Escape Plan, Disciplinary Action, Market Gardener). There are a lack of interesting unlocks for soldier (Concheror, Direct Hit, I’d love to talk more about soldier unlocks but you may have noticed I have forgotten the most important one…
3. The Gunboats
The gunboats are considered the pinnacle of Valve balance. While at first glance its passive attribute (-60% blast damage from rocket jumps) seems unimportant, this single statistic offers a completely different approach to the soldier class. Competitive players call this playstyle ‘Roamer’. The roamer playstyle likens itself to scout, you are quick and speedy and are effective at 1v1s as you can easily divebomb in or out of any situations. This makes soldier appealing to players who like quick and fast-paced games (literally all of the competitive community). The gunboats are so awesome even the demoman wants them!
4. Quake (Nostalgia)
Now I am no expert on Quake but I do know that the rocket launcher is one of the original weapons from that game. Time for a bit of history: the Quake engine eventually evolved into the GoldSRC (Goldsource) engine that Valve used for the old Half-Life games and Team Fortress Classic. This engine evolved into the present day Source engine we all know and love. This officially places Quake as the ancient ancestor of TF2. The original Team Fortress (Not Team Fortress Classic) was actually a mod for quake designed by Robin Walker and a few others!
Back to the current soldier. The soldier is one of the classes that has changed the least over the years. His TFC counterpart had thesignature rocket launcher, a crowbar, TWO shotuguns and grenades. The TF2 soldier is virtually identical, except he dropped the extra shotgun and refuses to use his grenades unless he suicides (Kamikaze). This makes him a familiar and easy class for veterans to play. Not only this but the soldier boasts The Original, a reskin of the stock rocket launcher done in remastered TFC/QWTF style. This adds to the nostalgia and familiarity of Soldier. I’d say soldier is the class that has changed the least. This is probably due to him…
5. Being a Generalist
The main factor in soldier’s popularity is due to his role as a generalist. He is often considered the ‘stock’ class of TF2; he can do something no matter the situation. This makes soldier a very popular ‘main’ class for players, you can always start a push or defend a position as soldier without worrying about the class composition of the other team. Compare that to the engineer, the scout and the spy, who are strongly disadvantaged and fairly useless during many gamemodes. Soldier has no soft counters, you don’t need to worry about your nemesis switching classes to deal with you.
Soldier is also a fairly simple class to play. His role is often not clearly defined besides the obvious ‘shoot people and jump around’. He is a great starter class not only because of his simple weaponry, but also because of his simple class role. Soldier is free to do whatever he wants for most of the time. He can either be an aggressive front-line pusher or he can spam rockets from a safe position. The simplicity of soldier lends himself to be a very flexible and fun class.
In conclusion, the success of the soldier is due to stock balance, a simple class role, an well-balanced alternative playstyle, fairly balanced weaponry and nostalgia. Perhaps the pyro, the heavy and the engineer can learn from the success of the soldier to become more balanced.