I think End of the Line unified the Team Fortress 2 community somewhat: It is almost universally accepted as one of the worst updates in TF2 history. But to me, personally, 2014 brought another, much more disappointing update. And no, it’s not Scream Fortress: It’s actually Smissmas.
Why? Well, let’s put it this way: I had exactly zero expectations for End of the Line. Following the statements form McVee saying we’d be lucky if we got 3 weapons, and that they were testing one(which was released during Love & War), and remembering how Robotic Boogaloo went, I thought End of the Line was going to suck. But, in all honesty, it surprised me. Sure, weapons and new maps would have been nice, but as a person who likes cosmetics, I’m happy with the cosmetics we got. A lot of them I’m going to be wearing on my classes full time(to whoever is the person who came up with Snow Sleeves, I love you).
Smissmas 2014, on the other hand, I had great expectations for. The past Smissmas updates had been great in my opinion, bringing to table some of my favorite weapons(Ullapool Caber, Crusader’s Crossbow, Holiday Punch and Loose Cannon were all released during Christmas updates). But, as it turned out, it failed to meet every single one of them. Let’s go through all the major stuff from Smissmas, one by one:
We got exactly 3 new weapons last Smissmas, as per norm from 2011 and 2012. Two of them were for Demoman, who was pretty much the main focus of the update, and both of them were… Explosive weapons? Boy, I must be dreaming. So, how did the two weapons turn out?
Iron Bomber, the new Grenade Launcher, is a bit underwhelming. I can certainly see where Valve was coming from with this one: It works sort of like a 4-clip Stickybomb Launcher where the bombs are on a timer. The bombs have very little, if any, rolling(they do still bounce off walls, though), which makes it easier to grenade jump and hit slower targets(a rolling may roll too far from an Engineer building or a revved-up Heavy if it doesn’t hit them directly, for example). It also seems ideal for Demoknights, since the shield takes away your Stickybomb Launcher. What’s the problem?
Well, for starters, grenade jumping isn’t all that good, and Loose Cannon pretty much took that ball and ran with it when it came out, even if cannon jumping did deal a stupid amount of damage. Two, the downsides: Having no rollers is the only upside of the Iron Bomber, and even then it’s sort of a sidegrade rather than an upgrade. Meanwhile, the blast radius of the grenades is 20% smaller, and the rollers(sluggers?) deal 10% less damage if they explode on a timer, rather than if they hit the enemy directly, which harms the main usage I could see for the Iron Bomber.
Quickiebomb Launcher, the new Stickybomb Launcher, is an offensive weapon, which makes sense since the Scottish Resistance is a defensive weapon and the stock Stickybomb Launcher fills both roles effectively. It charges up much faster, meaning you can launch your stickies across the map pretty quickly, and the arm time of the bombs has been decreased. The problem here is, you can’t set up sticky traps at all, since the bombs fizzle away after 2 seconds, and when it first came out sticky jumping was damn near impossible with this thing(apparently that’s been fixed since then), which put me off this weapon altogether since sticky jumping is a major part of my Demoman experience. But what baffles me the most about this weapon is: Valve is aware of people complaining about winbombing. People hate stickyspam. Quickiebomb Launcher does nothing BUT stickyspam. Am I missing something here?
And then we have the third weapon. Panic Attack, the new Shotgun and the first Shotgun since the original one that’s available to all four Shotgun classes: Soldier, Pyro, Heavy and Engineer. It took us 7 years, but we finally got there. How does it fare out? Hoooo boy.
Panic Attack basically works like Beggar’s Bazooka: You hold down the fire button to load up to 4 shots, and after loading the fourth one it fires them all out in a rapid succession, going faster the less health you have. It sucks. It sucks SO much. The reason the loading mechanic worked for the Beggar’s Bazooka is because it’s a projectile weapon: The projectiles aren’t supposed to hit your target instantly, so it not firing by simply clicking M1 once isn’t that big of a problem. Also, you can sort of store your shots with the Bazooka: You take damage and lose ammo, sure, but you can still keep M1 held down from wherever you are up until you come across an enemy.
Panic Attack is a hitscan weapon. Any Shotgun, hell, any hitscan weapon fires the moment you press M1, because hitscan is supposed to hit the target immediately. Even the Minigun, once you’ve spun up you just press M1 and it fires bullets right away. Also, you can only start loading up shots when you know an enemy is nearby, because there is no way to keep your shots in store aside from a glitch with the Grappling Hook. If an enemy is approaching you, you load up 4 shots and then he gets killed by something else, you just completely wasted those 4 shots. When Panic Attack first came around, I thought I would like using it, but as it turned out, it’s bad. Like, really really bad.
It’s a shame: All three of the weapons could be made viable with small changes. They already sort of fixed the Quickiebomb Launcher, so hopefully Iron Bomber and Panic Attack will follow suite.
NEW FESTIVE WEAPONS
To me, the main event of every Smissmas Update are the new Festive weapons. There’s just something about them that I love: Maybe I’m easily distracted by flashing blinking lights, but I by far prefer them to Australium and Botkiller weapons and other such reskins. How did they do this year?
First up, Festive Bonk! Atomic Punch. The only one of the lot that I actually wished for this year, and even then I would’ve probably preferred Mad Milk or Flying Guillotine. But I’m not complaining, now it can join my Festive Force-a-Nature and Holy Mackerel and I can finally complete my Festive Scout set. Great!
Next, Festive Shotgun. To be honest, I probably would have loved Festive Shotgun… Had it not meant that Valve could cheap out on giving Soldier, Heavy and Engineer their own unique Festive weapon. What, are they going to give us Festive Frying Pan this year, add Festive Southern Hospitality and Conniver’s Kunai and call it to day? Okay, to be fair, Valve was SUPPOSED to give us 9 Festives this year, which means one class would have still been essentially left out, but more on that later.
The rest of the bunch are pretty bad. Festive Backburner sort of makes sense, considering past years gave us Axtinguisher and Flare Gun, but 1. Ever since the Axtinguisher nerf, I begged for Valve to give us Festive Powerjack, and 2. Festive Backburner literally blocks out the right side of your screen. It’s worse than Rainblower and old Warrior’s Spirit combined, it’s ludicrous.
Festive Chargin’ Targe. The worst of the shields to be made into a Strange, and Valve choose that one. Splendid Screen you can actually get kills with, and Tide Turner was Tide Turner. Why not Festive Scottish Resistance, or Ullapool Caber or Loose Cannon? Bah, humbug!
Then we have the Festive SMG. My disappointment here stems mostly from the fact that Sniper already got a Festive secondary last year, Festive Jarate. I wanted my Festive Bushwacka or even Kukri, dammit!
Festive Revolver. Okay, I kind of figured out Valve wouldn’t festivize any of the Spy’s watches: You couldn’t see Invis Watch or Cloak and Dagger without mods, and none of the watches, even Dead Ringer could be seen by anyone else, not even you in third person view. But I still must ask, why Revolver? Festive L’Etranger would have been awesome, it’s become my favorite Spy primary/secondary alongside Ambassador since it was buffed. Who even uses the Revolver these days
Last, and certainly least, we have Festive Bonesaw. I… Words fail me. Of all the weapons on Medic, they went with the Bonesaw. The damn Bonesaw. Like, Festive BLUTSAUGER would have been better than Bonesaw. There is zero reason to ever be using the Bonesaw, since Ubersaw is essentially a direct upgrade(slower swing speed really doesn’t matter in the slightest), and Solemn Vow IS a direct upgrade! I was like 100% sure we would get Festive Kritzkrieg that year, but noooo, let’s take the worst Stock melee weapon in TF2 and make that into a Festive weapon.
Now, I mentioned earlier how we were supposed to get 9 Festive weapons this year. According to game files, there were plans for Festive Gunboats, which would’ve been lame since Soldier already has a Secondary but no Melee Festive weapon, and Festive Construction PDA, but Valve dropped them on the last minute because they apparently couldn’t figure out anything for Strange Festive Gunboats to count, and couldn’t get Festive Buildings to work. Let that sink in: Valve had a year’s worth of time to get them to work, and they still screwed it up. Oh well, there’s always this year, aaaand we’re gonna get Festive Fire Axe, Fists and Shovel instead, aren’t we?
As mentioned earlier, Demoman was sort of the main focus of this update. All of the changes to existing weapons were for the Demoman’s arsenal, a couple of them good, most of them meh, and some horrible ones. And then we have the Tide Turner nerf.
The best Demoknight shield, which turned Demoknight from a silly little joke class into a legitimate threat, has now been relegated to a complete and utter piece of crap. A single stray bullet from the other ends of the universe is going to stop the Demoman dead in his tracks and drains his charge to nothing. There are so many blog posts and SPUF threads about why this is such an outrage I don’t really have anything new to add. I just want you to consider this: Machina bodyshots instakilling Demomen and Pyros is considered okay. Vaccinator making Snipers unkillable and shutting down Kritzkrieg is okay. Pomson draining über from Medics is okay. But the Tide Turner? No, that’s just too powerful!
The other horrible balance change was the Loch-n-Load. Now, I personally never liked the Loch-n-Load, but not for the reason most people didn’t, which was instakilling light classes: I hated the Loch-n-Load because it sucked. I don’t have that good of aim with my Grenades to begin with, so you can imagine I wasn’t happy with a Grenade Launcher which was entirely dependent on you hitting things with perfect accuracy. Well, they changed the Loch-n-Load, so it doesn’t instakill light classes anymore(maximum damage is 124), but instead they decided to increase it’s clip size from 2 to 3, which means a single clip is going to destroy a Heavy, and because of the faster projectile speed there isn’t a damn thing he can do about it. That seems fair, I mean fun, I mean… I don’t know.
Smissmas 2014 brought us a new gamemode, called Mannpower. It’s basically Capture the Flag with nocrits turned on, but instead of 3 flags you’re capturing 10, and instead of random crits there are these crazy cooky powerups which, the less said about them the better.
I mentioned in my previous article why I didn’t like Mannpower, but let me reiterate: Those who have just joined a server and have no powerup are at such a major disadvantage against those who have been playing for a while and have obtained one it’s ludicrous. Oh, and certain powerups are game-breaking on certain classes: If a Pyro or a Heavy obtains the Vampire powerup, there is jack you can do about it. You just have to take it until you lose.
Oh, and there is also the Grappling Hook which, while really fun to use at times, is also pretty damn overpowered on Heavy, Spy, Sniper and Engineer. But the saddest thing about Mannpower is, Valve seems to be focusing more on it and less on Cactus Canyon and Asteroid, actually GOOD maps that are still in beta but nearing completion. The majority of the last few patches have been focusing on Mannpower. Why? Who in their right mind even WANTS to play Mannpower?
Well, probably the same person who would want to play a Capture the Flag variant of Foundry, but still.
As I said, I do really love cosmetic items. They add their own spice to the game and really make Team Fortress 2 stand out. And Smissmas cosmetics have been usually of really high quality: Snow Scoper, Cool Breeze or All-Father, anyone? With that said, most of the items added during Smissmas 2014 were pretty basic, and very few of them had anything to do with Christmas, or even Winter.
There were a few neat ones: The Skullcap is basically Bill’s Hat 2.0 for Soldier, most of Pyro’s items are pretty neat, and I do like the Engineer cop set. But by far, my favorite items were the Bushman’s Bristles and Puffy Provocateur.
Even then, that’s only 2 items I really loved, compared to like 10 we got during End of the Line. North Polar Fleece, Cold Snap Coat, Hunter Heavy, Insulated Inventor, Snow Sleeves, Flashdance Footies, Winter Woodsman, the list goes on. I dunno, maybe I figured EotL was just a teaser for what’s to come out during Smissmas, but all in all these new items didn’t do much for me.
So that was Smissmas 2014, according to me. Meh weapons, meh Festives, meh balance changes, meh cosmetics, meh gamemode. Was there anything nice about it?
Actually, yeah there was. Festive Bonk was great, and despite it feeling like a cop-out I do like Festive Shotgun as well. The Grappling Hook is tons of fun, and I really like how they buffed the Loose Cannon: Now it’s actually possible to use it for cannon jumping more than once without killing yourself.
Maybe I’m just being overly critical about Smissmas 2014 because I love Team Fortress 2, I love Christmas, and I loved the past Christmas updates. Oh well, let’s hope we get lucky and Smissmas 2015 is going to be the best update ever!
NOTE: For the record, my Festive weapon wishlist for 2015 is: Festive Baby Face’s Blaster, Festive Disciplinary Action, Festive Powerjack, Festive Ullapool Caber/Loose Cannon, Festive Holiday Punch(I don’t care how redundant it would be, I want one), Festive Construction PDA, Festive Kritzkrieg, Festive Kukri/Bushwacka and Festive Dead Ringer.