Power in TF2 comes from killing people. You kill your enemies then push forward. But there will always be someone waiting in the shadows to push against you. An Engineer. A Medic with Uber. A Sniper. A camping Heavy. A Demoman and his stickies. You need to take them out, but can’t afford to split up your team and waste men. How? Assassins.
Alternatively, you need to quickly take out that Carry? Kill them nice and fast before they ace your team? There’s an answer for that too. Assassins. Ass-ass-ins, if you are that way inclined.
What is an assassin? Someone who quickly and cleanly takes out a key target. But in order to do so, they need to be fast, agile, sneaky, quiet and controlled. The Spy is a good example of an assassin, adopting disguises, distractions and general confusion to take out his target. The Sniper works in this area too, using his team mates as a distraction so he can aim in peace, not bothered by the spamming of stray bullets. I feel I should through in little Kha’Zix here, the giant grasshopper Voidborn designed to take out targets who are alone in the depths of the jungles.
There’s also Scout, who I would consider to be the perfect assassin. In a 1v1 fight of equal skill, a Scout will come out on top most of the time. He is the master of the get-in-get-out way of a mass murderer. He has speed and agility in spades. If you are distracted, a Scout WILL leap over your head and take you out. If your team just got wiped out, a Scout WILL come round to clean up and make sure you’re all dead.
An assassin though must sacrifice something for all his killing power, his sneakiness and his agility. The Spies, Scouts and Kha’Zix’s of this world (and all other worlds) generally lack in some way. Scouts are poor in team fights, where excessive spam and the explosions from rockets and grenades often cause them a lot of damage, they are much more suited to skipping around the edges. Kha’Zix is also useless in team fights, unless he can do some damage – a team fight in which a Kha’Zix gets a kill and survives is considered a very good fight. The exact same thing applies to the Spy – He’s useless in team fights too, often ending up quite dead, unless he waits until it’s all over.
A good assassin risks everything to get the job done. So when a much safer assassin comes along, one who can tank lots of damage, has wriggle room to mess up and can escape incredibly easily if he does, the ‘proper’ assassins get annoyed. They’ve trained for years to get into these niches and now they’ve got some new guy hustling on their turf. One who does their job and the job of others better. It’s upsetting.
Now, if this was a real war or something, people wouldn’t care. But we’re talking video games. You need a bit of fairness. You need honor.
Enter the Demoknight. There are multiple types of Demoknight, but all of them use a shield. This shield lets them take extra damage and charge in like a lunatic. And if they screw up, they can back off, spamming powerful grenades until they can charge away again. The most despised version of this is the use of the Chargin’ Targe and the Loch N Load. This creates not an assassin, but someone who can destroy everything without an obvious weakness.
It boils down to safety. Demoknights are safe. If you fail to charge in and get a kill, you can just spam grenades, or rely on your inherent tankiness to escape. It’s also why people despised the original Tide Turner, since you could charge in, get your crit kill and charge out again. The same thing happens all the time with the assassin Zed – if he fucks up, he can throw out a shadow and escape, with little cost. Few other assassins get that sort of safety, when the entire role of an assassin is high risk, high reward.
While it would be fair to say that a Demoknight (a true one) is balanced, the reason why people dislike them is twofold: firstly, his weaknesses are not apparent. All shields have damage resistance on them, making it harder to judge how much damage will kill a Demoknight, and the one place where Demoman is weak, up close and personal, is now a death zone. Secondly, we already have three very good assassin classes, Scout, Sniper and Spy, they don’t like being overshadowed.
No one likes having their job taken away.