Mannpower always attempted to screw over any sense of balance, particularly class-based. Most games are generally decided by who can get the best powerups first, with little hope for one team once things get steamrolling. Alternatively, things just grind to a halt while everyone goes around killing each other. Most people think the game mode is rather unbalanced and all that. It’s pure chaos, even more so than normal TF2. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not when we already HAD a chaotic, nonsensical, semi-finished game mode already available.
The last few years, Halloween has brought us fun and games under the guise of Scream Fortress. Scream Fortress is the one time a year we’re allowed to be flat out stupid and wear our silliest of hats. But more importantly, Scream Fortress as of late has brought us spell books, or spell magazines for the young ones, from which we can cast magic. The chaos that the TF2 team desires to give us has been readily available in Helltower.
For the few of you who don’t remember, for the last two Halloweens, we were given Spellbook Magazines, which enable us to carry a single spell around, much like a canteen. Once you use that spell, you have to go and collect another one. Spells are single-use active effects, they do nothing if you don’t use them. And like Ubercharges, it’s better to pop it rather than drop it – you can’t always keep them after respawning.
Compare this to the Mannpower powerups. You can only hold one of each, but powerups are constant, throbbing passive effects that last indefinitely, until you’re killed. On the plus side, you can see what powerup your enemy is carrying, but on the downside, he’s got that powerup until someone can finally kill him. If we’re talking about a Vampire Heavy or something, we’ll be waiting a while – Heavies with powerups are incredibly hard to kill because of the sheer absurdity that powerups bring.
The other side to spells and powerups though is that at least spells don’t completely destroy class balance. A Haste powerup on a Heavy makes them super fast, destroying the Heavy’s slow-moving weakness. A Spy with a Warlock powerup or a Scout with a Defense powerup counters their weakness of being weak as heck. Medics are nigh useless, because the best powerups all have some form of healing attached to them. And who needs healing when you run at half the speed of light? Okay, there’s the jump spell that sends you flying upwards, but you can only use it twice before it runs out, then you have to collect a new spell, which is completely random. There’s the 1 second Ubercharge, but that only lasts for 1 second and is actually more commonly used to avoid a crit or to give your team a very quick overheal boost. Again though, you lose that spell once you’ve used it and you have to get a new, random one.
But it’s also how dramatic the abilities are and how you get them that counts. If you want a really powerful spell, you have to put yourself at risk and out of position, away from the objective. On the flip side the 30 second Critical Hits powerup is slap bang in the middle of the map, open to whoever walks by. Also, 30 SECONDS? That’s akin to nearly 4 Kritzkrieg charges! Let’s not forget that it takes 32 seconds minimum to charge a Kritzkrieg.
Spells though provide a bit of chaos and small, temporary perks. Class weaknesses still exist and all the special effects are brief. You can also try to dodge the bat spell – you can’t really dodge a Haste Scout with 30 seconds of critical hits.
If you want chaotic madness AND decent gameplay, then why are Valve pushing Mannpower so hard? The spell books work perfectly fine AND they don’t ruin balance.