Byre. It’s a little map. A forgotten map. A lonely map. An Arena map. It’s actually a map I had completely and utterly forgotten about for a loooooong time. Unfortunately for the people behind the Invasion update, the whole thing was forgotten about since it was released just before Halloween, had very little going for it and had most of its items left unadded. There was also controversy in various payments and stuff but that was sorted out apparently.
But yes, for some insane reason, an Arena map was made and added to the game officially, in a time where arena servers basically no longer exist. Arena as a game mode has a lot of flaws, and instead of fixing those flaws or trying to revitalise the game mode or do anything at all, Valve decided to send Arena Mode down the same route as Territorial Control and give up on it completely. With no official servers around and the fact that running Arena at all automatically boots you out of Quickplay traffic, Arena servers died away. Or worse, mutated into Versus Saxton Hale servers. Or even worse, they became Freak Fortress servers. Which is a shame because Byre is actually quite a nice little map.
But even then, Byre doesn’t fit with other Arena maps. All other Arena maps are basically King of the Hill maps with respawn turned off, different game logic and less (if any) health and ammo packs. They have one control point that doesn’t unlock for 30-60 seconds, and the winner is whoever kills everyone first, or whoever captures the control point if not everyone is dead. Byre on the other hand has two control points. Why? Not sure.
It does alter how you play though. If there’s equal teams, both can capture a control point each and push in to capture the last. Assuming that ever happens though, because both points can easily be captured by one or two people and are located very closely to one another. I assume the idea is that you can’t just camp on one control point and win the game, but it’s really not hard to do that in Byre with a single mini-sentry, especially since there’s raised up areas.
Thinking about it, the whole map is actually very square. Most TF2 maps have a rather organic flow to them, with bends and curves and all sorts. The maps that fail are often the ones that are too angular and cramped, like cp_Junction. Byre doesn’t suffer from that straight away, but it’s a map you can easily get bored of. The layout is a simple grid, nothing more. Parts of the map look rather accessible, but you quickly realise you’ve been boxed in. The area above the spawn rooms for example looks like a really nice area to fight in, with various heights and ramps, as well as offering a vantage point to take potshots at the enemy team.
The square layout has this weird habit of both helping and hindering everyone. There’s a few long, narrow paths Snipers can use, but most of the map is tight and corner-y, really good for Spies, Pyros and Engineers, while offering a good bit of divebombing height for Soldiers and Demomen. Scouts do struggle in the closed off areas though, with little space to move unless they make use of the wide open space above their heads. Then again, their X2 capture rate and overall amazingness in 1v1 means they do fine anyway.
The weirdest thing though is the UFO. Out of all the maps that the Invasion Update made official, Byre is the least fitting map by a mile. The UFO is the only thing that actually makes Byre an Invasion map, and it just sort of floats in the sky, doing nothing. It feels random and out of place, as if someone added it to the map at the last minute to try and get it in the update.
I mean, the explosion is pretty cool, but I feel that shooting down something related to the enemy team, or just blowing up the enemy spawn, would have made more sense.
Byre isn’t a bad map, and it’s certainly not a bad Arena map, but there will always be something off about it, something that I just can’t put my finger on.