Out of all the unlockable weapons, the Eyelander has the most number of reskins at 4. The closest competitor it has is the Axtinguisher at 3 (Postal Pummeler and the Australium and Festive reskins). What is so special about the Eyelander?
First up, let’s look at all the reskins. The Nessie’s Nine Iron is a golf club with strong ties to the Demoman’s Scottish ancestry. The Australium Eyelander is one of 9 unlocks that got an Australium version. And speaking of which, Demoman is the only class to get 3 Australium weapons to himself and one of the three classes that can equip an Australium weapon in all weapon slots at once (Medic and Sniper can do so with the Golden Frying Pan). The Festive Eyelander is introduced in Smissmass 2013, the year when whoever designed the Festive reskins went nuts with introducing the holiday spirits into the weapons. I mean, the Festive Wrangler is the most subtle one of all the Festive weapons introduced that year, and it has a giant light bulb flashing in front.
Of course, the most special one of them all is the Unusual Horseless Headless Horsemann’s Headtaker. Being a smaller and slightly less glowy version of the axe wielded by the Horseless Headless Horsemann, it is the only Unusual weapon up until Valve introduces actual Unusual weapons that comes with particle effects. It uses the same attack sounds as the Horsemann’s axe, and also whisper ghostly nothings to you like the Eyelander.
Now that we looked at all of them, we have to ask, what is so special about the Eyelander? I mean, it’s definitely popular enough to get both a Festive and Australium reskin and is designed well enough to be more or less universally loved by the community, so what did the Eyelander got right?
Just by looking at the stats, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about it. However, it is potentially one of the best-designed Demoman melee in-game. For a Demoman sticking close to a Medic, the lesser maximum health can be mitigated by Overheal, and with that he can risk getting in close with a sword to increase his maximum health. He also becomes a better Medic buddy by having just that extra reach to get rid of pesky Scouts coming in close without needing to risk blowing himself up. But seriously, if I want to stick to a Medic as a Demoman, there are other choices. My personal favourite is the Scotsman’s Skullcutter. The speed drop when active really doesn’t matter to me in this case; I’m not going after the Scout, he is coming to me.
Nope, the Eyelander truly shines as a Demoknight weapon, no matter the state Demoknight is in now. It was introduced with the Chargin’ Targe for one reason: to create the Demoknight playstyle. You can’t be a Demoknight with either a sword or a shield, you need both. The Targe gives you the charge, critical hits and damage resistances, while the Eyelander gives you the head-collecting mechanic and the extra damage. In other words, the Chargin’ Targe lets you get up close and personal with your enemy; the Eyelander gives you the reason to do so.
However, the Eyelander is perfectly balanced. Unlike most melee weapons where stock is a bottom of the barrel option, The Eyelander is really well balanced against the stock Bottle. You are trading reliability for potential buffs, making this a risk VS reward kind of choice. Not to mention, to get the buffs you must actually kill someone, and the game gives you the ways to do so as long as you are good enough . It’s a pretty well skill-indexed weapon, which is why it is so popular and well-loved by many, whether they are using it or fighting someone wielding one.
Thus, seeing how good it is and why people like it, I suppose I can understand why Valve gave it so many reskins. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my Syringe Gun reskin.