Team Fortress 2 stands not only as one hell of an excellent first person shooter with great stylistic visuals, but also as an overall example for game developers as to how extra content should be done in gaming. Valve has gotten a lot of attention over the years with their continual support of the class based first person shooter that was released in October of 2007 and have really tried to keep the gameplay in TF2 fresh and new by providing new updates, known originally as "class packs," and have continued releasing new updates for the game that tweak it in various ways.
Each of the major updates have all contributed something fairly unique to the game. The original Valve designed weapons within the first nine "class packs" added new gameplay elements to the different classes, and as a bonus, TF2 players were also given various other additions to the game, such as new maps designed by Valve, community made maps purchased and implemented by Valve, and even on occasion, new gameplay modes to help keep the team focused game interesting and new to its devoted players and to help draw in interest from new players. Valve has even done well at adding new settings for server operators to tinker with, many of these centered on the competitive community within the game, which Valve has been working hard to support.
More recent, larger updates have focused on implementing community designed weapons that Valve implements the item statistics on, and implements them within the game via the random item drop system, crafting, and the still new, in game store. Purchase of weapons is purely optional for those are a bit less patient or for those who wish to give back to Valve for continually supporting the game. While an excellent feature of the game, the constant updates have come at a price, one very crucial price that is important to a team and class based game like TF2, balance. Weapons being introduced into the game often have major balance issues that need fixed, aside from the expected bugs within the game. Valve also has unaddressed some of the balance issues of past weapons that have been introduced to the game.
I have been a dedicated player of this game since its inception and have struggled with some of the weapons being added to the games due to what I feel has unbalanced some of the classes. In this series I'm going to take a look at an individual weapon and describe why I feel the said item is unbalanced, and perhaps offer some ways that might help balance the item for more fair and fun gameplay. Let's first take a look at The Fists of Steel, a melee weapon side-grade for the Heavy class.
The Heavy has gotten a handful of melee specific items lately which adds an interesting element to the class. This is interesting because the Heavy really isn't a class that needs a powerful melee weapon. Like Pyro, he is meant to be powerful with his primary at close corners combat, so putting focus on items that change up his melee items are a great way to mix up the play style of the class, without changing too much about him. I applaud Valve on trying to improve the Heavy's melee options and for trying to change up his play style from being so reliant on his minigun ammo supply.
The Fists of Steel allow the Heavy to take only 60 percent of the damage he would normally take from ranged weaponry (rocket launchers, rifles, etc.). This is an interesting feature but there is hardly any trade off to using these gloves, herein lies the main flaw of implementing such a tool in the game. These items are a straight upgrade from the stock fists as they provide the same damage output, same damage speed, and the only downside included in the weapon is that melee weapons from enemies still do their 100% damage. Sure there are some downsides to using these compared to the very useful Gloves of Running Urgently, but what about the vanilla fists? New unlocks with little to no trade-offs have been the biggest blunder in the release of weapon side-grades, and Valve needs a way to bring nerfs to these items, rather than putting unjust buffs on the vanilla set of melee weapons each class has from the start.
Furthermore, it is clear that this weapon is to increase the Heavy's survivability against some of his biggest enemies such as Soldier and Sniper. Heavy is tough, but with a couple of powerful enemies focus firing on him, he can be taken down pretty easily, unless you are playing on some random instaspawn 2Fort server where teamwork is practically nonexistent. However, I have a big problem with weapons that try to do too much to fix such massive class downsides. I mean, just imagine two Heavy players with decent awareness sitting on the Payload cart on offense with a decent team around them for support. That is quite a scary image no matter if you are class that counters the Heavy well or not. Heavy's lack of sustainability against long range weapons comes with the territory of picking the Heavy class. Being a class that can take high damage and output strong damage in turn, you are going to be bait to enemies because of how much of a threat you pose if you get close enough.
It isn't the most awful thing for Valve to do. However, to seek to address such big issues of a class, one must consider what serious downsides choosing a particular weapon will have to keep the balance of the class in check. I am by know means an expect but here are a few ideas I came up with, comment with your own suggestions, I know I and Valve would love to hear them!
I first suggest that the heavy take increased damage from melee sources while active. I think the percentage of damage done from ranged sources should also either be increased, or that the heavy have something very significant taken away from him in one of the following ways. Smart Heavy play style relies on effectively managing your placement and ammo. Another factor that sets apart the beginner Heavy from the more skilled, would be his choice in his secondary weapon and how it relates to his play style. I think to balance this melee weapon out without directly changing the Fists of Steels standalone stats, would be to change the way the minigun uses ammo. Whether it chews through ammo faster, that his max ammo is taken down, or reduced ammo given when he receives ammo from dispensers/fallen weapons/ammo crates. Another option would be completely eliminating his secondary weapon use, which consists of various takes on a health regenerating item, the Sandvich/Dalokohs Bar, the speed increasing Buffalo Steak Sandvich, and the very versatile tool for the Heavy with tactical know-how, a shotgun.
With Valve continuing with these community supported updates, there are certainly more items to be analyzed. Many of the class packs Valve has released have some balance issues that have gotten a bit ignored with the issues plaguing the newer weapons. It is obvious, however, that Valve is willing to listen to the community and offer up changes to weapon statistics to help balance their game out. But the process has been rather slow. Things are looking up, however, with implementation of the free TF2 Beta, open to all players who own the game on PC, which allows players to test weapon change options and give feedback on various stat changes to the weapon on the Steam forums for Team Fortress 2. Regardless of these weapon flaws, Valve's work at continual updates to a game now over three years old, is commendable, and gamers such as myself are truly thankful for them trying to keep a fantastic multiplayer experience alive, amidst challenges of the popular, more "realistic" approach to war based games. Look for more articles in this series looking at many other culprits, such as the Amputator, Mad Milk, Dead Ringer, and other ways I feel that items in the game need to be adjusted. I'm also looking forward to your feedback? What items do you wish to see changed and in what way? Comment below and let's share ideas!
Edit: At the time of writing this article I was captain blond moment and misinterpreted the melee damage received. You take 100% more damage from melee weapons when you have this weapon drawn out, I am not sure how I missed the little plus in front of that in the item tooltip. I still however feel that the items gives Heavy too much control from his ranged sources and that nerfs still need to be made in the form of adjustments to how much balance is reduced from ranged sources.