Just short of twenty hours. That’s how much I’ve played Team Fortress 2 since Friday. Most of that time was spent in our new digs at the Twenty Sided TF2 server. It’s been great to meet and game with so many of you. Thanks to everyone for keeping the server fun & friendly.
Since I spent the weekend playing instead of writing, I don’t have much to say this week. So let me just give my quick impression of the classes. EDIT: No longer “quick”. I just spent a couple of hours on this that I should have spent elsewhere. Oops.
I’m twenty hours in and I still feel like a newbie. This is an impressive accomplishment on the part of Valve. It’s a game where you can jump in and begin making a meaningful contribution right away, but still be discovering new things after twenty hours. (Keeping in mind that most modern games are over after about ten.) “Easy to learn, difficult to master” is a highly desired attribute in game design, and they have nailed it in Team Fortress 2.
The classes are well balanced on both a personal and team level. There’s a class for almost every style of play, and each class serves a key purpose within the game. Some people pick a class based on what they want to do. Others pick one based on what the team needs. In the end it usually works out and you end up with a well-rounded team. Once every few games you end up with a bad mix, but the teams reshuffle on the next map change and the problem usually sorts itself out.
I get a lot of questions in-game about what class I like and what classes are good to start with. So I thought I’d give a run down of my thoughts so far. This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide. This is just an overview for the curious. If you’re looking for a robust strategy guide, I suggest Googling it or reading the comments below. Some people have been playing for months and have amassed great riches of knowledge of this game.
The heavy has the great big damage-vomiting minigun. It’s a tricky weapon that can annihilate waves of foes when used properly. It takes a few seconds for the weapon to “spin up” before you can start pouring red-hot metal into your enemies. (And everyone nearby can hear the weapon spinning up or down.) You can hold down right mouse to keep the barrel spinning so you can begin shooting in an instant, but you move very slowly like this. This means that using the heavy is not about dodge or aiming skills, but about strategy. (Which is funny, considering how the heavy is depicted as stupid.) You need to plan when to ready your weapon, when to move, and when to let off the trigger. It’s about positioning and timing, not reflexes.
Tip: Sometimes a medic will latch onto you and become your buddy. This is like marriage in that often as not it’s a “til death do us part” kind of deal. Take care of the medic and you’ll be difficult to stop.
Newbie suggestion: This is an excellent starting class for people who might be new to mouse-aiming. You can do really well with the Heavy even if your twitch mouse-aiming skills and circle-strafing aren’t very sharp. The large pool of hitpoints means you’ll get to play for a bit each life before being killed and sent back to respawn, which is ideal for getting over the initial learning curve.
The medic class is about as simple as it gets. Aim your healgun at a ally and fire at them to infuse them with health. Once you’re locked onto someone, you don’t even need to keep aiming. You can look away and pay attention to other things and the healbeam will flow to your chosen patient. As you heal, your “ubercharge” meter fills. When it’s full, you can deploy it on a teammate with right mouse button, making both of you invulnerable for ten seconds. This is crucial for breaking fortifications and helping your team overwhelm entrenched positions.
Tip: Stay back. Heal people that are on fire first. Hide behind your patient (and you should always, always be healing someone) or behind a nearby wall. You are going to be the #1 target of everyone on the other team if they get a line of sight on you. When your patient moves out into the open under heavy fire it’s natural to want to rush out and save them, but it’s best to leave them to their fate and heal someone else. Maybe they’ll come back, maybe they’ll die. Don’t feel guilty for “abandoning” them. Maybe you let them die, but you’ll save a half dozen lives in the time it would take to respawn and hike back to the frontlines. Not to mention the loss of your precious ubercharge progress. It seems counter-intuitive, but take care of yourself first.
P.S. Watch out for spies. Not that you’ll be able to do much about them.
Newbie suggestion: This is a great class for new players. By definition you’re following someone else, so you don’t need to know your way around. You can do your job while rubbernecking and you can observe your patient to get a feel for how they play their class.
The scout has very low health, and his scatter gun does minimal damage unless it’s deployed at point-blank. But he is very, very fast. Good for playing hit & run on the enemy. The scout is a terrifying force in Capture the Flag games, since they can dart into your base and escape with the goods before anyone can line them up for a decent shot. And once they’re out of your base, nobody can catch up to them. They’re difficult sniping targets and they’re able to jump up to places other classes can’t normally reach.
Tip: The scout is useful on both sides, but is best in an offensive capacity. You should never, ever be standing still, even when defending. Focus on demolition guys. They can make a mess of your team, but they will have a very hard time hitting you with explosives as long as you keep moving and peppering them with your gun. Your class is the perfect counter to their abilities. Pyros are also prime targets. Play peek-a-boo with a pyro just out of the reach of her flamethrower. Likely as not she’ll get frustrated and do something foolish.
Newbie suggestion: Playing the scout is most like playing Unreal Tournament or Quake III Arena. The high speed, jumping, and dodging will feel very familiar to fans of those games. If you’ve done multiplayer deathmatch in the past, then this could be a good starting class.
It doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but it’s a great gameplay mechanic: The longer you stay zoomed in using the sniper scope, the more damage you do. After five seconds you have enough power to drop anyone in the game in a single hit.
Tip: Make sure there aren’t too many snipers before you decide to play as one. (The classes already in play on your team are helpfully shown on the selection screen.) In a small game (six players to a side) you don’t need more than one. If a large game, no more than two. Snipers don’t usually do very well if there are too many, since there are a limited number of viable sniping positions and sharing a perch means effectively sharing the kills that one guy could have racked up alone. Which means that you’re effectively doing nothing for the team except siphoning points away from an ally. Worse, enemy teams tend to adjust for over-sniping, and you’ll find there are even fewer available targets. Many, many defeats are the result of teams with four people who all insist on sniping no matter how unproductive that might be.
Newbie suggestion: Many new players naturally gravitate towards the sniper. It seems like a good choice because newcomers are often looking for a way to get a few kills without exposing themselves to the chaos of direct combat. But it often doesn’t work out that way. You’ll be under regular attack from spies and enemy snipers, and it’s not like the other character classes don’t know where the sniper spots are. Many players have learned that they can stop by the local sniper loft for a couple of free kills against oblivious Australians peering through their murderous telescopes. You will sometimes see snipers topping the score list, but those expert snipers aren’t usually hiding in a corner of the map the way you might expect. It’s probably better to get a feel for the maps before you try a sniper.
I’ll cover the other classes tomorrow. Thank you for indulging me in this new mania.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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