Hello all and welcome this new year to a new section of my website, The Free to Player.
In this new series we have an admission, you can’t review a free to play game… not morally at least.
A decent quality review mainly talks about the quality of the game in comparison of the price tag.
For this reason often times inferior games get higher ratings.
A free to play game played as a free to play experience cannot be given a proper review in a short term. It has to be played for a while. So I figured I would start off with an older game that went free to play, Team Fortress 2.
Once a month I will have a different free to play game and I’ll look at it as a free experience. It will not follow any proper format of any sorts and at the end of the day you’ll get a thumbs up or thumbs down to the game.
As some rules for myself said game must be played for 30 days straight.
It must be played for minimum 30 minutes a day.
There must be an earnest effort to play the game.
Finally I must make no effort to purchase anything, it is a totally free to play experience.
Team Fortress 2 uses the very old very classic Team Fortress format that was setup by a mod developer with the idea that people would be connecting via dialup modems to various servers.
The free to play game brings a quick play mode in which you can search for the best possible games of various game types. It also allows you to play some co-op against robot players
Upon entering a game you first have the option of watching a video explaining how the game works out.
On top of that after you die you can watch other players play and see how they play a particular class. It can be helpful to see what load outs work well together and which ones do not.
Upon popping in you enter a lobby in which you can select one of the classes in the game.
You select a character and boom you’re right into the action. Since all of the character’s are character archetypes their roles are easy to figure out. On top of this all roles are split into Defensive, Offensive and Support.
The number of gameplay modes are numerous and can keep you interested.
The queue for joining servers and the amount of additional crap you’ll have to download is insane. This is of course because most of the games are on privately based servers and make matchmaking a little bit of a nightmare.
Just starting up the game requires “Validation” very quickly after looting some items and even getting to a server is a 2 minute wait time. Sometimes you get lucky and they’re playing standard maps. Other times you’re playing something very custom that requires you to download a lot of MP3 sound effects.
The Profit Model
Discussing the profit model is important in realizing how the game has limitations.
Each character in the game is equipped with a few item’s slots including Hat, Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Melee Weapon, and two additional non-combat item slots.
So when you go to the store you can buy packs that range from $20-$100. You can buy item’s individually with item’s ranging from $5-30. Additionally you can go to the Steam Community Market and buy item’s from other players. Using this method Valve takes a 15% cut from every purchase.
This also offers a method for you to make money and purchase items without spending money. I earned a hat in game and sold it for $3. I was able to use this money to purchase a really good weapon.
Hats are aesthetic only and oddly the most popular part of the game. This model works out well because it takes a long time to earn items. I spent a four hour session and only earned three items. A four hour day for me would give me about $200.
So for someone like me it actually makes a lot of sense to spend money here… of course I won’t because I’m cheap.
Speaking of cheap one of the most common things to gain are packages. Packages can be unlocked using keys which you have to purchase from Steam. This gambling method of earning money is one of the most common marketing tricks in the world.
By offering the best item’s randomly via opening these boxes it makes people feel like they have to spend money. This doesn’t stop people from opening up 40 boxes at $2 a key (that’s $80).
A big sell for free to play games is whether or not the game is only balanced buy the size of your wallet.
Simply put, if you do not spend money are you at a serious disadvantage. We can think of a disadvantage in many ways but the only one we are really concerned with is potency… that is how much damage you deal.
In Team Fortress 2 the game is heavily imbalanced in terms of items…. but they’re not the ones in the shop.
The most potent weapons in the game are the ones that are picked up through playing. The item’s in the shop are not the best and are merely starter weapons. The hats are purely aesthetic.
The game’s balance problems come in that a person can randomly pick up a Katana Sword for a Demo and rock people with the Demo, whereas a person could spend endless hours and get useless junk.
It’s a severe weakness in the game which infuriated me until I got some top hat that I was able to sell for $3.
I think the biggest thing that will hold newer players back as far as balance goes is the fact that there are so many people who have played this game for so long and so well.
One of the things that is huge in Team Fortress 2 is customization of the class archetypes.
On top of the ability to swap out weapons to fit your play style there are hats. This is the part of the game that sort of bothers me… and well everyone. Valve’s first attempt to transition into free to play was through the development of aesthetic hats that make you look like a tool.
It was this very odd way for people to show off their money and it’s left a foul taste to the point where everyone makes the obvious hat joke.
There is no individual progression and there is no RPG elements. Because of this the play value of the game is insanely casual. You might be able to play for 15-30 minutes at a time. The main problem is that because the customization options are a result of almost total randomness your incentive to continue playing can only be based around the gameplay and not some sort of hook.
As one of the founding members of the old modern first person shooter the controls for Team Fortress 2 are pretty simple.
There is also a high amount of variety in the weapons. Some weapons will have a zoom in feature that will give you better aim, others do not. Some weapons have a secondary attack, others do not.
Melee weapons are all sort of a goofie and unlike it’s sister Counter-Strike… melee hits are not one hits. They are of course one-hits if you attack from behind… but that’s something else.
The main gameplay weaknesses come with The Engineer and the Medic who are not particularly exciting to play…. and no amount of customization will change this.
It’s because the job of your medic on the field will not change based on the gun, the core gameplay will always be running around and healing people. On top of that it is not exactly something particularly hard to do, you literally hold your button on someone and when they are healed up you can “Uber Charge” them by continuing to just heal them up.
The engineer has roughly the same problem. It appears to me the engineer is the class for the person who doesn’t want to shoot themselves. They run around the battlefield placing teleporters, turrets and health distribution. Then they run around the map picking up packages of building supplies so they can upgrade all of this stuff.
Then people destroy them, rinse and repeat.
I also hate how the engineer will get so many kills by people literally running into their turret and getting one-hitted.
Unlike the medic the engineer can pull out a shotgun or pistol and do some damage, but obviously not as much as anyone else.
It’s a similar problem to what World of Warcraft originally had. In the original WoW business model they had a bunch of support classes that really didn’t function all that well by themselves. WoW fixed that by making every class awesome instead of having it be team oriented.
Yes the weakness of Team Fortress 2’s gameplay is that in the team element people are going to be forced to play roles they would otherwise not want to play. On the upside they are all interchangeable positions so you can pass the buck off to someone else.
Mann vs Machine
This is a new gameplay mode that Valve created for the game. It is basically a team survival game.
The big change this creates is a co-op mode that does not involve killing people.
I found this new gameplay mode to be very boring and honestly, poorly implemented. Basically the problem has to do with matchmaking.
Instead of having some sort of system to match people with people of similar skill you can choose to go from Beginner to Expert. Of course if you actually want a game you will choose all games available.
The end result is you go to a game you cannot really beat with random people who just don’t get stuff. Honestly in most of my matchups I just got people who were AFK and not contributing.
I was able to get to Round 3 on Expert and that was the end for me.
It felt like the game could use more balancing around making all of the classes useful. Snipers, scouts, medics, and spies seemed to be relatively useless. Worst yet everyone sort of just picked the same class.
Most people go to these just to farm the Mann Co Supply Crates which contain valuable hats and weaponry. The fact that people can now sell items on the market has actually created a lot of AFKing in hopes of randomly getting item drops.
Overall this Mann vs Machine co-op is very poorly implemented and without friends… it’s just not worth doing.
Speaking of friends… there isn’t really much room to make friends and socialize in this game. The only real communication you get is people trading weapons with each other… which of course is business and not friendship.
It’s more or less how the game is setup. Beyond hitting T and talking there is really no place to talk to people. There is no in-game messaging system that would allow you to talk to people outside of the game, without adding them to Steam.
Worst yet is the VOIP in the game.
The VOIP is really odd and out of place. Sometimes you can hear what your opponents are saying and sneakily get to their target and kill them. Other times it’s just some dude holding his talk key down as he listens to Toxic by Britney Spears.
It’s really quite random and out of place.
VOIP just calls for trolling and abuse. Considering that Valve created an anti-abuse policy for DoTa 2 I don’t exactly understand why they would have it in this game still.
The game also has the Steam Workshop which will allow you to create statless items (for aesthetics) and maps. I believe creation of hats is strictly forbidden.
After playing the free to play version of Team Fortress 2 for a month I can say that this game does in fact get a THUMBS UP from me.
The format for earning rewards is not heavily hampered by balance issues like so many free to play games and this one is hot to serve.
Just don’t play the medic or engineer and you’ll enjoy the game.
Thanks for reading the first ever Free To Player review. The game I’ll be playing for the next month will be Dragon Nest, an Action MMORPG from Nexon. If anyone has suggestions for the game after that I’m always taking submissions.