Team Fortress 2 update to buff banners, nerf ringers, and split item sets

The upcoming update to Team Fortress 2 appears to me mostly janitorial - sweeping up things that have, in the months and years since their introduction, started to look a bit dirty. Previously, Valve detailed the changes planned for exploit-filled maps like Badwater. Now, they're turning to the weapons, hoping to better balance the staggering arsenal that has been packed into the game.

"We'll be tweaking the stats on dozens of weapons in this next update," Valve reveal, before going on to discuss the thinking behind some of the changes that they're making. For starters, they point to the Soldier's banner variant, The Battalion's Backup, as a problem item - with only 15% of its owners ever equipping it.

"Previously, The Battalion's Backup rewarded players for taking additional damage, making it a frustratingly high-risk item," Valve continue. "We found that most Soldiers would die well before they were able to build a full charge. When the next update ships, The Battalion's Backup builds up its charge by dealing damage rather than receiving it and provides additional damage resistance while active."

Good news for Soldiers then. Spies, meanwhile, are going to have slightly less of an easy ride, thanks to changes being made to the Dead Ringer - and item with roughly an 80% equip rate. "In our next update, the Dead Ringer will work generally the same way it always has, letting Spies feign death to escape from damage that would have otherwise killed them. However, now any damage the Spy takes after his "death" will decrease the maximum length of time he can spend cloaked. This gives any players chasing the Spy more of an opportunity to catch up and deal a real finishing blow, while also requiring more skill from any Spy trying to make his way to actual safety."

Item sets are also getting an overhaul, with Valve claiming two major problems with the existing system. "For one, they limited player choice, making players feel like they would be underpowered if not wearing the complete set. For another, it was a balancing nightmare. An individual item that might be balanced as part of a set could feel underpowered (or overpowered) on its own."

Also, Valve note that set bonuses were often 'invisible', with no way for players to tell who had all three items needed for the extra buff. Personally, I'd argue that tying specific bonuses to hard-to-get, nominally "cosmetic" items was a bad move, and as close as the game has come into tipping into pay-to-win territory, but it's the result that matters: bonuses are being moved to specific items within the sets, with new non-balance destroying bonuses for those who've spent time collecting a full set.

As yet, there's no definite date for this unnamed update, beyond "soon".

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.