Splatoon 2 has been in Switch owners' hands for almost a full week, as squeaky-clean newcomers and grizzled ink veterans alike have been tearing through countless turf wars. While the battles rage on, we wanted to chat with some top-level players to get their assessment of the sequel: What's the best tool for inking? What's been the best improvement, and what does the game still need?
For US Splatoon squad Deadbeat, the game fixes up a lot of issues from the first game. Gregory "Giraffe Tamer" Papi, one of the players for Deadbeat, says that unlike the first game, the sequel feels more team-based than reliant on individual skill. There are less individual player specials like the Kraken, and instead more team-based ones, like the Tentamissiles or Ink Armour.
"If you're trying to push an objective, the Tentamissiles will just lock onto the other team and make them scurry," said Deadbeat's Austin "penguitt" Whitt. "And you can pick them off and take the objective."
Angela "Bickibird" Scott, an Australian player for Blue-Ringed Octolings or BRO, notes that the changes to special have up-ended the school of Splatoon thought.
"One major thing is there's no invincibility specials anymore, so that changes the dynamics of the game a lot," said Scott. "The specials have all been replaced entirely, none of the original specials from Splatoon 1 are in this new game, so everyone is off to a fresh start."
A revamp of skills and abilities have changed the pace of the game as well. Sendou, a top-tier European Splatoon player notes that nerfs to gear abilities like Quick Respawn and Stealth Jump have slowed down the back-and-forth of the game, forcing players to be more careful.
"Games can also end a lot faster now," wrote Sendou. "This comes back down the fact that you have to be more careful in your plays instead of going for high risk plays all the time. Every kill is more meaningful."
Tools of the trade
Several weapons came up in discussion among the pros. The Tentatek Splattershot is an old standard, a jack-of-all-trades that will likely always see use. Chargers, however, have seen reduced popularity. For many weapons, it depends on what the mode calls for. While the Aerospray may be solid choice in a Turf War situation where you need to spread ink by the mile, it has a tough time actually finishing off enemies compared to other weapons, making it less suited for modes like Splat Zone.
Though regular matchmaking is all Turf War and inking the most map, ranked and competitive play focuses on objectives, with gametypes like the payload-based Tower Control, king-of-the-hill Splat Zone and capture-the-weapon Rainmaker.
"I think [players are] still discovering what's meta in this game, and it depends on the mode," said Scott. "For example, in tower control I've seen a lot of Tri-Sloshers, they're pretty powerful with their burst bombs. It's up to the individual though, to see what weapons they're good at."
Sendou sent me a picture of the top squads in a given league mode period, saying it shows a clear trend of popularity. While Nintendo has been patching the game (one even went out last night, upping the special requirements for weapons like the Tri-Slosher), some still reign supreme.
The prevalence of ink armour and less range on maps has made the charger less potent than in the first game, but some players are still working on strategies for it. Octolings' Marianne "Latias" Hade suggests changing up your playstyle, sniping from behind walls rather than zipping around outside cover like you might in the first game.
All players had advice for newcomers looking to grow in Splatoon, and top of the list was motion controls. Every player agreed that using the motion controls was best, and that every top player uses it.
"With sticks it's the time," said Madison "Madi-Kuma" Henderson. "Even if you have the sensitivity up the time you have to move and focus on your enemy is too long." Her teammate Bevan "SpongeBev" Davis adds more: "It also takes advantage of the limitations of the controller, because unless you hold it in a weird way, you can't reset the reticle and jump at the same time."
Getting into the mindset is also important, as Deadbeat's Whitt mentions. Splatoon isn't just a shooter, but an objective game, one focused around holding territory as much as it is splats.
"Unlike normal shooters, actually being somewhere doesn't mean you have control of that area," said Whitt. "You have to paint it first, and from there on your team will do much better, simply by taking control of territory."
Henderson expands on that idea, suggesting players find a role that suits them. Not every inkling has to be tallying up double-digits in splats.
"There's objectives, there's map control, there's different things," said Henderson. "So some players, aggressive players, they go in for the kills. Other players are objective players, they push towers. Then you have support players who might ink the map up. So if you can find that area that you feel you're excelling at the best, then go with that and train yourself more in that area, focus on that."
Global community of squids
Though many rough spots have been smoothed over, there's still some issues that top-level players of Splatoon are struggling with in the sequel. Regional matchmaking has fixed overall latency and reduced lag, but it also means that many teams have trouble practising against other regions.
"Regional matchmaking, although it's nice for ping, I feel like it should be an option rather than required," said Papi. "In America, we had our first league battle session last night, and we were playing the same five teams really. We want to play some top Japanese teams, and especially high-level solo queue, we want to be able to play high-level Japanese players as well."
Though regional matchmaking has caused some hiccups, the addition of modes like league battle adds more tools for competitive-minded players. Many players believe that options like built-in LAN play and spectator mode will help bolster the competitive audience. Splatoon 1 had to deal with a restrictive set of modes and limitations, compounded by the quirks of the Wii U.
"With Splatoon 1, at past LANs I've gone to, when you have all the GamePads in one area there's a lot of GamePad interference," said Whitt. "So having that mode is a definite step up."
The lack of an actual spectator mode also meant plugging in capture cards for all the Wii Us, swapping between one player's POV to another or simply watching through one station for the whole match. New tools don't just make it easier to play competitively, but to compete just about anywhere. Players mention battling in not just tournaments, but at others' houses and parks, and the booming popularity of the Switch certainly helps raise interest in the game overall.
An invitational was hosted earlier this week on Nintendo's E3 stream for Splatoon 2, featuring four teams competing for a sweet silver squid trophy. Surprisingly, it was a strong showing for the game's competitive aspirations.
What will likely keep these Splatoon players going is a sense of community. Discord hubs and Twitter followings kept the original alive long after patches stopped rolling out, and as advice for new players looking to get their feet wet in the competitive scene, they all encouraged people to get involved in their scenes.
Pros like Sendou note the usefulness of having a team, while Octolings' note the value of having a support system behind you, to help you grow and improve. Splatoon isn't just about K/D/A — it's a team game through and through, and if you want to up your game, the best way to do so is find some like-minded squids and hit up matchmaking.
"Join a Splatoon community and you just enjoy the game so much more, because you get to interact with people and play with them instead of just doing solo by yourself all the time," said Scott. "That's what gets me hooked, is the community."