Why Dragon Ball FighterZ’s new balance patch might kill the competitive scene
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the most popular fighting games ever at this point, shattering records left and right. Despite it has run into quite a few problems that threaten its longevity. The biggest problem is its current competitive meta which emphasizes only a small handful of characters such as Adult Gohan, Cell and Android 16. The meta is so heavily weighted toward top tier characters that the community has been begging for a balance patch.
Well, Arc System Works and Bandai Namco obliged in the most disappointing way possible. Their balance patch barely touched the best characters in the game and actually ended up nerfing some of the worst characters. It will do little to add variety to the meta, and might actually shut the meta down to a near unplayable state in the near future.
This article isn’t going to look at each specific character change. For that, you can read the full patch notes. Instead, it’s going to look at the implications of these changes in more broad strokes, specifically in how it will affect the competitive scene.
Problem #1 – High Tier Characters Remain Untouched
Let’s go over the best characters in Dragon Ball FighterZ right now. The most commonly played characters on all teams are Cell, Goku Black, Super Saiyan Vegeta, Android 16 and Adult Gohan.
Cell has actually been given a slight buff through a bug-fix. His Psychokinesis can no longer appear behind a character, meaning it will whiff less. Otherwise he is untouched.
Goku Black is also basically untouched, only receiving a small bug fix.
Super Saiyan vegeta was changed so that you can reflect his assist while blocking, but he is still the best assist in the game.
Adult Gohan was actually nerfed, toning down his lock-down properties and removing his ability to cause a hard knockdown. That being said, he’s still one of the best characters in the game.
Android 16 has perhaps been nerfed the most. His armored moves now lose to projectiles and he can no longer cause a hard knockdown with his throws.
What does this mean? It means that half of the high tier characters might see reduced play and the rest will remain dominant. This doesn’t shrink the tier gap, it just forces people into using the characters who were untouched. If anything we are going to see Cell and Goku Black usage go up post patch, reducing variety and making the meta even more stale.
Problem #2 – Lower-Tier Characters Were Nerfed… for some reason
For some reason characters who were barely played also got hit by the nerf bat. Nappa, for example, is largely considered to be one of the worst characters in the game and his Saibamen got a damage nerf. Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta, who pales in comparison to his other self, got a variety of nerfs and buffs to his damage which will likely hold his place in the tier list solidly at the bottom.
Broly, who was already a difficult character to use, had the armor properties of his stomp, a rarely used attack, reduced!
This holds true across the board. Characters who desperately needed buffs somehow received nerfs and it’s not clear why. In fact, the only low tier characters that actually received buffs were Krillin, Frieza and Beerus, and their buffs were so minimal it’s unlikely that their tier position will shift at all. Krillin will now no longer throw Senzu Beans on assist unless you want him to, Beerus has reduced recovery on his sweep, and Freiza had a number of minuscule changes to his hit-boxes and damage. Yet, none of this allows them to compete with Adult Gohan’s lockdown or Goku Black’s teleport game.
Problem #3 – ASW Is Obviously Playing it Safe
There is a reason that the game hasn’t changed all that much, and that reason is EVO. DBFZ still has quite a few new DLC characters coming out before EVO hits this summer. It is currently the most popular EVO tournament, absolutely shattering every other game in terms of registration.
Massively shaking up the meta right before EVO training season could also be a death sentence for the game. Pros might look at major adjustments as unfair, especially any major adjustments to system mechanics. This might cause a huge drop in players post EVO’s tournament.
Unfortunately, there is another problem that DBFZ has to grapple with, a spectator problem. E-sports live and die based on how enjoyable they are to watch. A meta with very few viable character options is not fun to watch. This is exactly the feeling of staleness that pros have been complaining about.
DLC characters are doing something to shake this up. If the next few characters, Vegito Blue and Fused Zamasu, can compete with the rest of the high tier lineup, then maybe the meta can be revived by it.
However, if the DLC characters end up too weak or difficult to pick up, then we are going to end up with the same old characters on the same old teams in the top 8.
And maybe Trunks… sometimes Trunks gets played.
If this ends up boring to watch and Twitch views tank, then general interest in DBFZ will drop. When general interest drops consumers don’t buy DLC, which means no season 2 DLC characters, no prolonged patch support, and eventually DBFZ might fade from the competitive scene (just like all the angry MVCI fans predicted.)
My personal prediction is that ASW and Bandai Namco are banking on the current hype lasting through EVO at which point they are going to announce a gigantic patch, majorly changing all the existing characters in some way. Perhaps this will be downloadable or perhaps it will be part of a new “edition” like we have seen with Blazblue and Guilty Gear Xrd. Either way, we are going to finish up EVO this year playing the DBFZ we all know and love and then, if there is still enough hype, we will see the meta get shaken up.
So let’s just hope that the hype holds out until then.