When it comes to releasing regular, high quality and free content updates it doesn't come much better than in Rainbow Six Siege. The development team at Ubisoft Montreal effectively wrote the book on how to support a multiplayer game after launch, and it seems that all other developers have copied their style in the years since. Now, after six years of content drops, the team is still smashing it out of the park with new content, and Operation North Star is no different.
Just as we’ve come to expect, the operation features a new operator in the form of Thunderbird, a reworked map in the form of Favela and a lot of general changes throughout the game, some of which are obvious, necessary choices, and others that have caused more than a little controversy with both casual players and the pros.
Even with the operation being out for a while, there’s still a lot to figure out when it comes to new content and the big changes, which we have seen in some very entertaining pro games that have felt completely different to those we saw back at the Six Invitational just a few weeks ago. So, to get the lowdown on just how Operation North Star has changed Siege, we spoke to the two new faces on G2’s Rainbow Six roster: Lucas ‘Hungry’ Reich, and Jonas ‘Jonka’ Kaczmarzyk.
“[It’s a] good update in general,” says Hungry, the new veteran player of the G2 squad. “[There’s] just some small things that need to get adjusted! But I really like that you’re able to break the glass of a Mira window and Maestro cam with a punch.”
Initially it seemed strange that such a seemingly small change, being able to break Mira's Black Mirror, Maestro's Evil Eye, and the Bulletproof Camera with a punch, was the change that got Hungry excited, especially considering all the big new additions the operation brings. But when you think about it this is the change that could have the biggest impact on the pro scene, as since she was introduced Mira has been a top pick in pro play. Just as we were starting to understand the possible ramifications of this change, Hungry’s new teammate Jonka explained it for those of us who don’t have a world class knowledge of the game.
“I think the biggest changes are the ones to Maestro and Mira,” says Jonka. “You are now allowed to punch and break their vision, both of those are very strong operators so in my opinion nerfing them is good. This will give the attacker more opportunities to deal with them and be creative and also the defenders need to think of smarter positions on where to put them.”
While this balance change might be the thing that has got the pro players excited for the short term, looking a little further down the line they will have to learn how to play with, and against, the new operator Thunderbird. Thunderbird brings a mechanic rarely seen in Siege in any capacity – healing – and could end up changing a lot about how the game is played. Her gadget is the Kóna Healing Station, which can be placed on the ground and become a healing station for her team, even reviving any downed teammates who make it close to the device.
“I think [Thunderbird] will be played because there are a lot of vulnerable positions, like where you get ‘naded, where this healing gadget can be very useful,” says Jonka. “It also rewards an aggressive roam playstyle where you can return to site and heal up. Personally [I’m] not that much of a fan, since it adds a bit of extra randomness: people healing so you don’t know what HP they are. I prefer an operator gadget design that requires skill and you need to be proactive with it. For example, with Echo you need to be smart with your drone placements, how you move and use them, and it has counterplay.”
The pro players don’t have to worry about her just yet, as she isn’t available for use in pro matches, but both Jonka and Hungry said they thought that she would be played by pro teams if she was added to the operator roster right now, but that she probably wouldn’t be too overpowered in her current state.
“I think she’s gonna get used in competitive ,” says Hungry. “But it really depends on the strats. She is definitely not a must pick.”
While not technically a part of Operation North Star, easily the most controversial part of the current update cycle was the testing of a new feature where players could use their drones after they died. It was only ever tested on the test server and not in the live game, but even so it caused a lot of discussion and controversy among fans and pros alike. While you can see the logic behind the idea, giving dead players something to do if they die early and keep them engaged, when it comes to top level play it feels almost like cheating.
“[It’s a] horrible idea at the moment,” says Hungry, “It would be a good change if attackers would be available to drive their drones maximum of 10 seconds after they died, to reposition them.”
“[It’s] not a great idea in my opinion and it makes the gameplay very messy and confusing,” adds Jonka. “I think death should be punished and being on flank cams/cams in general is good enough.”
It will be interesting to see if Ubisoft perseveres with this idea. When the feature was pulled from the test server it was to compare data against games without it enabled, and since then things have been pretty quiet on the subject. There is no doubt that it would be a big change to the core Rainbow Six experience, but given the lack of support from high level players, Ubisoft may choose to scrap the idea entirely.
If there is one thing that the droning after death change, and the uniqueness of Thunderbird’s gadget, proves, it’s that there is still a lot that the dev team can do in Rainbow Six Siege. While Operation North Star doesn’t rewrite the game, it makes it feel fresh once again, which Ubisoft have managed to do multiple times every year since release. Six years on from launch and Rainbow Six Siege shows no sign of slowing down.