Tekken 7 DLC Review and Potential Impact on Esports Competition

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2018

Bandai Namco

Iconic Tekken mainstays Armor King and Craig Marduk have finally touched down in Tekken 7.  

The two arrive as the latest additions to the game via its Season 2 DLC, a strong and surprising follow up to the releases of Anna and Lei before them. Even better, Season 2 wraps up strongly with Julia Chang releasing soon and Negan of The Walking Dead fame coming at a later date. 

Bandai Namco made the stunning reveal of both Armor King and Craig Marduk at the quarterfinals of the Tekken World Tour Finals, which is fitting because both should have a massive impact on what is an already superbly balanced esports scene. 

       

Background

Longtime Tekken fans know the deal here. 

Armor King and Craig Marduk almost seemed like impossibilities at this point in the Tekken 7 lifecycle. The story had found a way to wave them off, and some of their moves and styles had been assimilated into other characters. 

Hence reaction videos like this:

Craig Marduk is a fan favorite who made his debut in Tekken 4. From a storyline standpoint, he killed the original Armor King, and it dives into convoluted Tekken-isms from there. He's a killer Australian fighter who looks like a wrestler, heaves cars at folks and stands at 7' tall. 

As expected, Craig Marduk features a slew of different moves and styles. He trains under the style of Vale Tudo, which roughly means no rules or boundaries. As such, he's throwing his usual strikes and punishing opponents with grapples and spears. 

As for Armor King, he's once again one of the most distinctive and well-designed characters in a Tekken release upon arrival, in large part because of the whole jaguar head situation. He debuted in the original Tekken, and the background info would take far too long to list out.

It's Tekken, after all, but as a sampler: He sought revenge on Craig Marduk, attacked him but really didn't because it was his younger brother, and another confrontation with his rival led to both being written out of the story...until now. 

Much of what there is to know about Armor King comes at face value via his appearance and hunger for revenge, as he's otherwise one giant animal-headed mystery. He's a wrestler in style, relying on strikes for zoning and lead-ins into combos, though he has enough in the way of moves that players can use him in almost any way they want. 

The combination of nostalgia, proven design and some important tweaks to fit in the current meta make both some of the best roster additions Tekken 7 could have produced. 

      

Analysis and Esports Impact

Armor King should be a breath of fresh air for those who have enjoyed playing with King since the game's launch, and he should have a similar impact online and in the esports realm. 

More of a technical character for players to use, Armor King is more strike based in his approach, which creates opportunities ranging from zoning opponents out to initiating combos. A big poke game has a way of keeping opponents honest, making him something of a defensive-minded character who can stall offensive-minded fighters. 

Which isn't to say Armor King doesn't do anything else. He's got a few noteworthy grapples and a devastating wall game that can dole out the damage or extend combos. Perhaps strangest of all is the presence of a wavedash. While he doesn't have the best moves coming out of the wavedash like other characters who lean on it more heavily, the fact it's there means a skill-based gap in movement and zoning. 

Noteworthy here is an unblockable uppercut that can lead to some smooth combos. It all adds up to a character with various means of approach, which should make him appealing across the board and a must-see wild card of sorts in the esports scene based on who deploys him in a match. 

As for Craig Marduk, he's a gigantic, slower fighter who, in the right hands, brutalizes opponents for missteps. He has superb block punishments for those who let him get in close and back off. 

There is a stricter tradeoff than with Armor King. There isn't a way to play out of Craig Marduk's strengths and weaknesses. He's slow without great movement and zoning options, but when he gets in close, the grapples are devastating. 

Fans of pro wrestling will appreciate the Goldberg-esque moveset (though he looks more Nathan Jones than anything). One of his rage moves is simply a spear, which at first might seem overpowered, but it offers opponents chances to counter or block it. 

While he might not end up as popular as Armor King online or on esports stages, Craig Marduk has a defined, proven style that in the right hands can shutter most opponents through skillful usage. 

Taken together, it is no surprise to see two more balanced characters join the cast. Both will see plenty of ladder play, and on the esports scene, both fit in their respective ways—each Armor King is a reflection of the player itself, each Craig Marduk largely the same and always dangerous. 

Bandai Namco surely has more balance changes in the works down the road that will alter the meta tier lists and most prominent characters represented on the global stage. But upon their launch, it's easy to see both making a big splash and adding some much-needed nostalgia to the equation. 

     

Conclusion

As of late, Tekken has enjoyed more balance than almost any fighting game on the market. The later rounds of the TWT showcased this with minimal repeats of characters. 

Armor King and Craig Marduk only add to the balance most fighting games would sell their souls to boast. 

Expect to see them dominate the online scene for a while. Newness, nostalgia and some sweet designs (Armor King has a superb Black Panther outfit) atop stellar gameplay and depth will make it happen. 

With time, the pro community will dissect the depths and upside of both, likely making them top-tier characters when everything is at stake. It's a matter of mastering the wealth of options Armor King presents or simply meshing perfectly with the Craig Marduk style. 

Either way, it's no accident these two intertwined characters released together, and they should follow similar trajectories. 

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