Disclaimer right at the top here: I am not by any stretch of the imagination trying to argue that Ironbreaker is unplayable or non-viable. Apologies in advance if this is a bit rambly, I’m pretty sleepy and my brain is not running quite as smoothly as usual.
Right, now that that’s out of the way…
While IB is definitely not unplayable, I feel a strong argument can be made that it is one of the weaker careers in the game at a high level of play. I am of course aware that IB is an extremely popular (and powerful) choice at lower difficulty/skill levels. However, the careers usefulness takes a huge hit once you start getting to higher levels of play. By higher levels, I don’t mean truesoloing deathwish, I mean Legend and experienced players in general.
The issue I think is on a concept level. The only thing the career brings to the table is tankyness. Don’t get me wrong, I know tankyness is a useful thing, I just don’t think that alone is enough of a reason to bring him over Ranger Vet or Slayer, for example. The reason being, tankyness becomes less and less of a benefit the higher you skill level you get to. Higher skill players are not getting the same kind of value out of it as lower skill players, because higher skill players know how to use dodge, block, push and positioning much more effectively. With that being the case, damage output becomes the other main criteria for success, and IB just does not have the melee kill ability that I think he should. One might be tempted to say that IB is supposed to be a noob friendly career, and therefore is functioning perfectly well. I say nuts to that. I’m fine with some careers being noob friendly, but not when it means a career becomes weak at high levels of play.
So does he actually only bring tankyness to the table? Well, the ult is really a tanking ult, although it must be said it definitely has some clutch potential. Every single talent he has is geared towards tanking, with the possible exception of the one which reduces overheat generated by drakefire weapons (and that one is really arguable). He does not have a single talent that makes him kill faster or harder, and zero talents given over to mobility (not that I particularly think IB needs to be some dodge-monster).
As comparing him to Slayer is a bit pointless IMO (Slayer being such a special case), I’ll instead compare him to Ranger Vet. RV has a movement speed talent and a 5% attack speed talent, neither of which IB has. For godssake, Bardin’s ranged oriented class has more melee damage output than Ironbreaker, which has none of the ranged bonuses that RV has. Again, the only thing IB brings is being able to get hit more. Just in general, RV brings way more to the table in a group. Bombs/pots, ammo, more DPS, better ranged capability, on top of what I think is honestly one of the best ults in the game (useful for many things).
What about other “tanky” careers?
Zealot has vastly superior melee capabilities.
Foot Knight, which is probably the closest comparison, has a high-mobility ult that is useful in many different circumstances and a 5% attack speed talent. Again, the only thing IB brings in comparison is even more tank.
On a personal preference level, I just find Ironbreaker to be incredibly passive as a playstyle. Nothing about his kit encourages active play, it’s just all about taking less damage by sheer outlast potential.
So, in a nutshell: Ironbreaker only brings tankyness to the table, and at higher levels of play, I don’t think that’s enough to make up for the things the career lacks.
What would I want to do about it?
First, I’m hoping for something that encourages a more active playstyle.
Second, I really think that the solution is to nerf his tankyness a bit, and introduce some killing power to replace it. Even something as small as a 5% Attack Speed talent would help greatly, because again, good god, even the ranged career outdoes IB in melee damage output. I’m not saying remove his tankyness altogether, I’m just saying I wish he did something on top of just being something that’s hard to kill.