Overwatch is a great game. It’s a brand-new IP from Blizzard Entertainment, and it’s a genre the studio has never attempted before (a multiplayer online shooter). Right now, it’s in a pretty exclusive closed beta in the lead up to its May 24 release. I’ve been playing the beta off and on since December, and while I do quite enjoy it, there are a few things that absolutely have to happen before the game hits retail.
First and foremost: duplicate heroes. I know, it’s not fun when someone else has picked your favorite hero, and you are forced to play as someone else. We get it. But being able to pick multiple heroes on the same team really pushes the balance philosophy into a bad place. Double Torbjorns or double Bastions on payload, for example, can lead to an almost impenetrable defense. Overwatch is supposed to take more from the MOBA genre in terms of team makeup – encouraging teams to have a healthy serving of tanks, support, and damage. So why not simply take another page from that handbook and remove duplicate heroes?
“Being able to pick multiple heroes on the same team really pushes the balance philosophy into a bad place.”
Second is the ammo problem. In Overwatch, everyone has infinite ammo. Yes, most weapons do have a finite clip that has to be reloaded, but you will never run out of ammo for any of your weapons. While it’s great that you don’t have to worry about stopping the action to search for ammo packs like in Team Fortress 2, it again causes, and will cause in the future, a lot of balance problems.
Take Junkrat, for example. His Team Fortress 2 counterpart is very obviously the demoman. Both of these characters have a very “spammy” playstyle: you constantly lob bombs at your enemy in the hopes that one of them hits. One of the ways that Valve has balanced TF2‘s demoman in the past is by reducing his ammo. Less ammo leads to either less spam, as the demoman will play a lot more conservatively, or moments of vulnerability as he leaves his post to seek ammo. In Overwatch Junkrat can sit in the same place all day long, lobbing bombs at the enemy and protecting himself with traps with little consequence.
Other “spammy” heroes, like D.VA, Pharah and Hanzo, also suffer from this problem. Even MOBA heroes often have limited resources (mana), so why should Overwatch heroes be able to spam rockets all day long?
Another mechanics change that has to happen concerns one of the main game modes: payload. Copied pretty much straight over from Team Fortress 2, Overwatch‘s version maintains the same problems as TF2‘s – the defenders are very heavily favored to win. It’s just too easy to set up a solid line of unbreakable defense, particularly in the later stages of the game when the defender’s spawn point is so close, and the attacker’s so far. In my opinion, the best way to handle this is, just like the “one hero per team” solution, another “anti-fun” measure: longer spawn times.
Yes, waiting to spawn is not fun. It’s boring, and you can only spectate so much before itching to get back into the action. But it would make the game mode so much more rewarding, by actually rewarding attackers for wiping out a defending team, and punishing defenders for just running headfirst into the fray, knowing that as long as they take at least one guy out with them it will be worth it.
Moving on, it is also clear that some individual heroes need some balance changes. The two biggest offenders that come to mind are Tracer and Roadhog. Both of them have combos that are very tricky to pull off, but devastating when you can. In the hands of a skilled player, they are hands-down stronger heroes than their alternatives.
This is a design philosophy problem. Consider that an average Tracer player will not be as strong as an average Soldier 47 player, but the world’s best Soldier 47 player will never be as good as an above-average Tracer player. If your design philosophy is for the game to be a casual experience, then the stronger, higher skill ceiling heroes need to be toned down a bit to make things fair, otherwise you will have pros stomp all over new players all day long. If you want the game to be balanced competitively, then having “better” heroes with a higher skill ceiling ensures that they will always be picked over counterparts. I’m all for heroes that are hard to use with big payoffs for using them right, but the problem right now that they are a little too hard to master, and have a little too big of a payoff.
Overwatch is a great game and I really want it to succeed when it comes out this year. I just want to make sure that it is balanced well enough to not scare away all of the newbies when it does. With these changes, I really think that the game can have a much healthier environment for its players.