As we near the end of 2018, I look at the game I’ve spent the most time writing about this year and ask myself: what is the next important thing to talk about? I could talk about Winter Wonderland, but I honestly won’t even bother with it since it is the most lackluster of all the seasonal events. Say what you will about Lucioball, but at least there’s something to be had with that game mode rather than a snowball fight and a yeti hunt. They’re cute, but they make me lose interest so fast that I can’t even make a joke about it. So as I sit before my keyboard, I realized a few things: One of them being how Overwatch is about to be going into year four and how some people are losing the spark that got them into this game.
In this day and age of gaming, there are much higher expectations than ever considering how we can update games at any time. On one end, we have that group which enjoys re-releasing the same game every year and ask why no one has seen through the smoke and mirrors. Why pay the extra cash if the experience is seemingly the same but with “improvements” that they will improve on this time next year and the year after that?
On the other end, there are those games that come out which focuses primarily on expanding out the content through DLC or additional content, although it has gone well past supporting a game for years on end. We live in a day and age where you can have six new characters in Street Fighter V every year for three years, while also witnessing League of Legends celebrating its 9th birthday with over 140 playable champions.
Overwatch Year Three
Supporting an ongoing game for the long term can definitely be a challenge, and (depending on who you ask,) Blizzard has succeeded with Overwatch. The game has had a steady inclusion of Heroes and Maps, they make improvements on the game all the time, and the Overwatch League is preparing for a second season. Things are looking up for the game’s future, right? Well… not exactly. What I mean by this is how year three has felt lackluster compared to the first two. Yeah, I could just casually mention Lucioball and Junkenstein’s Revenge and we know about how the focus got shifted this year to other pressing matters like improving the game and the Overwatch League. All that said, people were kind of holding out for something special to happen at Blizzcon, and walked away disappointed in more ways than one.
I’ve already shared my thoughts and Ashe and Bob previously and I know that they will be great additions when they hit the competitive scene in the coming weeks. But if you think of what we got last year and compare it to this year… we got little out of 2018. We knew there would not be a new map, but at least talk about new skins, possible game modes, or something to show the fanbase that something special is cooking rather than put on the same show with not as many goodies to share.
So here is my breakdown of the current concerns with Overwatch.
1) Hero Output
Now I will not try to bash Blizzard on this too hard since I can’t claim to be this know it all that knows how to make new heroes. If you saw their “Building a Hero” panel, you know character creation can overwhelm the unprepared. Hero Development can be hard, but the problem many run into with Overwatch is how other games that feel like they are constantly adding in new playable characters, Overwatch does only three per year.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but many are losing their patience and how the game can feel unchanged for months on end until a new hero drops or someone gets a rework. Sometimes both. Even when a new hero comes out, what is stopping players from passing over them and picking pick “The Best”? For some players, that was how they saw Wrecking Ball.
They can still be useful, sure but when players know how to make the best team comps for said maps, what stops them from using it all the time? At least Brigitte helped against dive and Ashe might put a dent in Goats, but when we see players figure out the formula, you can bet that players will follow closely the meta and emulate it for months on end. With Jeff recently talking about hero 30 being playable and how they have their next six heroes lined up, fans are hoping this could mean a faster rate of playable new heroes. We need heroes to help shake things up so it isn’t the same line up all the time.
2) The World (is in need) of Tanks
Kind of piggybacking on the last point, but this is still just as important. When we consider the line up of heroes in each class, many would say Tank players have it the hardest. There are plenty of Damage and support characters to allow for any play style, but Tanks don’t have as many options open to them in comparison.
What is the role of a Tank? For some, it is to be the front-line people and take the shots for their teammates and push forward to win fights. A blunt definition, but an accurate one. The problem with Tanks is that it doesn’t feel like the protection is there anymore. Either the barriers help little when you can play characters that can charge right at you or characters defined as Tanks don’t really fulfill that role as defined. You could say that this is why someone like D. Va is a “go-to” tank considering she can literally absorb and destroy shots. Reinhardt would be a good example too, but with the amount of CC in the game, he is more like a giant pinball getting thrown around until he drops dead on the floor.
Either we need to redefine what it means to be a tank or we need more Tank heroes that provide that protection we have not seen yet in the game. Speaking of, let’s go over that too since players have demanded this feature.
3) New Defining Roles Needed
What is wrong with clarifying roles in Overwatch? It feels like it shouldn’t be too difficult and yet we go through this song and dance with each passing year. We used to have four classifications for heroes until the game evolved past the point of “Attackers and Defenders” and we got the damage category. A smart move, but with how broad “Damage, Tank and Support” are, that doesn’t really amount to mention since it isn’t like every character in one class plays the same way.
Back at Blizzcon, the Heroes of the Storm developers made a big announcement of how there will be six defining roles in the game: Tank, Bruiser, Healer, Support, Melee Assassin and Ranged Assassin. Gone are the days of “Specialists,” warriors and fixing the classification of several heroes so we can better know the differences between them. Tanks should be the character to start the fights, provide cover for the team to do their thing and take the brunt of the incoming nonsense the enemy fires at you. Bruisers on the other side are characters that excel in the one-on-one fights and can self-sustain themselves well enough, but aren’t meant to be the main tanks.
Characters like Roadhog, D. Va and Winston are bruisers. Reinhardt and Zarya are Tanks. It could help the game to allow players to choose between something like “Roles” and “Subroles” in order to help better illustrate what characters can do. Keep the basic layout for newcomers, but for those who know the basics to then enable roles like “Brawlers, Flankers, Snipers” and so forth so you can tell exactly what each character’s capabilities are.
4) Addressing the Recently Added Features
This one isn’t really as high on the list for me compared to the others, but it is just as important when discussing how to better fix up the game. One big update Overwatch got this year was the idea to Queue up with other players online before searching for matches. It wasn’t like it was the “Be All, End All!” answer to fix toxicity, but it was a step in the right direction. We also had the “Avoid player” feature that lets you block a certain number of players so you aren’t paired with them.
Even after these we got these features, there were still problems that kept coming up. Why limit the avoid player option to so few people when you may get paired up with them again the moment you take them off? Even if you don’t, the avoid player feature doesn’t make it last forever since after a few days, the list can clear itself off. Then for the Role Queue, it doesn’t take into account of specific characters and how if two queued up players are Reinhardt mains, that means one of those two might not be as good as another tank hero.
Did these features help the game? I like to think they did, but others tend to think otherwise. They put in a good amount of time into this to make the game more entertaining and fair for all players. But, it is certainly far from being the answer to an ongoing issue that plagues not just Overwatch, but all games in general.
5) The ongoing issue of Toxicity
We have to remember the reason some players leave the game is that when games go bad, it can really drag down the overall experience. We like to think that not every match will be bad, but when the ratio of bad games to good is significant as it is, players will not stick around long enough for when that good match finally rolls around. While toxicity is something that plagues all games, many don’t really hesitate to point it out on Overwatch since it feels like it is the problem that never goes away.
Who knows what the next step will be to help cut down on toxic behavior. For all we know, maybe that “Replay Feature” coming up will provide a means to combat it. This could be great where if you report a player for throwing, you also get to send a replay of the match to show that player not helping at all and ruining the game for everyone on their team. The issue will always be ongoing, but it still needs addressing before it goes out of control (unless if it already has).
6) Balancing Issues
No matter what game you play, it is fair to assume that not all heroes are “equals.” You can have characters that are much stronger than others, and that’s understandable if their kit lends themselves better to a team than others. All that said however, what happens when too many changes can cause a stale non-evolving experience? Usually when a new hero comes into a game, you can sometimes see a shift in the meta or how because of this one hero, the way fights play out can suddenly change. This was the case for a while with the ever so popular “Dive Meta” and how dominant it was up to about the start of the year. For those unaware, Dive was literally diving into the enemy team and wiping them out quickly before they could react, starting with supports.
While Dive was drastic, we saw a hero come in (Brigitte) and with one ability, Dive saw a decline because going up against someone who can stun and put you down made that a high-risk, low reward plan. Recently however, Brigitte has seen a variety of nerfs to her kit that slowly turned her from a strong Support/off-tank to now becoming seemingly useless. With weaker shields, a weaker attack, and other changes, they have now thrown the anti-dive character into a poor position that will indirectly welcome back those who enjoy dive with open arms again. While balancing a game can be hard, the changes Blizzard makes to the game sometimes generates more issues than they do resolve them. Such as another up and rising meta.
7) The GOATS comp and the lack of choice
Where does one talk about this? With the number of various supports, the game has seen as of late, a much more dangerous meta has lately come up. The idea here is the team runs with three tanks and three supports grouped up together. Characters like Lucio, Moira, and Brigitte, for example, can perform a wide range of healing to keep teammates alive while you have the high HP tank characters absorb all the shots and deal with the enemy while being kept alive. While dive can still work, many say that the only way to compete with GOATS is to use GOATS.
There is nothing wrong with using a dominating strategy, but sometimes, it can get insane to consider just how nonsensical some team builds can become. Not that Blizzard does a bad job with Balancing (mostly), but because of how long it takes for us to see new heroes or adjustments to help balance the game properly sometimes, there isn’t much use of having a roster of 29 if it feels like you only need a small set of six and that’s it.
It isn’t to say Overwatch needs to consider something like a “Hero Ban” to ensure some new strategies come up, but maybe that is something that should be considered helping part of the overall developing problem we’ve seen growing for years now. With the number of people begging for the “removal of Brigitte,” it could be time to put in a hero ban so that new strategies can emerge (even if it has to be forced in one way or another).
I could keep listing reasons why Overwatch might be falling apart, but what else could I say at this point that wouldn’t come off a whining and bickering? I didn’t even cover the lack of story updates or crowd control and how that needs to be addressed, but that feels like Blizzard spinning in place there. While Brigitte is strong, all these nerfs to her are feeling like overkill like what happened to Mercy. All the while, it’s less about helping other heroes to better combat them and more about throwing problem characters under a bus.
At the start, I said supporting a game for years on end can be a challenge. I don’t know all the answers and I’m far from an expert on all things Overwatch. On that same point though, I don’t think Overwatch just collided with an ice wall and we are watching the ship sink either. We want to see Overwatch continue to grow and keep players coming back for more. It may be fatigue. It may be repetition.
Blizzard will face an uphill battle going into 2019 since they’ll need to reassure players that they know what they’re doing. For all we know, the worries we have could be for naught and year four will be great. Until we know for sure though, fans will watch cautiously and hope for a better future for Overwatch.
So What Do You Think?
Is Overwatch in a bad position as we near the end of 2018? What do you think Blizzard needs to address to make the game better than it already is? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more articles on Overwatch and other things in the world of gaming.