Overwatch 2’s second beta is coming to an end next week, and the community is yet again about to be plunged into purgatory until an announced but undated third beta goes live before the final October release date.
During that down period, we can take a look back at how the second Overwatch 2 beta felt, and consider all the changes that were made. Blizzard to its credit, after two years of inactivity, has updated frequently, trying new ideas and abilities even midway through these testing phases.
That happened just this week, in the last days of the beta. Both Moira and Mercy saw their powers reworked, allowing for higher skill and impact. Moira’s change was the largest, as she gained a new ability that has a devastating effect. Her Orbs, which used to modulate between healing and damage on a shared cooldown, are now split – and her damaging orb is gone completely. In its place is Necrotic Orb. Now Moira can shoot out a fast-moving projectile that, when it hits another player, nerfs their damage by a devastating 75% for four seconds.
While I think the numbers need tuning, perhaps reducing the huge debuff in return for a shorter cooldown, this ability is a great idea. It’s exceptional at shutting down ultimates, nullifying Genji blades, Cassidy High Noons, Ashe’s BOB, D.VA bombs… honestly any ultimate that is meant to do damage. It allows Moira to take on the very specific job of halting dives or clutching moments, by stopping damage from an ult that was about to wipe the team. However, she’ll now require a decent amount of forethought, a little bit of aim, and impeccable timing.
Now I don’t think this is overpowered at all. It’s more or less on par with Ana’s Sleep Dart or Baptiste’s Immortality Field. It’s a great switch that will make Moira a more interesting character for skilled players, allowing her to have a massive impact on a fight. It makes her more technical when she was one of the easiest supports to play previously.
Which has become a strange trend for Overwatch 2 across several heroes. For example, Bastion no longer has a self-heal and he can’t sit as a turret forever. And recently, Symmetra changes have encouraged players to move her teleporter around more frequently, coordinating the movement of her team. In general, Overwatch 2 heroes are becoming harder to play.
Raising the roof
There are two concepts that come into play here - skill floors and skill ceilings. A skill floor refers to how easy it is to be effective with a hero, whereas a skill ceiling is the potential maximum impact a hero can have. Overwatch’s heroes generally have a low floor and a low ceiling, a high floor and a high ceiling, or something in-between. For example, just about anyone could do well with Bastion in Overwatch 1 by sitting in one spot outputting damage, but he’s also easily outplayed due to his lack of mobility. This becomes truer the higher in competitive play you go. On the other hand, Genji is essentially useless to a novice player but has the potential to take over games in the hands of a master.
One of the things that made Overwatch so great when it was first released in 2016 was that it felt like there was a hero for everyone, no matter your playstyle, or indeed your skill level. The game was wonderfully approachable, and there was always a hero you could jump onto and feel like you weren’t useless. There was also no scoreboard, so players couldn’t check on their teammates and flame them if they were struggling. A feeling of ‘safeness’ defined the early experience. That’s not the case anymore.
In Overwatch 2, the changes we’ve seen so far suggest Blizzard is moving towards raising the skill ceiling for all of its heroes. In terms of support roles, Moira was certainly one of the lowest floor heroes, able to heal a lot and do a fair amount of damage but with limited range and diversity. However, this update – which takes away an orb that automatically did the damage, and replaces it with a shot you have to aim, at the right time, on the right target – certainly raises both her floor and her ceiling.
For experienced players who want to have those higher ceilings across more heroes, with huge moments where they fire off an ability that turns the tide of the match, this is awesome to see. However, I can’t help but feel that some of that pick-up-and-play magic has disappeared in favor of the dedicated. While it might make Overwatch 2 better for players who intend to put 1000s of hours into it, it’s important to recognize that the inviting approachability Blizzard once offered may be gone. That aspect made the first Overwatch really special, and it’s a little sad to see it diminishing in the sequel.