Overwatch got a new hero last week with the addition of Sombra to the roster on the live servers. People have been waiting for Sombra for a really long time, as she’s been teased for almost the last year through a drawn-out and frustrating alternate reality game that didn’t really accomplish anything but making people mad. But the patch as a whole came at such a weird time that it left me asking a few questions.
I’m not convinced it’s such a great idea to drop new heroes into the game in the middle of a competitive season. We tried playing ranked last week, and every team had a Sombra, despite no one having any substantial experience with her. When you’re treating a competitive playlist where people are focused on winning, having one player flail around on a character they’re unfamiliar with doesn’t tend to end well. You’d think that the addition of a one hero limit to quickplay and five new playlists just to mess around and have fun would incentivize people to learn Sombra there and leave ranked alone, but it seems that didn’t work. What makes this worse is that this is pretty much a repeat of what happened with the introduction of Ana in season 1, and no one (Blizzard included) has learned their lesson. Worst case scenario, I would prefer it if Blizzard added the new heroes three quarters of the way through the season but didn’t allow the hero to be selected in ranked until the next season. This gives a considerable amount of time for players to get experience with that hero before taking it into the next season.
The balance changes in the latest patch are very welcome. Pro Overwatch has been rather stale lately, with just about everyone running the “beyblade” composition: Ana nanoboosting a Reaper as it enters Death Blossom. That combination of abilities is ridiculously strong, and because of Ana’s (recently nerfed) speed boost during a nanoboost, it could get you multikills with just the tiniest window for evasion. It was so strong there was no reason not to roll with it, and it unfortunately led most matches to play out pretty similarly. The balance changes have already caused significant changes in team compositions in professional games since the patch dropped, and it’ll be interesting to see how Sombra shakes things up once pros have more experience with her.
The patch this time was pretty meaty, and it was a pretty shocking change to have take place in the game overnight. I’ve been watching OGN’s ongoing Overwatch APEX tournament, and it was shocking to see the difference in play between (Korea time) Tuesday and Wednesday’s games. I wonder how much time pro Overwatch players need to devote to playing the public test realm version of Overwatch when new test builds go live to prepare themselves for a patch that could go live at any moment. Not doing so would mean having to learn the patch on the fly, and that doesn’t sound great.
Overall, I’m happy that this patch makes less heroes an insta-lock every game. While I don’t see all heroes becoming viable for professional play anytime soon, I think that’s the direction they’re headed towards. Give people more viable heroes with good synergy options, and games will have much more variety and be more entertaining to watch long-term.