Overwatch 2 nerfs prove the developers still don't understand who's playing
The latest beta for Overwatch 2 began yesterday, and with it came a plethora of balance updates to the game's roster. The immediate response from fans was one of disappointment, which is a feeling that sums up most of Overwatch 2’s development. While these changes aren’t permanent, they are endemic to the team at Activision Blizzard’s continued inability to listen to the community. The heroes on the chopping block this time?
Mercy and Symmetra.
Get nerfed — The official patch notes for the June 28 update contained buffs for some characters, the nerfs for others, like Mercy and Symmetra.
The biggest change to Mercy comes in the form of a nerf to her “Guardian Angel” ability which allows her to fast travel towards a teammate. The patch makes it so the ability can, “no longer be canceled using crouch for a big vertical boost”. This takes away a player's ability to control a ‘super jump’ trick that would give Mercy that desired vertical boost. This one trick is a big part of what makes Mercy a viable support character. The patch adds this vertical boost to the end of the ability if the player reaches the end of its range. While this doesn’t take away the trick altogether, it does remove the ability to trigger it manually.
“They have butchered her movement,” said one player in a Reddit thread about the change. Mercy mains feel that by taking away the manual control over this trick, the developers are killing Mercy’s viability in competitive play. Another commenter on Reddit added that “most of Mercy’s [Guardian Angel] techs are now gone in the beta” meaning that high-level movement techniques for Mercy have been taken away with the latest nerf.
Symmetra hasn’t fared any better with players saying her changes are “painful”. Her primary fire had its ammo capacity increased from 70 to 100 but it “no longer generates ammo when damaging barriers”. Meanwhile, her secondary fire had its damage reduced, cost increased, and takes longer to charge. To put the nail in the coffin, Symmetra’s teleporter is no longer permanent, with a maximum lifespan of 10 seconds.
These changes are so bad that fans have given up hope for Symmetra as she currently exists in the game. “At this point, they should just bite the bullet and consider giving her the full Orisa remake.” reads one Reddit comment. Players feel that the dev team doesn’t know what to do with her as a hero and instead of putting out disjointed nerfs, they should take her back to the drawing board and start over to give her a meaningful place on the roster. Symmetra already received a full rework in the first Overwatch, so it wouldn’t be too outlandish to do it again.
Identity crisis — The nerfs to both Mercy and Symmetra are a symptom of Overwatch 2’s greatest problem. The game is unsure of its own direction. From the start, this sequel had to fight to make a case for itself. Why did Overwatch need a sequel? Is this a glorified update? These are the types of questions the game continues to face ever since it was first revealed. When the initial beta began players discovered that, yes indeed, this was a glorified update.
The identity of Overwatch is a malleable thing, what started as a fun character-based shooter quickly turned into a popular competitive scene. The development team has continued to struggle with balancing the casual and professional audiences of the game and in trying to satisfy both parties, nobody gets the game they want.
Mercy’s latest nerfs are a perfect microcosm of this issue. The super jump trick that players have used is an integral part of Mercy’s competitive Kit, many attribute her continued viability in competitive play to this movement manipulation. The new nerf kills the technique's viability by taking away the skill necessary to execute it. Something casual players will benefit from but is also a big blow to the competitive scene.
In many ways, Overwatch 2 and Symmetra have many things in common. They are disjointed, messy, and patchwork solutions to problems are not enough to make them viable. If Activision Blizzard wants to keep Symmetra and Overwatch 2 viable, they are going to have to do a major rework.