Blizzard’s Overwatch development team is exploring wild new game modes in the team-based shooter’s new “Experimental Card,” and one of the biggest new changes is a potentially game-breaking overhaul for Zarya's bubble shield. If it ever makes its way over into other game modes, then she'd become the new must-pick hero.
Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan announced Monday that a “Triple Damage” Experimental mode would allow for teams composed of 3 damage heroes, 2 supports, and 1 tank (3/2/1). Previously, competitive Overwatch forces players to run a 2/2/2 composition, but Kaplan wants to test if 3/2/1 could reduce the lengthy wait times DPS players experience when queueing up for matches.
This new "Experimental" menu option is "where Overwatch players can try new balance updates, rulesets, and game modes that might be awesome or might not ever make it past the 'Experimental' stage." The dev team can test new (sometimes weird) ideas, and players can provide feedback. The "Triple Damage" 3/2/1 format is simply the first trial run.
This specific concept comes with its own set of issues, chiefly how to get players to pick off-tank heroes like Zarya, Roadhog, and D.Va that typically require a main tank to be most effective. The solution? Buff them like never before. All tanks get significant buffs that will only affect gameplay under the Experimental Card, and all other game modes will not include any of these balance changes. The fact remains, however, that Blizzard will use this area to test potential new hero changes for wider play.
Should Zarya's buffs ever make their way into mainstream play, it would break the game entirely.
Zarya Experimental changes
Whenever Zarya targets a teammate to bubble them, the barrier will spread to all nearby allies. The pink-haired off-tank has only ever been able to shield one of her teammates at once, so this quintuples her shield potential.
Here are the patch numbers:
- Particle Barrier (Ally) now creates barriers on all allies within 8 meters of your target. The bubble’s duration increased from 2 seconds to 3 seconds.
Not only can this shield her entire team from one-shot ultimates like Junkrat’s Ripetire, but it can help her build charge exponentially faster. The damage of Zarya’s primary and secondary fire increases the more damage she soaks up with her barriers. That becomes way easier with potential four more bubbles.
To offset these changes, the Overwatch team toned down her overall damage output and fashioned her into more a wonky shield tank, but it’s hard to see how Zarya won’t constantly be at 100 percent charge with this change to her bubble.
Here are the rest of the tweaks she’s getting:
- Shield health pool increases from 200 to 300. (Total health is now 500).
- Maximum energy gain per barrier decreased from 40 to 30.
- Primary fire’s maximum damage per second reduced t from 170 to 140.
- Maximum secondary fire damage reduced from 95 to 80.
- Cooldown for Particle Barrier (Self) decreased from 10 to 8 seconds.
Roadhog experimental changes
Zarya received the most drastic changes, by far, but one of Roadhog’s skills also received an unexpected tweak that will make the hook-flinging brawler into a something of an off-healer.
- Take a Breather now leaves behind a cloud when used. This cloud heals all allies within it for 25 health per second and provides 25% damage reduction.
Roadhog’s favorite snack now helps his teammates too, which will prove extremely useful in close-quarters. The patch notes didn’t mention how long the cloud will stick around for, but if it lingers longer than Roadhog channels Take a Breather the buffed skill could be very formidable if a team plays around it.
Much like Zarya, Roadhog also got some overall improvements to his other skills to make him better as a solo tank.
- Chain hook cooldown reduced from 8 to 6 seconds.
- Primary fire damage per pellet reduced from 6 to 5 (150 damage per shot down to 125 damage).
- Whole Hog cost increased by 15%.
Some of the other tanks got basic shield health and cooldown balance changes to boost how they can perform without the help of another beefy hero.
Here’s a rundown of everything else included in the patch notes:
D.Va experimental changes
- Armor health pool increased from 200 to 400 and base health decreased from 400 to 200. Total health is still 600.
- Defense Matrix duration increased from 2 seconds to 4 seconds.
- Primary fire movement penalty reduced from 50% to 30%.
Orisa experimental changes
- Protective barrier cooldown reduced from 10 seconds to 8 seconds and health increased to 900.
Reinhardt experimental changes
- Armor health pool increased from 200 to 300 and base health decreased from 300 to 200. Total health is still 500.
- Primary fire damage increased from 75 to 90.
- Barrier field regeneration rate increased from 200 to 250 per second.
Sigma experimental changes
- Experimental Barrier regeneration rate increased from 120 to 200 per second and health increased from 900 to 1,200.
Winston experimental changes
- Armor health pool increased from 100 to 200. Total health is now 600.
- Barrier Projector cooldown reduced from 13 seconds to 10 seconds.
Overwatch’s Experimental card is now available on all platforms.