As the Overwatch 2 roster continues to grow, its latest addition is one of its most complex yet, following a trend of more complicated Overwatch 2 characters that Blizzard says it intends to continue for the future of its multiplayer game. Following a series of rapid-response alterations to newcomer Lifeweaver, game director Aaron Keller reflects on the Overwatch 2 team’s modern hero design philosophy and the importance of “high-impact abilities.”
It didn’t take long after the release of Overwatch 2’s Lifeweaver for overwhelming player sentiment to drive Blizzard to make changes. In particular, his control scheme was criticised as “clunky,” while concerns were raised around his relatively limp healing speed and abilities that include the power to yank teammates over to your location, with or without their consent, and a ‘Parting Gift’ that dropped on death that would heal whoever picked it up – friend or foe.
The Lifeweaver changes are set to arrive with the next patch. Parting Gift is gone, and Lifeweaver’s control scheme has been reworked to place his damaging Thorn Volley on secondary fire, rather than requiring a weapon swap. But the Thai healer reflects a greater trend in Overwatch 2; that of increasingly complicated heroes with a higher learning curve.
Before Lifeweaver came Ramattra, with two different forms specialising in midrange and up-close combat, and unique primary and secondary attacks tied to either state. Rolling back further is Junker Queen, who might seem straightforward until you realise that playing the brawly tank correctly requires maintaining multiple independent bleed effects on your enemies to keep her lifesteal passive ticking up nicely.
Junker Queen’s Overwatch 2 launch partner Kiriko is less complex on the face of things. However, her kit – while simple – is undoubtedly tuned towards a higher-skill play style. Her Kunai massively reward landing precise headshots, and her cleansing Suzu is an incredibly potent ability that, if used at the wrong time, offers only the briefest window of immunity to those it hits. DPS star Sojourn, meanwhile, is the simplest of the bunch by far, although her railgun also proved vastly more troublesome at high ranks thanks to its devastating crits.
This complexity has either seen newcomers land feeling way too strong, or conversely struggling to find footing as players adapt to their skill set – something Blizzard’s Keller admits. “Regarding new hero balance, we’re not exactly shifting our philosophy, but we do think that both Lifeweaver and Ramattra landed a little softer than we would have liked,” he says. “We recognise that a hero’s win rate will climb after they launch, but we also want those same heroes to feel exciting for players on day one.”
Speaking to Lifeweaver’s design in particular, Keller remarks how several of his abilities “don’t have a precedent in Overwatch,” commenting that this constant strive to introduce abilities that don’t overlap too closely with existing skills leads to loadouts that “can get a little overwhelming.”
Keller recognises how heavily loaded Lifeweaver is, calling his kit “a bit of a departure for Overwatch hero design.” He continues, “In the past, we might have spread these abilities among more than one hero – this is how Genji and Hanzo were created.” However, he explains that the team enjoys the inherent learning curve and gameplay nuance that comes with more intricate character skill sets.
“There are two sides to this coin,” Keller says in conclusion, “and there has been a lot of player excitement around his kit. While we won’t make every Overwatch hero this complex, we think there’s room to make more heroes like Lifeweaver in the future.”
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