Overwatch 2 has announced a seismic shift in gameplay for Season 9 that will fundamentally change how the game is played. In the next season update, coming later in 2024, all heroes – including Tanks and Damage heroes – will receive a baseline self-heal passive ability. This change aims to reduce reliance on Supports for healing and mitigate frustration from poor teamwork, but has sparked heated debate in the Overwatch community.
Overwatch 2 launched in October 2022 as the next evolution of Blizzard’s hero team shooter Overwatch. The switch to 5v5 removed one Tank from each team, placing more pressure on the remaining Tank and Supports.
Queue times for Damage heroes have remained short, but Tank and Support queue times have been lengthy due to lower player counts in these roles. Players choosing to play Tank and Support have reported increased harassment and blame from Damage teammates.
To help address these issues, improve solo carry potential, and modernize Overwatch 2, Game Director Aaron Keller announced that self-healing is coming to all heroes:
“We want to reduce reliance on healers and tanks by giving more heroes a way to self sustain.”
Passive health regeneration will be granted to Tank and Damage heroes at a rate of 1% of max health per second after not taking damage for 4 seconds. This is half the healing rate Supports currently receive passively.
In an interview, Keller elaborated on the goals behind adding baseline self-heals:
- Reduce frustration when teams lack healing
- Empower solo play and reduce dependence on Support heroes
- Shorten queue times by making Tank and Support less necessary
- Increase hero viability across all skill tiers
- Shift the teamwork focus from healing to strategy and coordination
Granting self-sustain aims to make Overwatch more accessible for lower-ranked players while raising the skill ceiling at high elo through less locked team compositions.
Despite the potential benefits, the Overwatch community feedback has been intensely negative overall. Top concerns from players include:
- Reduce teamwork in a game sold on cooperative shooter teamplay
- Lessen uniqueness of Support heroes and their value
- Slow the pace of gameplay with more sustain
- Limit strategic diversity from healer-focused team builds
Many supporters have agreed the new self-heals could work, but dislike how they were communicated originally. The changes were revealed out of context from the full Season 9 updates rather than pitched as an experimental feature. Players felt this lacked transparency after Overwatch 2’s rocky launch.
What Happens Next
Overwatch 2 directors have acknowledged revealing the self-heal abilities separately was a “mistake” and plan to share the full context and goals behind the decision in an upcoming blog post.
But despite the community blowback, Keller has reiterated that the ability improvements are firmly planned to go live in Season 9 later this year. The blog will likely focus on explaining the philosophy rather than walking back the controversial healing.
With many players threatening to quit the hero shooter over this update that fundamentally alters core Overwatch gameplay, Blizzard faces community repair work if they wish to retain their player base. Their handling of this situation will set the stage for Overwatch 2’s lifespan going forward.
Table: Self-Heal Rate Comparison
What This Means for Overwatch 2
While the out-of-context announcement may have stoked flames, this self-heal addition represents a key shift in Blizzard’s vision for Overwatch 2 as an evolution of the original game.
Lower dependence on tightly synergistic team compositions, separate main Tank/Support/Damage queues, greater solo carry potential, and more room for strategic adjustments are all byproducts of granting universal self-sustain.
But this comes at the cost of reduced requirement for deliberate teambuilding and ability timing around healer availability. Matches may ultimately become more frantic skirmishes and less about alternating coordinated engages.
Only time will tell if Overwatch 2 can retain its identity as a strategic and teamplay-centric hero shooter following such a radical change aimed at pleasing a modern audience and improving monetization potential. But this Season 9 overhaul may make or break the title’s longterm staying power.
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