Oh, so they decided to do something about this, huh?
Overwatch has now been around for over a year, and the game’s seen its share of growing pains. Lately, a number of the characters have been reworked, including Roadhog, Junkrat, Waifu a.k.a Widowmaker, and Best Girl a.k.a D.Va. Now come to find out that even Hanzo is being looked at for some changes. But the most drastic of the recent character updates came with Mercy, who got an entirely new ultimate and had her resurrect completely changed so it’s now on a 30-second cooldown. And now both she and Ana are up for even more balancing tweaks.
Supports are a vital part of the Overwatch game. The definition of support doesn’t exclusively translate to ‘healer,’ but that is clearly one of the core aspects of the game. Most of the characters effectively have abilities that could qualify as supportive. But being able to just deny damage (at least reliably) isn’t an ability had by many characters. Lucio has been in the spot of must-pick for quite some time, now, simply due to his utility. His healing isn’t the best, but he has a tremendously powerful support ultimate, which is even more effective (in some situations) as Zenyatta’s. He’s also the most team fight viable support hero, as Zen relies heavily on skill shots, and all of the other supports are far easier to kill, warranting his lesser healing.
However, people have been, in my own opinion, rightfully unhappy with the Mercy rework. Granted, this is all from the perspective of someone who plays on PS4. You think getting people to work together on PC is hard? That’s cute. The old Mercy’s most noteworthy merit was the ability to just undo a team-wipe. It could be a bit annoying, but speaking from personal experience, full team-wipes were rare enough that it didn’t even affect much. Also as someone’s who’s 5-man Rez’d before, only for the entire team to just die again, I can personally say that getting “Huge Rez” is not gonna win you the fight. If the other team’s better, no amount of rez will earn you that W.
Mercy’s new rework didn’t actually bother me in terms of what it was trying to accomplish. Actually, I like the new ultimate and the solo rez. The best Mercy Rez’s before were always very methodical ones, bringing back one or two key players, not entire teams. So the new way things worked was fine with me. The problem is more in line with how people seem to play the game outside of the higher tiers of play, wherein there seems to be this mentality of “every man for himself,” most of the time. The new Mercy is very much the opposite of the old one where the only way to counter her was getting a team wipe, as opposed to the old method, where it was better to just get picks unless you knew her ult was down. And since team wipes just don’t happen often enough, a team with a Mercy could seem unstoppable.
Meanwhile, the other healers were next to pointless at lower levels of play because unlike Mercy, they all really require pretty solid teamwork. Lucio requires coordination with his speed boost. Zenyatta needs people to listen up for his discord orb (and protect him because he isn’t great at staying alive). Even off-healers like Sombra need a lot of team coordination by taking advantage of her hacks, for example. Mercy’s current form isn’t nearly as reliant on the team, aside from using them to not die by flying between them constantly. The nearest it gets is relying on them to be smartly positioned, which is Ana’s wheelhouse.
Now, yes, the easy answer to the problem is for people to remember they’re playing a team game, and work together with the other healers. It is more of a problem with the players than the character. But Mercy does generally just enable more reckless, selfish play, in the long run.
Then there’s Ana. While Ana was arguably the best healer for quite a while, she’s also the healer that needs her hand held the absolute most. The value that can be pulled out of her is absolutely insane if you’re really, really good at her, but few heroes have quite the absolute Achilles Heel that she does.
See, Ana is a sniper. Snipers, just based on playstyle, are inherently weak to dive. They’re most effective at a safe distance. Hanzo and Widowmaker have their means of dealing with this weakness. At close range, Hanzo is arguably even more dangerous, especially with his scattershot. He’s just more vulnerable and without platforms, can’t reliably get away from dedicated attackers. Regardless, diving a Hanzo is a gamble. Diving Widowmaker can reduce the threat, but she has a very easy, and recently buffed means of escape. Ana… has a sleep dart. And only one charge of it, mind you. Which means if Ana is attacked by more than one person, especially if one is a Winston or D.Va, she’s pretty much screwed, relying entirely on a teammate to save her. And if she’s attacked by a flanker (namely Genji or Tracer, who are both hard enough to hit as is), and she misses that sleep dart, she’s still screwed.
Ana simply doesn’t have any escape utility, and can’t properly defend herself against threats. Even the ability to just climb walls or something would be welcome if her ability to defend herself is going to be that dismal. Something that lets her run. Lucio can speed boost to safety or boost his healing to shrug off damage while trading his own. Zenyatta also lacks real escape capability, but can much more reliably kill things on his own. In the current state of the game, there just isn’t much use for her aside from the sheer value of her heals, which are undeniably good, just not as good as the value you get out of Mercy. Especially with Mercy’s ability to deny an entire kill, not just damage.
So in short, Mercy isn’t counterable enough and Ana is too counterable. How does Blizzard decide to resolve this issue? Mercy is having a cast-time placed on her resurrect, which causes her to also have to slow down in movement, making her an easier target. This will come with the need for Mercy to be more tactical about going for a Rez because she’s infinitely more killable than she had been. I think this could be an effective solution to the problem, though it remains to be seen just how it will pan out.
As for Ana, they’re buffing her damage to 70 per shot, as opposed to the recent 60 per shot or the original 80. This makes her effectively capable of 3-shotting squishies, which is no joke. It does let her defend herself a little more. Though I would still argue that in Ana’s case, unless you’re going to be like Hanzo, and have the capability of skill-shot killing close targets in one or two shots, the emphasis still needs to be placed more in an escape plan. If Ana were as deadly as Hanzo up close, she might be a little too good. Just like if Hanzo had better escape than just climbing walls.
I just think buffing her damage ultimately isn’t really going to help much against most of the things that are usually sent after her in the first place. The problems with Tracer and Genji aiming her isn’t that she couldn’t kill them. She could already 3-shot Tracer. It was that hitting them is simply too hard for a sniper up close with such little damage. Hanzo can afford to miss a shot or two up close because he can end his assailant far more easily. Widowmaker is terrible at brawling so she can flee. Ana can’t defend herself reliably enough or escape quickly enough, so she needs her hand to be held. The most prominent play style involving her is to essentially have her just hugging the party the whole time, staying really close and being extremely active. Which is fine. But it’s basically the only way to use her effectively. At which point one has to wonder why they’d make her a sniper. That clearly was never the intention on how to play her.
All of that sets aside what is, to me, Ana’s actual most noteworthy liability. Lucio, Zen, even Mercy can contribute a lot to team damage. I can deal with Ana not being able to escape or fight back a lot, personally, because I only use her on maps with a lot of high ground she can actually reach that would require too much over-extending to follow her to. Places like Horizon Lunar Colony, Numbani, and Watchpoint Gibralter. No, my biggest problem is that Ana doesn’t have a means of shooting through teammates to do damage. One might think that’s a fairly tiny and trivial thing, but the game of Overwatch is inherently chaotic. There is a lot of motion going on. So if one of your teammates eclipses an enemy target, you’re going to wind up shooting them instead. It’s irritating, to say the least. I wouldn’t mind Ana having a switch of modes between healing and damage, like Mercy. Where she can hit a button on the D-Pad (or the equivalent on the system of your choice) and the gun changes over to damage dealing vs. healing. It’d be helpful for certain.
Do I have a solution for Ana’s “No Escape” problem? One that doesn’t just translate to “You missed with the Sleep dart, bro?”
No. I certainly don’t think she needs multiple charges of the sleep dart. At least not if both of them last for as long as they do. Maybe if the cooldown on her sleep dart was reduced? I have no concept for that. I can say that in the current metaspace, Dive-comp is looking a bit weaker. The advent of the new Junkrat makes it especially dangerous, but that’d still require her to be standing near Junkrat. I’ve also personally found Mei to be a really good anti-Dive since she can utterly ruin most of the Dive heroes by robbing them of their mobility.
At the end of the day, Overwatch is a game all about two things – balance and teamwork. The teamwork part is on us. The balance part is on Blizzard. And there really is no absolutely certain way to make sure everything is always 100% in perfect balance. There will always be some heroes that are on top, and some that are just not advisable. That’s just how these types of games work. Maybe something will come up soon that drastically changes the metagame, making Ana that much more viable. BlizzCon is soon. If the new hero people are speculating about can do something to improve survivability, things could change big time. Maybe they’ll synergize with Ana extremely well. Only time will tell. These new updates are on the PTR as we speak, and will probably go live shortly.