Support has become a more dynamic role in Overwatch 2

When I was first introduced to the original Overwatch, I came in with no FPS experience. But having played support roles in the past in other games, I saw the healing icon with the first aid cross above the category and decided that would be my role. 

Now, several years later and on the cusp of the second edition of the game, the support heroes and I have a love/hate relationship. While I still love the role dearly, there are times when the pressure of constantly healing my teammates makes the game feel more intimidating than fun. Having to fulfill a specific role of healing and protecting exactly the right amount so that your teammates can frag out can be exhausting.

Luckily, after having Overwatch 2 in my hands for over a week, the role feels rejuvenated, even from the previous beta. And support mains are finally receiving a new hero for the first time since early 2019. The role is vibrant yet tactical and will be exciting for both new and experienced players. 

With Overwatch 2 releasing next week, support feels more dynamic to play than ever. The role is not just about healing anymore, and you can’t get away with playing like it is. Each support hero has a distinct role that goes far beyond filling their teammates’ health bars.

There are a few reasons why support feels different in Overwatch 2

The change to only one tank per team instead of two means there is overall less healing to do in the first place. Instead of having to keep both a frontlining main tank and a maneuvering off tank alive during a fight, you can focus on supporting your one tank as best as you can and giving help to DPS when they need it. In the original Overwatch, I would frequently have games where I was nearing 15,000 or 20,000 heals per game, which is considered a high number for a casual player. In Overwatch 2, nearing 10,000 heals feels like a similar feat, especially on shorter maps, so don’t be discouraged if your healing output seems disappointing at first.

The second main reason support has changed is again because of overall balance changes that have been made due to the tank role shift.

Related: Solo tanking in Overwatch 2 is more pressure than I’ve felt in a game in years, but I love it

When the developers were restructuring the game around a five-vs-five model, a lot of heroes with crowd control (CC) were reworked or had their abilities toned down. The goal of this change was to make tanking a less grueling experience since the amount of CC in the game had made the role unplayable in the opinion of many players.

Generally, what this means is the few CC and AOE abilities that are still in the game are actually more powerful than they were before since there are now fewer of them. Ana’s sleep dart ability, for example, was always powerful, but if you missed one of your sleep darts in a game, a teammate could usually come and help you. Now, without an off tank to peel for you, hitting your sleep darts is crucial to not getting punished as Ana. 

The reworks to some of the old CC in Overwatch have extended to certain support heroes as well. Most notably, Brigitte is no longer the annoying hero she was way back in the GOATS era. Her shield bash no longer stuns enemies. At first, the changes seemed frustrating since learning to use Brig’s bash effectively was a huge part of her kit in Overwatch. But now, the bash serves an entirely new purpose, mostly providing her with movement and doing damage.

Zenyatta also feels much more viable in Overwatch 2, again because of the reduced CC, which used to frequently punish him since he has basically no escapability. Zenyatta mains should be excited for the new game because the changes have made playing him more intuitive and more rewarding.

Adjusting to these small changes will certainly take time for older players, but once you get used to them, they start to make sense. Every hero is designed to support their team as a whole, not just pump out heals constantly.

The newest hero in the game, Kiriko, exemplifies this change perfectly. Kiriko isn’t at her best when she is played as a pure healer, though to use her effectively, the player needs to be able to juggle many tasks at once.

Her secondary fire does considerable damage but her Protection Suzu is the most valuable part of her kit. The Suzu cleanses all other negative effects put on her teammates: hacks, anti-heals, stuns, and dynamite burns. In a game trademarked by its dynamic hero abilities, saving the Suzu for the right moment in a teamfight could prove to be the most critical part of playing Kiriko.

Similarly, Mercy is another hero that requires multitasking and calculated ability usage in Overwatch 2. Mercy was never designed or intended to be played as a heal-bot, though many casual players play her this way. Mercy can provide incredible targeted healing, but her damage boost is what sets her apart. And in a new game where there is both less damage and less healing overall due to the five-vs-five change, using damage boost and resurrection effectively could make the difference between a team wipe and a captured objective. Though Mercy isn’t expected to do damage herself, similarly to the first game, she might find more opportunities to pull out her pistol in Overwatch 2.

Heroes like Lucio, Moira, and Baptiste feel mostly unchanged from the original game. As with all of the heroes, their designs, voice lines, and weapon sounds have all received upgrades, which makes them feel even more satisfying to play. Moira’s Fade remains a pivotal part of her kit, Lucio’s ultimate can still turn the tide in a teamfight, and Immortality Field is still, well, Immortality Field. This ability feels a little less overpowered now that the other supports in the game are relying on similar powerful abilities that don’t focus on healing.

Overall, though the support role was criticized during the last Overwatch 2 beta, it feels much better in the main game. Both old players who have mastered these heroes as well as new players learning the basics will have a fantastic time playing this role.

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