Seagull’s infamous video is the gift that keeps on giving. One of his key points that generated a lot of controversies is his stance on the power level of Ultimate Abilities: he feels that ultimates are too powerful and reduce team fights to a simple “who has more ‘Q’s’” game. Unlike the other issues he presented on his video, this one did not resonate with the player base as much. One of the people who strongly disagreed about Ultimates feeling too strong was Jayne, the popular Dallas Fuel assistant coach.
While reacting to this video, Jayne disagreed, pointing out how ult economy and ult tracking are two of the essential skills in Overwatch. Without them, the game would lose much of its strategic aspect. This opinion seemed to be the most common among viewers, and when we think about what attracts the more casual audience, the vast majority of the player base, the strength of Ultimates is one of the critical factors.
However, the feeling of helplessness when the opposing team successfully pulls off an Ultimate combo, the reliance on teammates to save their defensive Ultimates for the right time in order to survive and the feeling of having a beautiful play using regular abilities undone or outclassed by a simple “Q” press have all increased in the recent times. More than ever, Ultimates take the main stage while everything else seems like filler.
Why do we feel this now when Ultimate has been a part of the game forever and was barely touched? How can we keep ult tracking and management as an essential skill but not the only thing that defines games? I won’t attempt to find a solution to this problem, but I will provide a theory that might explain this feeling towards Ultimates.
Current State of Healing
The famous GOATs composition uses three tanks and three support heroes. It aims to abuse every survivability tool available in the game to rush down the enemy and eventually wipe them out (usually via Ultimate combos).
Brigitte is the core of the Tank-based compositions and is usually accompanied by Lucio to help her, and the tanks reach their targets faster via Speed Boost. Brigitte’s Inspire is activated by a single hit and continues for 6 seconds healing for 16.66 hps, similar to Lucio regular heal of 16.25 hps. If we consider just these two passive abilities, there’s a permanent heal of 32.91 hps on all six heroes. If the team is attacking on an Escort map, we add the payload healing for a total of 42.91 hps without using any primary healing ability. Let’s add an actual main healer to the equation:
Ana and Zenyatta both provide some much-needed utility to the composition:
Ana can focus a teammate for 75 healing per shot (93.75 hps), heal everyone that is close by for 100 with her Biotic Grenade (and adding 50% to all healing from all sources during 3 seconds) or denying healing for the opponent - a significant asset in the mirror match.
Zenyatta, on the other hand, brings damage potential in an attempt to burst down enemy tanks with good use of Discord Orb. His healing is much lower than the alternatives (30 hps on a single target), but he brings to the table the best defensive Ultimate of the game.
Both Ana and Zen are great options and represent two popular variations of the original composition. The first, and most popular, main support in the GOATs comp is, however, Moira. Moira specializes in healing close, low mobility targets. With just her primary fire, she provides 80 hps on a 15m range meaning she can follow on the backline and heal all five of her teammates. Her Biotic provides another tool of burst healing providing 75 hps to a maximum of 300. If that wasn’t enough, her high Ultimate charge rate lets her have Coalescence ready for every single team fight: another 140 hps to every teammate that crosses her beam.
With Moira’s Biotic Orb, Brigitte’s Inspire and Lucio’s Healing Aura with Amp It Up (increasing his base 16.25 hps to 46.8 hps), team members receive a total of 218.46 hps which means that a typical 200 hp hero is fully healed in less than a second without factoring any Ultimates. But we’re not done yet:
To these numbers we have to add the damage reduction of armor: not only do tanks come with their share, but Brigitte can also provide a more significant number of it via her Repair Pack and Rally. Then, we have to consider shield health passive regeneration (which is only depleted after all armor has been taken off), the stack of various barriers and D.Va’s Defense Matrix.
Not only is damage healed at a tremendous rate, most of it never goes through.
The overall healing output is so high one would have to wonder what would take to win a team fight if Ultimates weren’t so strong.
How-To: Eliminate Without Ultimate
From the vast roster of DPS characters, only a few can perform in a world where burst healing is ever present: a good Doomfist is capable of instantly eliminate any 200 HP target that gets slightly isolated from their front-line (i.e., non-Brigitte supports); Sombra, shuts down one of the tanks (preferably Reinhardt or D.Va depending on the situation) long enough for the teammates to capitalize on the lack of protection; Widowmaker is sometimes effective at pressuring the backline. However, immediate response by the enemy D.Va can render Widow’s efforts useless.
Times are grim for DPS players. Players don’t seem to think that the McCree buff and Doomfist nerf will be enough to give other damaging heroes a chance. Currently, survivability, until Ultimates are online, appears to be the safest way to play the game.
With that said, is the absurd amount of healing output a problem for the future of Overwatch?
Judging by the way the community feels about the GOATs comp, it would seem that the answer to this question is definitive yes. However, we do have to consider that outside of this relatively recent composition, healing, and ultimates, while strong, have always felt fair: they didn’t feel like the game was about them, it seemed that games would evolve to a climax when they were used.
When two tanky comps face each other, it seems that there’s little to no player interaction, no room to outplay the opponent. Sure, a more in-depth look into a match will reveal key decisions that change the course of the game. However, it’s hard to deny that, at the surface, it looks like a waiting game until the “Q’s” are online. Ultimate Abilities are not part of the game, and they are the game itself.
This is why GOATs comp is not appreciated by the average player/viewer. Without vast experience in analyzing top-level matches, all the key decisions each player make are hidden beneath a cluster of special effects. Even casters have a hard time these days.
So what can we expect for the evolution of the metagame in the near-future?
There is a lot of speculation regarding the viability of the GOATs after the recent Brigitte’s nerf. While her offensive capabilities have been strongly diminished, her increased healing uptime has been slightly raised so that she doesn’t need to land as many hits to keep the a.o.e. heal going. To it, we must add the inability to stun main tanks which will make combos harder. The result? There’s an incentive for passive play in these 3-3 style compositions. With just her primary fire, she provides 80 hps on a 15m range meaning she can follow on the backline and heal all five of her teammates. Her biotic orb provides another tool of burst healing providing 75 hps to a maximum of 300. Of course, with passive play, there’s more reliance on ultimates to get eliminations despite the excessive healing. And let’s not forget that landing Ana’s biotic grenade to cancel enemy healing temporarily is also hard without Brigitte’s reliable stuns.
Still, there’s still light in these dark times. Map geometry still promotes Dive over low mobility tanks in some situations. Some variations of GOATs like DOATs (replacing Reinhardt with Winston to dive the enemy), Mountain GOATs/Snow GOATs (running Mei to isolate the enemy tanks from the backline) and support variation bring some much needed variety to matches that sometimes feel like a blurry mess of the same visual effects played over and over again. These strategic variations and odd compositions to counter the king of the meta remind us that the game is not about ultimates, ultimates are just a part of what goes in a match of Overwatch.
Only time will tell if the healing creep keeps going to the point that getting kills without ultimates is nothing but an ancient legend. For now, we’ll have to wait to see if the latest balance changes will shake up the way the game is currently played in competitive and, on a later date, professional level play.
Let’s not forget that metas change all the time: recently, a Quad-DPS, single healer composition is performing well in contenders - typical quick play games are closer to professional level play than we imagine (without all the tactics and crucial team coordination, of course). Some variety like this is enough to bring back the enthusiasm of the viewers and players alike and restore the health of the game in more way than we initially imagined.
From less survivability comes regular eliminations, from regular eliminations, comes less reliance on Ultimates. From there, we’ll still have ult tracking and ult economy as crucial elements of professional level play (Jayne will be happy) but with enough room to play and counterplay without the need for Ultimates to be involved (Seagull will be satisfied).
Tl;dr: Blame GOATs.
On a more serious note, the problem seems to be tied to the current meta and can be fixed as a side-effect of balance changes. Ultimates has been an exciting part of Overwatch for casual players to the highest level of professional play since the game’s inception. It will continue to be, hopefully, for many years to come.
Images Via: playoverwatch