written by Hopalong
A defined high level Blizzard-endorsed competitive scene had been absent for the first 22 months of Overwatch’s lifespan, save for a few brief tournaments, such as the 2017 Overwatch World Cup. 2018 seemed to pick up the steam for Overwatch as a major eSports title with the premier of the Overwatch League. As the OWL progressed, the number of vocal players unhappy with the state of the game increased, and the number of active players seemingly decreased. Unfortunately, Blizzard is not public with their server statistics, so we’ll have to deal with anecdotal evidence from Reforged, and how active the Overwatch community is. I’m sure that everyone here has heard their friends or teammates in competitive express how much they dislike Overwatch, yet this is a semi-recent development. 2 years ago, all I heard was praise for the game from the communities I was a part of. Even in the early months of OWL, PUGs in Reforged were commonly populated with 15 or more players 4-5 nights a week. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get 13 or 14 once a week. This all begs the question, why?
I started to notice the difference in player enjoyment in late May of 2018. Before this, the top of the ladder was dominated by dive team comps while the rest of the ladder stuck to random 2-2-2 jumble for compositions most of the time. With OWL’s launch, it became abundantly clear that dive was incredibly strong at the highest level of play, and Blizzard intended to change that, forgetting about everyone else. Blizzard’s solution? Brigitte. Brigitte was a jack of all trades. She had a combo that wiped out squishies, sustain to keep her alive in a fight against tanks, and a shield that gave her the HP to do it all. PUGs started slowing down, and ladder play seemed the most dull it had ever been. While Brigitte’s introduction indeed stopped dive, it also forced lower level meta into a bad spot. Brigitte’s ease of play made her a must pick, and wrecked teams that wanted to play anything else. Brigitte stunned dive heroes, booped them away, and healed herself while at it. This made playing anything but deathball near impossible. Soon after, Hanzo had his scatter arrow changed to storm arrow, and this allowed high burst damage long range heroes to get their spot in the meta, namely Hanzo and Widowmaker. Combined with a Rein-Zarya tank combo for Grav-Dragons, double sniper was incredibly powerful. After staying dominant for a few months, a 3 tank 3 support team comp took its place, colloquially known as GOATs to tank the high burst damage brought to the table by double sniper.
So why is any of this a problem, I hear you asking. Brigitte’s abilities were extremely easy to use. Spamming them randomly for a low ELO player gave them quite a bit of room to improve their ELO without improving their quality of play. Additionally, lower ELO’s that weren’t affected by the highest level of play now had their meta defined by top tier players, because of how innate the team compositions synergy was. The problem with this is that there was no room for innovation at low ranks in the current meta. I fondly remember discovering the combination of Sombra’s EMP and D.va’s Self Destruct with a friend, and it being immensely effective after tons of attempting other combos. Compare this with the easy nature of bubbling an aggressive teammate just because they’re in the middle of your screen, or just hitting E every time Storm Arrow comes off cooldown. Overwatch doesn’t feel as skill based as it used to, and that seems like a good reason to dislike the game. Part 2 will focus on the positives and potential Overwatch has in 2019.