Overwatch has been dominated by shields and barriers for multiple months at nearly every level of play. This week’s Experimental Card tackles the problem of omnipresent barriers while simultaneously buffing heroes that haven’t seen widespread playing time.
This Experimental Card, which went live today, will test some balance changes to the game within the competitive role queue rule set. The patch notes explicitly say that these balance updates are aimed at “shifting away from a barrier-heavy meta.” Heroes like Brigitte, Orisa, and Sigma see the most dramatic updates in this experiment.
“We’ve seen the meta become more defined due to certain heroes over-performing,” Overwatch community manager Molly Fender said on the Blizzard forums. “We hope these changes will help to diversify hero choices and team compositions.”
As with any Experimental Card update, these changes aren’t guaranteed to make the jump to the live servers in their current state or at all. Developers use the Experimental Card to judge the usefulness of certain changes on a wide scale before tuning them for the live Overwatch servers.
Barrier hero changes
- Base health lowered from 200 to 150.
- Inspire’s total healing decreased from 130 to 90. The passive’s healing is reduced from 21 to 15 health per second. Self-healing is no longer reduced by half.
Brigitte has been an enabler in the barrier-heavy meta, even after recent nerfs to her armor packs and shield. These changes take it a step further by reducing her overall health and base healing, making her much less of a must-pick hero in nearly every game. Brigitte will be able to self-heal twice as much with a change to Inspire, her passive, but other supports can now output more healing to a team in comparison.
- Base armor reduced from 250 to 200.
- Halt radius reduced from seven to four meters.
- Projectile speed increased from 20 to 30.
Of all the heroes in the barrier-heavy meta, Orisa has received the most flack from players considering her deep health pool and useful kit. This change alters much of what makes Orisa a must-pick in the current meta. She gets a minor buff to projectiles and a minor nerf to base armor, but the biggest change in this entire patch comes to her Halt ability. The range has been reduced by nearly half to four meters, meaning Orisa players will have to wildly change how they use the “pull” ability.
- Experimental Barrier health reduced from 900 to 700. Regeneration rate reduced from 120 to 80 per second.
- Kinetic Grasp cooldown increased from 10 to 12 seconds.
Sigma and Orisa have been the two most-used heroes in this shield meta, so they’re both getting the brunt of the nerf stick in this Experimental Card. Sigma’s Experimental Barrier gets a big chunk of health removed, but the regeneration rate is reduced to compensate. His Kinetic Grasp ability, which can absorb projectiles and ultimate abilities, gets an increased cooldown. This should make the ability feel less oppressive for the enemy team.
General hero changes
- Hover Jets movement speed increased 20 percent. Regeneration rate reduced from 50 to 35 per second.
- Barrage duration reduced from three to 2.5 seconds.
In the era of shields, Pharah hasn’t seen much playing time. These changes make her a slightly more viable DPS pick, considering she’s now able to move faster and be more of a pain to enemy heroes. Her ultimate, Barrage, will now inflict the same amount of damage in less time. This makes it much less of a risk for Pharah players, who often die as they cast their ultimate ability.
- Scrap Gun ammo reduced from six to five. Damage per projectile increased from six to seven. Recovery increased from 0.7 to 0.85 seconds.
Roadhog’s faithful primary weapon gets a minor tune-up in this Experimental mode. Damage is increased at the expense of an ammo slot, which may make Roadhog players use their weapon in a more mindful way.
- Photon Projector delay before losing charge increased from two to four seconds.
- Teleporter cooldown reduced from 12 to 10 seconds.
Symmetra should, theoretically, be the optimal DPS choice to destroy a meta based on barriers since her primary fire damage increases when used against shields. These minor changes make her a bit more viable against the current meta, allowing her to keep her high-damage Photon Projector charge twice as long.
- Orb of Destruction, or secondary fire, charge rate increased 15 percent. This is 0.6 seconds down to 0.52 seconds per orb. Rate of fire increased from 8.5 to nine shots per second.
Zenyatta is often overshadowed by other healers, such as Baptiste or Brigitte, who output large amounts of healing. While his healing still isn’t up to their level, his damage capabilities are being buffed to make him a competitive choice against weaker heroes. Zenyatta’s “right click” ability, Orb of Destruction, now fully charges in less time and includes an extra shot. This is more than enough damage to take down a sneaky Tracer or Doomfist, not to mention a low-health shield hero.
These changes will be available to test on the Experimental Card for at least a week beginning on Aug. 6. The card can be found on the Overwatch home screen next to the custom game section.