If you’ve ever gotten so mad at your teammates that you wish you could shoot them instead of your enemies, you may get your chance soon in Overwatch.
Blizzard is teasing the first new hero since Overwatch’s release, and it looks like it could be the rumored sniper healer:
The image shows Overwatch’s resident weaponsmith Torbjörn discussing the dynamics of a “Biotic Rifle” designed for use by medics using biotic technology created by Mercy, who is worried that the gun will “inevitably result in a weaponized version of the technology.”
The turret maker insists Mercy’s biotic technology, a form of nanotechnology in the game’s lore that enables healing effects like Soldier: 76’s Biotic Field and Mercy’s healing beam itself, is only intended for healing—but that implies it could also be used for something else.
The new weapon looks like a sniper rifle that can both harm and hurt, perhaps applying a heal or damage over time effect depending on the target hit by the rifle. The image also shows what looks like some kind of canister deploying in a turret-like mode, a possible hint at a cooldown ability for the new healing sniper.
Thanks to other hints and rumors, fans believe the character wielding the rifle will be a support code named Sombra, possibly Pharah’s mother, part of the same group of criminals as Reaper and Widowmaker. That gives them a bit more leeway to use Torbjörn’s creation in ways unintended by Mercy, opening the possibility of dishing out damage as you heal it.
Adding a new support hero should shake up one of the staler parts of the Overwatch metagame. There are only four support heroes in the game, and one of those four is a highly specialized defensive specialist, Symmetra, who is only viable on small segments of maps where her teleporter is powerful. Considering most six player lineups feature two supports, there’s not a lot of variety for those positions with the current hero roster.
Right now, competitive games usually feature a combination of Lucio and Mercy, and often two Lucios on Control maps where the hectic close range combat makes Mercy an unsafe selection. Healing is too important to use one healer except in comps like mass marine featuring multiple Soldier 76 healing stations, and the only healer besides the two aforementioned supports is Zenyatta, whose paper thin defenses and low healing numbers make him a poor pick in every situation right now.
Sombra could shake things up by providing a new viable healing options and one that benefits from player skill. Presumably there’s an aim component to healing with a sniper rifle, which would add a new dynamic to playing support champions. Mercy requires zero aim skill to play effectively and Lúcio’s sound blaster is projectile spam, different from a hitscan rifle. That fits many player’s styles and skillsets perfectly, but adding an aim-focused support should give players with different talents a more satisfying support option.
Of course, Blizzard has yet to reveal any abilities for the new hero. We have yet to see how the support mechanics work, if there will be an aiming component to any healing, or even healing at all. Plus, as Zenyatta shows, it’s hard to find the right balance for healing heroes. A little tweak one direction and they’re too strong, a little change in another direction and they’re too weak. Whatever the case, it will be fun to finally see a new support hit the game. There’s no time frame for when that might be, but if Blizzard is pushing hints like this one, one can only hope it will be soon.