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

Don't worry, my friends. I am your shield.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Grouping up on the payload feels quite a bit differently now when you’re a tank main in Overwatch 2. And it took me a long while to figure out how I felt about it.

The earth-shattering change from six-vs-six to five-vs-five in the FPS sequel from Blizzard is truly felt in the tank position. In Overwatch 2’s role system, the game now asks for two supports, two damage, and one tank hero.

It is a stark difference from the two of each role in the original game, and it’s one that I didn’t really feel during the game’s closed beta period earlier this year. Now, having an awkward conversation with your sixth friend who cannot physically queue up with you in OW2 anymore like they did in Overwatch 1 is only the first hurdle of the new title.

After extensive play-testing during an early access period for media members over the past week-plus, I am really feeling the weight and mounting pressure of the new solo tank role in OW2.

The vast majority of my hours in OW1 were played as a tank. | Screengrab via Blizzard Entertainment

In OW1, most team compositions used a main tank like Reinhardt or Winston to pair with an offensive tank like D.Va or Zarya. The main tank’s job was to tank damage and protect the frontline, while the offensive tank would hard focus enemies and peel to the backline to help out supports when needed.

Now, in OW2, there are two jobs for one tank. And it’s a daunting task, especially when the six-vs-six gameplay that OW1 instilled in my mind for five-plus years is so deeply ingrained. The tank role feels so very different in OW2. And it’s something I’m continuing to struggle with.

Let me make one thing clear: I am not an Overwatch League-level player. Far from it. I was a high Platinum, low Diamond-level player in my competitive days, which would say I’m average or slightly above it. I don’t feel any more than average, so I can imagine how this change might feel to tank mains who the game’s SR system would define as below average or lower. It might be a difficult thing to adjust to for most, but high-level tank players in Masters or above may feel differently.

At times, it feels like I need to completely re-learn how to play the game as a tank. You can no longer focus on just one task anymore. You have to be the frontline defender while also being able to defend your supports all while putting everything you have into staying alive because if you go down, your teammates will usually follow.

Teamfights are won and lost, usually, by whoever can pick off the enemy team’s tank first. It all falls apart after that. It’s an immense amount of pressure that I never really felt in OW1, thanks to always having another tank to shoulder the burden with. The tank role feels so incredibly different when you’re the only chonky boy on the field of battle, and it’s an adjustment I’m still working on after several hours of playing.

Winston is mad because he’s lonely. | Image via Blizzard Entertainment

As a Reinhardt main who clings on to the days where I could hold right-click, out-duel the enemy Reinhardt, and feel like I was doing something important for my team, I also greatly miss my ability to pair up with a Zarya who could bubble me when my shield broke. Running a duo with another tank is sorely missed.

Really, it’s the synergy between tanks that I’ll miss the most. Nothing felt quite like nailing a combo of ultimates with Zarya and Roadhog, or Reinhardt and D.Va, or knowing that another big body had your back as you pushed the payload or pressed the advantage. Tanking is a lonely thing in OW2.

In general, though, five-vs-five works way better than six-vs-six overall in the new game. And all of the game’s additional new tank heroes moving forward, starting with Junker Queen, have been designed with this in mind, so the game’s older tanks may feel archaic in comparison.

Junker Queen’s kit has been known for a while now, but she’s something of a hybrid between a main tank and an off-tank, and she’s quickly become one of my favorite tanks to play in a wide variety of situations. She’s very, very survivable and she’s able to deal quite a bit of damage while also wounding and doling out anti-heal debuffs in droves. She’s a jack-of-all-trades for the tank role, and it feels like other tanks may need a bit more of a rework to be up to snuff in comparison.

Part of the difficult adjustment period at first is on me, I suppose. I’m probably being stubborn in trying to play the game as a tank the way I always used to, but I also can’t get past the fact that tanking in OW2 is just fundamentally different now. Maybe I’m alone in my struggles, but I’m willing to bet some Overwatch Coins that I’m not.

Junker Queen leads the new generation of tanks. | Image via Blizzard Entertainment

One other facet of playing tanks in OW2 rings especially true, however. Tanking might be tougher because of the solo aspect, but playing a tank feels incredible now thanks to balancing passes throughout the roster that basically removed the plethora of crowd control abilities that plagued the game for years. The days of being bounced, stunned, frozen, booped, and bopped all within the same teamfight are over, and it’s awesome.

And the thing about all of this new pressure as the only tank for your team in OW2 is that I actually love it. I love it a lot. And I think my feelings for the game are exciting and new in a way that I haven’t felt since probably 2016, and a large part of that is also because almost every tank is viable depending on the situation.

Tanking in OW2 feels like a genuine challenge and a new learning experience, but it’s one that I’m up for. Fellow tanks, stand strong because your team needs you more than ever. As Reinhardt likes to say, “Bring! It! On! I LIVE for this!”