It’s a longtime dream of mine to be extremely large and basically unkillable. I’ve yet to accomplish my goal in real life, but I will—mark my words. Until then, I’ve at least got Overwatch’s new experimental card, which turns tanks into nigh-unstoppable meat walls, to help me imagine a better world.
The experimental card, which launched earlier this week, is a new branch of Overwatch intended to test off-the-wall gameplay ideas that may never make it into the game’s core mode rotation. The first experiment switches up team compositions. Currently, every match is played with two tanks, two DPS heroes, and two healers, but the “triple damage” experimental mode changes that ratio to 1-3-2—one tank, three DPS heroes, and two healers. This, ideally, should cut down on queue time for DPS players, who usually have to wait much longer to play than tanks and healers.
It may not sound like an earthshaking alteration on paper, but in a role-oriented team game like Overwatch, it absolutely is. In regular Overwatch, players designate tank heroes as either main tanks or off-tanks. Main tanks have shields they can project to soak up damage, whereas off-tanks are bulky and tough to take down but can’t reliably defend an entire team. This poses a problem: If you can only run one tank, then half the tanks on Overwatch’s roster are suddenly useless. Blizzard’s solution? Buff the hell out of them.
While main tanks like Reinhardt, Orisa, and Sigma get perfunctory buffs to HP and shields, off-tanks like Zarya, Roadhog, and D.Va get big changes to the functionality of their abilities on top of the aforementioned HP boosts. Zarya, for example, can now ensconce her whole team in brief “bubble” barriers that render heroes invincible for a couple seconds. These barriers, previously limited to just one hero at a time, also charge Zarya’s weapons with whatever damage they soak up. Now she can soak up more damage than ever, making her a potent defensive and offensive threat. Roadhog, meanwhile, can impact everybody within a small area-of-effect circle with his HP-restoring and damage-reducing “Take A Breather” ability, and D.Va’s damage and ult-eating Defense Matrix now lasts twice as long.
These changes make most tanks feel like juggernauts (aside from Wrecking Ball, who did not receive any changes because I guess Blizzard hates hamsters now). Tanks can now eat damage like a hotel continental breakfast that you scarf as a single, bowling-ball-like food mound in hopes of achieving maximum sustenance, and their abilities—especially Zarya’s—can be tide-turners. Yesterday evening, I had a fantastic time holding the first choke point on King’s Row as a juiced-up Winston with the sort of reckless clown mentality that would have gotten a regular Winston torn limb from flailing limb. I also single-handedly took the final point on Paris with D.Va and got an obscene number of charged kills as Zarya. I rarely died. It was really fun!
It was also pretty mindless. I think that’s a large part of the reason I was able to be so cavalier in my approach and still achieve success: 1-3-2 doesn’t encourage teamwork the same way 2-2-2 does. With superior numbers and the lack of an off-tank threat, DPS heroes are encouraged to go nuts and rack up kills, while healers have to pick between supporting a small squadron of mercurial DPS players and a solo tank who, without support from an off-tank and DPS players, can’t always hold down the fort. The matches I’ve played so far have been enjoyably chaotic, but I’m not sure this is an ideal form for Overwatch to take.
That said, I am glad to see the Overwatch team going out on a limb and just trying things. I kind of fell off playing Overwatch for a while, but I’m intrigued by the idea of more frequent status quo upheavals. If nothing else, I absolutely plan to get in some more time with Triple Damage mode before it disappears, if only so that I can dare to dream of the day that I, too, will be extremely large and basically unkillable.