Support mains are ecstatic that Overwatch 2 is adding a much-needed new healer to the roster, but Illari may not be the healer you’re looking for. I got in some (albeit limited) playtime with the new character, who’s dropping with Overwatch 2: Invasion, and I’m a bit worried for my healer mains. Not only does she have a fairly high skill ceiling, but I can see her easily becoming a thorn in players’ sides.
Illari can do a decent amount of damage, and has some pretty impressive mobility, which could lead to players focusing on using her for attacking rather than healing her squad. She’s described by Blizzard as “deadly in the right hands, especially for players with a high mechanical skill,” and I think that she could end up being deadlier than other aggressive, high-damage healers like Moira, Brigitte, and Baptiste.
If so, that could be a major problem for Overwatch 2’s easily upended meta.
During my hands-on preview, I only get to play Illari (who is Peruvian, and draws her power from the sun) a few times, but I quickly realize that she’s a character that will require some serious practice. Her Solar Rifle has two different firing modes: a more precise hitscan shot that does damage to enemy players, and a projectile beam of light similar to Zarya’s weapon that will heal her teammates. This projectile, like Moira’s healing stream, has to recharge rather than reload, so you’ll need to pay very close attention to the meter to ensure you can keep pumping your teammates with that sweet, sweet nectar.
Her healing pylon, which sends out little spurts of health that remind me of Lifeweaver’s main firing mode, can provide some great passive heals—but it can be destroyed, and players will target it immediately as with Baptiste’s defense matrix “lamp.” The destruction of her pylon seriously knee-capped her healing capability, especially since her healing beam’s energy levels seemed to deplete rather quickly in 5v5 scraps. Her beam can easily heal a singular player facing off against one or two enemies, but without the pylon, it can be hard to keep up the team in group firefights. You’ll need to be very clever with your pylon placement (it can stick to surfaces, so throwing it on the corner of a wall is great) to ensure she can effectively heal multiple teammates at once.
Illari has a nice little movement ability called Outburst that will launch you in the direction you’re moving, and holding jump will send her even higher. It’s great for getting out of sticky situations, but I can also see it being used by more aggressive players to close the gap and take out enemies.
Her ultimate, Captive Sun, is incredibly powerful, so much so that I can imagine Blizzard will nerf it not long after she debuts on August 10. During it, Illari hovers in midair and fires an explosive ball of solar energy that has a decent AoE effect. “It’s the first ultimate in the game that is targeting enemies,” senior game designer Piero Herrera said during a press roundtable. Enemies hit by it have their movement slowed down, and if they take enough damage from it, will explode. You can see how Illari’s kit is tailored for aggressive, damage-focused play, right? Well, Blizzard wants that.
“We wanted to create an attack-centric support,” Herrera said. “So, lots of aim mechanics here, right? FPS players are really going to love playing this character, even though it’s a support.” Her heightened movement capabilities make her “really good at flanking” according to Herrera, which also means players who aren’t all that interested in healing can leave you hanging to chase down an enemy Genji.
As a support main, I’m all too aware of the plague of players who want to play damage but don’t want to wait in the longer DPS queues, so they play support like DPS and focus on killing enemies rather than healing teammates. That’s why Illari scares me.
Now, that may not be the case for every person playing Illari, but historically Overwatch has had issues with people selecting the support role and choosing to focus on damage instead—and while this can work in certain situations (if you have a second healer who can pump out a ton of heals, if you’re doing so much damage that the enemy team can’t retaliate, etc.), it doesn’t always.
Illari can, however, very easily become a support player who does impressive amounts of damage and healing—in the right hands. Because of her high skill ceiling, she’ll need a deft hand to be able to aim her railgun for both attack and heals and advanced spatial/map awareness to be able to cleverly place her pylon and maximize the efficiency of her Outburst jump. For players who can find that balance, she’ll be a fantastic asset in competitive modes. But for those who pick her just to get kills, she may end up being an incredibly frustrating addition to the roster.
Illari drops as part of Overwatch 2: Invasion on August 10. She won’t be available in competitive modes just yet, as is tradition with new heroes.
Update 08/11/22 at 9:22 p.m. ET: Updated the spelling of Illari.