Balance is probably the most contentious thing about Overwatch. Metas dictate how much the community engages with the game. Players’ personal favorite heroes may be pushed out of the meta or elevated to must-pick status. Despite the general reach of Overwatch, whether its lore, esports, or community, it all comes back to the gameplay.
All characters in the hero shooter changed since their initial release. There are just some who went through more drastic changes than others, whether it be buffs, nerfs, or reworks. Some heroes flourished while others languished. Here are some Overwatch heroes that changed drastically since their release.
Mei hasn’t been the most popular damage hero. While she was never underpowered, she couldn’t compete with the mobility-based, high damage-dealing Genji, Soldier: 76, or Tracer.
The Chinese climatologist never had a game-changing rework but she received plenty of changes and adjustments to her kit. She can freeze multiple targets at once. Her icicles can pierce through targets and don’t have fall-off damage. The primary damage on Endothermic Blaster was increased, and her freeze time was buffed.
Her wall’s health was reduced to compensate, but Mei’s ability to isolate targets and dominate in duels make her a viable pick in the Season 18 meta.
McCree is a fan favorite for his classic appeal, personality and skill requirements. McCree sometimes falters in prominence due to his lack of mobility and lack of burst damage. It is also ridiculously easy to shut down his ultimate. High Noon.
The cowboy went through many changes over the past year but mostly for the better. He got a massive damage increase for his Fan the Hammer. High Noon’s range is now 200 meters, and his Peacekeeper’s minimum damage at max range increased from 30 percent to 50 percent.
McCree’s most dramatic buff was when they reduced his primary fire recovery, which increased his fire rate, improved his accuracy and reduced his recoil. This also means that McCree’s damage output and ultimate charge got indirectly buffed. The former Blackwatch agent is enjoying some renewal right now.
Sombra is for the strategic and sleuthy. She frustrates players with her innate ability to disable their abilities and passives for a short amount of time. Her Hack received a few adjustments over the years, but her half her kit got an overhaul in July 2018.
Instead of her Stealth having a duration, Sombra can now stay invisible until disruption or cancellation. To compensate, Stealth got a speed nerf and can no longer contest objectives, however. Her translocator can be destroyed by Sombra herself and has a shorter cooldown.
EMP and Hack were nerfed in August, but that did not stop Sombra from being a viable pick when needed. There’s a reason why Hackfist (Doomfist and Sombra) is a rather strong pairing.
The death bringer himself. Reaper’s strengths lie in his ability to duel and tank-busting damage. While Reaper dealt high damage, his stiff mobility, vulnerability to headshots and sustain made him weak compared to other damage heroes.
One of the biggest changes to come to Reaper was the removal of his Soul Orbs, which would drop from fallen allies and enemies. Blizzard replaced that mechanic with innate-lifesteal from his gun damage. While it was a good change, the lifesteal was rather weak.
Blizzard mega-buffed the Talon agent’s lifesteal and made his Wraith Form faster and togglable. Shadow Step received the most changes; the ability had its voice over reduced, animation sped up, and can be used in the air. Reaper’s lifesteal was nerfed to 40 percent, but he is still one of the best duelists in the game.
Hanzo was another meme in the community for the longest time. His Scatter Arrow would either one-shot enemies or do nothing. He offered inconsistent damage output and zero mobility. He was used more in Quick Play than actual competitive, and only higher-ranked players got some value out of him.
Then came the rework that caused arguably more backlash than his first iteration. Storm Arrow was the biggest addition, replacing Scatter Arrow with six quicker but weaker arrows. It's effective at bursting down targets and breaking barriers but was too powerful. Hanzo also gained a Leap ability that can be used while aiming and in the air.
Most changes to Hanzo affected Storm Arrow, such as reduced damage and arrows, and eventually, Dragonstrike got indirectly nerfed. The elder Shimada brother is still a strong hero and can hold his own in most duels and team fights.
Brigitte, Brigitte, Brigitte. No other hero has received as much vitriol and controversy post-launch as Brigitte. Torbjorn’s daughter could effectively duel most of the roster in the game, tank major damage and ushered in the undying GOATS meta that displaced damage heroes for some time.
Many streamers and Overwatch personalities criticized Blizzard for releasing such a “broken” and “overtuned” hero, so "nerfed away" Blizzard did. Armor’s damage reduction numbers changed. Her Rally got a 30-second duration after the ultimate is done. Her shield bash cooldown increased slightly, and the amount of armor Rally restores was reduced from 150 to 100.
The biggest blow came to Brig’s survivability with her recent overhaul. She became less of a duelist and more of a support character. Her barrier health went down to 250, which is flimsy for the amount of burst damage in the game. Because her kit depends on direct engagement, Brigitte’s effectiveness in the game is hit-or-miss right now.
Lucio is a hero with an interesting presence in the Overwatch community. Reddit Lucios post their craziest wall ride endeavors, boops, and solo eliminations. Some contention was been brought toward Lucio’s Amp It Up (Speed Boost), and how it enables snowballing; snowballing is when a team overwhelms the enemy team after a successful team fight.
Most of Lucio’s changes affected his Crossfade’s effectiveness and range. The modifiers changed a few times over Overwatch’s history alongside Lucio’s Wall-Ride. Sound Barrier was buffed to grant 750 temporary shields but deplete faster. Knockback was changed to bounce back targets more, making his Soundwave (Boop) more effective.
Oh, Torbjorn. Such a decorated history in the community. Popular Overwatch streamer and former esports player Dafran solidified this hero as a “troll pick” by throwing his games with Torbjorn.
Torbjorn’s turret was the cornerstone of his kit. It didn’t auto-build as it would now. Players would have to build it from level one to level 2. Before Brigitte was released, Torbjorn was the sole hero that could give armor packs as pick-ups.
Torb’s former passive allowed him to pick up scrap from fallen allies or enemies. Scrap would be consumed to create armor packs or maintain the turret. His ultimate transformed his turret into a rocket-blasting nightmare, while Torb himself got increased damage, extra armor, and a speed buff.
When the defense category collapsed, Torb’s rework made him a more active damage hero. His ultimate buffs became a cooldown ability. The turret auto-builds and can be thrown for better positioning. His new Molten Core ultimate shoots globules of liquid metal that can cause immense fire damage.
Because he was so overbearing with the damage, Blizzard dialed back his gun’s damage a bit to compensate.
D.VA came a long way since her beta release. She used to be killed by her own Self-Destruct (like Junkrat), and her mech was slow as molasses while it was moving and shooting. Her Defense Matrix (DM) is the strongest part of her kit, deleting most projectiles, bullets, and damage in the game.
D.VA’s rework introduced her Micro Missiles as a cooldown ability. While flying, D.VA can deploy her Boosters and shoot at the same time. She can also use her missiles while flying or using her DM.
Many players complained about D.VA’s DM, so massive nerfs hit the one defensive ability the hero has. Players can no longer flick it, so it requires some patience and timing to effectively use it. She got some relief in a recent patch, but players will have to see when D.VA becomes a more viable tank.
Mercy is a controversial hero due to her playstyle and lower skill requirements to play. She is meant to be an introductory character to the support category.
The original Mercy didn’t have an E-input ability and could only heal, boost and fly. Her ultimate, Resurrect, was the biggest part of her kit. Mercy could revive up to five allies, granted their souls were in the vicinity of the character. Mercy could fly in and instantly bring her allies back from a team wiping Barrage, Dragonblade, or Earthshatter combo.
Various members of the community called for Mercy to change since her utility overshadowed many of the support players at the time (i.e. Ana, Lucio, and Zenyatta). Enter the Mercy rework, which made Rez a 30-second cooldown ability and gave her a new ultimate: Valkyrie.
Valk was pretty overwhelming when it was released in the PTR. Mercy could get her Rez cooldown mitigated when she went into Valk, allowing her to revive two teammates at any point in the match. That was removed and Rez was given a casting time. Coupled with a few recent nerfs, support players and Mercy enthusiasts worry over the current state of the hero.
This hero went through, not one, but two reworks. Yes, there have been three iterations of the Indian light engineer since Overwatch’s release. Most longtime players remember her as a rather inefficient support play who could grant 75 shields and have teleporter as her ultimate. Unfortunately, her teleporter was the primary means of trolling teammates.
Then here comes the first rework, where she was given a deployable barrier and a second ultimate she could toggle: shield generator. The shield generator could grant allies 75 extra barriers constantly until it is destroyed. Two things to note about the first and second Sym iterations: she had a lock-on beam that wouldn’t let go and she could place up to six turrets simultaneously.
Finally, we come to the current iteration of Symmetra that aimed to make her more of a damage hero rather than a support character. No more shield generator or barrier projector. No more lock-on beam –it is a straight beam that can ramp up to ridiculous amounts of damage.
Her teleporter was put on a cooldown but with a shorter range. She can deploy slightly beefier turrets with increased damage and can now slow targets. Oh yeah, and a 4,000-health barrier that literally cuts through the entire map.
And that’s not including the various tweaks she’s received since her latest rework. For the first time ever, Symmetra is a dominant damage hero with the ability to crush barriers and delete enemies.