It sucks being an Overwatch 2 support player

Overwatch 2 support players have it rough. As a Moira one-trick, I've never had it particularly easy in Overwatch 1, either – the support role is easily the most necessary and underappreciated component of competitive matches, and a single off round can draw the ire of five angry team members. But Overwatch 2's support players feel the pain more than ever before, thanks in large part to the new 5v5 comp that removes tanks from the equation. While Blizzard has agreed that Overwatch 2 support heroes need some love, you won't see a major change unless the company does something bold but unlikely: reinstate 6v6.

Emotional support healer

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Overwatch 2 beta

(Image credit: Activision)

Overwatch 2 beta hands-on impressions

In 5v5 Overwatch 2 beta matches, the singular tank players often take on the "off-tank" role, which means they play as a shieldless tank. Orisa (who was a main tank in Overwatch 1 with a deployable shield) has moved into the off-tank role thanks to a major rework that makes her much more aggressive and dive-y. As such, she's a popular choice for tank players looking to test her new skillset out – and she's a ton of fun, so I understand the allure. The same goes for Doomfist, who has gotten a major rework that pulls him from DPS into the tank role (although he's yet another off-tank).

With just one tank slot and the two major Overwatch 2 reworks going to off-tanks, that leaves DPS and support players vulnerable to enemy flanks. And since 5v5 Overwatch is a helluva lot faster with a helluva lot more death than its predecessor, that means the supports have a seemingly insurmountable feat looming overhead at the start of every match. Quicker matches and more deaths mean the eyes of your squad rest on the support players, whose job it is to dole out healing. But without the protection of shield tanks to give them the necessary cover, slower support players like Zenyatta and Ana can easily get picked off. 

If you aren't playing a hypermobile healer, you'll spend much of your matches jumping into the fray to try and heal the DPS and single tank player, all three of whom are diving into fights with reckless abandon, just to get flattened because no one is protecting you. It's a frustrating way to play, and that's coming from someone who does play a hypermobile healer.

Supporting the supports

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Blizzard isn't ignoring support players' pleas for help, but it's hard to imagine how anything aside from major reworks will fix the healing experience. Overwatch 2 healers can all passively regenerate health now, something that only Mercy could do in Overwatch 1 – but a bit of passive healing doesn't make much of a difference when you're getting hammered by Doomfist, Widow, and Tracer all at once. 

Healers were virtually ignored in the hero updates for Overwatch 2: Brigitte's shield bash was given a damage boost as it no longer stuns enemies, Baptiste's healing was increased, Ana and Lucio got baby nerfs. There were no major reworks like Doomfist's or Orisa's for any of the support characters, which only makes players feel even more left out. In a recent blog update, Blizzard admits it has "observed support heroes feeling too vulnerable to diving and flanking attacks with fewer shields and no second tank focusing on protecting them." The blog post suggests that "the most effective way to tackle this issue is to add exciting new support heroes to the game," but since that's a much longer-term outlook, Blizzard plans to ideate ways to refresh abilities for existing heroes that could come out in the next beta test.

And even after I finished writing this initial draft, Blizzard made changes to poor Zenyatta, who suffers the most in the 5v5 format. The latest Overwatch 2 patch notes don't give Zen any more shield or better mobility, but bizarrely add a passive ability to his melee kick. Now, it pushes back enemies it connects with, not unlike Lucio's boop. As this Reddit user shared, it's incredibly OP, so it will at least help Zen make some space between him and any melee-heavy enemies. 

But as long as team comps consist of a single off-tank and aggressive DPS players, many casual healer players are going to suffer in Overwatch 2. As I wrote in my Overwatch 2 beta hands-on, "the dive meta that had early Overwatch in a vice-like grip is back." And without a shield tank to protect our asses, support players are doomed.  

Want to give the game a try for yourself? Here's a guide on how to get into the Overwatch 2 beta

Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.