With the forthcoming Role Queue implementation, Overwatch is set to receive perhaps its most significant changeup since the introduction of Competitive Play back in 2016. It’s been put through its paces on the PTR, and the feedback has been mostly positive across the player base.
Just how significant will Role Queue be for the Overwatch competitive experience? Let’s take a look at why 2-2-2 will save Overwatch.
Was Overwatch dying to begin with?
This has been a fairly hot topic within the Overwatch community for the last 18 months, or at least since the start of the Overwatch League. I wrote about this topic earlier in the year and while my argument was admittedly fairly shallow — and came from the heart of an Overwatch diehard — quite a bit has changed since I put that piece together. Thankfully, much of what’s changed has been for the better.
The introduction of the Workshop has upped the creativity stakes, even if it’s probably well outside the realm of accessibility for a vast majority of the playerbase. It does add a new element of playability and just straight up fun to the Arcade component, but if anything it demonstrated that Blizzard was working on new ways to both improve and also change the way players engaged with Overwatch.
It didn’t, however, address any of the ongoing issues that plagued the Competitive Overwatch scene. Essentially what the competitive scene had mutated into was an unpredictable and at-times unenjoyable cesspool of toxicity, one that could really only be traversed if you had the patience and confidence to flex-pick for your team.
Feeding into this issue was the bizarre meta shaping, driven mostly by the pro scene, which effectively dictated what changes Blizzard made/makes to the game. It started with the Dive comp, which, for better or worse was actually a meta that forced people to play heroes that could effectively counter mobile tanks. Reinhardt, Zarya and Roadhog had at that point pretty much dominated the meta, and so it was encouraging to a degree to see DVa and Winston suddenly mix things up.
Dive stuck around for a long time, eventually working its way all the way down to Gold, Silver and Bronze tiers in competitive play, albeit with not quite as much influence as on the higher tiers or in the pro scene. This fed into toxicity in those tiers whenever players chose heroes that didn’t fit into the mould, and so Blizzard was quick to make changes so as to force team comps in a different direction.
That didn’t matter, however, because Blizzard would eventually morph the game into an offering that perfectly fed into GOATS, which will go down in infamy as perhaps the most boring of the metas to watch (but not necessarily to play). The three tank/three healer meta was essentially a war of brute strength and sudden, quick battles, removing a lot of the finesse and skill that fans and players had come to love from the likes of Genji and Tracer.
What that eventually fed into was a community of sheer stubborness: smurfs that created new accounts to infiltrate lower tiers and play DPS, which was still a prominent pick for the likes of Gold tier players and below. The team comp of 4-5 DPS certainly isn’t new and has existed since day one, but it really seemed to take off over the past 12 months, with players straight up refusing to flex or move off into a tank or support role.
Part of this was due to Blizzard trying really hard to nerf support and tank heroes to hell and back so as to force pro players out of the meta, but all this did was feed into a scene that was already descending into hell on the public servers. A Lucio speed nerf, for example, made Reinhardt less viable, and so Orisa worked her way in. Brigitte went from high up in the meta stakes to pretty much never being picked, removing any sort of effective front-like support heroes from the game. Multiple decisions like this had players lose faith in Overwatch over time, as the competitive scene appeared to be getting worse by the day. Enter: Role Queue.
Why Role Queue is the best thing for Overwatch
There are a few things I want to point out here to highlight why Role Queue is a long-overdue, much-needed saviour for Overwatch. I do understand that some of the things below may be seen as negative additions to others, and I appreciate that the flexibility and “sandbox” nature of Overwatch — as was promised before launch — is perceived to be slowly corroded.
However, I feel that we’re way beyond the type of game Overwatch wanted to be at launch, and we’ve arrived at a point now where it couldn’t possibly go another season the way it was, without seeing a significant fall in support from the community.
Firstly, Role Queue completely and utterly disintegrates any pre-match bickering, anxiety or mudslinging when it comes to hero choices. That is gone and will soon be a thing of the past on the public servers. With each role effectively managed and picked before a match, you know that you’re going to be teamed up with someone that is actually competent in that role. Maybe not necessarily with that hero, but we know that someone is less likely to pick a hero within a class that they’re not familiar with, because it now stands to be more impactful to their overall SR: no more clueless Widows.
No more worrying if someone will pick support. No more anxiety about if we’ll have enough front-line strength. No more concerns about our DPS mobility. Role Queue rids the game of all of that nonsense, and bundles everyone into a well-structured team where everyone gets a go in the same role.
We also need to consider the diversity of each role, and how Role Queue will actually encourage effective hero swap. As it currently stands, if an ineffective Moira is getting slammed at every battle, you will often see that person just switch off to a DPS or whatever, leaving a Support role open. With Role Queue, however, they’re locked to that role, and they can then flex within that role to something a little more useful like, say, a Zenyatta, or a Brigitte. Or whatever is more useful versus your opponent’s composition.
Another thing that I think is really important with 2-2-2 is how it completely redefines the “flex” component of matches, particularly during a match. If your opponent for example is absolutely trouncing you, in the current state you only have a limited number of alternatives: either you switch up your comp to match theirs, or you find that sweet spot to try and counter their vulnerabilities. If they were running a GOATS comp, well then your only real alternative was to simply run a GOATS comp.
Role Queue changes that. Significantly. Let’s say a comp of Orisa-Roadhog-Genji-Tracer-Moira-Ana are doing a number on your team of Orisa-Zarya-Soldier-Junkrat-Moira-Brigitte. You probably shouldn’t be losing in that instance but if you are, you could chuck in a Genji, move onto a Symmetra, switchup to a Lucio and throw in a Zen for good measure. That’s before even contemplating your tank changes. Suddenly, the comp is completely different, and the tone, structure, and balance of the entire match has been turned on its head. This will then force the opponent to change, and now it’s an actual game of chess. That’s much closer to the “sandbox” philosophy that Blizzard initially envisioned for Overwatch, and it’s ironic that it took actually locking roles to make it so.
There’s a final remark here, and some may actually see this as a negative: Role Queue is going to make Overwatch a much harder game to play. But you know what? If that’s the compromise we need to make for a more creative and enjoyable experience, then I can deal with that. I’ve lingered between Platinum and Gold for multiple seasons now, and I am battling the challenge of genuinely finding ways to improve myself whilst also flexing to my team needs. That’s impossible to do when I’m a far more effective Support or Tank than I am a DPS. I’m in a rare cross-section of the community, I admit, but I’m now locked into perfecting my skills across every role and knowing how to play 3-4 heroes in each role. Especially if I actually want to increase my SR.
That may not sit well with insta-lock Genji’s or Widow’s that can’t play Tank or Support, and aren’t overly familiar with other DPS. But you know what? That’s what the Competitive landscape is supposed to be like: competitive. If you want to rank as a Widow, you need to rank as a DPS, and if you want to rank as a DPS, you need to flex off a Widow. Otherwise, your DPS rank is going to fall, and fast.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Overwatch public reacts to Role Queue, and I admittedly believe there will be some growing pains and frustrations. However, in the long run this will shape the game and competitive scene into a much more viable and fun offering.
If you’re going to give Overwatch one more chance, now’s the time.
What are your thoughts on Role Queue? Vote in our poll, and then sound off in the comments below!