Moira Is Still the Best Designed Character in 'Overwatch 2'

Underneath all the bad decisions Blizzard has made with Overwatch remains the core of a great game with some great ideas. If you want proof, just look at Moira, a character who embodies some of the best design and play dynamics in Overwatch… and who is also an oddity within the lineup of characters.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3v8av/moira-is-still-the-best-designed-character-in-overwatch-2
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I love to read deep dives into the mechanical design of games, even if it’s not a game I play much myself.

Solid writeup, Ren, although I will say I am sympathetic to the Overwatch design team in terms of their conservatism with hero kits. Like Moira is mechanically unique and has relatively low mechanical skill requirements, sure, but she’s simply not that fun or interesting to play against. She’s a skinny character and therefore hard to hit, she has an evasion ability that gives her invisibility and speed to duck out when you get the jump on her, and her offensive orb ability is maddeningly hard to dodge and can chunk your health quite easily. On the flip side, Symmetra with her turrets and teleportation is also cool, but she’s been reworked a bunch of times just to get people to play her. She is so underpowered that teammates are likely to yell at you for picking her and wasting a damage slot (or a support slot at game launch). Unconventional kits seem to make balancing the game exponentially harder, just looking at the history of heroes like Moira, Brigitte, or Doomfist.

It’s a tough situation to be in, because I’m not even coming to this as a competitive player. I mostly Quick Play, but even in that casual mode I want to do well. So I eventually gravitate to the “good” heroes, who are mostly boring (or Moira). I’m not really sure what can rectify this, as being a first person game with firearms inherently makes it so that the best strategy is to pick the heroes with the best firearms. I’m not too familiar with MOBAs, but they seem to be less mechanically demanding inherently due to the fact that they are modified RTS games, where strategy and tactics trump clicking heads. But then, I’m not a game designer, so maybe I’m thinking too narrowly here.

While MOBAs don’t have the mechanical intensity of an FPS they can be very skill-testing, such that the best players can manage feats of skill with tricky characters which merely very good players can’t come close to. Tactics do play a role, but it’s not that different to an FPS- knowing when and where to commit, when to retreat, when to group for a push or when to divide to do map objectives.

Mechanically diverse characters do make game balancing hard, but by no means impossible, for which MOBAs are an excellent example. I didn’t play much League, but I have played a lot of Heroes of the Storm, another Blizzard game. HotS has a huge diversity of characters to play, each of which plays very distinctly. Balancing such a game is very hard, but doable. Having a draft with bans really helps, but it isn’t required for all levels of play.

Overwatch 2 isn’t even out yet, but I am concerned when it seems like it’s homogenizing character design to chase balance before it’s even released. e-sports didn’t really make it to being a big thing, so it seems like you’d rather make a cool game first and chase balance as you go, maybe? It’s what the original did.

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I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t skill to playing a MOBA, and of course there’s nuance that I’m likely not picking up on when watching footage of that genre. But in every hero-based shooter I’ve played, the successful ones do really tend to tamp down on out-there character kits. Like in Apex Legends or Rainbow Six Siege, while there are unique attributes and cool flavor to each character, 95% of the time you are just firing similar weapons and executing similar verbs (cover, aim, scout, heal, etc). The only hero shooter that I can think of that has genuinely weird characters is Paladins, and that game is just pure chaos at times that is hard to parse, and ultimately not as popular as any of the other games we are talking about.

But yeah, I agree with you that diversity and balance aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m just not sure that Overwatch or its fandom is that interested in trying for both when doing so has burned them in the past.

Oh, I didn’t think you were having a go at MOBA players.

You’re probably on to something with FPSs. Ability to parse is a good call. The top down perspective and limited movement axis of MOBAs inherently makes them more readable, as long as the visual design is good. For an FPS you can only see what you’re looking at, and you need to derive a lot more spacial information from what you’re seeing. There must be a reason that each character has a common movement and weapon set, and abilities are placed on that common core. I’d add Valorant to your list.

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