In a recent video released by IGN, James Duggan interviewed a handful of Overwatch League competitors. He asked a simple question: who was their most hated hero? And, to some surprise (depending on your perspective), the results were pretty conclusive. Mostly everyone who was interviewed agreed that Mercy should be removed from Overwatch. The healer that has been nerfed more than any other character is still proving to be a nuisance, despite the efforts Blizzard has made in balancing that one game-changing ability, Resurrect.
Mercy is an essential hero to bring to battle right now if your team plans on winning a match in Overwatch against any opponents that are running her as well. I’m not saying that teams can’t win without a Mercy, just that her presence helps teams take control of the map in a much more efficient manner. If your team gets an important pick, then it won’t matter, because your opponents’ Mercy can just use her Resurrect on them (granted it’s not on cooldown). This ability forces your team to rethink the strategy that was before successful but is now exactly what your opponents are expecting. Plus, if she has her ultimate, Valkyrie, ready then she can resurrect two teammates instantaneously. Her cooldown for Resurrect is also lowered while her ultimate is active.
Mercy’s ultimate used to be Resurrect, where she could revive any number of fallen teammates in one clean swoop. If your whole time died in the previous team fight, Mercy could fly in and resurrect all five of you, restarting the fight for the objective. I think it goes without saying as to why this ability needed to be changed. Reviving your whole team seems a bit unfair when taking into account the effort it took for your opponents to take you all down. There was no balance. Blizzard realized this and, in response, made the decision to turn Resurrect into a regular ability and have Valkyrie replace it as Mercy’s ultimate. There were to be no more five-player rezs.
The pros make some good points in the video by IGN. Silkthread from the Los Angeles Valiant says that he thinks “Resurrection as an ability in a first-person shooter like Overwatch… it’s not fun to spectate; it’s not fun to play with; it’s not fun to play against, especially.” I think DreamKazper from the Boston Uprising makes one of the finest points in regards to Mercy as a playable hero: “You can’t really punish people, because like when you kill people you’re supposed to punish the enemy team for it, but like if you get rezzed, your team, it’s like ‘oh, I have to try and rekill you and, like, make you do the same mistake all over again.'” To sum up what the majority of the pros think: Mercy takes away from the game–for both the player and the spectator–with her ability to revive teammates after they’re picked off. But the game of Overwatch revolves around making these important picks, so the natural order of it all falls away when Mercy swoops in to save the day.
Many of the players being interviewed go on to say that the Resurrect ability is a mechanic of the game that shouldn’t exist. xQc, from the Dallas Fuel, says that “the Resurrection Mechanic is, uh, incredibly hard to balance, if balanceable.” I play a good amount of Overwatch, and I couldn’t agree more. Ever since my first encounter with the ability, I was wondering how it made it through testing, especially in the game’s objective based maps where every kill matters. There’s no easy way to balance it. Kudos for Blizzard trying to tweak Mercy in a way that would satisfy those who enjoy playing as her, but I don’t think they’ve nailed it down quite yet. In order for them to be successful, I think I agree with what many of the pros were alluding to in the video, that Resurrect needs to be removed completely.
If there’s a Mercy on either team, then she automatically becomes the objective. The pros may have different strategies to work around her, but, from what I’ve seen of the Overwatch League, they’ve been focusing the healers, which makes sense. But who’s the first healer to go down in most cases? Why, it’s Mercy, of course. When the objective of a match changes to tracking down the Mercy instead of focusing on the actual objective, then there’s a problem. It’s less of an issue with professional teams, as they practice with one another and are all on the same page. But when you queue up to climb the ranks in competitive… well, let’s just say that sometimes it’s hard to get everybody on the same page. Regardless, Overwatch shouldn’t be about going in to kill the Mercy so that she can’t resurrect anybody; it should be about playing around the objective that’ll win your team the match.
Why Removing Mercy Could De Detrimental
Although the controversy surrounding her Resurrect ability is warranted, Mercy being removed from Overwatch as a playable hero seems like a drastic move. During one of Duggan’s interviews, Dallas Fuel’s Chipshajen says that “Mercy brings in a lot of players that otherwise wouldn’t play the game. So I wouldn’t remove Mercy, I think because it’s important. They just need to balance her right now.” He’s right: Mercy is an important hero in Overwatch, as her primary role is to heal her team. Many of the other support heroes at least can do damage while healing, but she can’t. There’s a strategy to her that a lot of new players prefer (using her mobility to get important heals/damage boosts), so removing her could initiate a ton of backlash from the community.
And that’s where Blizzard runs into issues: a lot of players love Mercy. The community is as important as the game itself, as it’s been those that have played it since its release that has propelled it into the world of eSports with the Overwatch League. So balancing Mercy may be more about balancing the community as a whole–from the perspectives of both the pros and casual gamers alike–and removing her would run contrary to this goal. Whatever they plan on doing, Blizzard still has their work cut out for them if they want the whole community to be satisfied with how they handle the Mercy situation.
Blizzard has attempted the balancing act many times. Her Resurrect had an immediate effect when Blizzard first introduced Valkyrie, but they then changed it so that reviving players was slower, giving the enemy team time to react to take her out. This nerf helped, but it didn’t change the fact that Resurrect has altered the pace of the game since its inception. Maybe all Blizzard needs to do is get rid of the ability altogether, and in the process introduce a different one that won’t cause as much controversy. What I gathered from IGN’s video was that most of the pros want Mercy gone. I think Chipshajen said it best, though: Blizzard needs to find that balance without getting rid of her. Oh, and remove Junkrat (or nerf the hell out of him). He definitely wasn’t wrong about that.
Most of the time he spends writing, reading (anything from comics to classic literature), playing video games, and wondering when the next Elder Scrolls title will be released. Hopefully soon…