OWL Pros answer: How good is Lifeweaver and could new Hero break Overwatch 2?

OWL Pros answer: How good is Lifeweaver and could new Hero break Overwatch 2?
Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch


7th Apr 2023 14:18

Throwing a new hero into the Overwatch 2 pool is a bit like throwing a fish into the ocean and not knowing whether it'll be eaten in seconds, or become the dominant predator, swallowing the meta whole. 

Recent hero releases from Sojourn to Kiriko sat on top of the food chain almost immediately. Every new Overwatch 2 hero has dominated a meta in the Overwatch League with just Ramattra awaiting his turn.

Is the flora about to fight back against the plant-wielding Lifeweaver? Is Lifeweaver going to dominate Ranked or OWL? Could his Petal Platform cause another boosting competitive integrity issue in the game's highest levels of pro play?

We asked Overwatch League professionals from players to coaches and general managers for their opinion on Lifeweaver. Some are concerned about the competitive integrity of the League.

Shot from the hip, but that’s the game

OWL professionals have learned a hard-earned lesson over the years: It’s impossibly difficult to predict with any accuracy which direction a meta or a hero will go until you see them on the battlefield.

Adding the caveat that they need to see Lifeweaver in action in order to be confident in their predictions has, therefore, become a reflex to them. Most professionals we reached out to even denied to give comment altogether for that reason, stating that they’d need to have played scrims with the hero first.

“Game balance is push and pull between game development theory and how players actually play the game. It’s very difficult to get it right without that.

“With only two weeks of not even ranked play before the season, the chances of Lifeweaver being balanced is very low”, an Overwatch League coach who requested anonymity argued.

The first issue might have already been spotted as an Overwatch League player observed:

“I don't think I know enough about him yet, but from what I've seen his ultimate charges way too fast and it is worrying that players and teams will be able to farm it very quickly before a real fight takes place.”

What do you think of Lifeweaver’s kit from a ranked play perspective? Will he work there?

  • ChrisTFer: "Think people probably overhype the trolling aspect, you can troll but if someone wants to ruin your game they can do it on any hero really."
  • yeHHH: "People make anything work in ranked, I'm sure there will be people dedicated to 1 tricking him like all the other heroes."
  • Rakattack: "So far he looks like a very teamplay-oriented character to me which can be good at high levels as long as the team is in voice (unlikely)."

Generally speaking, OWL professionals were sceptical of the efficacy of Lifeweaver in its current state in ranked mainly because its healing numbers weren’t very impressive and might not even be enough to play in dive compositions together with Lucio.

Most suggested that the hero would play very differently in high ranks than in metal ranks and might potentially even be the hero that divorces what you see on the OWL broadcast from what you may expect in ranked play the most.

It’s a direction that many professionals are worried about as they feel that the Overwatch esports product can already feel disconnected from the average players ranked experience. While they agree that improving and trying to do what pro players do in their ranked games is a significant reason to watch, everything that heavily relies on team coordination is unlikely to give the audience that experience.

As an example of the issue, two OWL pros quoted the infamous GOATs comp that had been inevitable meta-giant in pro play during OWL’s second season while barely anyone in diamond ranks or below touched the composition. They fear intricate Lifeweaver strategies could cause the same disconnect.

What is your best guess at how viable he will be in his current state coming into Overwatch League?

  • ChrisTFer: "My instincts say the hero won't be good until damage and healing numbers are very strong, the utility doesn't seem enough if he's got a big hitbox and low numbers. But I have also learned my lesson that every new hero is broken so it'll probably have 100% Pick rate."
  • yeHHH: "Doesn't seem very strong, heals seem super low compared to other options. Having to charge a 65 hp heal seems bad with no mobility options. Ultimate doesn't seem great either, more useful to use it to bodyblock a corridor or something than for actual healing."
  • Rakattack: "I think he will become very good whether he starts OP or ends up getting a buff, later on, to become meta as some teams will be able to utilise him well when coordinated."
  • Punk: “I feel like all new characters are just busted when they first come out so, I don’t doubt that we’ll see some [Lifeweaver] straight away. There’ll be a lot of new strategies and ways to play since we haven’t seen many characters be able to just build something on the map.”

Overwatch pros seem to be 'good Bayesians' that update their priors based on recent developments regarding new heroes. 

Not only do they trust most of the new heroes to be good, they expect that to be the case by design in order to showcase the new heroes and have casual players experience the new character without feeling they are hurting their team by playing it in their ranked games.

Most pros agree that it’s beneficial for the esports product when new heroes make it directly into the meta shortly after release. For Lifeweaver, they are both excited and a little worried about how the hero might shape the meta and how the game is played.

Which meta archetype (dive, rush etc.) do you think he would work best in?

  • ChrisTFer: "I think it looks good with like Zen/Winston, being able to peel Winston back in. Think it can work with rush if you got some creativity."
  • yeHHH: "Since he has low heals I see this being played by main supports. Without Lucio, dive or rush isn't very viable. It would probably be a defence poke comp pick maybe."
  • Rakattack: "I think it will work best in poke type of comps to give easy repositions and saves to teammates trying to make a play."

In terms of what kind of compositions Lifeweaver is most likely to work in, there are a large number of guesses and once again, a lot of uncertainty through theorising.

“Petal Platform could be good to make immobile compositions viable. I think if his normal stats like healing output are good enough, he can be played, but his hitbox in the videos looks too big for 200 HP support” one Overwatch League coach argued.

Another question opinions diverge on is the categorisation of the hero as a main or flex support or if Lifeweaver indeed is one that works for both and is another hero that adds to the mounting evidence that these boxes ought to go to the idea junkyard. 

"Right now, I see Lifeweaver as probably more of a main support, like to push Ana into better spots, but I’m not sure if the output is enough to sustain with someone like Zen,” Vegas Eternal’s support player Rakattack chipped in.

What do you think about the strategic possibilities for Petal Platform? Do you think it will open up a lot of options?

  • ChrisTFer: "I think it's maybe useful prefight and might be really good if u have an Ana. The second the enemy Winston jumps, you can lift her up for an insane grenade angle and she can't die?"
  • yeHHH: "Possibly, I think it can be deployed as a junk trap to get some gimmicky kills and boost snipers/team over geometry. It’s too early to say though without testing."
  • Rakattack: "I think the petal platform can help give utility vs some ultimates depending on their interactions, like elevating over Mei freeze and out of a shatter. Also enabling ults like high noon or visor."

Petal Platform as an ability piqued the interest of the Overwatch League professionals, though many warned that it could give rise to all kinds of shenanigans. And not the good kind.

Considering the Teleporter/Mei Wall boost incident with the Florida Mayhem last season, would you expect the same spirit of the rule to apply to Petal Platform interactions?

  • ChrisTFer: "100%, there are going to be Anas and Zens in skyboxes the game never intended to be."
  • yeHHH: "Not sure, but I assume it's just something like “don't use the platform to boost onto pixel walk areas or places where you can't stand still like roof floating spots”. They might change it for Symmetra’s Teleport interactions maybe, but it’s probably just a wait-and-see. I assume any OWL team that has cheese strategies like that would run it by the League before whipping it out in an official."
  • Rakattack: "Hopefully not but I guess we will find out the rules soon enough."

Throughout Overwatch League history, there have been several controversial plays that played out in a grey area regarding the ability to access otherwise unreachable spots in some maps. 

In April 2021, then San Francisco Shock player Nam-joo "Striker" Kwon had been able to stand on a door ledge with the help of a Mei Wall boost that raised some questions. OWL professionals had shared their confusion regarding the boosting rule that was deemed permissible.

Last season, the Florida Mayhem got into a comparable situation when they tried a new approach to rolling out on Circuit Royale, using a Mei Wall to boost up the entire team who promptly used a teleporter over the rooftops to bypass the first corner. The play had been deemed illegal but only after several confusing minutes had passed.

With Lifeweaver’s Petal Platform which not only puts the player significantly higher up than Mei’s Ice Wall but could theoretically also be stacked with it, the possibility for grey area plays appears a given. 

As President of Gaming Operations for the Florida Mayhem, Albert “yeHHH” Yeh explains, he expects that teams will now run those boosts by the League first in order to make sure there isn’t another rude awakening.

An OWL spokesperson told GGRecon when asked if the League rules would be adapted to accommodate for potential Petal Platform boosts:

“The League works closely with the game team to understand how new heroes can alter the competitive landscape. Our two-week period between the introduction of a new game element and the implementation of it into competitive play provides us insight into potential adaptations and allows us to communicate any changes to the players and teams.

“Every new hero brings greater excitement to the game and we'll continue to adapt accordingly and uphold competitive integrity as we have with all previously introduced heroes."

Not many believe that potentially required changes can make it to the game by the time the League starts up its competition on April 27th again. 

However, as one Overwatch League coach argues, that much should’ve been the bar all along:

“Creativity should be encouraged and if the developers don't want things in the game they should patch them out.

“Teleport boosts were in the game forever and unless you're sending someone outside the bounds of the map it should be fine.

“I've always hated how it was up to the League, players, or teams to police or modify the game to fix what has always been in the game.”

Another Overwatch League staffer agreed, stating that “you can ban spots as they appear but then it's up to developers to patch the spot out. Banning something and then keeping it in the game forever is wrong.”

Looking for more on Overwatch 2? Be sure to check out our interview with the devs about Lifeweaver, the character's abilities, and an update on the Gothenburg map.

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