Reinhardt, Not Roadhog, Is Overwatch’s Biggest Balance Problem

The big Overwatch news today is obviously the announcement of the server browser, which has just hit the Public Test Realm. If you can get in the PTR, you can try it out. This will allow people to set their own rules for custom games, which will now also give you experience and allow you to level up and earn loot boxes. These rules can be anything from individual ability cooldowns to which heroes you can pick.

My prediction? One of the most common servers will be "No Roadhogs."

A little background: Roadhog is easily the most hated hero right now. The Overwatch community collectively rejoiced when his hook was going to be changed making it so he wouldn't be able to hook people he couldn't see (rightfully so), and then all their celebrating of salty Roadhog tears was turned right around against them when Roadhog's hook now also brought enemies closer to him making him a killing machine.

In fact, you can see right now on the Overwatch General Discussion forums on Battle.net that you can hardly go a minute without a post along the lines of "Roadhog OP pls nerf." Some of the most upvoted threads include "Patch 1.7 Was A Mistake," "I am convinced. Blizzard does not want balance," and "Roadhog is Too Good, There's No Question."

The hard truth, though, Roadhog isn't the problem. It's Reinhardt. And this applies whether or not you think Roadhog is overpowered. Reinhardt creates an environment where Roadhog can thrive. Allow me to explain (or post this on the forums, downvote me and move on).

The Deathball

In order to have a competitive, esports scene, Overwatch must be balanced toward the competitive, esports scene. Otherwise, the balance would be way off at higher levels of play such that no one would want to play it anymore. With this information, it's easy to see how Overwatch is balanced around Reinhardt.

Right now, Reinhardt is virtually a 100% pick in Overwatch tournaments because of one simple word: deathball. This is pretty simple: you put Reinhardt out in front with your big tanks and DPS heroes backing him up. Whichever deathball breaks the opposing Reinshield first is the winner. That's why almost every team has a Reinhardt.

Roadhog is perfectly balanced toward a deathball-focused meta. Against a well-coordinated deathball, Roadhog isn't going to be as dominant because his targets are going to be positioned behind a Reinhardt or other high-health tanks, making his only options for a hook either a low-percentage attempt or to wait until the opposing Reinshield has been destroyed. Roadhog is balanced against a deathball-focused metagame because Reinhardt's shield demands it.

Skirmishes

Lower skill and non-professional players don't have the level of coordination required to pull off a successful, meticulously executed deathball, or they simply don't want to run a deathball or a dive comp to counter. Instead, they opt for a more skirmish-based game, where it's more spread out and chaotic. In these situations, Roadhog is going to feel overpowered because there are no solid hook stoppers to hide behind allowing him to hook and kill people at will. (Don't be confused, I am not referring to the "skirmish" mode that ensues while you are waiting to find a match).

I hear you saying "But it's hogwash that if you're not behind a tank and within 20 meters of Roadhog you're suddenly out of position." Of course it is! But that's the problem with balancing the game toward a deathball-focused meta, not a problem with Roadhog, himself. If you don't like how powerful Roadhog is in chaotic skirmishes, you need to nerf Reinhardt to make chaotic skirmishes more viable. Then Roadhog will actually be overpowered in competitive play as well, and Blizzard will nerf him appropriately.

I want to be clear, though: I'm not saying Reinhardt is overpowered, not even close. I'm saying that Reinhardt's shield creates a high-level metagame that operates on a different standard of relative power.

Conclusion

I argue that serious Reinhardt nerfs (such as significantly decreased shield health, or longer recharge periods, for example) would drastically shake up the meta such that heroes like Roadhog would need to be nerfed to accommodate a more skirmish-based metagame. If we change how things are done at the highest level of play, that will have a ripple effect, and that starts with changing the deathball-focused metagame by nerfing Reinhardt's shield.