For the longest time, healing in shooters was a simple as hiding for a couple seconds. Before that, it was about scouring around for a medkit. Without much teamwork or interaction, players relied on no one but themselves to stay alive. Hero shooters, on the other hand, have a much greater focus on coordination. They normally use healers to keep the rest of the team healthy and none are as interesting, varied, or finely tuned as Overwatch.
A team without a healer in Overwatch is doomed to fail. Tanks are capable of soaking up massive amounts of damage while their DPS allies throw out endless destruction, but neither would last long without someone dedicated to keeping them alive. Without a healer, the tanks will eventually be overwhelmed, as would any damage hero caught out without some support. But just because your team needs a healer doesn’t mean you can pick just any as each tactic and even each hero has a healer or two that works better than the rest.
Building a complementary team
Overwatch currently has six support heroes, all with their own unique method of healing, moving, defending themselves, and supporting their team. And it’s abundantly clear that Blizzard has paid attention to make each healer complementary to the team in their own unique way.
For starters, each support hero has a different way of healing. Ana fires healing sniper shots, Lúcio casts an aura of healing, Moira (who some consider the best post-launch hero) has her orbs or spray, Mercy has her health and power beam, Zenyatta throws single healing orbs, and Brigitte tosses out some instant health and armor every few seconds. All of these abilities are at least partially effective at range and on the move, letting the healer stay out of immediate danger without forcing them to become stationary. Support heroes in Overwatch are always a priority target for the other team, so Blizzard made sure they were never sitting ducks.
But these varieties of healing at not all the same. Lúcio and Zenyatta cannot restore health quickly, but Lúcio can heal the entire team simultaneously and both can be much more active in damage dealing, crowd control, and positioning than other healers.
And this is where you start to see the genius behind the design of Overwatch’s support class. Each healer has the same goal but their methods differ. Team compositions can be built around the healer, or the healer can be selected to match the composition. If you have any doubt about this, try to heal a three-tank composition as Zenyatta and you’ll see exactly why you need the right healer for the job.
Same goal, different means
The differences in how the healer achieves their goals mean that some healers excel in certain situations and suffer in others. Like the need to counter enemy composition, healers must go out of their way to complement their team. Mercy, Lúcio, and Moira all have some way of getting out of trouble if they need to. Ana isn’t quite as mobile but can heal quickly as skilled snipers are rewarded and can help the team from afar. Each of these differences means that healers can be categorized into various unspoken subclasses that players need to be aware of.
Their secondary abilities also benefit the team. These are most obvious in Overwatch’s original heroes, but you can see them in the new ones as well. Lúcio’s aura has two modes: one that heals the team and one that grants them a speed boost. This can make a game-saving difference for team rushing an objective or fighting in overtime. Likewise, Mercy’s healing beam has a secondary function that grants an individual player a damage buff, while Zenyatta can debuff an enemy providing a target for the whole team to focus on.
These abilities highlight that vast differences between the healers and how creative their design is. While they might all appear in the same class, and they theoretically have the same job within the team, the way they go about doing it is vastly different. That takes a great deal of skill and is brilliantly done to give the game more variety. From the obvious differences like how fast and effectively they heal to the more subtle ones like how quickly they can get themselves out of danger, healers in Overwatch are the most diverse, interesting and unique class to play with. And given how great the other classes are as well, this is quite a feat.