The Overwatch Experimental Genji buff is a step in the right direction

Blizzard Entertainment has been making more rapid changes to its games as of late, and the recent Overwatch Experimental Genji buff is one of the more welcome improvements. These changes to the Genji Deflect ability in the latest Overwatch Experimental Card are a necessary improvement — and hopefully it won’t end there.

If you haven’t been keeping up with Overwatch, you might have missed the debut of the Experimental Card a while back. Simply put, this lets Blizzard try out some intriguing new changes to its Heroes or game mechanics without requiring people to download a new PTR patch. Unlike the Public Test Realm, the Experimental Card also works on consoles.

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Now, a new Experimental Card has debuted in the Overwatch 2.89 update and it finally changes one of the most annoying things about Genji’s Deflect ability — and that’s not all.

The Genji Deflect buff better balances risk and reward

Overwatch Experimental Genji buff deflecting

In the current live game (and for pretty much all of Overwatch’s history), Genji’s Deflect ability has more or less remained the same. The duration or size of the deflection field has gone up and down over the years, but it’s otherwise been consistent.

Here’s how it works right now: When you’re playing Genji and activate Deflect, he pulls out a wakizashi and holds it in front of him for a few seconds. Any projectiles (but not beams) that impact your sword will be deflected back wherever you aim.

The downside of Deflect is that there aren’t many options for canceling it. You could use the Swift Strike dash to cancel it early, but you’re out of luck if that ability is on cooldown. Now, the Overwatch Experimental Genji buff lets you cancel Deflect whenever you like by pressing the same key.

I’ve put a few dozen hours into playing Genji myself and I’ve certainly been killed because I couldn’t cancel out of Deflect. I’m very happy to see this change being tested for the game, and I’m also hopeful that this isn’t the only change coming to channeled abilities.

Will the Overwatch Experimental Genji buff spur more consistent changes?

Overwatch Experimental Genji buff Roadhog Hook

One of my biggest issues with Overwatch is its inconsistencies. Deflect is a “channeled” ability, meaning that it is cast for a set period of time unless you find a way to cancel it. Other heroes have similar abilities — Sigma’s Kinetic Grasp and Echo’s Focusing Beam are two such examples — but not all of them behave the same way.

Suppose that this Overwatch Experimental Genji buff goes through. Now Genji will be able to cancel a channeled ability, but other heroes like Sigma and Echo will not.

An argument can be made that not being able to cancel a channeled ability like Sigma’s Kinetic Grasp or Echo’s Focusing Beam is part of the balance; if you make the wrong move, the consequence is that you’re left vulnerable.

However, the Genji buff that’s being tested right now also has a consequence: canceling the ability still means that it was used. It is now on cooldown and you can’t use it for a little while, but you also won’t die because you’re stuck with an active ability.

While I understand the case for not canceling channeled abilities, I think having more flexibility by allowing abilities like Deflect to be canceled would be an improvement for Overwatch. This is, after all, a first-person shooter. You live and die by your snap decisions, and I would heartily endorse having more options.