We’ve had four new heroes in Overwatch so far: Ana, Sombra, Orisa, and Doomfist. Ana has shone in the meta, ushering in fun compositions like the infamous Beyblade combo or the triple tank shake-up. Sombra is a tough pick to pull off, but we’ve seen her grace pro play and dominate teams with well-timed hacks and EMPs. Doomfist has absolutely exploded onto the scene, partially thanks to his Rocket Punch.
Orisa, on the other hand, is like the last kid selected to play dodgeball. She’s never broken 2% usage rate in pro play, and she currently sits at an 1.11% pick rate, averaged out across all rankings. She sees a little more play in bronze, going up to about 2.4%, but she just hasn’t caught on.
What’s the problem?
So, let’s start with Orisa’s identity. She’s an anchor tank, a tank like Reinhardt who you can build a team around. Her shield is more versatile, she pumps out more damage from a safer range, and she can group up enemies to enable allies with a mini-Zarya ult. (No, seriously, she even tells Zarya that it’s based off Graviton Surge). Her ultimate is a team-wide buff, and she can reinforce herself to reduce damage and ignore CC.
All of these are, on paper, really good strengths, and the upcoming PTR buffs only enhance them.
Fusion Driver: Projectile speed increased by 20%
Protective Barrier: Barrier size increase by 20%
Barrier shape has been changed to allow for more coverage from enemies that are below the barrier
Developer Comments: The projectile speed increase helps Orisa’s consistency, especially at medium ranges (or further). Her barrier size has been increased to better protect her team, and the new shape makes the shield more effective when it’s used on slopes or on top of objects (such as a payload).
It’s true that sometimes all it takes is one buff to get a hero into the meta.
Ana was considered largely useless until her first buffs, and then she suddenly roared onto the scene, requiring subsequent nerfs. At the same time, it’s telling that there hasn’t been a lot of vocal interest in Orisa’s upcoming buffs.
This raises an important question: what matters more, a hero being strong or a hero being initially fun and engaging? If a character is overpowered to a wild degree, of course people will pick them, because it is preferable to win instead of lose. But that doesn’t mean the hero automatically becomes fun. In fact, players are often frustrated when one hero is considered mandatory because their stats are too strong to ignore.
Blizzard could conceivably crank up the stats on Orisa until she has a 100% win rate, but that wouldn’t make her a successfully designed hero. Making people want to pick her, even when she’s sitting at her nice, statistically balanced win rate of about 50% is the success state.
For my part, I want to like Orisa.
I’m not a great Zarya or D.Va, I’m not fantastic at hitting hooks, and my Reinhardt play can charitably be described as ‘rough’. Orisa, in theory, should be a character that I can pick when my team needs a tank and I need to fill in. Her long-range primary fire, versatile shield, and utility ultimate are all things that are, in theory, completely in my wheelhouse.
More importantly, I think Orisa’s design is awesome. I love that she’s a big, friendly robot with a girl genius companion. I love her voice and her boundless optimism, even when characters like Zarya dismiss her. Orisa is a protector and guardian in a city that has recently been devastated by Doomfist. She is hope for people who miss the days of Overwatch’s protection.
Even the fact that her abilities are like modified version of other heroes’ abilities is incredible to me. Efi, Orisa’s inventor, saw heroes like Mercy, Reinhardt, and Zarya, and built them into Orisa because Orisa is a hero too. All of this speaks to me, and I love the idea of Orisa.
Absolutely none of this translates into game.
When I get into game, I shoot my gun a lot. This does a lot of damage. I fire off Halt!s that snare no one, and I sigh because it’s a visually noisy ability that feels clunky. My ultimate never feels right, like I’m giving my team the strength they need. It may be doing a lot behind the scenes, but it doesn’t give a satisfying impact like a successful Rocket Barrage or saving my entire team with Lucio’s Sound Barrier. The shield is nice, but it’s not enough to get me to wrestle with the rest of the kit.
I want to like Orisa. I want to play Orisa. I want to see Orisa on the enemy team instead of an endless stream of D.Vas and Reinhardts. These PTR buffs are one step towards a solution for her core problem. Unfortunately, strength alone doesn’t solve everything. Efi says that Orisa still has “a lot to learn, and you’ll probably mess up sometimes, but I know you’ll become the hero we need.”
I admire Efi’s enthusiasm, but it may take a few more attempts for Orisa to fulfil that function.