Dear Blizzard, What’s Up With Echo And Junkrat?

Fans of any major franchise can be absolutely ruthless in their quest to demand changes, or in some instances to keep things from stagnating. The perfect example of this is Star Wars and how fans can be absolutely toxic in terms of demanding what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. 

The problem is fans can go to extremes, which in turn makes the creators not listen even when the criticisms might be valid. The results are a continuation of issues. While there needs to be a limit on the type of feedback, sometimes companies should listen to their fans. In this case, Blizzard should be.

For those unaware, Overwatch has been getting new characters and updates ever since it launched. The roster has grown tremendously and the last character for Overwatch, before the sequel eventually releases at some unknown point, was Echo.

Echo was hinted at a couple years ago and the hype was pretty much instantaneous. Obviously any new character is exciting, but getting support characters are oftentimes even more exciting than normal. Support in Overwatch are characters that heal the rest of the team, they often do less damage and focus more on keeping the team alive. Early signs suggested Echo could replicate enemy players, leading to double healers on a said team. The idea of having two Mercy’s flying around got rather exciting fast.

Then Echo released and everyone went “wtf….”

Echo ended up being DPS, an offensive damage character, and this disappointed almost every Overwatch player. For starters DPS has the majority of the character line up. Currently the roles break out to 8 tanks, 7 support, and a whopping 17 DPS. Before Echo that was 8,7, and 16 respectively which meant support was indeed in need of a character to help balance things out.

The Confusion

All signs pointed to Echo being a support character in every way. Blizzard releases online digital comics that tell the lore of the story, and this is how we were initially introduced to Echo. Her story basically boils down to helping create Omniacs, which devastated Overwatch. Now she seeks to redeem herself by helping anyone that was hurt by those creatures. On top of that, Echo was also learning to be a medic and had healing abilities in this story.

Even Blizzard admits Echo was initially intended to be some sort of support character. Then they started toying around with her ultimate ability (the perk of duplicating any enemy character) and decided this wouldn’t be good for support. According to Blizzard support needs to have two characters at all times dedicated to support. If you were to take one of them away, then it breaks the team. In other words Echo would leave her role if she were to duplicate a tank or DPS character, leaving the team stranded without a healer for that period of time (about 30 seconds). So they changed her….

In terms of being “support” she’s the total opposite. Unless you duplicate a support character on the other team, she has no healing abilities at all. Even if you were to duplicate a support character your chances of actually being useful are almost zero since her ability only lasts a short amount of time. Most people playing Echo are always going to duplicate a tank character because their ultimate abilities are the strongest in the game.

Echo does what you’d expect from a DPS character with a very powerful main shot, a super strong beam, and sticky bombs that destroy pretty much any shield she comes in contact with. Playing against her as a tank main has been frustrating to say the least. My main characters are Reinhardt and Orisa, and their shields have become basically useless. 

At one point I had an Echo who destroyed my Orisa shield, myself, and another character in one swoop. The only real downside is the fact her health is so low. Even that seems balanced out by her ability to fly pretty much anywhere. In Total Mayhem her abilities are even more exaggerated, where everything is pushed to the max which means she gets the ultimate of the other character almost instantly when she transforms. This often leads to multiple D.Va explosions per ultimate.

Early during Echo’s development a few pro Overwatch players were asked how they felt about Echo, and even early glimpses signaled a bit overpowered character. Most players were noting how drastically she would change the game, and how her ultimate was a bit “overpowered” during early testing.

Why Is This An Issue?

The biggest problem I personally have with this whole debacle is simply the fact DPS is already the most played class. Any person, or team, that picks DPS is going to wait a good 10-15 minutes to find a game in standard format. Echo just made the wait times even longer. 

Blizzard added role select a while ago where you need to pick a role before joining competitive or quick lobbies ahead of time, and you will be locked to these roles as you play. For instance you pick support, and you find a game that needs a support character on the team. With the addition of Echo you have support or tank mains jumping into DPS lobbies because they want the new character, or they see how powerful she is and don’t want to get wrecked by her (granted it only took one week for Blizzard to temp ban Echo from competitive). 

Then finally, after an outpouring of posts on every Overwatch community, Blizzard announced they are removing hero pools from competitive. It hasn’t happened yet as of writing this, but the wait times may go down…And yet DPS will still most likely be overwhelmed with players.

Leaving her as support would have balanced the lobbies out a bit more. The nice thing would have been how quick people would be to join support in an attempt to play the new character, but not be able to get her quick enough and then start playing another support character. Granted competition has a huge problem with players leaving–which can force your team to finish the game without either support characters. Considering Blizzard knows having two support characters is so critical I’m unsure why this issue hasn’t been addressed. It is one thing to play a game down by one tank, it’s entirely different to play a game down a healer. It’s not fair to those that are left stranded in the game.

What I Would Have Changed

The idea of Echo is still exciting. In the comics and stories leading up to Echo’s release had her as a character that could fly, with major hints of shield abilities. No support characters, besides Mercy in her ultimate, can fly (her semi glide doesn’t count) and currently only Baptiste and Bridgette have some personal shield abilities. In my opinion if you want support then the ability to defend a dying teammate should be one of those abilities. Tossing up a shield around a teammate, healing them a bit, then rushing off is an ideal idea for Echo.These ideas should have been implemented in some way, and losing her for a quick 30 seconds in her ultimate form would really not harm a team as bad as Blizzard suggested. There would be some type of “bonus” for her to replicate another support character, such as extended time or faster ultimate abilities, compared to replicating a tank. Instead she’s pretty useless and only every duplicates support characters if it was on accident. (Total Mayhem is basically just Echo launching D.Va ults non stop at this point). 

The Issues Don’t Really End There

Blizzard not really listening to fan concerns/complaints didn’t just end at them making yet another DPS character to finish out the roster. Something else that really bothered me, even more than Echo, is their buff to Junkrat. I really enjoy playing Total Mayhem as it’s just pure fun, especially after standard modes have been so tiring for the years I’ve spent playing Overwatch. In Total mayhem everything is to the extremes, so characters have basically unlimited powers and get their ultimate’s extremely fast.

The change obviously creates some imbalances in gameplay, such as Winston basically having an unlimited shield, which in turn makes some players just sit on objective and spam the shield non stop. Winston’s shield is the strongest in the game and takes forever, even in Total Mayhem, to take out. By the time it’s removed, he is already powered up to put it down again. Combine Winston with another player who’s playing as Hamataro, whose ability is to attach himself to objects with a link and spin around in ball form non-stop, and it leads to some frustrations as neither player ever intends to actually play the game at all. This is especially true as of late as teams have been resorting to this duo every time they have been on the losing side.  Yet none of it really compares to Junkrat.

Junkrat with any type of skill at all becomes arguably one of the most overpowered characters in the game. Before the buff even happened I could jump around the map and destroy teams with ease. Fighting a Junkrat could be frustrating with any opposing character, especially in 1 v 1 scenarios. His ultimate is a wheel that he launches, which is then controlled by the player and explodes. The range of his ultimate is insane, and any target near objective can take out several characters if no shields stop it. This was so much a problem that Junkrat saw a pretty major nerf in 2018 and was continuously tweaked throughout last year.

What is frustrating about the buff is that it targets Total Mayhem, something players didn’t really expect. For some reason Blizzard kind of ignores one of their most popular modes. Any other game mode could lead to some wait times between matches, but when Total Mayhem cycles around you could go game-to-game without much waiting at all. Players love the mode, and yet it vanishes from the playlist all the time, while modes like Team Deathmatch are available basically 24/7.

Anyone who jumps into Total Mayhem can see some rather apparent issues right off the bat. Winston, Hamtaro, and Junkrat. Yet instead of addressing these concerns and tweaking characters that desperately need tweeks, we see Junkrat become even more powerful. According to the recent patch notes Junkrat specifically was buffed in Total Mayhem and nowhere else with more ricochet, bigger blasts, and faster cooldowns. 

He’s become quite honestly a game breaking character because, again, anyone that has the slightest bit of skill with him will wreck absolute havoc now. Then to make matters worse is the fact Blizzard isn’t happy with this. They saw what they did and are now mentioning, and testing, even more buffs for the character. Why?!

Overwatch is arguably one of the best titles ongoing today, which is why it continues to be one of the most played games online, and Blizzard obviously knows what they are doing. I’m not saying listen to the fanbase for everything because like I said, we will always want something, we will always feel another character is a bit overpower when they challenge us. It’s what makes Overwatch great. Years of tweaking has led Overwatch to be an entirely different game than when it released in 2016, with the help of fans feedback and the wizards at Blizzard. I’m just saying clearly your fanbase is telling you they want/need something, or see an issue, and you walked the other way. Twice.