5 things I learnt about Overwatch’s 5v5 change after testing it in custom games

overwatch 2 2

Blizzard Entertainment recently announced that Overwatch 2 will be ditching the usual 6v6 gameplay for 5v5 as standard – but how will the change feel for long-time Overwatch fans?

Peter Wellman spectated five versus five matches in workshop mode to get an idea how Overwatch 2 might feel when it launches (possibly in 2022).

On May 20th, we got our first real look at Overwatch 2’s PVP mode in a developer livestream.

The Blizzard team announced some new changes, with all classes gaining small passive buffs. However, the huge, community-splitting decision was that the game is now going to be five versus five, effectively removing one tank from a team.

Some diligent members of the community have built the changes that we know about into some handy workshop modes in the existing game, so if you want to jump into it, you can. The link to the workshop code is at the bottom of the article.

After watching some friends play around in the 5v5 mode, here are some of my observations – as the game plays quite differently than expected.

A note: Due to not having all of the information of the fine-tuning of heroes etc, this is of course not a definitive version of Overwatch 2. For instance, the workshop mode has a small bug where Widowmaker can headshot through Zarya’s bubble. This is not a feature in the game (and I hope never is), so do take what I say with a pinch of salt. The workshop makers don’t know the full extent of balance changes, and are working off all the information that Blizzard has officially announced.

1. Tank positioning is more important than ever

Tank Positioning

So the design direction that the Blizzard team seem to be heading towards is to simplify the game and move away from the MOBA aspects of Overwatch, instead making it play like a more traditional shooter. One less tank makes the entire game more of an extended Brawl, but the role of that one tank has become more important.

With the reduction in shields but the increase in survivability, fights are based around keeping your tank alive, as they are by nature of health, the better brawlers. If your tanks mess up their timing and run straight into the enemy team, and the supports cannot see them to heal them, they are eliminated instantly.

If you are playing Reinhardt, you can still do the ‘holding the shield and awkward bunny hop of shame’ back to the team after a charge, and that is kind of your job. Tanks run the tempo of fights, thereby have to have the full support of the team, as if they go down the fight is over.

Also, you will spend most of your time cursing Ana’s Biotic Grenades. The ability to cut off the tank’s healing would normally be countered by the off-tank (DVA Matrix, Sigma Barrier, Zarya Bubble etc), but with them no longer in the game, the tank having their healing cut off entirely is an express trip to the respawn queue.

2. Picks matter more than before

Sombra Flank

Eliminating a tank in any Overwatch match is a significant tempo swing and the fight then often goes in your favour. You can come back from losing a support, and losing a DPS is often not too bad.

Now with only five people on the team, these fights become more scrappy. With just one player being eliminated, the value of other players go up massively, leading to more pressure to play perfectly.

As a DPS player with the slight speed boost, you can take flank angles and try and get picks on supports, then return to the team, which feels really good. DPS heroes can go on a flank and come back for healing quite quickly.

Also, the DPS now have to cover the vulnerabilities that the off tank would normally cover, which means actively peeling for supports, and trying to prevent damage by eliminating the opposing DPS heroes. Counter play against your opposing DPS is more important in 5v5.

3. Supports feel nicer to play, but you will spend a lot of time pocketing a tank

Now with only one really big target to shoot, DPS players have a sole focus if they’re not duelling other DPS players. That means that as a support, you will spend most of your time keeping that tank alive.

You do however get a little bit of survivability in a slightly unexpected buff. With a new passive that regenerates health after a while, you don’t have the experience of sitting in a corner as Ana with 11 health trying to make no noise – you can now run away and heal.

It means you can focus on healing your tank and, if the enemy jumps on you, there’s a chance to escape and heal up, or just duel it out. All of your abilityies have more value, especially ultimates. Because…

4. There are fewer ultimates

Lots of ults

Shooting at the tank now generates less ultimate charge – and with one fewer player to farm from, there is more of a ‘neutral’ game. Fights revolve around more efficient use of cooldowns, rather than just big ultimates that will get thrown out every single fight.

The ultimate stage of the game is pushed back. There are more poke phases, but the game rewards you more for taking fights on a single target and diving. The game is more about abilities and cooldowns, rather than building ultimates, which makes it feel more like a deathmatch.

5. The Mei Change is really, really welcome for everyone

Mei not having a CC on her attack is just really good for everyone involved. Mei no longer freezes her opponents in place. At range she can do a lot of damage with her alternate fire – and her walls are one of the few damage-preventing abilities that DPS heroes have. She is still powerful, but no longer with the ‘feel bad’ of freezing an opponent in place.

Her Blizzard still freezes, so it is still a powerful ability, but you are rewarded for hitting her alternate fire. However, Mei’s primarily fire makes her a bit less powerful, but you still get the awesome feeling of hitting an icicle on a support around a shield. And of course, the wall remains an important CC tool.

Elsewhere, the Winston change is a little buggy at the moment to implement. This will see him get a rail gun-type shot, and you can charge up his secondary fire to take more health off your enemies. It makes a bit of a weird noise and cannot go through shields in the workshop mode, and so we don’t know what it’s going to be like in Overwatch 2.

Conclusion: ‘It seems the fights are going to be a lot tighter and faster’

5v5 turns the game into a more traditional shooter. For fans of Valorant or CSGO, then the change to 5v5 might make it a more fun experience for you. For existing Overwatch fans, this change feels very different but more fun for support and DPS players.

5v5 becomes this tight tempo play, where hero choices and cooldowns really matter. The core of the team moves with the tank and the DPS players fight for supremacy around the outside. We haven’t seen this played at Overwatch Contenders or League level (my friends vary everywhere from high plat to low masters) and so, it seems the fights are going to be a lot tighter and faster.

The great question remains – will Overwatch 2 be better or worse than the current game? That can be answered by saying (as with most questions of this nature) that 5v5 is different. It can feel more deathmatch-like, which will appeal to some and turn away those that like the close teamwork of Overwatch, which has been lost in some ways.   

However, full props to the teams behind this Overwatch 2 workshop mode. Their work gives a little insight into the new mode and it makes for a fun new experience. It’s not perfect, but then they are not privy to the deepest of secrets the Blizzard team is working on.

Thanks to all those who provided replays, especially Midnight and Funney for giving their opinions and insights.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

Great post, thanks for sharing with us.