When Orisa first launched onto the Overwatch PTR, she felt like a formidable, deadly tank who could lead charges or back up her teammates in the worst of situations. Weeks later, after she's landed on both console and in Competitive Mode, there's been a consensus: Orisa isn't going as planned.
Before her release, the tank lineup was a little thin. The sturdy, shield-carrying tank Reinhardt was -- and remains -- a near-necessary pick for several maps and modes. Most teams choose at least two tanks, with one really tanking and the other acting as a high-HP DPS who can provide backup if the first tank dies. And Reinhardt is widely considered the only hero suited to the first task. So, when they decided to add another tank, the Overwatch team studied why Reinhardt is so crucial.
In Orisa's introductory video earlier this month, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan pointed out that while the tanks D.Va and Winston are "disruptive" and "defined by their mobility", and while Roadhog punishes out-of-position enemies, Reinhardt is a bit more of an "anchor tank". An anchor tank, Kaplan explained, is a focal point around which teams build and position themselves. Orisa was designed to be another "anchor tank".
"We felt like players needed more options in that anchor tank role," Kaplan said. "We hope that in Orisa, there's now another option to a low-mobility tank but one that brings a high amount of protection in her protective barrier." A team would "get behind" Orisa, whose 900 HP barrier shield defends them, "along the lines of Reinhardt's barrier shield or Winston's barrier bubble". It has a short cool-down and a long range, so she can keep it up for a little and run off to attack. On top of that, her "Fortify" ability would strengthen her defence, thickening her skin so other heroes' enfeebling abilities would bounce off her.
Imagine players' disappointment when they learned that Orisa was not, in fact, the next Reinhardt. I originally judged her early PTR incarnation as a "dynamic, deadly" tank who's "not strong enough to solo-tank" and "will depend heavily on her team's strategy". It's clear now that forming a team around Orisa is a very bad idea. None of her abilities stand out as high-impact or team-driving. If you just read her ability list, she seems like a tank, but when you're playing her, she sure doesn't feel like one.
Right now, Orisa is not satisfying how players understood Kaplan's "anchor tank" spiel. Orisa is squishy, has poor agility and cannot tank alone, or, really, tank much at all. With 200 health and 200 armour, she is certainly not a central anchor of her team, because anchors are sturdy and don't die every few minutes when unattached to Mercy. Her "Halt" move, which gathers together enemies, and ultimate attack, which increases nearby teammates' damage by 50 per cent, can make allies super deadly, but it doesn't offer much in the way of defence.
Truthfully, she's a sort of support DPS. You can find her a few feet behind her team, pulling enemies together, shooting from behind her shield, and, in most circumstances, from behind Reinhardt's, too.
"She doesn't really feel like the traditional tank in most games," Overwatch YouTuber JoeKing Overwatch said in a video earlier this week that addressed players' widespread complaints about Orisa. On Reddit and Battle.net, people say that her basic architecture limits her as more of a side dish than a main course. By design, she can't be the next crucial tank. "I was expecting her to be similar to Reinhardt or maybe somebody like Winston, with a shield you can put on the ground. But she really isn't quite like that," JoeKing Overwatch said. Orisa doesn't have burst or big damage, either. Orisa players have to be quite protective of themselves, while balancing team defence and gunning down enemies, a strategy he calls "poke game".
Similarly, in a video titled "Everything Counters Orisa", YouTube channel YourOverwatch points out that everybody picks Orisa, but everything counters her, too. Without movement abilities or more than 400 HP, she's pretty damn vulnerable if someone gets behind her shield. "This is a finger," the video explains. "What really counters Orisa is when people press left click against her." YourOverwatch includes a handy visualisation comparing Orisa's headshot hitbox to several planetary bodies:
"Everything Counters Orisa"
What does that mean for Orisa's future? It's easy to forget that when Sombra and Ana were released, lots of Overwatch players smeared them. Players considered their kits interesting, but disjointed and situational. Now, after some clutch patches, Ana is a near-necessary pick for competitive teams, and after Sombra's recent buff, players don't quit games when she's chosen any more -- low praise, but an improvement. More importantly, both are really fun to play.
A large part of the Overwatch community is built on agreeing and disagreeing about necessary or unnecessary balance patches. Several players believe that Orisa is quite good, but others are upset that she simply does not do what she was allegedly designed for. Whenever Blizzard releases the next new hero, players will undoubtedly complain that they are unplayable or overpowered, too. Satisfaction is not much of a possibility here. And, yes, players need to learn how to make the most of a hero before completely dismissing them.
It's worth pointing out that stale gameplay -- I'm looking at you, Reinhardt -- should be the biggest impetus for change. Overwatch's balancing is kinetic. Orisa sucks now, but will she suck later? Probably. But between now and then, Blizzard might get her right.