Overwatch 2‘s Latest Hero Lifeweaver: A Primer

Games Features Overwatch 2
Overwatch 2‘s Latest Hero Lifeweaver: A Primer

Hope blooms as Overwatch 2’s Season 4 rolls out, which includes the release of the newest support hero, Lifeweaver.  A beautiful Thai “biolight” architect who aids his allies with plant-based constructs, Lifeweaver feels like an interesting first experiment in hero design post-launch. Lifeweaver is available to players at level 45 on the Battle Pass, as well as via specific hero challenges, or instantly via the Premium Battle Pass for 2,000 Overwatch Coins ($9.99).

In the original Overwatch, support was a small category of seven heroes that varied in terms of healing and utility; terms like “main” or “off” healer made more sense when team compositions focused around needing some combination of both. Overwatch 2 changed this by making supports more about aiding a team’s lethality, and less about slowly sustaining them through lengthy engagements. To keep up, older heroes have been tweaked to work with newer characters that favor speed and complexity. It’s a depressingly practical trend that feels like the game sloughing off unique design choices in order to quickly make the re-launched game more in line with current shooters.

Lifeweaver, by contrast, has an ethos that seemingly embraces both games. When speaking about him prior to his launch, developers mentioned that he originally was created to be a “main healer” similar to Mercy. It speaks to the game being stable enough to take chances if it’s once again emphasizing healing, teamwork, and good decision-making skills. However, Lifeweaver has continued Overwatch 2’s “Swiss Army Knife” approach to hero design, which weighs down a good concept with too large of a toolkit. Given that many of his abilities are very open-ended, and rely heavily on game knowledge, many players might end up aiding the enemy team more than their own.

The hero’s primary fire, called Healing Blossom, is a conjured lotus bloom that can be charged up for a max amount of 65 healing, or fired off quickly to do less healing faster. The charge time has also been reduced since the hero was revealed, taking it down to one second. It can also be cast while moving, making it easy to pop heals on a teammate while peeking from behind cover. 

Lifeweaver, like Mercy and Torbjorn, can bring out an alternate “weapon” called Thorn Volley, which allows him to shoot tiny pink projectiles from his hand, reminiscent of The Needler from Halo. The spread on the thorns gets bigger the farther from enemies the player is, meaning that this is not something to be used regularly, but rather to fill in damage when enemies are low or to help defend yourself at close range. This feels consistent with older support design decisions, where damage is not as important.

His additional abilities are the bulk of his utility, and also have the most potential for strategy and creativity. Petal Platform, which is on a 12-second cooldown, conjures a small flower that can be activated by anyone (including enemies) and will raise them a decent distance into the air before disappearing a short time later. This allows you as the player to create your own high ground, raise a teammate for a better position with ults, or lift an enemy upwards to keep them from killing your squad. Having a way to quickly go vertical in Overwatch has been limited in other heroes, and the ability to do that to enemy players more effortlessly than, say, a Mei wall, is a first.

The ability with most potential to be disastrous is his secondary ability, Life Grip. Taken wholesale from World of Warcraft’s priest ability called Leap of Faith, this allows a player to grab a teammate from a considerable distance and pull them quickly towards your position. It also applies a small bubble that makes them invulnerable while in transit as well, so they can’t be sniped mid-yank. 

The strength of Life Grip for clutch saves on paper also presents its biggest weakness: a way to change a teammate’s position with no input from them. Positioning is very critical in Overwatch, especially at higher skill levels, and a potential loss of control every 20 seconds from either poor judgment or intentional malice is high. Ever optimistic, Overwatch’s game director Aaron Keller explained in a blog post that beyond griefing, the ability requires trust from your team and can lead to good plays. (Putting practicality alongside their optimism is probably why they put “guard rails” against teammates being able to pull you off a map or during some critical abilities like Resurrection, however.)

His final regular ability is Rejuvenating Dash, which gives Lifeweaver a small burst in the direction he is moving and heals the player. It is the most “selfish” ability but ultimately gives the hero a touch more survivability if he’s using his kit for the benefit of his team. 

Lifeweaver’s ultimate, Tree of Life, is a visual showstopper in the form of a massive biolight tree that pulses with a healing aura and also provides cover, as it cannot be shot through by either team and players cannot pass through it. It feels like a mix between a Warcraft shaman’s Healing Totem ability, mixed with Symmetra’s ultimate.

On top of all of this, Lifeweaver also has a passive called Parting Gift, such that when he is killed, his body drops a mega healthpack for a single teammate or a mini healthpack for an enemy. Even in death, he is a giving tree, providing until there’s nothing left.

Lifeweaver’s design is cohesive despite being both beneficial and dangerous, which will play out in interesting ways for both higher and lower skill players. What threatens the hero’s growth (which ultimately mirrors the game as well) are the perpetual balance issues that come from Overwatch 2’s changes, alongside Activision-Blizzard’s desire to profit from a free-to-play competitive game. Support as a role is a delicate ecosystem, and many changes have had disastrous effects. What makes Lifeweaver interesting might just end up being trimmed way back in a season or two, given the constantly-changing nature of Overwatch now.

There is still room for optimism, because even if the ideas behind the hero fail on some level, it’s still to our benefit as players to see the development team finally having the resources and space to take more risks. Orienting a game that felt like a very rushed, lifeless version of its former self back towards what made it so innovative is a net positive. It is a good reminder that videogames can be fun, and maybe even a little bit risky.

Nico Deyo is a feminist media critic who lives in the Midwest. She can be found on Twitter at @appleciderwitch.

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