Shortly after Overwatch’s newest hero, Baptiste, was announced, I started seeing Blizzard devs position the Haitian combat medic as a counter to GOATS, the game’s unpopular defence-oriented meta. “Alright,” I said to myself. “This seems promising.” But then I played him, and now I have mixed feelings.
Overwatch’s current meta is heavily reliant on heroes like Reinhardt, Zarya, D.Va, Zenyatta, Lucio, and Brigitte, with sprinkles of Sombra for when people are feeling tricksy. HP-heavy defence mixed with crowd control is the order of the day, and Baptiste, a combat medic who can briefly render his teammates unkillable, does not exactly detract from that.
First things first: Baptiste is fun to play. His kit is complex but rewarding, with a straightforward burst-fire submachine gun leading the charge while a plethora of defensive abilities bring up the rear. Initially, he tripped me up a little, because he has two separate healing abilities – one that’s entirely for his teammates, and one that’s mostly for him. To heal his team, he can lob grenades from his gun. These are similar to sniper grandma Ana’s grenades, except that unlike her wound-knitting bombardments, these don’t heal Baptiste, nor do they damage enemies. In order to heal himself, Baptiste can deploy a regenerative burst that also heals nearby allies.
On top of that, he can toss out a drone-powered immortality field that doesn’t cancel out all damage, but does stop allies from spilling their last precious drops of HP. I was worried this ability would be overpowered, but it’s pretty easy to focus fire down the drone, and again, heroes within the field’s bounds still take most of the damage hurled at them. Then there’s his ult, which projects a small field that doubles damage and healing from allies’ projectiles. Oh, and he can jump Real High.
It’s a lot to juggle compared to the elegant simplicity of some other heroes, so it took me a few matches before I settled into an effective rhythm of burst firing at foes, grenading allies back to life, keeping myself away from death’s door with my own healing and mobility, and saving the day with timely immortality fields. When I did, though, I regularly found myself exhilarated in a way I can’t say I’ve been with other Overwatch support heroes. I also started to see ways in which Baptiste could render the GOATS meta inert – or at least, less ert.
For example, at one point my allies and I were poised to take the point after a back-and-forth skirmish. Then the enemy team’s Zarya fired off her Graviton Surge ultimate, clumping us all together in a helpless tangle. We knew what was coming next: The enemy D.Va popped out of her mech, heralding a self-destruct meant to wipe out our whole team. In part because the person who should’ve been our Reinhardt was also playing Baptiste (the public test server right after a new hero has been announced is wild, y’all), we were basically doomed. But then I tossed out my immortality field and a prayer. The mech exploded. We lived.
This made me feel cool as hell, and it nullified a tried-and-true GOATS strat. Similarly, Blizzard developers have suggested that players could use Baptiste’s ult to help rangier DPS heroes like Soldier 76, Bastion, and McCree burst down shields and overcome GOATS’ steady stream of healing. On paper, he also seems to synergise well with non-GOATS supports like Mercy and Ana, given that his slightly-unreliable AOE healing compliments their sustained single-target healing. Heck, his immortality field even pairs well with Symmetra, given that her shield wall ult can completely protect the immortality field’s drone. In short, Baptiste enables a lot of heroes who’ve been stuck on the sidelines for way too long.
But at the same time, Baptiste’s strengths play to many of GOATS’ strengths, and he doesn’t really solve the issue at the core of this whole thing, even for people who just play GOATS heroes without really employing the coordination necessary for the comp to sing. Fights have become less about big moments, and more about who can stay alive and in control the longest while frustrating the hell out of the other team. Baptiste lets teams stay alive even longer, meaning that it’s likely Overwatch matches will continue to keep a similar pace, even if some of the particulars get switched around.
Then again, I might be entirely off base. Baptiste isn’t even in the live game yet, and top-tier players will doubtless pair him with every hero and comp imaginable to see what sticks. Maybe we’re mere weeks out from the biggest DPS resurgence the game has ever seen. All I know for now is that Baptiste is fun to play. Here’s hoping he stays that way once we get to know him a little better.