Blizzard have broken up the GOATS with the latest update to Overwatch, introducing a role queue system into the game and imposing restrictions on the possible team compositions you can use because of it. On the plus side, if you have a favourite hero, you won’t have anywhere near as much competition for that character and this will go a long way to ensuring that you’re not left with a terrible team set up, but in both Competitive and Quick Play, you will now be forced to play in teams with two tanks, two supports and two damage heroes.
The role queue works by letting you pick a particular role when heading into matchmaking, each of which has got an estimate of how long it will take to find a match. Within a match, you will then be strictly limited to that role. You can switch characters, but if you’re playing Mercy, for example, you’ll have to switch to another support character.
This is all the fault of the game’s competitive esports scene, which has been dominated over the last year by the GOATS team competition. Named after the team that happened upon it, it’s a system that pairs three tanks with three supports, allowing you to suck up and output staggering amounts of damage. There’s some variants to the tactic, but it’s led to the Overwatch League featuring game after game with very similar teams facing off in very similar battles, and has forced some of the biggest stars from the first season of the competition to switch away from the characters where they made their name.
The role restrictions will come into effect immediately for the Overwatch League with Stage 4 set to start next weekend. In the run up to the season finals, this will have a huge impact on the league, with several teams having built up a huge amount of success through GOATS. While Blizzard have applied balance changes between stages in the past – earlier this year they made some tweaks to try and reduce the impact of Brigitte’s ultimate which is a key component of GOATS, and in Season 1, they made major changes to Mercy – but this is by far and away the most drastic move that they’ve made. It’s tantamount to forcing all football teams to play 4-4-2.
The disappointing thing is that Stage 3 has seen a number of teams in the Overwatch League break out of the GOATS formula with a good deal of success with unusual map-specific compositions and counter tactics springing up. GOATS was still powerful and dominant, but the league was working out ways of getting around it. Unfortunately, this now feels like Blizzard capitulating and giving up on trying to balance out the particular set of edge cases that GOATS was able to exploit.
In the end, this might still end up as a positive for the game as a whole. You’ll no longer be sat at the character selection screen rolling your eyes because everybody’s picked DPS character yet again.