The dawn of Orisa is nigh. On March 21st, Overwatch’s 24th hero will abandon the binds of the PTR, and gallop onto consoles and PCs in the main game. But Orisa’s been incubating for longer than usual. First, she was already nerfed only a few days after popping up on the PTR. Later, Blizzard announced that Orisa would be in the PTR a bit longer than the other newer heroes announced in the past. Along with other frequent changes in the PTR, Orisa seems to be ushering in not just a change to Overwatch’s meta, but a change in how balance changes will be tested in the PTR and beyond.
Orisa seems to be being promoted as an alternative to Reinhardt: she has quite a bit of abilities, a weapon with a wider spread (though still poor for long distance), a barrier that might plummet poor Winston’s status within the game’s competitive meta. While Orisa seems on paper like a conglomerate of abilities we’ve seen in other heroes (a damage booster like Mercy’s, but stronger; a barrier more similar to Reinhardt’s than Winston's soap bubble; etcetera), in action, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
So I have a couple theories on how the competitive meta might shift once Orisa is officially on the roster. In scenario one, Orisa completely overtakes Reinhardt as a team’s anchor. Honestly, not much would change with this. If anything, other barrier-sprouting heroes like Zarya or Symmetra might be a popular combination. In scenario two, both Orisa and Reinhardt could be used quite frequently, but not often together. Again, retaining the ideal balance of two tanks, a few offense or defense, and two-to-three supports. Alternatively, in a maybe worst case scenario, players will find Orisa and Reinhardt to be a dynamic duo on teams by leveraging the potential for barrier stacking, and a return of the dastardly three tank, three supports meta.
The problem with scenario three is that, along with barrier stacking, it also blossoms the potential for other barrier-wielding heroes—like Zarya or Symmetra—making the other team’s lives very difficult—or at its worst, rendering a match boring. As ultimately, the other team would instead inevitably line up and protect a Bastion as to they try to pelt down a flurry of barriers.
Yet, scenario one also seems the least likely of the bunch, at least in the entirely replacing Reinhardt sense. There’s something Orisa lacks that Reinhardt has: mobility. On cooldown, Reinhardt can charge his way across enemy lines, taking out a foe or knocking back someone in the process. Orisa, on the other hand, is just painfully slow all the time. This could be buffed slightly, like instating a passively faster walking speed. But as it stands, Orisa is simply too slow and non-agile currently to be a viable replacement for Reinhardt, unless a player is prepared with a Lucio to constantly escort an Orisa to boost her speed.
All in all, I’m eager to see the results of Orisa being a full-fledged addition to the Overwatch roster when she goes live across all platforms on March 21st. Until then, all we can do is test out all the hero changes in the PTR, and patiently wait for Blizzard to announce whatever event or new map they have up their sleeves next. Plus, how the inevitable introduction of to the much-anticipated Doomfist will shake things up in (hopefully) a few months from now. (I mean, he has to be the next hero, right?)