When I reviewed Overwatch 2 last October, there were two things I struggled with. Though the game was gorgeous and the gameplay as fun as ever, not much about Overwatch 2 seemed to differentiate it from its predecessor. To make matters worse, the one thing that did clearly separate it was Overwatch 2’s shift away from the original’s tone. Overwatch 2, with its sleek menus and battle pass system, didn’t feel like the Overwatch I fell in love with, but rather a stylish first-person shooter eager to assimilate rather than celebrate the original’s charm and sincerity. But with Season 4, all that could be changing.
After months of half-heartedly picking up and dropping the game I once cherished so dearly, I find myself growing more invested in Overwatch 2. After months of pestering the game’s development team with questions like, “Can you explain how this new map/character will fit into the game’s story or PvE?” I finally feel a bit satisfied not knowing what’s next–though to be clear, I do maintain my belief that launching the game without its highly anticipated PvE component was a misstep. The reason for this is not because I’m suddenly on board with the sequel’s new direction, but because I feel like after taking the game a bit too seriously, the team is ready to return to what it does best: Creating a hopeful world filled with characters you can’t help but adore, and putting the community first.
The beacon of this effort might very well be the game’s newest hero, Lifeweaver. Though I’d argue Ramattra could easily end up being the most narratively important addition to the Overwatch roster and that every new character is well-designed and fun to play, there is something uniquely comforting about Lifeweaver–something that makes him feel a bit like the heroes we first met back in 2016.
“What we tried to strike with Lifeweaver was someone who was warm, who was funny, but wasn’t cruel. [Someone who] wasn’t making snappy little jokes at people’s expense,” lead narrative designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie said in a group interview discussing the incoming character. “Even when he’s making a joke that is a little bit sharp, you don’t feel offended by it because he’s a welcoming person. We really wanted to create a support character who was uplifting, both literally and metaphorically.”
In my time playing Lifeweaver, I found this was precisely the case. Lifeweaver is an extremely mobile character who also has a fair bit of firepower. With abilities that allow him to dash into battle, pull allies towards him, and create flowers that lift those aboard them off the ground, he creates opportunities for tactical, bottleneck-breaking plays. This, combined with his moderately quick healing, powerful Ultimate that sprouts forth a life-giving tree, and his passive ability to drop a healthpack on death make him a potential game changer for Overwatch 2 and viable choice for support players. And while the tall, dark, and handsome character might be initially enticing for precisely those three reasons, what makes him memorable is just how warm he is.
Lifeweaver’s voice is light and his attitude, effervescent. He exudes a youthful energy while cracking self-deprecating jokes about being a Vishkar Academy dropout and flirts shamelessly with Baptiste and Mercy, much to my delight. He is also one of the game’s most optimistic heroes and stirs up the same sense of triumphant hope that the first game did back in 2016.
“It was very much a question of showing someone who had it all, and made a choice to improve the world rather than stay comfortable. To face people that are poisoning the world and try to find ways to make them stop. To give up everything, all of his comfort, in order to serve the world itself,” Jurgens-Fyhrie said. “He made brave and dangerous choices […] I don’t think he necessarily understands just how much trouble he’s in, but I think he will.”
This idea of Lifeweaver making “brave and dangerous choices” is one that stayed with me, as it took on quite a few meanings as I got to better know his character. On top of rejecting wealth and refusing to capitalize on his world-changing technology, BioLight, Lifeweaver is both Thai and pansexual. With that in mind, his optimism, openness, and bravery becomes that much more powerful. He opposes so many of the ideologies that are hurting us in real life: reckless technological advance, disregard towards our planet, profit above people, racism, and hateful behavior towards LGBTQ+ communities. Thankfully, Overwatch imagines a future where identity and orientation are not treated with as much scrutiny or disdain as they are now, but regardless, his existence means a lot in our current reality.
Lifeweaver–coupled with all the changes Season 4 is making to competitive mode and its roster–also indicates the studio is making a better effort to connect with the game’s community. I said it when I wrote about Overwatch’s limited-time dating sim, Loverwatch, and I’ll say it again: The Overwatch community loves to thirst after the game’s heroes, and with a design that wouldn’t look completely amiss in Hades, Lifeweaver is certifiably thirst-worthy. Though we are still waiting for more story-based content to hit Overwatch 2, creating characters like Lifeweaver and giving fans non-canon events like Loverwatch shows an understanding on Blizzard’s part that we want stories and to better connect with this game and its characters.
Lastly, Lifeweaver is the first character introduced in Overwatch 2 that players will get the chance to play without having to invest time or money to do so. Prior to Lifeweaver, players could only test out heroes through one of four ways: Purchase the premium battle pass, grind out the free battle pass, purchase the character from the store directly, or complete certain challenges in order to unlock them. While you will still need to do one of these things in order to gain full access to the new hero, Season 4 allows players to take him for a spin via a special Arcade mode first, ensuring you don’t grind away for a character you discover you ultimately aren’t particularly fond of. This is a massive step in the right direction by Blizzard and feels a lot more consumer-friendly than other recent actions taken by the team.
Outside of Lifeweaver, Season 4 brings with it even more content that might inspire hope from long-time fans. In the latest trailer for Season 4, the Overwatch team revealed an official Pride event is coming this June. While details have yet to be announced, the screenshot featured in the trailer showcased an intersectional Pride flag waving in the wind, seemingly indicating the team’s belief in protecting and recognizing transgender communities. It also features Tracer–a canonically lesbian character–doing an Akira slide in front of a vaporwave-looking backdrop. Whether or not the two things are related is yet to be confirmed, but in my mind, they absolutely are.
Furthermore, the game will be celebrating Thai New Year with a limited-time event that allows players who don’t own Lifeweaver to give him a whirl. The event, BOB and Weave, tasks a team of Lifeweavers with using their pull ability to position BOB into strategic places and wipe out the enemy team. While there is always room for the game to celebrate more nationalities and cultural events (sorry, Blizzard, but two Ramadan stickers ain’t gonna cut it forever), this push reflects that the team is still expanding their efforts.
Season 4 also adds what could very well be the most elaborate and story-driven game mode seen in Overwatch 2 thus far, Starwatch: Galactic Rescue. The event transforms the game’s roster from Overwatch agents, Talon members, and ragtag bands of misfits into either heroic Watchers or members of the sinister-looking Infinite Empire in the game’s spin on an epic space opera. Oh, and the skins accompanying the event are seriously cool looking.
I can’t help but be optimistic in regards to where Overwatch 2 is headed. While cool collaborations and mythic skins are fun, what makes Overwatch truly special is the way it strives to see humanity and its future in the best light possible. In the latest trailer for the upcoming season, we see the game’s heroes band together to state: “United by compassion, as long as we stick together, we will make a new possibility for everyone.” Prior to watching it, I hadn’t felt that dreaminess, sincerity, and joy from the series in quite some time. But with Season 4, it seems like this message is back at the forefront.
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