Of course, probably seeing that the ability was still flaming garbage, they decided to add a few other bonuses to it. They added a bunch of buffs to Mercy’s pistol (most of which were removed before going live), and they added the potential to get four uses of Resurrect out of Valkyrie (rez, valk, rez, wait, rez, wait, rez). This time they were successful in making Valkyrie worthy of being an ultimate, because they added an ultimate (Resurrect) to a basic ability (Valkyrie). A basic ability in addition to an ultimate nets an ultimate ability.
Now the developers had a different problem. Mercy had two ultimates: Resurrect and Valkyrie… Or to be more direct about it, Resurrect and then more Resurrect. As you probably already know, Valkyrie was nerfed repeatedly. Resurrect was slowly withdrawn from the sack of garbage that was sacked and then unsacked, eventually rendering the sack of garbage to be a sack of nothing but garbage.
When Resurrect was pulled out Valkyrie, so was the ultimate in Valkyrie. Now we’re just left with a basic ability that lasts fifteen seconds on Q, while Mercy’s real ultimate is on her E.
Consider the risk and reward for playing at different proximities from the fight for most heroes. Generally, the closer a hero is to the fight, the more impact they have; targets are bigger, and more enemies are visible. Projectile speed, spread, damage falloff, and limited range on abilities become less of an issue as a hero gets closer to the fight. The closer a hero is to the fight, the more they have to shoot at/heal/protect. By the same token, being closer to the fight also means greater risk, as the player becomes a bigger target for the enemy.
With the exception of a few specific heroes (Widowmaker) the risk and reward scale at about the same rate with proximity to the fight.
And then there’s Valkyrie.
The risk still scales with Mercy’s proximity to the fight while using Valkyrie; the closer Mercy is to the fight, the bigger of a target she is.
The reward does not scale with Mercy’s proximity to the fight while in Valkyrie; her team is receiving the same 60 (or 50, whatever) health/second regardless as to how close Mercy is.
As Mercy gets closer to her team while in Valkyrie, the risk increases. The reward is flatlined. This then prompts the question: Why would any Mercy with even the slightest hint of common sense want to be anywhere near the fight?
Trick question. They wouldn’t. The reason to get in close in the first place is to maximize reward. If that reward vanishes and the heightened risk stays, then the obvious choice is to minimize that risk by staying as far away as possible.
On top of this, Mercy has free flight with an omnidirectional movement speed of 9 meters/second and a 30 meter beam range. Not only does the Mercy have the incentive to be as far from the fight as possible, but they also have the tools to do so with ease.
The result? The best way to play Mercy while using Valkyrie is to hide in the skybox for fifteen seconds while sitting 29 meters from the beam target. This poses very little risk and sacrifices no reward.
This would be fine if Mercy had something to do while floating halfway across the map from the fight, but Valkyrie more than takes care of that. All of the skills and nuances of Mercy’s base kit that keep the player active and engaged? Yeah, those are thrown out the window.
- Healing prioritization? AoE beams remove the need for that.
- Damage boost utilization? AoE beams also negate the need for that.
- Positioning? There aren’t really any threats to evade in the skybox, and you are already in the best position you are going to be in for the duration of the ability.
- GA discipline? You’re still in the skybox and you have free flight, remember?
- Awareness? There isn’t much of a need to pay close attention to the fight. It’s not like you would get any real benefit from doing so. Skybox and AoE beams are still a thing.
Consequently, Valkyrie treats the Mercy less like a player, and more like a game object; like a construct. It doesn’t give the player anything to do. Instead, it does everything for the player.
Are you 29 meters from the fight and holding down LMB/RMB? Congratulations! You have reached maximum capacity. That is all you will be doing for the next 14 seconds.
Naturally, an ultimate that is a borderline AFK button doesn’t feel good to use. Whereas most ultimates offer a unique change in playstyle that still demands player activity (Dragonblade, Tactical Visor), offer a brief burst of power (Earthshatter, Rocket Barrage), or leave the hero’s playstyle unchanged (Supercharger, Photon Barrier), Valkyrie transforms the player into a glorified spectator that applies flat bonuses to their team. From the player’s perspective, they aren’t helping their team; they are idle. Instead, Valkyrie is doing all of the work.
And this is a failure in game design. The player and their character’s kit are not merging as one. The player can’t take ownership for the ability and say that they helped their team; they didn’t put any effort into doing it. It was just given to them.
Participation awards and idle-execution abilities isolate the player from their character. It changes the perception from “I did this” to “This was given to me”. The player doesn’t take ownership for the actions that were supposedly theirs, and thus, they don’t feel heroic. Instead, they feel like a sidekick or a tool used to let others take the glory.
It gets worse. Not only is Valkyrie a glorified spectator with an absurdly low skill ceiling, but it isn’t powerful enough to contest other ultimates or even basic focus fire. Valkyrie may have the potential to heal at a combined rate of 300 health/second, but that healing rate is spread out evenly across 5 allies… all of whom either don’t really need it, or need more than 60 health/second to survive. As a result, most of that healing isn’t helpful, resulting in Valkyrie having a nearly identical effect on the fight as a Mercy playing at high capacity without Valkyrie. Hence the “easy-mode” stigma on the ability.
Because of Valkyrie’s inability to sustain a team, not only does the Mercy player feel idle, but they also feel utterly helpless as they watch their team get mowed down/blown up/frozen/knocked down/cut apart.
And this is the biggest problem with Valkyrie. No hero, no ability, no ultimate, should ever leave the player feeling helpless or useless. That is perhaps the worst thing that could ever happen to a playable character, and doesn’t scream anything other than developer incompetence. It contradicts the very point of active videogames in the first place: To empower the player.
Although I guess I should commend Valkyrie for what it is good at. Despite its shortcomings in impact, player engagement, and skill limitations, it is perhaps the most flexible ability in the game. No other ability in the game offers all of these options midfight:
- Showing the world how much you like the color blue by leaving a weight on Mercy’s alternate fire the entire time.
- If you are a strange person, showing the world how much you like the color yellow by leaving a weight on Mercy’s primary fire the entire time.
- Casually shooting down the enemy Pharah.
- Inspecting the ceiling textures.
- Fetching a drink from the refrigerator.
- Drinking some of that drink you pulled out of the refrigerator.
- Checking your social media (or the Overwatch Forums!).
- Petting your cat.
- Petting your dog.
- Feeding your pet fish.
- Using a laser pointer to drive your cat nuts.
- Working on homework.
- Eating a sandwich.