Weeks of speculation among Overwatch fans came to end last night as Baptiste - a healer/damage-dealer hybrid - was announced as hero 30 in Blizzard’s enduringly popular team-based shooter.
At around 1am GMT, just as European Overwatch fans were settling into idle dreams of a DPS heavy meta, Blizzard released an animated teaser showing us what we can expect from the newest addition.
Who is hero 30?
Jean-Baptiste Augustin, or Baptiste as he will be known in the game, was initially teased by Blizzard in a cryptic letter ‘leaked’ early last week.
In that letter Baptiste was described as a combat medic serving the Talon Organisation. Most tellingly the author writes that ‘I’ve never known a medic to be such a good shot’, and describes Baptiste as a character of ‘unusually high endurance’, ‘versatility’, and - notably - ‘luck’.
The images of the character taken from the gameplay show him holding a two-triggered gun, strongly suggesting that he combines healing abilities with more offensive DPS abilities or hitscan qualities. Exactly how this gun might work is still not known - some are speculating it might be a Moira style ‘area of effect’ heal, others suggest it might be a form of grenade healing similar to Ana’s Biotic Grenade.
From an attacking perspective, some are speculating that Baptiste might have a Junkrat-style projectile, but this seems at odds with the description of him as a ‘good shot’, so it seems more likely that he will have a hitscan style, like a McCree or a Widowmaker. Having just added Ashe as a hero, this seem like a duplication of existing skills in the Overwatch hero base.
With so much speculation based on just a few screenshots, it seems like we will have to wait for details of Baptiste’s abilities. For now, all we can say for sure is that Blizzard seem determined continue the recent trend of trolling international audiences with ‘how are we supposed to pronounce that?’ hero names.
What’s Baptiste's backstory?
For fans of Overwatch lore, Baptiste grew up in war torn Haiti where he was orphaned by the events of the Omnic Crisis. The animated teaser initially shows Baptiste as a boy-soldier wearing the uniform of the Talon trooper. Talon is already familiar to Overwatch fans as a loose alliance of individuals including Widowmaker, Sombra and Reaper, aimed at sowing chaos and conflict across the world.
The final scene of the trailer appear to show Baptiste having restrained three Talon operatives, and sitting on a crate holding a grenade launcher in one hand and a medical vial in the other.
In the closing line of his dialogue, Baptiste announces that he is determined to fight for a better world - decreeing, ‘For some that means a bandage, for others, a bullet’.
When can we play as Baptiste in Overwatch?
The release date for Baptiste hasn’t been confirmed, but we could reasonably expect it to be available to players on Overwatch’s PTR test environment by the weekend. Based on the timelines seen in previous hero releases, our newest hero could be available on Quick Play selection screens within two weeks. Following that, we could see Baptiste in all competitive environments by the end of March… a timeline which conveniently ties in to the beginning of Stage 2 of this year’s Overwatch League.
Taking into account the criticism that Blizzard received in the past when they elected to play Overwatch League on out-dated patches, it seems most likely that this is their intention for Baptiste.
How could Baptiste affect the meta?
Blizzard pulled off something of a ‘bait and switch’ when revealing Ashe at Blizzcon last November, a time when many expected that hero 29 would be Echo - the Omnic ‘Athena’-like hero who featured heavily in the ‘Reunion’ cinematic. With this in mind, it was widely expected that Echo would finally be announced as hero 30 in early 2019. Indeed, Jeff Kaplan himself seemed to tease the imminent release of Echo in his conversations with popular Overwatch streamer, Emongg.
There was something curious about Blizzard’s communications around this time that suggests there might be more to the timing of Baptiste’s release than meets the eye.
In his stream with Emongg, Jeff confirmed that there were 6 heroes in development at that time, including Echo and one or two known heroes which had been rumoured for a while. Interestingly, Scott Mercer - principal designer at Blizzard, told us just a couple of weeks earlier that there were 5 characters in development.
So, what might have happened in late October to prompt the addition of a new hero to Blizzard’s cast of heroes? Could Baptiste be Blizzard’s reaction to the GOATS meta?
With their changes to Reaper, Brigitte and D.Va over the past few months, Blizzard appear to be dabbling in hero changes with the explicit aim of disrupting the GOATS meta which is proving to be widely unpopular with Overwatch players, and with viewers of the Overwatch League.
One considered theory is that Baptiste is a reactionary hero, targeted at disrupting the current meta. In particular, Blizzard may be hoping that Baptiste will replace Brigitte, the much-maligned hero 27 who appeared just 12 months ago. As a shielded ‘tank-healer’ with powerful stun ability, Brigitte seemed to be designed to deliberately disrupt the Tracer meta. Unfortunately, she proved more effective than anyone could have predicted, and paved the way for the introduction of GOATS.
By introducing Baptiste as a DPS/Healer hybrid, Blizzard might be hoping to sidestep the controversy of the #deleteBrig movement by introducing a hero that simply makes Brigitte a sub-optimal choice in the meta. With everything related to hero 30, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Pictures: Activision Blizzard