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Overwatch 2 Tore Apart Pharah And Mercy Before Valentine’s Day, And I’m Not Sure How To Feel About That

End of a Ph-era

Blizzard

I have not spent meaningful time with Overwatch since 2020. I have not played Overwatch 2 except in demo form. I should not have a horse in this race, but for some reason, I still do: Overwatch 2’s latest big patch breaks up Pharah and Mercy, and I’m weirdly bummed about it.

The game’s recently released season 9 patch reworks Pharah – a high-flying throwback to arena shooters of yore – so that she can no longer jetpack through the air indefinitely and must touch the ground. In exchange for having her wings clipped, Pharah has gained the ability to rapidly dash horizontally, in theory making her more difficult to pick off while she rests her weary fuel canisters. 

As with so many other Overwatch changes of the past few years, Blizzard intends for this one to empower “individual plays,” which means teamwork is more optional than ever. Pharah has always had a very specific teammate: Mercy, the angelic healer who could follow Pharah through the sky, heal her, and boost her rocket launcher damage. Now, thanks to the new changes, Mercy has trouble keeping up with Pharah’s alternating highs, lows, and zig-zags, which has led players to declare the combo “sort of dead.”

The Pharah-Mercy combo – which players call “Pharmercy” – goes way back. Since Overwatch first came out in 2016, the strategy has always been some form of viable, if not always advisable through various metas. This led fans to ship Pharah and Mercy pretty much immediately. On the strength of their mechanical chemistry, the two became Overwatch’s main power couple, so much so that after years of trying to narratively pair Mercy with Genji, a cyborg ninja, even Blizzard now seems to be treating Pharmercy like a viable story beat. But just in time for Valentine’s Day, Pharah and Mercy have hit a rocky patch. The unique foundation that made their pairing so interesting in the first place has been taken away.

Early impressions suggest that the new Pharah is fun to play, more in touch with her Quake-inspired arena-shooter roots than ever. That’s great! I am happy for today’s crop of Pharah mains, especially considering that for years even calling yourself a Pharah main was laughable given how limited she was outside specific scenarios. But this change also inspires a strange sort of melancholy, the kind that can only emerge after you’ve moved on from a game, and that game has continued to evolve without you. 

In the years following Overwatch’s launch, I invested hundreds of hours into it. I played the game – as Pharah, more than any other character – nearly every day. Both my phone background and desktop wallpaper were Pharah. Now, though, I’m on the outside looking in. I’ve moved on, and so has the game. The Pharah-Mercy split, in some ways, feels like the final nail in the coffin – indisputable evidence that I can’t go back home. In this era of live-service forever games, I imagine that’s a feeling players will encounter more and more often as time goes on. Heck, games like Fortnite have already started cashing in on nostalgia for the simpler, better year of 2017 with returns to old maps and mechanics. Maybe I’ll be able to go home again after all, if it pleases shareholders. Though as Riley pointed out in his piece about Fortnite OG, that won’t be home. Not really.

In the meantime, I’m feeling kinda down about a game I don’t play anymore, even though I feel like I shouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong: I understand why things like this happen. Eventually, with enough time and tarnish, even holy grails become relics, and the idea of throwing them out stops being so unthinkable. It’s odd, though, to feel like you were part of something, and then you stepped away for what felt like a minute, but it was actually three years. And now everything is different, and that thing is no longer yours. I know this all sounds silly to say considering the other, worse ravages of time. My grandma died earlier this year, as did a close friend's ex, and everybody I know is developing long-term health problems. But I guess that's why I can't help but find myself in this headspace: It all happens so fast.  

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