Why Overwatch 2’s show-stealing new hero took an extra four years to debut

With the switch to 5v5, Tanks became a make-or-break part of any Overwatch 2 team. While Support and Damage players can rely on another player of their class to pick up their slack when they struggle, tanks no longer have that privilege. As a more casual Overwatch 2 player who’s not competitively viable, this has discouraged me from playing as a tank. While I do like the abilities of characters like Junker Queen, I’m hesitant to play as them because I’m worried about being the player that causes my team to lose. Mauga, the latest Overwatch 2 hero, looks to change that, but it took years of ideas and concept reboots on Blizzard’s end.

Mauga poses in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard Entertainment

Unveiled at BlizzCon 2023, Mauga is an aggressive Samoan tank allied with Talon that can tear through enemies with his two chainguns and dash that makes him invincible. That makes him enjoyable for those who like more offensive Heroes, but Support fans will find some stuff to love with abilities that can heal other players or give them infinite ammo. I had the chance to play Mauga at BlizzCon 2023, and for the first time since Overwatch 2 was released, I’m eager to go back and play as a Tank.

At BlizzCon, I spoke to the game developers behind Mauga’s creation to learn more about how this unabashedly fun Tank hero came to be. It turns out that Mauga’s impending release is the culmination of years of development and ideas, with his ultimate ability having roots going back to the pre-release version of one of Overwatch’s most iconic characters.

The long road to Mauga

Blizzard has wanted to put Mauga in Overwatch for a while. The character’s roots go back to a short story about Baptiste from 2019, so it seemed like only a matter of time before he’d come to the game. While it took Mauga over four years to finally arrive, it wasn’t because of Blizzard’s lack of trying. The developers confirmed in our Q&A and reiterated in a panel at BlizzCon that they initially wanted to release Mauga around the time Sigma came out. That’s August 2019 and close to the release of that Baptiste short story. According to the developers, the gameplay ideas they had for Mauga at that time weren’t meshing well with the character.

Sigma in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard Entertainment

“It ended up turning into this thing where we wanted to have barriers but we had two guns. How would that actually work together and look visually coherent on the screen?” Lead Hero Designer Alec Dawson told Digital Trends during a group Q&A at BlizzCon 2023. “It didn’t really fit the whole psychic theme to have this giant guy that looks so physical.”

The developers pivoted to Sigma, a compelling character that fits the theme much better than Mauga probably would have. Blizzard didn’t throw out the idea of adding this Samoan Talon member to the game then, though, with the character reemerging in what would eventually be Overwatch 2. Even that saw some delays and time for refinement, as Mauga was originally going to be Season 2’s new hero before getting swapped out for Remattra. “The team wanted to take some more time to get the kit just right,” Dawson said. Having played as Mauga, I think Blizzard did accomplish that.

Mauga’s standout kit

“We really wanted to focus on Mauga as a damage-based tank, and how he sustains himself and his team through damage as well,” Dawson explained. “We think that’s fairly approachable as a tank in particular, and we think new players are going to love him.”

Mauga fires his two guns in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard Entertainment

Mauga is a tank with easy-to-understand offensive and support applications that are also fun to execute. Mapped to each trigger or left-and-right click on a mouse, it’s immensely gratifying to use Mauga’s two chainguns: Gunny and Cha-Cha. It feels like shooting enemies as Bastion in tank mode, but there’s more intricacy to it. For every 10 incendiary shots I got with Gunny, a shot from Cha-Cha would deal a critical hit and give Mauga a bit of temporary health.

When used correctly, it’s easy to mow down most of Overwatch 2’s lower-health heroes with just Mauga’s basic attacks, even if it drains ammo quite fast. This is one of the things that got more refined with the character delay, with Blizzard amping up the interplay between the two weapon types. The rest of Mauga’s abilities aren’t too shabby, either.

Mauga smiles in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard Entertainment

Overrun makes Mauga charge forward before leaping in the air and stomping on the ground. The developers we spoke to confirmed that Mauga is completely invincible as this is being used and that precisely hitting an enemy with Overrun will stomp them into the ground instead of launching them into the air. When I wanted to play Mauga in full-on attack mode, this was an ability I had to use a lot.

Then there’s Cardio Overdrive, the most support-like of Mauga’s abilities. It establishes an aura that causes nearby allies to take reduced damage and heal when they damage enemies. This is useful for players who like their tanks to play more of a support role, enhancing the Assault heroes in the process. The most interesting of Mauga’s abilities is his Ultimate: Cage Fight.

An Ultimate idea returns

With Cage Fight, Mauga deploys a barrier that traps himself and any enemies inside. While inside this cage, Mauga has unlimited ammo and can let loose with Gunny and Cha-Cha. Interestingly, this is yet another long-gestating Overwatch idea. While it might seem like it’s playing off the abilities of characters in Overwatch 2’s peers like Valorant, it’s an Ultimate the Overwatch team has thought about since before the first game even launched.

“The entire idea of creating a dome or barrier around people has gone through a lot of practice over the years,” Senior Test Analyst Foster Elmendorf told Digital Trends. “Originally, it was on D.Va. It was her Ultimate way, way back when, and it was like a dome of lasers. It’s the kind of thing you don’t throw away, even if it doesn’t work out at the original time.”

Mauga uses his ultimate in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard found a way to successfully realize this idea, and it’s now one of Overwatch 2’s most distinct Ultimates and yet another ability that makes it entertaining to play Mauga. Who doesn’t love unlimited ammo? Cage Fight does expose Mauga’s biggest weakness, as I needed a healer supporting me constantly so I could just focus on attacking and enhancing my allies’ attacks. The developers stressed during our conversation that finding precision within Mauga’s abilities and not isolating him from teammates is key to success.

“One of the things I really like about his ability set is that it has a broad range of applicability,” Elmendorf stated. “You don’t have to be really, really good at tanking or first-person shooters in general to make use of his abilities with your team, so it’s easy for low-level players like myself to use those abilities to have a fun time and do well for your team. As players rise in skill level, you can make more specific use of [Mauga’s] abilities to do even better. I really like that about Mauga; he’s one of those broad-reach heroes that is fun at just about every level.”

I agree, as those intricacies only make me want to dive back into the game and play more of them, which is something I did not expect to say about a new tank in Overwatch 2. Mauga permanently comes to Overwatch 2 when Season 8 drops on December 5. He’s also available to play for a limited time in the game’s non-competitive modes until November 5.

Disclosure: Blizzard Entertainment and PR agency TriplePoint paid accommodations so that Digital Trends could attend BlizzCon 2023.

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