In case the last post didn’t say it loud enough, I’m a fan of Overwatch. Being able to feel myself learning new things while playing is a powerful motivator to keep going and play better, unlike the Russian Roulette gameplay of COD, where simply spawning in the wrong place can get you killed instantly. So, here’s what I’ve been learning so far.
As I’m not much of a PC gamer, and have never played any MOBA-type games before, I’m not very familiar with character types. While I knew that characters can generally be split into the roles of DPS (damage output), Tanks (taking a lot of damage), and Support (healing or buffing the team), I didn’t really know anything beyond that.
I expected Overwatch to follow that three-type structure, so finding that it actually has 4 main roles, as well as characters which overlap aspects of multiple roles, made it interesting for me. However, it also meant I played some characters really badly at first!
The most obvious difference for me was trying to play as Winston; at first, I assumed from his size that he was purely a tank character. However, trying to play him as a tank failed- trying to jump into a fight just meant I died very quickly, and even my Ultimate ability didn’t seem to help. However, talking to one of my friends about which characters we liked showed me how wrong I was. Firstly, figuring out that Winston wasn’t purely as a tank, but intended to be a disruptor – a role I never knew existed in character ensembles- helped me understand how his moves worked. This helped me figure out how to do better in Control and how to use his shield and his Ultimate; this meant my next game with Winston set my personal best for eliminations.
Another example is support-of-all-trades character Lucio. While I like playing as dedicated healer Mercy in short bursts, she’s at her best when she’s invisible, flying around the edges of the battlefield like a counter-Tracer. Being Lucio, on the other hand, means I get to both be part of the action and help my teammates out with extra healing and shields.
The same logic applies to a number of other characters, a common example being Tracer. FPS logic dictates that you charge in and make kills, but playing Tracer that way will just get you killed. Rather than straightforward attacking, she’s a disruptive, evasive attacker, hovering around the edges of a fight chipping away at everyone in turn.
Unlike in standard FPSs, and even like Battleborn where the objectives can often be ignored, Overwatch relies on playing to the objective. This means learning how characters work as part of the team is essential. For me, that learning curve has mostly been from my favourite character, Mei.
Playing Mei as a beginner, especially with groups of random players, meant running around putting walls in places that made sense to me, but not the rest of the team. Initially, she seems like a defender whose job might be to hide in a control point repeatedly blocking its entry points. However, that approach isn’t the strongest, and also gets pretty boring.
After a few matches of practice, it’s easy to have fun making cheap shots such as blocking the enemies running towards the team . However, as this blocks the team from attacking those enemies, an impulsive Mei player (like me) could easily end up making enemies of their own team.
Now that I’ve played as her more, and watched other people play her, her ability to help the team is much easier to see. For one thing, her walls aren’t just for blocking routes, but for accessing them too. They can act as temporary platforms, letting Mei and other less-mobile characters jump to alternate entry points usually reserved for more agile characters like Widowmaker and Lucio. (I discovered one use of this approach by accident, when I misplaced a wall;instead of blocking the enemy exit door, I instead pushed the friend stood in front of the door upwards which let him jump into the ledge above the door. So we’re going to test that in a future game, with him using Torbjorn or Bastion to create an early disruption.)
I’ve also found, through YouTube guides, many more ways to play Mei as a defender of other teammates rather than focusing on self-defense. In one video, the Mei player had quick enough reactions to put a wall in between a character hooked by Roadhog and Roadhog himself, which blocked the friendly characters path and prevented them from being stunned by Roadhog.
While Mei and Lucio are gentle introductions to team tactics, playing Mercy means being thrown in at the deep end. Even though the team may be able to scrape together some healing in Mercy’s absence, Mercy’s ability to escape danger relies upon seeing another teammate. Playing as Mercy, if you wander off, you’re target practice.
While I doubt I’ll have the reaction times for blocking Roadhog’s hook, I’ve had some success using Mei’s walls to deliberately block off a friendly Bastion, giving him the 3 uninterrupted seconds he needed to self-heal. With friends, we’ve found “our” characters, so working out which combinations of preferred characters are strongest together will be our next step. At the moment, we often play Winston/Winston/Tracer when we’re on Attack or Control (although this can be risky) while favouring Mei/Roadhog/Bastion during Defence matches.
Looking for ways I can combine the effects of different characters is part of the game I’m finding very interesting, although having only played as 5 of the characters so far means I have little to go on for many of the others. So the best thing I can do to learn more about the game now is to try playing as everyone else. Well, that should be easy.