Blizzard’s first new IP in 15+ years, Overwatch, is a smash hit.  The hero shooter, out on console and PC, has been taking the world by storm since it’s release nearly three months ago.  With the first competitive season winding down, let’s take a look at how the game has changed since late May.

My dude Zenyatta isn't so squishy anymore, for one.
My dude Zenyatta isn’t so squishy anymore, for starters.

Competitive Mode

What winning looks like
What winning looks like.

It didn’t release with the game, but competitive mode is officially in Overwatch.  Seasons will reset roughly every two to two and a half months with the first one ending next week.  To start each season, you’ll play ten placements games to determine your initial rank on a scale of 1-100.  I was placed dead center at 50.  The only way to increase your rank is to win.  Personal stats don’t matter, so going 50 eliminations/5 deaths in a losing effort doesn’t net you anything.  While I understand the premise behind this, making people work towards the objective together, it’s a bummer to have a great personal game and lose three quarters of a ranking.

Competitive games take a hell of a lot longer than quick play games.  In my initial review I noted that games only take about five minutes, but competitive mode is different in that you always play both sides.  If you are on a payload map, you’ll go through hero select, 60 seconds of setup, and five to ten minutes of attacking before switching sides, meaning competitive games can easily take 15-20 minutes.  Games do end in ties this way which is where the coin flip of overtime comes in.  Offense and defense are chosen at random and whoever succeeds in the ~1:45 overtime is the winner.  This sucks for a few reasons, namely that certain maps are weighted towards one team or the other.  Overtime will be going away in season two, which I am definitely in favor of.  King of the hill matches are best of five instead of best of three with no overtime.  If you’re going to play competitive, make sure you have the time to do so.

Matchmaking is pretty fair for the most part but surprisingly doesn’t seem to take account level into play.  It was pretty surprising early in the season to see my full team of sub-level 100s playing a team of all level 100+ players with a 200+ mixed in.  Even though our average competitive rank was close, I think the overall time played metric of account level should factor in.  Games are found pretty quickly for solo play but the bigger your team size is, expect longer waits.  Overwatch fairly matches teams up based on pre-made group size, so you’ll only go up against another team of six if you queue with a team of six yourself.


Ana, the support sniper

Healing from afar with a gun is what Ana does best. Well, decently.
Healing from afar with a big gun is what Ana does best. Well, decently.

Overwatch’s first new hero, Ana, joined the battle in mid July.  She is a pretty unique character in that she is a support sniper.  Her sniper rifle gives burst heals to allies and hits enemies with a quick damage-over-time.  She also comes equipped with an area grenade that increases healing for allies while blocking healing on impacted enemies and a sleep dart which renders an enemy immobile for up to five seconds.  Ana’s ultimate ability, Nano Boost, turns an ally into a superhero with increased damage, increased movement speed, and decreased damage taken for a few seconds.

The idea of a support sniper is very unique and cool.  “You’re hurt?  Alright, let me shoot you.”  She cannot be the main healer on a team though, which a lot of players cannot seem to grasp.  Ana has to reload, unlike Lucio/Mercy/Zenyatta, and needs to aim and hit allies in order to heal them.  Compared to Lucio’s healing aura and Mercy’s constant healing beam, it’s clear that Ana is perfect for a secondary support role.


Balance changes

D.Va is an absolute monster right now.
D.Va is an absolute terror in the current patch.

The Overwatch dev team is constantly tweaking things but a substantial patch came with the release of Ana, detailed here, that deserves it’s own mention.  The highlights:

  • Hero stacking is gone in competitive mode, meaning teams can only have one of each hero.  Console players tired of triple Torbjorn can rejoice!
  • Self healing now charges ultimate meter
  • D.Va’s defense matrix now works more similarly to Reinhardt’s shield in that it has it’s own resource pool, allowing her to block more frequently for smaller bursts of time
  • Zero-Suit D.Va™ is now immune to her exploding mech and the timer for the explosion has been reduced by 1 second
  • Mercy’s ultimate gain cut by 30% and movement allowed during ultimate cast
  • Torbjorn and Symmetra turret damage decreased by 30%
  • Zenyatta now has 150 shield (up from 100), his buff/debuff orbs fly four times faster, and his ultimate heals 50% more while allowing him to move twice as fast

I love everything about this patch, especially the Zenyatta changes.  He is one of my favorite heroes so the increased shield and faster orbs are much aprpeciated.  D.Va is an aggressive monster now, which is how I feel she’s meant to be played.


Summer Games

Cheers love, the games are here!
Cheers love, the games are here!

The Olympic spirit has hit Overwatch with the Summer Games, Overwatch’s first seasonal event.  For three weeks, players earn seasonal loot boxes with Olympic themed sprays, skins, and more.  The tavern brawl is a completely new game mode called Lucioball.  It’s a 3v3 Lucio-only Rocket League clone: giant ball, orange boost pads, rectangular arena with wall riding, and a goal on each end.  Primary fire has been replaced with melee to dribble and pass easier while Lucio’s ultimate draws the ball towards him.

Lucioball is a huge shake up from the normal brawls and Overwatch modes, which is great to see.  I can’t wait to see what other types of weird, experimental things Blizzard throws into the brawl slot.

Yours truly as season one winds down.
Yours truly as season one winds down.

Overwatch is still charging down the tracks and Blizzard is showing no signs of stopping.  Constant balance changes and the first (and free) new hero in Ana prove that.  I hope that we start getting some new maps and game modes, hopefully with the start of the second competitive season.  I still think that rewarding players for trying out the weekly brawl, either with a loot box or coins, is a great way to entice players to at least try it.  As it stands now, my weekly interaction with the brawl is to see what it is, tab over twice, and enter a competitive game.

How do you think Overwatch stands a few months after release?  What do you want to see added or changed?  Leave a comment below!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s