Overwatch continues to dominate the gaming scene six months after its release.  Blizzard is going to create their own competitive league and, based on the multitude of tournaments and Twitch activity, it’s clear that Overwatch is here to stay.

The second competitive season finished up last week with season three just around the corner.  Let’s check in on everyone’s favorite hero shooter to see where it stands.

Six months in and Mei is still, unequivocally, bae.
Six months in and Mei is still, undoubtedly, bae.

Revamped ranking system

The ranking system in season one was a decent start but rife with issues, most of which have been fixed with the new ranking system in season two.  Players are now rated on a scale of 1-5000 instead of 1-100 with wins and losses altering your rank by ~30 points.  Similar to games like Halo 5: Guardians and League of Legends, Overwatch now has skill tiers that place players into buckets based on their skill ranking.  You can never fall below the bottom of a tier, unless you are in the Master or Grandmaster tiers.  I reached as high as 2479 before season two was over, a game short of the platinum tier.  Ugh.

Another big change is the addition of ties.  Gone are the days of a coin flip, praying you would draw the easier side of a map to hang in for two minutes.  Both teams gain a small amount of competitive points for a tie, which is a lot better than losing 15-20 minutes and a bunch of rating on a 50/50 draw.


Sombra, the ARG master, has arrived

Sombra hacks into the battle!
Sombra hacks into the fray!

Blizzard teased Sombra, a stealth hero, for months and months prior to finally releasing her just after Blizzcon a few weeks ago.  She is an attack hero, bringing the distribution to seven attack heroes, six defense, five tanks, and five support.  Her kit feels like a mixture of Tracer and Reaper.  Sombra can go into complete stealth and sprint for about five seconds unless she is damaged (pro tip: Winston’s auto-lock gun does wonders).  She can also throw a beacon that she can warp back to.  Her shiniest toy is her hacking ability which can totally change a game.  Hacking a character renders their abilities unusable, which can truly devastate certain heroes.  A Tracer that can’t blink is pretty useless and a Reinhardt that can’t shield or charge is a dead man walking.  Sombra’s ultimate ability is a EMP blast that hacks all enemies in the area as well as destroying all shields and barriers, which is a great way to start a push.

Overall, Sombra feels pretty strong.  I’m not claming to be any good with her, but it’s clear that when people can use her well, Sombra is a weapon.  It’s pretty fun to stealth from afar, sprint into the fray, EMP the entire enemy team and start wreaking havoc.


Out with the brawl, in with the arcade

The arcade has five playlists for you to play in, including the excellent 1v1 mode
The arcade has five playlists for you to play in, including the excellent 1v1 mode

Overwatch’s version of the rotating weekly game mode with different rules, Brawl, has been replaced with a full blown arcade.  Arcade mode currently has five different playlists, the first and most fun being 1v1.  You and your opponent are given the same random hero and the first to kill the other gets a point, first to five points wins.  Some heroes make for great duels like Widowmaker and Pharah.  Others, like Bastion and Zarya, can lead to long, drawn out rounds.  Either way, 1v1 is a great way to blow of a little steam and practice not only how to use a hero but how to counter it.  Honestly, I’m surprised at just how fun it is.  My first attempt went into the final round tied at four, followed by a draw as Hanzo, ending with a win for me as McCree.  The new 3v3 elimination mode is best-of-five with no respawns per round.  Tired of matching up with random players when only a few of your friends are on?  3v3 is a good fit.

There are three 6v6 variants in the arcade mode as well.  One of the better brawls, where your hero randomly changes each time you die, has its own playlist.  The no limits playlist is the old version of quick play where hero stacking is allowed, since quick play now adheres to the single hero limit of competitive mode.  The final playlist is a shuffled list of all past brawls.  Arcade mode is fun for two main reasons: there is no ranking which means you can play more loosely than normal and you can earn up to three loot boxes per week when you win three, six, and nine games in the week.  I was always pushing for Overwatch to steal Hearthstone’s “win a game and earn a card pack” system to push players into the brawl, so this is a great fit.


Balance changes for the coming season

As is customary with major competitive games, Blizzard has released a large set of balance changes just ahead of the coming season.  The full patch notes can be seen at that link, but here are a few highlights:

  • Damage to non heroes, like Torbjorn’s turret, no longer build ultimate
  • All ultimate ability costs increased by 25%
  • Mercy’s passive heal kicks in after one second, down from three seconds, increasing her survivability
  • Pharah is a lot more floaty now that her alt fire jump jets increase lift by 35%.  She can stay in the sky forever with ease by using that and her rocket jump.
Looks like I was fairly average in season two :/
Looks like I was fairly average in season two :/

Overwatch continues to move forward with season three kicking off December 1.  A huge Symmetra rework is currently on the PTR, making her the first hero with a choice between two ults and a new moving shield ability.  The next new hero is unclear, although pec dance master Terry Crews said he would love to voice Doomfist.

How do you feel about the recent Overwatch changes?  What would you like to see in future patches?  Will you protest the game if we don’t see a Santa Roadhog skin?  Leave a comment below!


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