Here at Two Left Sticks, most of our staff love Overwatch. This incredibly fun game only improves with time as Blizzard continues to release regular patches which provide both new content and tweaks to the gameplay to make the game more enjoyable and balanced. We have decided to provide regular summaries of these patches along with our opinions on how they change the game and what we would like to see in the future. We will only be hitting the highlights. For a full rundown of the changes, you can read through Blizzard’s blog.
September’s patch brought a plethora of changes, additions, and bug fixes to Overwatch. What players were most looking forward to, though, was the return of competitive play. Season two has begun. This go-around, your skill rating now falls on a spectrum of 1-5,000 rather than 1-100, allowing for more accuracy in matchmaking. This also causes a much more sensible movement through the spectrum as you win and lose matches, eliminating much of the frustration from season one.
Sudden death has been removed from competitive play. Previously, many matches were more or less determined by a coin toss as the brief time limit or short distances of some points stacked in favor of offense or defense depending on the map. Now, all non-control point games use the time bank and if teams are tied when they have both depleted their time, the game ends in a draw. Although this can be less satisfying than having a clear-cut winner and loser, it eliminates the frustration of an unlucky coin toss.
There are a few other gameplay changes of note regarding ultimates, communications, and a map. Quitting competitive matches will bring even harsher penalties. Ultimates are now consumed 75% more quickly. This affects McCree in particular, as his ultimate consumption now functions like the other characters’, preventing him from maintaining up to 50% of his ultimate if it is interrupted. Healers will now tell their teams to group up for healing when they activate the “Need Healing” voice option, which will improve communication between players not using mics. Watchpoint Gibraltar has removed the first checkpoint, making the beginning of the map more challenging.
This patch brought Overwatch’s first new map, Eichenwalde. This is an assault/escort map that breaks the Overwatch mold a bit. The assault piece happens through the tight quarters of a town while the escort aspect takes place within plenty of wide open spaces. This map gives distance players a place to shine and is a welcome addition to the game. This map brings with it two new legendary skins for Reinhardt, “Balderich” and “Griefhardt,” which look awesome. Also thrown in are new emotes so that every character has a sitting and laughing option.
Finally, the patch brings a long list of character changes to Overwatch, some of which affect gameplay dramatically. The four most impactful changes come to Hanzo, Zenyatta, Mei, and Genji.
Hanzo and Zenyatta have received tweaks that are simply the most recent in a series of tweaks intended to make them actually worth playing. For a while, they were both somewhat underpowered characters. Recently, Zenyatta’s Orb of Discord provided a 50% damage boost while his Orb of Destruction was upped to deal 40% damage. This made him a damage powerhouse for a support character. This update drops his damage boost to 30% while increasing his damage output to 46. These two changes will mean that actually playing Zenyatta won’t feel very different, but his entire team won’t gain as much of a damage benefit from the Orb of Discord. However, accurate Zenyatta players will still be rewarded for their skill. So, tread carefully around him.
Hanzo’s tweaks are similar. He sports a 10% increase to his speed while aiming, making him less stationary while drawing his arrows. His arrows have been reduced in size by 33%, but this is offset by a 30% increase in how fast they fly. Consequently, it is much easier to be accurate with Hanzo. His arrows felt unreasonably accurate in the first place. This, coupled with his high damage output, makes him difficult to face at a range. Both Hanzo and Zenyatta needed to be buffed and rebalanced due to the fact they have become a bit overpowered.
Genji’s ultimate will now last only 6 seconds instead of 8. His Swift Strike will no longer allow him to bypass traps and a wall climb will not reset his double jump. Genji is notoriously hard to pin down and engage and his ultimate felt unstoppable. Although this is part of the character’s appeal, it had gotten a little out of hand. This change makes him easier to deal with without negating his slippery nature entirely.
Mei’s Blizzard range has increased by 2 meters and the projectile which initiates it can no longer be stopped by barriers like Reinhardt’s and Winston’s shields. This change is a significant game changer for a character that already specializes in zone control. Little can be done to avoid the projectile, save for running away. And the 2 meters actually plays out as a huge boost in the freezing range. Mei players will be delighted while her opponents need to keep a careful watch out for that projectile.
One note of caution for Mei players: I haven’t been able to replicate it yet, but my projectile disappeared into DVa’s shield matrix in one match.
There are several other character changes to be aware of. DVa’s matrix shield takes 1 second to begin regenerating, up from .5, because repeated tapping proved too efficient. Lucio’s Amp It Up has received a 30% decrease because doubling his team’s speed was overpowered in Control games. Mercy heals 20% faster and teammates regain movement .75 seconds more quickly after being resurrected making her a more effective support character. Roadhog’s hook suffered from some glitches if his target moved out of sight as they were hooked. Changes have been made to resolve this. Finally, Soldier’s bullets spread more quickly when the weapon is fired automatically. He recovers from this more quickly, however, making burst fire an attractive option to boost his effectiveness at a range. You’ll notice this difference when you come up against a player who utilizes it.
Overall, this was a solid update bringing a hefty list of changes to Overwatch. Competitive season two gameplay and placement has been even more enjoyable than season one. The new map, skins, and emotes add even more fun to the game. The character balancing has been good, for the most part. We hope to see Blizzard be less lenient toward teams who lose a member early in the match, as many people take advantage of this leniency if the other team looks overwhelming at the beginning of a match. We are also looking for a little more rebalancing of Hanzo and Zenyatta.