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Oops! I’ve been a bit lax with this recently, so time for an update.

As per previous updates, I’ve been trying to learn how to play Ana as a way to get back into a game I’d fallen out of love with. I began with a three step plan to figure out how to play Ana, as I wanted to get another support character under my belt, and Ana had always struck me as something of a high skill ceiling hero. So I thought it’d be a good way to remind myself why I loved Overwatch before the competitive slide started and it just became a source of frustration.

Step one was to jump into the firing range with Ana to get a decent feel for her various abilities. After that, I’d spend some time in vs AI matches to figure out how she works in a team. The final step was to take her into Quick Play and see how that goes. I mentioned in Update 2 that I’d just begun step 3, and a week or so ago I captured some of my gameplay footage, intending to write this update then. I’ve since been playing QP matches most days, using Ana where I can, and I feel like I’m pretty decent with her now.

I mentioned previously that one thing I kept forgetting about was her sleep dart. More practice has sorted that issue now, and I just can’t get enough of sleeping people. I don’t think there are many moments that can rival sleeping an ulting Genji as he lunges at you, or knocking out the enemy Reinhardt as he boosts toward you. Even better if you have team mates around to immediately melt your sleeping foe. Ana has very quickly become one of my favourite heroes in the game.

I’m pretty comfortable saying that I have another hero under my belt now, as I’ve been playing Ana quite a lot. This also fulfils the other part of the plan – to get me playing Overwatch again. I was thinking of moving my plan over to Zarya after I was happy with my Ana play, as I also really need another tank in my repertoire, but I think, with Sombra hopefully right around the corner, I’ll just continue to have fun in Quick Play until she drops for console players. Sombra looks like a really interesting hero, and I’m itching to try out an offensive utility character. I’m gonna hack all the things.

After months of teasing, Blizzard have finally unveiled Sombra, the newest hero for Overwatch.

The announcement happened at Blizzcon, Blizzard’s annual convention, and revealed Sombra to be an offensive hero. With the (overlong) ARG leaning heavily on her exploits as a world class hacker, many thought she’d be either a defense or utility support hero, and while she does have a few useful utility abilities in her bag of tricks, which we’ll get onto shortly, she’s basically a backline harasser who looks to be quite capable of dishing out large amounts of damage with her SMG.

As an offensive hero, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Sombra has some movement abilities to help her get around. In some ways, she almost seems like a bit of a mix of Tracer and Reaper; like Tracer, Sombra can teleport, though she does this by throwing an Unreal Tournament-style Translocator that remains in place for fifteen seconds. Perhaps you’ll throw it on a health pack, go and cause some havoc, and then port back to replenish your health. Or perhaps you’ll fling it over the heads of your enemies to appear behind them and harry their backline.

Sombra has long been thought to be a stealthy character, and her other movement ability ties into that. Her Thermoptic Camouflage renders her basically invisible for a handful of seconds, granting her a massive speed boost into the bargain, and it comes across like a stealthy take on Reaper’s Wraith Form, essentially taking her out of the fight briefly and allowing her to get around at speed. Of course, should she attack or be attacked while cloaked, Sombra will drop out of stealth. Using it in conjunction with the translocator should allow her to get in and out at will and really upset the enemy team’s setup.

But what about those utility abilities that we mentioned earlier? Well, being a top hacker, Sombra can of course, well, hack. Holding her alt fire (right click on PC, most likely left trigger on consoles) allows her to begin hacking an enemy, which will temporarily lock their abilities. Is there a Genji on the other team that’s really annoying you? Hack him to deny him his deflect and then go to town! Or hack that Zarya to prevent her from giving out shields.

BOOP!

Perhaps the most exciting use of Sombra’s hack, however, and the one that will probably be the biggest help to your team, is her ability to hack health packs. While hacked, these not only respawn much, much faster but can also no longer be used by enemy players. And while Sombra’s hack has a six second cooldown – and affects enemies for the same amount of time – a hacked health pack will remain so for a full minute and is not undone if you hack something else, so it should be possible to run around and basically salt the earth, so far as enemy health pickups are concerned. Focus down the enemy healer, and this becomes an ability that could seriously turn the tide. Hacking takes a second or two, cannot be initiated while in stealth, and taking damage will interrupt the attempt, so you’ll have to pick your targets carefully.

Sombra’s ultimate is also quite a Support-y ability, as she sends out an area-of-effect EMP pulse that not only hacks all enemies in range, but also dissipates all shields and barriers. That means Reinhart’s barrier is gone. Zarya’s shields are gone. Has Lucio just dropped the beat? That’s all gone too. It’s basically a massive leveller, and I can see it maybe being a touch controversial; I can’t argue too much with it cancelling out ults like Lucio’s, as his and Zenyatta’s ults basically already exist to nullify offensive ultimates. What might be taking things a touch too far is the added effect of also hacking everyone in range, disabling all of their abilities on top of the shield-wipe. It might prove to be too powerful, but I guess we’ll see as Sombra moves into the PTR next week, and then later onto the live servers for more players to get to grips with. But as things stand, I really quite like the look of Sombra as a stealthy, debilitating assault hero. She looks like she’ll be an absolute blast to play, and I can’t wait to get to grips with her.

Along with the character intro above, a new animated short was also shown at Blizzcon, detailing some of her background and operations with Talon operatives Reaper and Widowmaker. You can see the short, called Infiltration, below.

Also announced at Blizzcon were several updates and additions coming to the game. To begin with, we got some detail on a couple of new maps, beginning with a 6v6 control point space called Oasis, which is set in a shining, high-tech city in the Middle East, perhaps reminiscent of Dubai. The other new environment, Eco Point Antarctica, is a smaller map made to host some new modes under an ‘Arcade’ banner, which serves as a new spot for the game’s brawls to live in, as well as an outlet for a bit of experimentation. In Arcade, we’ll be seeing a couple of smaller-scale skirmish modes, like the 1v1 Mystery Brawl. A best-of-nine mode, the Mystery Brawl will see players given the same CPU-picked hero, with the first player to five rounds emerging victorious. There’s also 3v3 Elimination, which has no hero stacking and only allows players to switch out their characters between rounds. There’s no respawning, so get eliminated and you’ll be sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next round to begin.

It’s good to see Blizzard trying out some new modes in the game, but at the moment 1v1 just strikes me as a gimmick. It also remains to be seen how well team play, Overwatch‘s strongest suit, will be represented in what is effectively a TDM variant in 3v3 Elimination. Hopefully it won’t just boil down to three offense heroes lining up against another three damage dealers. The Hallowe’en brawl, Junkenstein’s Revenge, got us all hyped for a proper PvE co-op experience, so it’s a shame that we aren’t getting something more like that. Hopefully, as Arcade mode grows, we’ll see some more experimental modes.

Last but certainly not least, we’re also going to be seeing some changes to Quick Play, which will now have a one hero limit, bringing it into line with Competitive in that regard. Don’t worry though, if you love stacking heroes, there’ll be a mode in Arcade called 6v6 No Limits to pick up the slack. Whether it will be as well-populated as Quick Play, however, we shall have to wait and see – if hero stacking is what you love about Quick Play, this news might be a bit worrisome.

Still, it’s good to see Blizzard in something of an experimental mood with Overwatch, and with a new hero, new maps and Arcade mode all on the horizon, fans certainly won’t be short of things to do.

Ana AmariIt’s been about a week and a half since my last update on my attempt to get back into Overwatch. Part of the reason I’ve been so lax with my writing is that the plan seems to be working; I’ve spent a lot more time playing – and, crucially, enjoying! – the game again. I’ve spent the last ten or so days getting better with Ana, as a large part of my plan was to learn new heroes, with the support sniper being my first little project. Most of that time has been spent in step two of the plan: playing as Ana in vs AI matches, to get a reasonable feel for how she plays with a group.

It’s been a bit of a difficult learning curve in more ways than one. First of all, my most-played trio of heroes – Lucio, D.Va and Pharah – are all very agile, able to get around the map and up to higher places with relative ease, so getting used to Ana, who is pretty much planted on the ground for the entirety of a match, has been a bit of a shift for me. Additionally, it was quite hard at first to stop having my eye drawn by enemies and fighting the reflex to shoot at them, instead of focusing on healing my allies. And since I’m used to being in amongst it during a game – especially when playing as Lucio and D.Va – it’s taken a bit of time to get used to hanging back from the rest of the team to support them from a distance.

I feel like it’s all starting to come together though, and my aiming has improved a lot too – both scoped and from the hip. Really, this was one of my biggest misgivings when I started playing as Ana, as I’ve always been rubbish with sniper rifles, but the more I play, the better I get. Which sounds obvious, but hey, it keeps me coming back to the game! You can see some video of my vs AI games below, and you should be able to see a bit of improvement in those areas as the clips go on.

Over the last few days, feeling more confident, I’ve also made a start on step three by taking Ana into a handful of Quick Play games, though only on maps where I think I’d have enough space to support the team from the back. So far, it seems to be going well, obviously helped by the fact that I’m being a bit smarter about what map comes up – if I feel like I won’t be able to do a decent job with Ana, I’ll pick someone else.

This also means I’ve been delving into Quick Play a lot more recently, having almost ignored it recently in favour of my Ana practice and the Junkenstein brawl. I’ve been having a lot of fun, and seem to be back to winning a lot more than I lose. I still find myself falling back on D.Va and Lucio a lot, but that’s partly because I know them inside out and always end up doing a good job with them. And, more importantly, I just love playing as those heroes. I’ve also started to pick up a couple of heroes that I had been getting pretty decent with before taking a break from the game; I feel like my Mei skills are starting to come back a bit, but I think I’m going to have to put a lot more practice in with Junkrat to get back to where I was.

But when the option to play as Ana comes up, it’s great practice – playing against AI helps to figure out her place in a team, but it’s not so good for figuring out how she works against the enemy. Thanks to QP, I’m starting to get a good feel for when and how to use Nano Boost, and though I still occasionally forget that I even have a sleep dart, I have managed to pull it out a few times at very opportune moments; last night, in a game on Route 66, my team had just hit the second checkpoint and as we were all clustered around the payload, the gate began to open and out flew a Bastion in tank mode. I slept him almost by reflex, which felt absolutely amazing – that ultimate would have done a ton of damage to a closely-grouped team. Instead, everyone was able to focus on him when he hit the ground and take him out before he did any real damage. God, I wish I’d captured that!

Zarya

I’m getting to the point now where I’m happy enough to say that I have another hero under my belt – Ana needs a bit more work, but I’m fairly comfortable playing her more frequently in proper matches now, as I feel like I’ve got the basics down pretty well at this point. I’ll capture some Quick Play games with her for my next update, and then it’s back to step one as I repeat the process with another character. I said in my first Boot Camp post that I really wanted to learn Mercy, but I’m going to put her aside again to learn Zarya – I now have two supports I feel comfortable with, but I’ve only ever played one tank in D.Va. I need another one in my repertoire and the Russian bodybuilder is the one that interests me the most right now.

At this point, I think I can call the plan a success. The idea was to get back into a game I used to love by learning new heroes, and though I’ve so far only picked up one more character, I am absolutely back in love with Overwatch again. Let’s hope that continues as I move forward with Zarya from next week!

Mercy Witch
Well that was poorly timed! On Tuesday, I wrote about my plan to fall back in love with Overwatch by forcing myself to learn how to play heroes I’d previously neglected and, more importantly, ignoring competitive. And then that evening, Blizzard dropped the Halloween Terror event on us.

Featuring new, themed loot boxes that bring additional skins, icons, sprays and more, along with – most excitingly – a new brawl called Dr. Junkenstein’s Revenge, the update is now live on all three platforms. In a first for Overwatch, the new brawl is a co-operative PvE survival mode which pits four players against wave upon wave of fodder interspersed with a handful of boss waves that bring reskinned heroes – there’s a pumpkin-headed Reaper, Roadhog as Junkenstein’s Monster, Mercy as a Witch of the Wilds, and finally, Junkrat as the twisted Dr. Junkenstein himself.

Taking place on a portion of the Eichenwalde map, the four players – one each of Soldier 76, McCree, Hanzo and Ana – must defend the door to the castle from oncoming ‘zomnics’ that trundle endlessly to the door before exploding in an attempt to bust in, while ranged ‘zombadiers’ rain down mortars upon you. You’ll often find yourself trying to prioritise these ranged targets, accidentally letting a couple of the bumbling explodey ones sneak by, and every now and then a RIPtyre or two will come screaming toward you to divide your attention even more. The brawl is pretty tough on medium if you’re playing with randoms and have no communication going on, and even on easy you might find yourself overwhelmed now and again, though you’re obviously much more likely to pull it back from the brink.

It’s a really fun mode, and a nice palate cleanser for all the PvP madness that Overwatch is known for. I’ve always wondered what a co-op PvE mode could be like with Overwatch‘s roster and their abilities, and it turns out it’s something that I’d like to see remain in the game. Ok, so it’s heavily-themed, but maybe after the Hallowe’en period is over they could rework it somewhat to allow it to stay. Or maybe even use it as a jumping off point for something even better.

In a nice change, you can now purchase new cosmetic items with your in-game credits – something you weren’t able to do with the previous seasonal event, the Summer Games. To keep the items fairly rare, Blizzard have priced them at three times the going rate, so you’re looking at 3,000 credits for a legendary skin. Unfortunately, this does mean that I can’t afford that awesome Mercy skin, but I was able to buy Ana’s new look, which is equally fantastic. Ana isn’t even a hero I’ve played outside of the training area, but that’s something I’m looking to change, and indeed, the entire point of my plan for getting back into the game is to learn new heroes.

How cool is this!

How cool is this!

So how does this affect that plan? Well, originally I was thinking of focusing on Mercy first, as a new character to learn (and if that awesome skin drops for me, that’ll make me want to play her even more!), but given that this limited-time brawl focuses only on four characters, I’ve decided to use it as a way of getting used to those ones; I mentioned the other day that Soldier is a hero I’ve used a fair bit, but the other three are all essentially new to me. So before jumping into the brawl for a bit last night I headed into the training area to make sure I had their abilities straight in my head, as I wanted to know I’d have some idea of what to do no matter who I ended up playing as. It turns out that most players will insta-lock McCree, and that nobody wants to play Ana in this mode.

So I’ve been playing Ana. Again, she’s not a character I’ve ever really played, despite finding her abilities interesting; she seems like she’d be a pretty high skill ceiling hero, which makes me wonder if I could actually be effective with her, and I’ve always been really crap with snipers too. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to find I could barely hit anything with her at first, and I also found it difficult to get heals on team mates when they were at a medium distance and strafing a lot. Hitting them from afar is much easier, thankfully, so I took to the high ground in the back-right corner of the arena and tended to stay there, throwing out damage-over-time attacks to enemies for the most part, and then trying to pick up allies when they needed healing.

Ana also has a biotic grenade which heals allies while stopping enemies from being healed, and you’ll mostly be using it for its healing effects in this brawl; for the most part, enemies aren’t getting any healing. This changes when Mercy comes out as a boss wave with Roadhog, so this is a good time to use it on ‘Hog, to prevent Mercy from shoring him up. One thing I did find myself forgetting to use quite often is Ana’s sleep dart – in my first couple of games, I almost completely forgot that I had it, but then realised it might be a good idea to use it on Junkrat when he appears on the ramparts to rain down bombs on you. While this is happening, you’re generally dealing with a ton of adds, so it’s useful to stop Junkrat for a few seconds while you clean up.

I feel like I’m getting a good feel for how Ana handles thanks to Junkenstein’s Revenge. As I said above, since being added to the roster she’s been a bit of an intimidating character to me, so it’s nice to be able to get used to her in a (relatively) stress-free environment. One thing this doesn’t help me with is figuring out the best use for Ana’s ultimate, Nano Boost. Of course, in the brawl I only have three choices of who to stick it on, and given Hanzo’s relatively slow rate of fire, it seems like only two are actually viable to me. In a proper match, I’ll have many more options, so before long I’ll need to get out into a game and see what’s what. I think I’ll still move on to step two of the plan – playing a game vs AI – before I jump straight into Quick Play, just to make sure I know what I’m actually supposed to be doing with Ana.

So! A quicker update to my boot camp plan than I intended. I think over the next few days I’ll get some more practice in with both McCree and Hanzo against the zomnic horde, and maybe try and get into Quick Play with at least Ana. I want to spend as much time as possible on the brawl before it disappears though, and I really do wish it would stay. Overwatch could do some amazing things with a PvE mode and all of these amazing characters and abilities.

The brawl has actually had the effect of bringing me back to Overwatch when I was searching for my own way back, so in that sense it was well-timed. It’s a nice stepping stone to getting back out into the standard modes once it’s gone away, and below you can watch a quick match with me as Ana, where I start off awful and get ever-so-slightly better. I’ll be back in the coming days with another update.

OW hero banner
Like millions of other people, I fell hard for Overwatch. I must admit to not having followed it at all until the console closed beta back in April; I was vaguely aware of its existence, but didn’t know much about it at all. So it was out of sheer curiosity that I decided to try the beta on Xbox One. I jumped into a game against AI opponents to learn the ropes, and discovered that I had no idea what was happening or what I was supposed to do. Matches were over so fast that it was difficult to actually learn anything at all.

So I entered a game against fellow humans, woefully unprepared, and began to learn the hard way. Now, I’m not really one for online competitive shooters to be perfectly honest – Halo is really the only series whose multiplayer I’ve bothered to get to grips with, give or take a few dozen hours in Titanfall, because mechs and wall-running – so I only played a handful of games over the beta period. Enough to get a rough idea of what it is you do in Overwatch.

Yet after the beta ended, I found that I couldn’t get the game out of my head. There was something about it that kept firing my imagination, and I took to posting about it on forums, discussing it with friends, and then watching strategy videos on YouTube, which is when the game really started to come into focus and excite me with the possibilities: “I didn’t even try that character!” I’d think to myself. My mind ran away with all the cool things I could do with this character on that map, or even with a certain hero in a specific circumstance. I was hooked. I pre-ordered the limited edition. Blizzard had me.

So this is a thing that seems to be happening.

So this is a thing that seems to be happening.

And when the game came out, I immediately fell in love with it. I played it daily, sharing plays of the game online and with friends, uploading my own clips to YouTube, discussing my own strategies, and just plain having a ton of fun with the game.

Then came competitive, and I loved that too. I found it so much more fun than quick play, much more focused and less ‘messy’, thanks to the lack of hero stacking and players taking better account of team composition. When the season ended and I was forced back into quick play, I was a little disappointed.

So when competitive began anew with its second season, I couldn’t wait to jump in. And I was off to a flying start, winning my first four placement games on the trot. I joked to friends that I was obviously due a losing streak. I was. I lost all of the remaining placements bar one, which ended in a new-for-season 2 tie. I’d heard people complaining about ‘the slide’, and wondered if this was mine. It was, and it lasted weeks.

It was all going so well...

It was all going so well…

Yep. I didn’t win a game for almost an entire month. Of course, it’s not quite as catastrophic as that sounds; I was already playing the game less and less thanks to the streak of demoralising, one-sided losses I found myself in, managing maybe four or five games a week. But I didn’t win a single one of them, and eventually I found myself avoiding the game entirely. I’d still read and talk about Overwatch online, but my comments had a bitter edge to them. I’d still watch gameplay and strategy videos online, I’d still keep up to date with changes and new hero speculation. But when I thought about actually playing it, I’d have to force myself. I’d play for half an hour, spend the whole time getting utterly crushed, and then abandon it for another week. It went from something I loved being a part of, to something I only enjoyed at arm’s length: I still loved the game, I just didn’t want to actually play it.

All of which brings me up to today, with the game currently back in the headlines thanks to the surely-imminent Hallowe’en event and players hoping to greet a new hero in Sombra, I devised a plan. I’m going back to boot camp.

The first step to getting back in the game is avoiding competitive. Getting steamrolled in ranked matches is just too damn demoralising, so I’m going to just give it a wide berth for a bit. Secondly, I’m going to focus on heroes that I’ve neglected. At launch, my idea was to build up a base of three or four heroes that I felt really good with, and then branch out from there, and I was (and still am) very comfortable and confident with Pharah, Lucio and D.Va. I was also starting to get good with Junkrat, Mei and Soldier back when I was still playing regularly, but when the slide began and I started to drift away from the game a bit, I’d find myself falling back on my mainstays. This means I now suck with at least two of those heroes (I think I’m still kind of OK with Soldier).

It's going to be difficult not to autolock D.Va, because she's so damn awesome.

It’s going to be difficult not to autolock D.Va, because she’s so damn awesome.

So that’s why I’m going back to boot camp. I’m taking myself into an environment where I’m not so afraid to lose and I’m going to branch out, try new heroes and work at getting better. I started last night, taking my first step to getting back into the game by jumping into quick play for a few games with my established heroes, just to get my feet wet again. But over the coming days and weeks I’m going to force myself to vary my picks and get better with a wider array of heroes. To do this, I’m going back to the way I got to grips with a handful of characters right at the start, before rushing into the game and subsequently neglecting much of the cast. So I’ve given myself these three steps:

1: Jump into the training arena to get to grips with a hero I haven’t played before. Obviously I have a working understanding of every character, having played against them all at some point in my 50-odd hours with the game, but that’s not the same as actually using them. I need to learn what to do with them myself.

2. Play a few VS AI games with that new hero to see how they play in an actual match environment. I’ll go for medium AI so that the match isn’t over in seconds and thus teaches me nothing of note.

3. Take that hero into quick play and see how I get on.

I’m not sure how much more frequently I’m going to be playing Overwatch with this plan in mind, given we’re now entering video game silly season – indeed, Gears of War 4 is out today and I want to give that the time it deserves, too – but I do know I miss the game a lot and want to get back to having fun with it. So I think what I might do is set myself a loose goal of learning a new hero a week and then reporting back on a weekly basis. That also has the positive side effect of getting me to write more, which is another thing I’ve been neglecting of late.

So we’ll see how it goes. With any luck, I’ll see you back here next week with a new hero under my belt and, hopefully, some fun Overwatch stories to tell. Who knows, I might even give my Elgato a work out and get some video evidence on the go. At the very least, even if I don’t get back into competitive and find myself enjoying it again, at least I’ll have seen more of what the game has to offer.

Blizzard have finally unveiled the first new post-release hero for their hit team-based shooter Overwatch. Say hello to Ana Amari, support sniper and mother to the rocket-wielding Pharah.

While we already have a couple of snipers in the game, in Hanzo and Widowmaker, Ana sets herself apart with her wide range of support abilities. Her biotic rifle fires darts that either heal her allies or deal damage-over-time to her enemies, with a scoped shot hitting for more initial damage. A biotic grenade allows Ana to deploy an AoE heal which also harms enemies. Additionally, affected enemies cannot be healed for a short duration, while allies receive a boost to healing from all sources. Imagine throwing one into a contested point while Zenyatta uses his ultimate or Lucio pumps up the volume.

Ana’s other ability is a sleep dart that she uses to knock out a single target – though any damage received will rouse them from their slumber – which should be very useful for taking isolated enemies out of the game for a moment. Her ultimate, Nano Boost, is a powerful support ability that boosts an ally’s movement speed, damage resistance and damage output all at once. Imagine hitting a Reinhardt with it and having him clear out a chokepoint, or stacking one with Soldier 76’s ultimate to create a fast-moving death machine.

As well as a gameplay introduction video, Blizzard have also released a short origin clip for Ana. In it, Ana relates her history with Overwatch to her daughter, explaining how, much like Soldier 76 and Reaper before her, she came to be presumed dead only to later return to the fight. It seems she had some kind of showdown with Widowmaker, leaving her gravely injured, and with a whole heap of regrets. It’ll be interesting to hear some of her lines when teamed up with a Reaper, Soldier or Widow, and hopefully there’ll be some nice insights into her relationship with Pharah.

Our first post-launch hero has long been suspected to be a support sniper, ever since a glimpse was caught of a sniper-y silhouette placed in the support category during one of Blizzard’s pre-release videos. And while we already knew Pharah’s mother, an original member of Overwatch, was called Ana, most expected this new hero to be called Sombra, thanks to easter eggs littering the game’s Dorado map. It’s now thought that Sombra is another character entirely – possibly one linked to Gabriel ‘Reaper’ Reyes, thanks to a voice line that can be heard if you play him on Dorado (“Where’s Sombra when you need her?”) and the fact that Sombra means shadow in Spanish. Perhaps she will be a later addition and have a playstyle leaning towards stealth?

Ana is currently live in the Public Test Realm on PC, and it will be interesting to see how Blizzard react to her wider use, and whether any changes will be made to her abilities prior to full release. Blizzard have been very proactive thus far with regards to character balance, not being afraid to jump in and tweak things like McCree’s fan the hammer or Torbjorn’s turret damage on console. D.Va is another character that has been discussed recently, with Jeff Kaplan musing on whether she needed a damage or survivability buff, and it seems the team have settled on the latter, with changes being made to her defense matrix ability, as well as some useful tweaks to her ultimate. As someone who plays D.Va quite a lot, I’m excited to get to grips with the changes. Zenyatta will also be seeing some substantial buffs, increasing his survivability and buffing his ultimate quite substantially. You can check out the latest patch notes here.

It’s unclear how long those of us on console will have to wait for both Ana and these balance changes, but with both already live to test on PC, we can at least check out how they’re received in the meantime.

Overwatch Heroes
The release of Overwatch is mere hours away, and to celebrate – and of course keep the hype flowing – Blizzard yesterday released Hero, the fourth in a series of animated shorts that have been running in the lead-up to launch. Following on from the recent Dragons, which served to illuminate the family feud between Hanzo and Genji, aka the Super Shimada Bros., Recall, which focused on Reaper’s attempt to steal intel from Winston, and Alive, in which Tracer faced off against the assassin Widowmaker, Hero gives us an insight into the character of Soldier 76, as he attempts to reconcile his current vigilante status with the paragon he used to be.

Yeah, there’s actually a story to Overwatch. You may well have entirely missed it if you dipped into the recent open beta just to shoot other people online, but there’s actually quite a depth of lore setting the scene for those battles. The story begins over thirty years ago, with the Omnic Crisis, as humanity’s robots rose up against them. To combat this global threat, the countries of the world banded together to create a specialised strikeforce, and Overwatch was born. All good things must come to an end however, and the organisation was acrimoniously disbanded some time later, with its members parting ways, some becoming mercenaries for hire, while others tried to continue fighting the good fight.

There’s this whole weight of history weaved in and around Overwatch, yet you could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing at all of substance there. Look closely, and you’ll notice the odd easter egg hidden in the maps, or you might hear a line of dialogue that alludes to the relationships between the heroes, but it’s all too easy to miss in the heat of the moment during a game of Escort.

Of course, it’s difficult to tell a story in a multiplayer-only shooter game – Titanfall had a crack at it, and nobody talks about that game’s ‘campaign’ anymore – and what makes it a bit more difficult in Overwatch‘s case is the fact that your team can include anyone, which has the potential to confuse an overt storyline given the rivalries and enmity between some of those characters. Instead, Blizzard is focussing on fleshing out the Overwatch universe through those beautiful, action-packed CG shorts, digital comics, and in-depth character bios on the game’s official website. One wonders if the desire to be able to tell a story around a genre that affords little opportunity to do so is a holdover from the aborted Project Titan, the long-in-development MMO that was cancelled before much of the team began work on Overwatch. Many Blizzard developers regard Titan as the company’s biggest failure, so perhaps they’re trying in some way to feed a little of the grandiosity you’d expect from an MMO into Overwatch‘s multiplayer shooter framework?

With 21 heroes, there’s a lot of scope for separate stories in the Overwatch universe, and already fans are calling for spin-offs – a Metal Gear Rising-style game starring cyborg ninja Genji seems to be a popular idea at the moment, but what I really want is a mecha game with D.Va as our lead character. And the idea of spin-offs seems to be a genuine possibility; Blizzard built Overwatch‘s universe as their analogue to the big comic book multiverses, full of characters that can both come together and stand apart. Speaking to PC Gamer, creative director Chris Metzen alluded to the potential for more stories in the Overwatch world. “[T]his first game is really just the first shot in what we hope is a long, rich world journey that could be encompassed by many different products. Obviously many different fictional expressions. In many ways, we’re just getting started. So when we think about Overwatch as a big universe, as a big living idea, it’s not necessarily – as we look down the line of years – encapsulated only by this game expression.”

Widowmaker

In the same interview, senior game designer Michael Chu explained some of the thinking behind the team’s character design process, giving some insight into why there’s so much, well, character to these heroes. “I would say when we’re developing characters, we like to think about if each one of these characters could kind of stand on their own. I like to imagine, “What if each one of these characters has their own game?” And I think what Chris was talking about was that kind of shared universe comic stories. It’s like we have all these individual characters, we have these great stories, challenges, powers and stuff, and they all have their own little ecology. But then when you mix them all together, they start to have relationships. They start to tackle larger worldview problems. And I think that’s kind of where that inspiration leads.”

Where that inspiration leads, we can only wait and see – for the foreseeable future, Blizzard’s focus will of course be on supporting the Overwatch that launches in just a few short days with new heroes and maps. But where the story goes and how the universe grows over the next few years? Well, it’ll be exciting to watch and see.

Seriously though Blizzard, please can I have that D.Va mecha game I mentioned?