Designing characters for Overwatch is no easy task. Each one needs to fill a specific role within a team, and must have their own strengths and weaknesses so they can both excel and be taken down by an organised counter-attack. Once that is finalised, Blizzard have then tasked themselves with slotting every Overwatch character into a rigid class system: offense, defence, tank, and support.
They have got this right for many of Overwatch’s characters but there are a number of heroes whose assigned role and playstyle run counter to how they are presented. This is exacerbated by the rigid classes that Blizzard have put Overwatch’s heroes into: offense, defence, tank, and support. What really does not help is that Overwatch is brimming with hybrid heroes that can serve multiple roles. Others are simply placed in the wrong class. Let’s take a look at the worst offenders.
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At first glance, Junkrat’s abilities are geared towards aggressive area control – grenade bombardments, mines, and traps. Even Blizzard’s official description suggests this: “Junkrat’s area-denying armaments include a Frag Launcher that lobs bouncing grenades, Concussion Mines that send enemies flying, and Steel Traps that stop foes dead in their tracks.”This makes sense given that he is listed as a defense hero. In practice, however, playing Junkrat this way is sub-optimal.
Instead, the scrappy bomber is best off blowing up in the enemy’s face rather than at a distance – use his mines and traps as close-range burst damage for best results. Get a good flanking angle, and Junkrat can completely wipe out the enemy tanks and supports within seconds.
Recently, some efforts have been made to reduce Junkrat’s close-range damage output, but they are small changes that do not fundamentally change how he works. The fact is that he is more of a close-range offense hero than an area control defense hero.
After a tumultuous history of changes and updates, D.Va seems to finally be in the place Blizzard want her to be – but it took a lot to get her there. With her high levels of mobility and decent burst damage, D.Va is an obvious ‘dive tank’ – a secondary tank role designed to ambush support heroes and harry flanking offensive heroes.
In late 2016/early 2017, when Blizzard were going back and forth on D.Va’s health points and Defense Matrix ability, there were even conflicting statements from developers on the forums regarding her role in the game. Some on the Blizzard team saw her as a frontline tank or a mobile protector of ultimates, which was a counter-intuitive vision that did not go over well with the playerbase.
At one point, lead designer Geoff Goodman even implied that she could follow Junkrat’s explosive tyre around, protecting it with her Defense Matrix. Bizarre.
Arguments have raged for ages over what class Symmetra should be. Originally implemented as a defensive support that could grant allies shields, Symmetra went over poorly in her original incarnation, encouraging Blizzard to rework her considerably.
With this rework, she lost the one feature that, arguably, made her qualify as a support character – her shielding ability. Outside of her ultimate, she is the only support character who does not have any restorative abilities, with a skill set geared towards point defence.
While you could argue that support characters don’t have to be healers, the fact that Symmetra is the only support who isn’t one is, at the very least, confusing. It is also tough to deny that she wouldn’t be out of place in the defense hero line-up. Blizzard have been firm in stating that Symmetra will never be a healer but there is, reportedly, another rework in the pipeline for this maligned hero.
Sombra was initially designed as an assassin character who could take out vulnerable supports in the backlines and disrupt other heroes with hacks before teleporting away. She failed to live up to this role.
Her damage output was underwhelming, and her main strength turned out to be hacking health packs, boosting ally survivability while reducing the opponent’s. She was more of an offensive support character.
Blizzard recently made changes in an attempt to rectify their mistake and put her more in line with their original vision for her. This has been done by buffing her damage, her hacks, and removing the ultimate charge she gets from hacking health packs. Time will reveal whether she comes to fit the niche that was initially carved out for her.