Of all the characters in Overwatch, it’s Symmetra that has faced the biggest identity crisis. A not insignificant feat considering she’s been present since the vanilla version of the game shipped. While her current kit, composed of an auto-aiming beam weapon and set of turrets, fare well in low-level play – and, as such, are great for beginners to the game – Symmetra doesn’t exactly hold up once things gets competitive. She is, in fact, the only hero so far to not be picked for an Overwatch League match. Ouch.
Symmetra mains may have something to rejoice over soon, however, as Kaplan and the team have proposed an extensive rework of the architect. Speaking on the Blizzard forums, Geoff Goodman detailed several of the potential modifications to Symmetra – the tweaks represent the biggest changes to a hero in Overwatch to date. Most notable among them is the chance that she will be moving from a support to defense role in line with her new abilities.
Come on Blizzard – how about a single-player Overwatch game?
To fit into the defense role, her kit is getting a significant overhaul, too. The team is proposing a fleet of beefier turrets that you can fire onto walls or buildings, while her teleporter ultimate would become a regular ability with a cooldown. Weapon-wise, Symmetra’s gun may no longer automatically lock-on, and will instead fire a long, straight beam (think Zarya’s Particle Cannon) that gets incredibly powerful very quickly. Her right-click will still fire a projectile, however, but a much faster one with added splash damage.
The most interesting amendment in the proposed rework is Symmetra’s Photon Barrier, which has now become her ultimate – sorry, fans of the shield generator. Instead of a small, moving shield that Symmetra could deploy while mobile, it’s now a static wall that is infinite in size and has 5,000 health. Goodman noted that this will work similarly to Mei’s Ice Wall, with players able to deploy it from a distance and alter its orientation.
Symmetra’s move to defense is one many have speculated would happen since Blizzard began discussing heroes with hybrid roles, and the idea of reworking older characters to fit with the changing meta. Many argue that Symmetra never really belonged in the support role in the first place, due to her lack of healing abilities and her kit instead emphasising her ability to back up teams as they hold or push onto choke points.
If implemented, the rework presented will finally make Symmetra’s abilities reflective of her in-universe lore and character. In the world of Overwatch, Satya Vaswani is an intelligent architect, capable of creating physical objects from light sources, and is referred to as a manipulator of reality who strives for perfection. Her current in-game kit fails to demonstrate this, her abilities instead feeling uninspired and suffering from an overall lower skill ceiling than most characters.
The nature of her current turrets and ultimate also prevents Symmetra from meeting the tempo of Overwatch matches – she feels slow and passive as she requires time to set up her abilities. Many players choose to remain static and guard their teleporter or shield generator once deployed. In her new role, Symmetra will be able to become an active part of matches, quickly reacting to enemy teams and using her newly flexible turrets and right-click to deter pushes from the opposing side.
The new kit also has the potential to shake up popular formations in all levels of play. Teams working around an anchor tank may struggle if their Reinhardt or Orisa is being used by an enemy Symmetra to feed their DPS boosts. The pirate ship formation – composed of Bastion, Orisa, and Mercy, and popular in lower level play – may also run into trouble against Symmetra’s newfound mobility and shield-melting capabilities. Symmetra even has the potential for sniper control, able to block entire maps off from a sniper’s line of sight with her ultimate, or using her teleporter to allow characters to reach sniper perches much more easily.
It’s hard to assess whether Symmetra will have any impact on the current dive meta, or if her kit will be powerful and mobile enough to cement a coveted spot in a dive formation, but she definitely has potential. Her new teleporter is capable of sending through objects, which could be devastating for an unaware team when combined with D.va’s mech ultimate or Junkrat’s rip-tire. Her teleporter also has the potential to allow characters with lower mobility, like McCree, to reach high ground with ease – deadly in combination with his weapon range. Her proposed ultimate also has potential to counter uncoordinated dive teams, with the barrier being able to cut off dive tanks like Winston and D.va from the rest of their team, temporarily preventing them from receiving support.
However, Symmetra’s proposed changes raise a few concerns of their own. Her reworked gun will no longer consume ammo when fired at shields, making her particularly effective against shield-dependant tanks – most notably Reinhardt and Orisa – who will be at a huge disadvantage. Symmetra players, meanwhile, can easily charge up her beam, increasing its DPS output, with little risk and at no ammo cost, turning these tanks into what are essentially glorified ammo dispensers.
Even Winston, a cornerstone of the current dive meta, may struggle in solo matchups against Symmetra, with his projector shield again serving to feed her weapon and DPS boosts.
The biggest worry, however, is whether the changes to Symmetra’s main weapon will affect her overall accessibility. Symmetra is frequently referenced as being one of the most accessible heroes in the game for disabled players, alongside heroes like Mercy and more recently Moira, due to the automatic lock-on on her weapon.
All in all, it’s quite a shake up. As Overwatch evolves, and introduces characters with new abilities and increasing complexity, it’s important that the development team revisit older characters and give them a new lease of life in the changing landscape. Blizzard have shown that they’re not afraid to give characters like Hanzo and Mercy drastic makeovers, and characters such as Torbjorn and Doomfist are also facing potentially large reworks over the coming months. It’s a sign of a healthy game when longstanding characters are not cast aside and are instead retooled to fit the game’s inevitable power creep.