Let’s go in-depth with Overwatch’s new patch

More than just Sombra

Header by Kon-H on Deviantart. Background is a screenshot of the new Ecopoint: Antarctica map.

As you may have seen yesterday, every version of Overwatch has been updated, giving everyone access to the new character Sombra. Chris was one of the first people in the world to get to play her, and you can check out his impressions here. One thing you may want to educate yourself on is what happens when your favorite characters get hacked. There’s a lot more to cover in this patch though, so let’s go point by point over all of the new stuff. Apart from Sombra, the best new feature is probably the Arcade mode, which adds several new ways to play Overwatch. I’ll go over each of these in more detail below. All of the new stuff comes just in time for this weekend’s free play event, so expect to see lots of newbies logging in to check out Sombra.

One of the biggest changes is immediately apparent if you jump into a Quick Play match. Quick Play has been changed to single pick, meaning if someone else gets the character you want, you’ll need to choose a different character. On the upside, it means you won’t have to face teams with three Torbjörns, two Reinhardts, and a Mercy anymore. The “classic” Quick Play where your team composition can include any number of the same hero has been renamed “No Limits” and added to the Arcade mode. This change helps people who want to practice for competitive using similar rules, but for those who want to mess around or practice with a character, No Limits is still an option.

Most of the changes that were being tested on the PTR are now live, and the one that affects everybody most is the change to ultimate charge rate. Everyone’s ultimate ability now costs 25% more than it did before the patch, meaning you’ll see ultimate abilities less often. This seems fair since every character was affected, and it should help make Overwatch a little more strategic and less of a race to press Q (or Y, or Triangle). I’ve noticed that I think a little more before using my ultimates since I know it’ll take longer to get another one, and it seems as though it helps keep every team fight from having six or seven ultimates go off. Additionally, damaging non-players (e.g. Symmetra and Torbjörn’s turrets, or Symmetra’s teleport pad) no longer charges ultimate abilities. This can be seen as a slight nerf for some of the flankers like Genji and Tracer who excel at wrecking constructs. It’s possible this change was made specifically because Sombra has one of the best ultimate abilities in the game, and can sneak behind enemy lines more effectively than any other hero.

Overwatch‘s user interface was updated to accommodate the new mode available. Quick Play, Competitive, Play Vs. AI and Custom Game all got new icons, and a new mode called Arcade is now available. Arcade replaces the Weekly Brawl game type, and instead, Brawls now have their own section in the Arcade. Players can earn up to five loot boxes per week by winning matches in the Arcade, in addition to any they earn by leveling. Arcade consists of five different game types, and we’ll go over each of those in turn. Helpfully, each mode has a blue bar on its panel letting you know approximately how many people are playing that mode right now.

The first and largest panel in the Arcade menu is devoted to a new mode called Mystery Duel. This game mode takes place on the new map, Ecopoint: Antarctica. As you might expect, you don’t know what character you’re going to be playing until the game starts. In this mode you’ll be facing off against someone else playing the same hero. There are five rounds, and play continues with a new mirrored matchup each round. Ecopoint: Antarctica is interesting because there are no health packs or any way to restore your health unless you’re assigned a character who has those abilities as part of their kit, like Mei or Roadhog. For this reason, a couple of characters with strong self-healing (Lucio and Mercy) are not available in this mode. I played a couple of games here, and this is where Overwatch‘s fighting game influences really begin to show. Without other players to rely on, each match comes down to your strategy, your mobility, and your aim.

If you’d prefer to play a match on Antarctica that lets you group up, you can try out 3v3 Elimination. In this mode, you and two other players form a small group and attempt to hunt down an opposing team of three who’s trying to do the same to you. Once again, this mode is best of five, with the winner being the last team containing surviving members. There are no respawns, so focusing fire and confirming kills is essential. You can switch characters between rounds, so there’s a little bit of mental rock-paper-scissors that comes into play, trying to counter enemy teams or anticipate a counter to your choices. So far, this mode seems to be the most popular of the new Arcade game types.

Third on the list is the All Brawls mode, which takes teams of six and matches them against one another. This mode makes use of altered rulesets that have been available on a weekly basis since Overwatch‘s release. Most of these restrict what hero types are available, for example making your entire team Soldier: 76 or confining your choices to the sniper classes. Others are more varied; Total Chaos is a favorite of mine, a mode that greatly reduces ability cooldowns for all characters. As mentioned above, All Brawls takes the place of the Weekly Brawls that were previously available. Unfortunately, this mode does not appear to include the special event Brawls available during the Summer Games and Halloween events. Looks like we’ll have to wait until next summer to play Lucioball again.

The last new game mode takes one of the first Weekly Brawl events and turns it into its own mode. 6v6 Mystery Heroes is pretty much just a normal game, except your character choices are randomized, and reset after every death. This can make it a little hard to build charge for an ultimate, particularly with the changes in charge rates. It can also mean you end up with three Widowmakers on attack trying to push a payload, but at least now it’s not just because they’re morons. I like this mode quite a bit because it forces you to choose characters you might not necessarily be familiar with, and helps you learn their strengths and weaknesses. That said, it also feels great to be assigned a character you know well and start cleaning house.

The final mode in the Arcade is No Limits. This is simply the old version of Quick Play, which allows any number of people to choose the same character. If you all want to play Sombra and hack the planet, so be it. 

Though the general revision to ultimates is the one that’ll change the game the most, there are several other changes that affect all players as well. The alteration to experience gain after “promoting” and going from level 100 back to level one is now in effect. Previously, leveling past 100 meant that you could earn the next 23 levels pretty quickly since levels 101-123 required the same amount of experience as levels 1-23. Every level after that required a flat 22,000 experience. From now on, every level past 100 will cost 20,000 experience. If you’re just starting out, the amount of experience required to go from 14-100 has been slightly reduced. The total experience needed to gain 100 levels after a promotion is nearly the same, but it should be a little bit easier to gain those first hundred levels.

Competitive play will see some adjustments, apart from the change to the meta that Sombra’s release will bring. Season 2 of competitive play will end November 23, and the third season will begin November 30. The developers heard the complaints that there was too much time in between competitive seasons, so there’ll be less of a delay between seasons from now on. I find it interesting that a new character has been introduced midway through both seasons so far, and wonder if that’s an intentional decision by Blizzard to shake up the top ranks of competitive play. When Season 3 starts, players may find that they start lower in the rankings than they had previously been placed: 

When season 2 started, we had more players in the Gold and Platinum skill tiers than we originally intended. These players typically began the season by having their skill rating adjusted downwards after their first few matches. For season 3, skill ratings will be slightly lower after your placement matches, allowing them to increase as the season begins. After you play enough matches, your skill rating changes will return to normal.

Several improvements were made to how Overwatch stores and accesses data, which is intended to reduce load times and storage space requirements. 6 additional spectator slots were added to Custom games, up to 12. Additionally, PlayStation 4 Pro support was added. 

The rest of the changes affect specific characters.

Ana‘s Nano boost no longer increases the target’s movement, though the extra power and toughness remain unchanged. This means the nigh-unstoppable Ana/Reinhardt combo is a little less busted, and may mean you’ll see other characters being targeted by Nano. The general change to ultimate charge speed means that you shouldn’t see a Nano boost in nearly every big fight anymore.

D. Va got some substantial buffs. Her Mech got a health increase, up to 200 from 100. Her Mech’s armor remains the same, at 400. In Overwatch, armor reduces damage caused to the target by half if the damage would be 10 or less, and by 5 if the incoming damage would normally do 10 or more. The extra health here doesn’t have any damage reduction included, but D. Va’s Mech is a little tougher to take down now, and this gives healers more breathing room to restore her armor during a battle. This technically gives her the largest health pool in the game; Roadhog also has 600, but none of his is armor, so he takes full damage from all incoming fire. 

D. Va’s mech movement speed while firing was increased by 25%. One of D. Va’s strengths is her mobility, but this has always been pretty limited when she wanted to go on offense. This revision helps her boost in and out of fights, and she’s slightly less threatened by enemy snipers now. Finally, her Call Mech ultimate (used when she’s outside her Mech) had its cost reduced by 20%. This puts it right about where it was before the general change to ultimate charge speed. Unlike the earlier PTR patch, she can get her Mech back pretty quickly. D. Va still isn’t quite as tanky as Winston or Reinhardt, but this does give her a little more wiggle room and gives the team more options for a main tank.

Lúcio got a healing nerf, and Amp It Up now heals his team 10% less effectively. I didn’t notice too much of a change, but having two healers on a team is rarely a bad idea in any case.


Picture by Kara K. at Skillshare

Mei is probably the character receiving the biggest nerf. Her ultimate, Blizzard, was made much more effective in the last major patch, and her ability to self-heal wasn’t taken into effect when her ultimate charge rate was set. As a result, she was getting her ultimate much more frequently than she was supposed to. To compensate, her ultimate cost is being increased by 15% on top of the 25% all other characters are subject to. Expect to see many fewer Blizzards blocking your path.

Mercy got a slight but very helpful buff. She’ll begin regenerating health if she can avoid enemy fire for 1 second, down from 3. This should help her survive to keep healing her team more effectively, particularly if the Mercy is good at using Guardian Angel to avoid fire by jumping between friendly players.

Pharah got a big buff to her movement, and an adjustment to her weapon skills. Her rocket launcher now does a minimum of 13% more splash damage, but the knockback from the explosion now scales with how close your shot was to your target. In other words, she can’t knock people around as easily as before, but she does a little more splash damage. This makes it more satisfying to fire into a crowd since the first shot won’t necessarily scatter your targets. Her movement in the air got a big boost, and now she never really has to land if she doesn’t want to. The Jump Jets now boost her 35% higher, meaning she can float much more efficiently. This is probably my favorite change. Pharah’s always been good at delivering death from above, but it’s now much easier to swoop in and out of battles, allowing her to harass enemies and retreat. These expanded flight capabilities make her much more of a hard counter to Junkrat and Reinhardt, though she’ll still need to watch out for hitscan characters like Soldier: 76, Widowmaker, and McCree. 

Speaking of Soldier: 76, his updates went through the PTR without changing. Each bullet now does 20 damage, up from 17. However, the bullet spread when he’s firing a full clip on automatic has increased from 2.2 to 2.4. This matters much less when the target is at short or medium range, but Soldier will have a little more difficulty engaging with longer-range characters like Widowmaker and McCree. You can still negate the bullet spread somewhat by firing in short, controlled bursts rather than going full auto, and the Helix rockets will still go exactly where they’re aimed regardless of bullet spread. It’s worth pointing out that the extra bullet damage makes Tactical Visor more effective, and means he’ll eliminate opponents much more quickly while he’s hitting every shot.

Torbjörn got some big changes to his mechanics. He’ll still be rewarded for collecting scrap from fallen players, but he’ll also automatically generate some over time. It still costs 50 to create an armor pack, and he generates it at about 2 per second. This makes it easier to keep your team supplied with armor packs, and you can be more useful to your team without necessarily having to wander into no-man’s-land to collect scrap. If you do pick up scrap, it’ll grant you 15 on your meter rather than 25. This may mean Torbjörn will show up more frequently on Attack, since he’ll be able to provide a couple of armor packs to his team before a round even begins. Torbjörn’s hammer was also tweaked. It’ll swing 25% faster, meaning it’s quicker and easier to repair and upgrade turrets. To balance this, it now does 27% less damage when used as a melee weapon.

Widowmaker has fallen out of favor, but she got a couple of minor buffs. Her Venom Mine no longer hurts her if it’s triggered nearby, meaning she can throw it in people’s faces as a last resort. Her scoped damage bonus also charges 20% faster, making it easier to land fully charged sniper shots on opponents.

Zarya now has a good reason to go emo, as she got a pretty significant nerf. The power gained from both her personal and her projected barriers has been decreased by 20%. It’ll be much harder for her to gain and keep a full charge on her particle cannon, so she won’t be able to melt face nearly as easily as she had before. This adds insult to injury, as she’ll be a high priority target of Sombra, who can cut her health pool in half by hacking her. Zarya will still be deadly in the hands of an expert, but these changes may mean she’s seen less often in top level competitive play.

Finally, many minor bug fixes were rolled into this patch, and these are listed below. 

  • Fixed an issue that sometimes prevented the PC client from closing properly, making the Battle.net application think the game was still running
  • Fixed a bug preventing players from receiving credit toward the Most Healing Done commendation
  • Fixed a bug that caused the columns on Recent Players to slightly overlap each other
  • Fixed a bug preventing the fourth column on the friends list from being displayed properly
  • Fixed a navigation error that could occur when attempting to adjust video options using a controller
  • Players will now be removed from the Practice Range if they are AFK

AI

  • Fixed a bug that caused McCree bots to Combat Roll into the well on Ilios
  • Fixed a bug that could cause bots to get stuck in a wall near objective B on Temple of Anubis
  • Fixed a bug that prevented bots from moving through certain locations on Volskaya Industries

Competitive Play

  • Fixed a bug that could cause overtime to continue indefinitely on Assault maps
  • Fixed a bug that could cause matches to begin with only 11 connected players

Heroes

  • Fixed a bug that prevented Ana’s healing stats from showing up in the Career Profile page
  • Fixed a bug that prevented Ana’s custom crosshairs from displaying while zoomed
  • Fixed a bug causing irregular placement of the pumpkin on Genji’s “Pumpkin Carving” highlight intro with certain skins
  • Fixed a bug preventing Mercy’s staff from showing up in the “Guardian Angel” highlight intro with her Cobalt skin equipped
  • Fixed a bug preventing Reaper’s “R.I.P.” victory pose from animating correctly when the game client isn’t in focus
  • Fixed a bug that allowed Tracer to use Blink while rewinding with Recall
  • Fixed a bug preventing some of Tracer’s voice lines from activating with her Punk skin equipped
  • Fixed a bug preventing Zarya from gripping her gun’s handle in the “Deadlift” highlight Intro
  • Fixed a bug causing Zarya’s Graviton Surge to eject Reinhardt at high velocity

Maps

  • Fixed a typo on the bakery blackboard in Eichenwalde
  • Fixed a bug that allowed certain heroes to stand on unintended pillars on Ilios
  • Fixed a bug on Lijiang Tower that allowed heroes to reach unintended locations
  • Fixed a bug allowing Reaper to Shadow Step to unintended locations on Nepal
  • Fixed a bug that allowed players to contest the payload from a protected area above the gas station on Route 66
  • Fixed a bug that allowed Pharah to reach unintended locations on Volskaya Industries
  • Fixed a bug on Watchpoint: Gibraltar that allowed players to reach an unintended location near the final objective

Spectating

  • Fixed a bug that occasionally produced incorrectly colored health bars when spectating Custom Games

Overwatch Patch Notes – November 15, 2016 [Blizzard Forums}

Kevin McClusky
I'm a longtime member of Destructoid, and you may have known me in a prior life as Qalamari. In other words, hi. I've been here a long time. There's a good chance I'm older than you. I write freelance articles for other publications, so you might see my name elsewhere occasionally. Disclosure: I wrote a paid testimonial for the Speedify VPN service in April 2017.