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[Header image found at ZeroChan]

I wrote an article Wednesday about Overwatch's Public Test Realm (PTR) and how the Principal Designer told us that Blizzard is planning some significant changes to shake up the metagame. While the forum post mentioned that they wanted to get the patch out before the end of the week, it came out much faster than we were expecting, and you can try it out now if you have an Overwatch account on the PC.

The patch is pretty hefty (nearly 2.2 gigabytes), and it'll take a while to download. As advertised, there are significant changes to every character, though the developers cautioned that, unlike prior PTR patches, this one will probably be tweaked and changed considerably before going to live servers or to the console versions.

I got some play time in with the patch, and can report that the changes seem as though they're intended to slow the game down a bit. More tweaks and adjustments have been promised, so everything you're about to read is subject to change. 

Here's what to expect in the first round of testing:

  • Ultimate ability costs have been increased by 25% for all heroes. Mei's ultimate cost has been increased by 15% on top of that, probably because her ultimate cost wasn't changed when self-healing began charging ultimates. This makes pushing payloads and control points a little easier, and will probably be adjusted as the developers get more data from the playtesting. I did notice myself thinking more about using an ultimate since I knew it'd be harder to charge. Since everyone's affected equally across the board it doesn't feel unfair, but I'd expect this number to be tweaked once there's more data available.
  • Damaging non-players (e.g. Symmetra and Torb'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 Sym's constructs.
  • Players who level past 100 will now need a flat 20,000 experience points for every subsequent level. Previously, the first 20 levels required less experience, and some people held off playing until the Halloween event started to maximize their potential loot box drops from those first 20 levels. The total amount of experience required to go from 101 to 201 will be the same, since later levels had previously required 22,000 experience apiece.
  • D.Va's 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 helps her boost in and out of fights, and she's slightly less threatened by enemy snipers now. I think her weapon effects might be a little more flashy too, as it seemed easier to see when she was registering a hit.
  • The increase in ultimate ability costs hurts D.Va pretty noticeably since it's taking her a lot longer to build up charge when she's outside her mech. I'm not sure if this is intentional, but it encourages D.Va to play more conservatively and back off when her mech is in danger. I also noticed that when resurrected by Mercy's ultimate, she spawned in with a full charge and was able to call her mech down regardless of her prior ultimate status.
  • Soldier: 76 saw some tweaks to his Pulse Rifle. 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.
  • Ana's Nano Boost was nerfed a bit, and will no longer increase the target's move speed. Sorry, Reinhardt.
  • Lúcio gets his second nerf in a row, and this time it's his healing that's being targeted. Using Amp It Up while healing will now restore 10% less health.
  • Zarya got a pretty significant nerf. The power gained from both her personal and her projected barriers is being decreased by 20%. It'll be much harder for her to gain and keep a full charge on her particle cannon if this makes it to the main game.
  • Torbjörn got a big change 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.
  • 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

Most of these changes seem like they're intended to balance high level competitive play rather than casual quickplay. I'll be interested to see what else changes during testing. The change to ultimate abilities in particular feels like it's slowing the game down, and I'm not sure that's a positive direction to take things.

Ongoing Hero Balance Changes During the PTR [Blizzard Forums]

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