The Ultimate Overwatch Beginners Guide
Overwatch is, at once, both incredibly layered and also fairly straightforward (not to be confused with “simple”). If you’re a new player, there’s quite a lot of information to process — so many heroes, maps, game modes, strategies, new and confusing terminology, and so on. So let’s break it all down. Let’s go bit by bit and delve deeper into everything you’re bound to run into.
The point of this guide isn’t to explain everything in excruciating detail but to rather give you a better understanding of what’s important and why. By having a solid foundation, you’ll be able to further research and analyze the game on your own and, with time, master all of its many layers and intricacies.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get straight to it!
Overwatch In a Nutshell
Overwatch is a combination of an FPS (First Person Shooter) and a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). This means you’ll play fascinating heroes from a first-person perspective who don’t “just” shoot or throw out missiles of some kind. Each hero has a set of abilities — the first one is bound to your Left Shift key, the second one to your “E” key, and the third one (the most important and game-changing one), which is also known as an “ultimate” ability, is bound to your “R” key.
So, to simplify things, you can think of the game as a more complex shooter, and even though a couple of additional abilities don’t necessarily make it considerably harder, they do complicate things quite a bit. You have to be aware of what each hero can do at any point in time, and you also have to keep track of what’s going on-screen. That’s easy on paper, but once twelve players start throwing stuff around (much of which is visually complex in nature), things can become a bit overwhelming.
Utilizing the full potential of your hero and ability kit is of the utmost importance and will allow you to dominate on the fields of battle.
There are also a couple of distinct types of maps that have different win conditions, but more on that below.
Soon enough, you’ll hear of this thing called the “meta.” When something is meta, it means that it’s viable and will give you the best odds of finding success. That can be a hero, or a strategy on a map, or a team composition. Maybe it’s a mix. As an example, some well-documented (and highly played) metas have been dive, double shield, and GOATS (just to name a few). The GOATS meta was almost universally despised because it consisted of three tanks and three supports who would just clump up together and go head-first into battle — there was little nuance or skill expression involved. That meta died out once Blizzard introduced role lock (meaning every team had to consist of two damage dealers, two tanks, and two supports).
Dive comps are also a staple part of Overwatch. They consist of heroes like Genji and Winston literally diving into the opposing backline. The double shield meta is currently the most played of the bunch and it revolves around two incredibly potent tanks — Sigma and Orisa, along with an even more lethal DPS duo of Reaper and Doomfist.
The meta always evolves. Players come up with new and unique ways of playing the game and thus shift the meta in any given direction. There is, however, a pattern to all of this. Whenever one meta takes over, it’s only a matter of time before it gets nerfed and then we’re back to square one.
There’s a certain ebb and flow to the whole thing, and whenever Blizzard releases an update, the meta changes. Sometimes in a small, nuanced way. Other times it’s a huge, game-altering kind of thing. Either way, frequent updates make the game more balanced and, perhaps equally as important, refreshing.
Quick Play is for when you just want to have a bit of fun. It’s akin to a “normal game” of League of Legends or Dota 2. You just jump in, get clumped up with a group of randoms, and play the game for a while. You don’t get much for winning, but at least it’s a nice way for you to rack up experience and level up your account.
If you want to truly test your mettle and play in a more serious manner, you can also queue up for Competitive Play. By winning, you’ll climb the ranked ladder and therefore fight against tougher opposition the higher you go. By playing Competitive, you’ll also unlock special season-specific items like emotes, sprays and player icons, and you can also earn Competitive Points which you can then use to unlock special cosmetic items (like golden weapons for your main heroes).
Competitive play is divided into seasons, with each season lasting around two months (at least at the time of this writing). Once the season ends, your rank will reset, and you’ll start from square one once the forthcoming season commences.
To start playing Competitive, you first have to hit level 25, which is definitely for the best — you need as much experience as possible before competing on the ranked ladder.
At the time of this writing, there are seven game modes in Overwatch, with four of them being available in Quick Play and Competitive.
When playing on an Assault map, there’s an attacking and a defending team. The former has to capture two control points, whereas the latter has to defend them. Assault maps include Hanamura, Horizon Lunar Colony, Temple of Anubis, Volskaya Industries, and Paris.
Control maps have a single control point in the center of the map, and both teams are fighting to capture it. Once the team holds it for long enough (and there’s a percentage meter showing who’s ahead), they’ll get the win.
Escort maps, also known as Payload maps, have a payload that the attacking team has to push (by simply being around it) towards the defending team. If they complete the whole route, they’ll win the game. If the defending team stops them at any point, they get the win instead.
Escort maps include Dorado, Junkertown, Rialto, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and Route 66.
Hybrid maps are a combination of Escort and Assault maps. This means that the attacking team first has to capture a point, and then push the payload throughout the map. The defending team, again, has to stop them.
Hybrid maps include Hollywood, Eichenwalde, King’s Row, Numbani, and Blizzard World.
There’s also Capture the Flag, Elimination, and Deathmatch which are available in both Arcade and custom Game Browser. Blizzard also frequently releases special seasonal events which are accompanied with unique game modes like “Yeti Hunt” or “Junkenstein’s Revenge.” These modes are a nice way to relax and forget about the ranked ladder grind — they’re just for fun, and there are often a couple of cosmetic goodies up for grabs as well.
TIP: Each map (and map type) is designed in a certain way to have a set number of strengths and weaknesses. Some maps are easier to navigate and traverse when you’re on the attacking side, others are a bit more favorable to the defending team; some maps are filled with various spots where you can hide and flank from, whereas others don’t provide much shelter.
It’s all about balance. This means they all share similar faults as well, and with time you’ll find that you can even exploit the design of a map by playing in a certain way.
This is arguably where Overwatch stands out the most: its diverse cast of characters.
You have three distinct categories of heroes, and each of them corresponds to a distinct role:
DPS (Damage per Second)
DPS heroes are the ones who deal the most damage. They’re often on the squishier side, which is a fair trade-off as they possess immense power. Their tools and weapons of choice vary, with each hero bringing something unique to the table. Do you prefer the role of a sniper? Great, then go for Hanzo or Widowmaker. Perhaps you want to get up close and personal? Then Doomfist is the perfect fit.
If you’re the kind of player who gravitates towards damage-dealing heroes, then you’ll have a palette of options to choose from in Overwatch.
As the name implies, tanks are the ones who stand in front and take in the most damage. They’re not weak by any stretch of the imagination, but they need to protect their teams first and foremost. Unlike in some other MOBA games, playing tanks in Overwatch isn’t nearly as boring an experience. There’s also a fair bit of diversity and you can definitely find a hero that’ll fit perfectly with your playstyle.
Tanks can be quick and nimble or slow and seemingly indestructible. Some of them can annihilate entire teams whereas other excel at getting into the heat of battle, creating chaos, and getting out.
Support heroes provide peel (the act of protecting your carries), utility, crowd control, healing, shielding, and so on. They’re mostly on the squishier side of the spectrum (except, say, Brigitte), but that doesn’t mean they don’t pack a punch. On the contrary.
As a support, you need to protect your teammates to the best of your ability while also protecting yourself — supports always have a target on their backs.
Which heroes are best for someone who’s just starting out?
That’s a good question, but it’s not as easy to answer as it might sound. Everyone has different amounts of experience (not to mention mechanical skill), which means some heroes might be easier than others to pick up. Regardless, there are certain heroes that are relatively simple by design but who still offer a lot of value to the team and will provide you with a solid enough chance of leaving a mark.
For DPS, you can try out Soldier: 76 or Junkrat, for tanks go for Reinhardt or Orisa, and for supports Moira or Mercy. These are by no means simple heroes, but they do have a somewhat forgiving learning curve and are more than capable of dominating when played correctly.
If you’re unsure which role (or hero) is right for you, don’t fret — just enter the Overwatch Practice Range! Here you can test any ability and hero to your heart’s content. You can move, jump, experiment, shoot stuff and even destroy both stationary as well as moving targets.
Being flexible is key in Overwatch. If you’re an OPT (One-trick pony — a player who specializes in just a single hero), you probably won’t get too far. Try to master at least two champions in each role. Finally, being able to swap heroes mid-game is incredibly important — should the need arise. If you’re playing, say, Brigitte, and you’re getting countered by the enemy team, you should, by all means, have another pocket pick prepared.
Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of a hero, make sure to play a couple of “Play vs. AI” games. You’ll have human teammates, but computer-controlled opponents. This is a very forgiving game mode so you can make as many mistakes as you want!
Role lock is a fairly new thing to Overwatch. It’s long overdue, but better late than never. What it does, basically, is enforce a 2-2-2 team comp by default, meaning each team has to consist of two DPS heroes, two tanks, and two supports.
That kind of set-up offers the perfect mix of offense and defense. So when queueing up, you can pick which role you want to play as. If you want to play DPS, you’ll have to wait a bit longer as it’s a highly sought-after role. If, on the other hand, you want to play as a support, you’ll find a match in record time. You can also pick more roles if you’re flexible.
Just have in mind that once you enter a match and the hero selection screen comes up, you won’t be able to change roles until the match is over.
The Overall Experience
As with any other online game, be prepared to communicate with a wide variety of people — some of them will be calm, friendly, and kind; others, however, will be toxic and immature, and that’s perhaps putting it mildly
Just know what you’re getting yourself into. Playing Overwatch can be one of the best experiences in the world when things are going your way, but once that fails to be the case, the game (much like any other online multiplayer title) tends to bring out the worst in people.
Communicating with your teammates is of the utmost importance. Overwatch is a team game through and through, and you won’t get far by yourself. If even just a single player isn’t doing his job right, there’s a good chance that the entire team will crumble.
Never disregard your allies and go in alone — that won’t accomplish anything. Instead, try to synchronize, to layer abilities, crown control, and potentially pull off game-winning wombo combos.
Objectives over kills — Getting a ton of kills and dishing out damage is important. That’s a no-brainer. But players often focus on skirmishing too much and fail to grasp the biggest picture. You need to push the payload, or take control of a zone on the map. Don’t always fight if it isn’t pushing you towards the objective. Otherwise you’re just mindlessly trading blows and wasting time.
Target selection is incredibly important. Just because you can hit an enemy tank doesn’t mean you should — taking out priority targets like supports or DPS heroes is one of the most important (and impactful) things in the game.
Save your ultimate — Using your hero’s ultimate in an intelligent way can either make or break a game. Try to save it for the perfect moment (you’ll eventually begin to recognize them as you play the game) or a game-winning push/engage.
Watching some of the best players in the world fight for a hefty paycheck isn’t just incredibly entertaining — it’s also educational. These individuals compete in Overwatch for a living, so it’s only natural that they come up with the most ingenious strategies. With time, you’ll be able to replicate and incorporate some aspects of their play into your own Quick Play/Competitive adventures.
By analyzing what the pros do, your own play will improve — even on a subconscious level. Take notice of how they move or group up at certain moments of the game. Follow what they do with their specific heroes and team comps and how they utilize their strengths to win the game.
And, even better, find the players whose playstyle you like the most and try to emulate them to the best of your heir ability. There’s so much you can learn just from watching and taking notes. Sometimes it’s a really big strategy you didn’t know existed. Other times it’s a small, nuanced thing that blows your mind.
That’s it for our ultimate Overwatch beginners guide! The best way to learn and improve at the game is through trial and error. As the old adage goes — “practice makes perfect!” If you want to learn more about how you can improve at the game, you can read out step-by-step guide by clicking here!