Blizzard has been nothing if not iterative in all of its games, and Overwatch is already no exception. The game has seen a number of balance updates, and the introduction of competitive mode, over the last few weeks, and Blizzard shows no signs of stopping.
First, the test realm update adds the latest character to Overwatch. The new hero, Ana, is actually Pharah’s mother, and a much-needed addition to the healing side of the roster. Her biotic sniper rifle and grenades are derived from the technology in Mercy’s staff, allowing her to heal her enemies at a distance, or damage her foes over time. Blizzard revealed the character this morning with a short video, with info on her abilities and ultimate.
There are other changes that affect gameplay and heroes at large, including another tweak to overtime that causes the fuse to burn faster after 20 seconds of sudden death. Spawn times are increased by two seconds in overtime as well, which should help shave some extra minutes off games that don’t need to go as long as they do currently. Also of note, all heroes that self-heal will now receive ultimate charge for doing so, with the caveat that those heroes have had their total charge needed for their ultimate increased.
On a more important note, Blizzard is testing out a new rule for competitive matches that limits individual heroes to one per team. That means if your teammate is playing Soldier: 76, you’ll have to pick someone else or ask them to change.
“In Competitive Play, we feel that hero stacking is becoming detrimental and leading to some not-so-great player experiences. For example, we’ve seen organized teams on Assault and Hybrid maps use hero stacking to overtake the first point before the defense has a chance to counter. We’ve also seen players use specific stacked compositions just to frustrate their opponents or cause indefinite delays in overtime (among other strategies).” As someone who has kicked off a few matches by rushing the point with five D.Vas and a Lucio, it’s a change that makes a lot of sense. Blizzard is going to see how it works on the test realm before deciding whether to push the change to the final game.
Speaking of D.Va, her character has undergone the most massive changes in the newest update. Defense Matrix, the ability that deflects projectiles in front of her mech, is now an alternate fire with a one second cooldown and a resource meter similar to Pharah’s. The shield will take ten seconds to fully charge up when not in use, and it will last four seconds from full charge. Her ultimate has been buffed too, and now costs 15 percent fewer points to charge, with a three second fuse instead of four. It no longer damages the player who launched it, which should allow for some more aggressive D.Va plays.
Mercy also sees a noticeable bump, with her staff’s bonus damage increasing from 30 percent to 50, albeit with multiple Mercy damage boosts no longer stacking. Her resurrect, which Blizzard notes is one of the most powerful abilities in the game, has has its charge cost increased by 30 percent. As a tradeoff, Mercy can now move while activating it, and Guardian Angel will reset instantly. The goal, according to Blizzard, is to make Mercy a lot safer while using Resurrect, and nerf her pistol by proxy of the damage beam being stronger.
Finally, last-kid-picked-on-the-playground Zenyatta is getting a much-needed boost in power. His base shields are now higher, which should give him a bit more lasting power, and his Orb of Discord and Harmony now move four times faster, allowing him to apply buffs and debuffs at a much more efficient rate. His ultimate, Transcendence, is a lot stronger now, up to 300 health per second for those around you instead of 200, and it doubles movement speed. After Zenyatta went unpicked for the entirety of a recent professional tournament, it only makes sense he would get a bonus to bring him back in line with the rest of the heroes.
There are, of course, a handful of bug fixes and random general additions, like numerical values in the options menus, and mouse sensitivity up to the second decimal place, but the best news of all is that 21:9 support has officially returned. The feature was present in the beta, but for whatever reason, it was shut off when the game first launched, forcing users to play in 16:9 regardless of their display.
PC Overwatch players who want to try out Ana and the revised ruleset and balance changes can download and play on the test realm through the Battle.net client. With Overwatch selected, click the drop-down menu and select “PTR: Overwatch” from the region/account menu. It should be noted that the test realm grabs a snapshot of your regular account that may not be current, and none of the progress from the PTR will transfer over to your main account. But if you’ve gotta see what’s new before everyone else, that’s the place to do it.