Nathan Kiehn is the author of over 100 blog posts on his family website Keenlinks and "The Gray Guard" ebook fantasy trilogy on Amazon.
Having already talked about the offense class of heroes within Overwatch, I’ll be moving on to the second class, which is defense. This is the class that I’m definitely the most familiar with as three of the six—Bastion, Hanzo, and Junkrat—rank as my top three most-played characters, with Hanzo and Junkrat being two of my most recent favorites. All six characters, like the offense heroes, have complex backstories and abilities that can serve any team well.
Defense characters are good for more long-ranged combat. Whereas most offense heroes need to get their hands dirty in order to move a payload forward or defend a point, defense heroes have the option of hiding in the shadows or fighting from a high vantage point by locating a perch and firing from there as best as they possibly can. Some characters are definitely good when it comes to close combat, such as Junkrat, but others have a more difficult time holding their own when confronted by an enemy who gets in close or sneaks up on them.
This is a list of the six defense heroes you’ll find in Overwatch. Like before, I’ll offer some backstory as well as what it’s like to play as these different characters.
1. Bastion: “Dweet! Dweet! Dweet!”
Okay, the guy’s a robot, can’t speak English, sorry.
Bastion is what’s known as an “Omnic,” robots designed by humans that eventually rebelled, because all the movies and books in the world still didn’t teach us designing A.I. was a bad idea. During the “Omnic Crisis,” Overwatch was created, specifically to fight these robots, and after a long and arduous war, humanity won out. Amusingly, on some of the in-game maps, damage and robot pieces can be seen, remnants of this Crisis. Somehow, as the animated short will show you, Bastion survived the Crisis, his “destroy all humans” programming all but gone. He’s a more peaceable fellow now, except when he’s confronted by a bunch of enemies, aka, your opponents.
In the heat of battle, Bastion becomes a fighting machine, his submachine gun firing away at enemies. Even more lethally, he can reconfigure himself into a turret, turning Transformer-style into a gatling gun that deals devastating rounds of bullets. As a Bastion fan, I love the opportunity to blast enemies out of the air, pelting them with bullets out of nowhere. Bastion has the ability to self-repair, moving out of the line of fire and fixing himself, restoring lost health. What made him a quick favorite of mine was that he was a character I could ease into, someone with easy controls and a high rate of fire that gave me some success at the beginning stages. I have since shied away from him mostly, due to the fact most players thinks his turret is overpowered and will typically go after any turret-configured Bastion player. I don’t want to be seen as cheap, so I try for characters I can become more skilled at. Still, I racked up some decent play time with this guy. It was fun while it lasted.
Overwatch Short: The Last Bastion
2. Hanzo: “Let the dragon consume you!”
Hanzo is the brother of Genji, the cybernetic ninja who appeared in my previous blog. Where Genji fights for Overwatch, Hanzo’s path is darker. Once the heir to the Shimada family’s criminal empire, Hanzo abandoned his position after he seemingly killed Genji, seeking redemption for himself, as you can watch in the animated short below. His determination is utilized greatly within the game, with in-game dialogue like a quick bark of “Again!” and “I must redeem myself” while respawning pointing to the idea he really desires to reclaim his honor.
Hanzo’s greatest weapon is, of course, his bow, and the archer has a couple of different arrows at his disposal, making him the Overwatch version of Green Arrow or Hawkeye. Players can fire regular arrows at their enemies with his Storm Bow, scaling walls to find perches to snipe Pharahs out of the air or peg another sniper. His Sonic arrow is capable of disclosing enemy locations for both him and his teammates to see, which is especially useful at the beginning of matches. Typically in a match for, say, an Escort round, enemies have a small base they begin in with closed doors. A Sonic arrow can reveal their locations and help teammates plan accordingly depending on which door the enemy will come from. His Scattershot arrow is also useful for getting kills; this single arrow breaks into three shafts upon contact, and is particularly efficient in small corridors or rooms, as the ricocheting fletches can hit enemies at bizarre angles. He’s one of my favorite characters to use, as it’s fun to watch an arrow sail across a distance and nail an enemy, especially for a kill. His Ultimate is the Dragonstrike, an arrow which fires two massive deadly dragon spirits that can plow into enemies. If managed correctly, it can be used to wipe out a whole team of enemies, which feels incredibly satisfying.
Overwatch Short: "Dragons"
3. Junkrat: “If at first you don’t succeed, blow it up again.”
My third favorite Defense hero, Junkrat is a wily little guy hailing from Junkertown in Australia, which was just released as an Overwatch Escort map a few weeks ago. A survivor of the Omnic Crisis (which hit the Outback pretty hard, mate), Junkrat belongs to the “Junkers,” a group of scavengers ruled by “the Queen” and friend to Roadhog, his personal bodyguard. At some point, he and Roadhog were booted from Junkertown (cause this guy’s a crazy maniac) and embarked on a worldwide crime spree. Though not a member of Talon, this guy isn’t the nicest, or sanest, character you want to run up against.
Constantly giggling hysterically, Junkrat is a master of explosions. “Aiming’s overrated,” he scoffs at points, and his bag of tricks embodies that. Grenades can be launched willy-nilly, and anyone caught in their path receives a rude surprise. It’s insane the number of grenades that can actually hit or kill someone after being fired almost at random. Concussion mines can be used to launch yourself into the air to escape enemies or reach high points or to blow up your opponents. A volley of grenades plus mines can deal a lot of damage and death, especially when combined the Steel Trap, a bear trap that catches enemies so Junkrat can deliver a final blow. His Ultimate is, no surprise, highly explosive. Yelling “Fire in the hole!” a little too excitedly, Junkrat sends out his Riptire, which players control around corners and toward foes before making it (no surprise) explode. Careful planners can kill a whole group of enemies with this, and it’s very fun to have the tire come careening down on a group of enemies and watch them fall before it’s destructive abilities.
4. Mei: “Let’s see you get past this!”
Ah, Mei. If I were to pick a least favorite Overwatch character, she would be a candidate, as well as the next entry on this list. Whether or not a Mei is on your team, you’re bound to experience some frustration. An Overwatch scientist, Mei was stationed at Ecopoint, an Antarctic base, with a team tasked with studying climate change. As a recently released animated short reveals, Mei and her team of scientists were forced to go into cryogenic sleep when a bad storm hit. Unfortunately, the pods malfunctioned, and Mei woke up years after she was supposed to. Her team didn’t wake up at all. When rescue didn’t come, she eventually left the base, spurred on by a video from her Overwatch teammate Winston, calling for all former Overwatch members to come back together after it had disbanded. Her tale is given in the video beneath this entry, a truly Pixar-quality endeavor.
For such a sad story, Mei makes it hard for me to be sympathetic towards her. With an endothermic blaster (fancy way of saying “freeze ray”), she can make all kinds of ice-related constructs. She can freeze opponents in their tracks, literally, ending them with an icicle to the head. She can encase herself in ice, invulnerable against opponents’ weapons and restoring some health. Her Ultimate causes a blizzard that traps multiple enemies in ice, forcing them to stand still while she and her allies take them out. She can finally make massive walls of ice, which can be helpful for keeping enemies back—like trapping them in their base for a few seconds or stopping the payload from moving—but also irritating for allies if you find that your Mei is a prankster or enjoys being irritating by purposefully walling you off. I’m personally not much of a fan. She seems like a character selected just for the purpose of being annoying and nothing else, so I try my best to stay away from her—by not playing as her and staying out of reach of any enemy Meis with icicles.
Overwatch Short: "Rise and Shine"
5. Torbjorn: “I worked hard on that!”
“You know what Overwatch needs?” a lead designer asked one day. “A whiny, petulant Dwarf who can make turrets with perfect aim and cries like a baby whenever they get destroyed.” Thus, Torbjorn was born, or at least that’s how I imagined it happened. He and Mei are the bane of my Overwatch experiences. In fact, my playtime with them is negligible, because I feel like I’m helping the Overwatch community by refusing to play as them. A weapons engineer working for Overwatch, Torbjorn joined because of his deep distrust of sentient robotic lifeforms, such as the omnics. He’s developed technology and weapons for the team, some of which is used by the heroes themselves.
Torbjorn has become a bit of a joke, especially when he earns Play of the Game (a highlight showing who got the most kills at once or best play in the match), which typically shows him hammering his turret while its automatic fire kills enemies. Torbjorn does a lot with his turret, smacking it with his hammer to either repair it when it gets damaged or increase its level and power. He can, however, go on the close-up offensive if need be, firing rivets at opponents who come in close to destroy his “baby.” To his credit, he can also drop armor packs to give allies a boost, and his Molten Core Ultimate simply boosts all his abilities even better. I’m not a fan of Torbjorn, mostly because I’ve been on the receiving end of his turret too many times. However, if you have an ally who can play him well—like put the turret on the payload and keep enemies at bay—he’s a helpful addition to the team.
6. Widowmaker: “One shot, one kill.”
So I’m clearly more favorable to the first half of this list than the second, but at least it ends on a strong note. As the animated video displays below, Widowmaker is a blue-skinned Talon assassin who enjoys sniping from afar, much like Hanzo. Once a happily married ballerina named Amélie Guillard, Widowmaker was kidnapped and brainwashed by Talon, reprogrammed to kill her husband and becoming an assassin for them (why, why do all these heroes have such horrible backstories?). The reprogramming also slowed her heart and blood, which explains the blue skin. She’s incredibly deadly, and players who can use her well have a good weapon on their hands.
Being a sniper, her main weapon is her rifle. Like Hanzo, she can find a ledge—usually by grappling—and plant herself there, aiming through her scope at oncoming adversaries. The rifle powers up, and a shot to the head will usually be lethal to any player she targets. When confronted one-on-one, her rifle also doubles as an assault weapon, firing bullets as she avoids taking damage. Some Widowmakers I’ve played against use her venom mine behind them, so that when enemies approach her vantage point, they trigger the mine and not only alert her to their position but also injure themselves in the process. It’s a good tactic to keep people from sneaking up on you. Her Ultimate allows her to use her infra-sight, which shows enemy players on the map to her and her teammates. It’s like Hanzo’s sonic arrow, but this covers the whole map, showing precisely where opponents so she and her allies can plan accordingly. While I can’t seem to get the hang of sniping people all that well, I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve played as her, and she’s definitely a character that I can see myself becoming more comfortable as.
Overwatch Short: "Alive"
And that finishes this round of heroes. The Defense category of heroes, as you can see, offers players a diverse set of skills and weaponry. Some of the character are incredibly enjoyable; others I think are painful and irritating. But I guess depends on your own perspective of these characters and if you think any of them are main-worthy.
D-fence, D-fence, D-fence!
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn