Nathan Kiehn is the author of over 100 blog posts on his family website Keenlinks and "The Gray Guard" ebook fantasy trilogy on Amazon.
Overwatch is a new first-person-shooter style video game designed by Blizzard Entertainment and released last year. Since its launch, it’s received much acclaim, multiple accolades, and a pretty solid fan base. The ingeniousness of Overwatch is that it really hones in on its “heroes”—a roster of 25 unique characters with developed abilities, backstories, and relationships. The mythology here is huge, partially within the game itself—with certain lines of dialogue giving hints to characteristics and events fleshing out the world—but largely outside the game, with animated cinematic videos honing in on certain characters and even a series of comics dedicated to exploring who these individuals are. It’s vast, and Overwatch has become incredibly popular as a result.
Since it's become so popular so quickly, now is the time to familiarize yourself with the heroes that make up the game. There are four classes of hero in the game—offense, defense, tank, and support—so I’ll be covering the heroes in each class over the course of different blogs. I’ll offer a little backstory and my own experience playing with each character, mentioning details like why I prefer certain characters over others. There’s really no order as to favorites here; I’m just going by how they’re listed in the roster in-game.
First up are offense heroes, a series of eight characters intended, as the class implies, to be on the offensive. These are your gung-ho heroes, ready to burst through a wall of enemies.
One note I will make before we begin is that some of the photos are of alternate skins for each hero that I've unlocked over the months, so the original skins look a bit different.
1. Doomfist: “Only through conflict do we evolve.”
Doomfist is the newest hero in the Overwatch ranks, released recently to players everywhere. He’s been a popular character for players to use, but I quickly grew disenchanted with him. While I enjoyed playing as him over the course of a few rounds, he unfortunately debuted during a time where the game mode “Total Mayhem” was on the roster. In this mode, cooldown times for special abilities are shortened, meaning players could use one of Doomfist’s signature moves—Seismic Slam, Rising Uppercut, or Rocket Punch—and quickly move on to the next one, and by time the third ability had been used, the first had recharged. It was a constant bombardment that, thankfully, has been cut short with different modes being switched in.
Though all characters are called “heroes,” Doomfist is actually a bad guy. Hailing from Africa, Doomfist is an agent of Talon, a villainous organization within the Overwatch world. Blessed with a cybernetic arm and recently freed from prison, he’s more than ready to combat Overwatch and its heroes. Doomfist had been teased a very long time, his fabled cybernetic fist appearing in the game’s animated announcement video (see below) long before the game itself released and then appearing on a payload in the game, a construct one team of players must transport across a map while another team tries to stop them. He’s finally here, and players seem to be enjoying him a lot. He’s a brand new offense hero, with a lot of power behind him. With the Total Mayhem mode gone for the moment, he’s not quite as tough as he was a few weeks back, but he’s more than powerful enough to punch your hero or crush them with a well-timed Meteor Strike Ultimate.
Before the Hero, There was Only the Fist
2. Genji: “I was hoping for a challenge.”
The first actual hero on our list, Genji was a billionaire playboy injured in an accident and on the verge of death until he was put back together with cybernetic implants. Kinda like Iron Man. Unlike Iron Man, Genji was wounded by his brother, an archer named Hanzo, during a confrontation over their father’s criminal empire, which Genji had no desire to become a part of. Now a cybernetic ninja, Genji battles alongside Overwatch, specifically with their covert team Blackwatch.
Where Doomfist brings the muscle, Genji brings the finesse. Players are constantly scaling walls and hopping like jackrabbits with this character, whipping his shuriken at players and deflecting bullets, arrows, and energy projectiles with his sword. In a flash, Genji can quickly cover a short distance with a Swift Strike. His Ultimate shows the true power of his Dragonblade, amplifying its distance and power, deadly to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with it. Genji is definitely a character skilled players use well, beaning other players with his shuriken or knowing the right time to use his deflection. If you can control him, you can really become a living weapon, jumping from player to player, inflicting damage. While the damage from the shuriken may be small, Genji’s sword more than makes up for that, and a well-thrown volley of stars can kill a weakened opponent. I’ve played as him plenty of times, and I enjoy the versatility he can bring to the team.
3. McCree: “Justice ain’t gonna dispense itself.”
The second Overwatch member on this list, McCree is a tough cowboy reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, with a powerful six-shooter and flash grenades at his disposal. Initially a criminal, McCree took the opportunity to make up for his errors in judgment and joined Blackwatch. He’s a great character to get up close and personal with one’s enemies, delivering powerful single shots or a volley of six bullets at one time. His Combat Roll also helps in reloading his gun and in seeking cover from enemy fire.
“It’s High Noon!” is one of the phrases I hate to hear if a McCree’s on the enemy team. When McCree pops his Ultimate, targets appear over any visible enemy within range, and the cowboy releases a stream of typically lethal shots at his opponents. I choose to say “typically” because I’m terrible at this particular move. I enjoy McCree, though, more so for just how fun he is. With a flash bang, I can stun an enemy and finish them off with my revolver. He’s a tricky character. With a guy like Doomfist, you tend to watch for signs of his attack, like when he charges up his fist before a Rocket Punch. With McCree, his movements are more subtle, and he can stun you with a flash bang right as you round the corner on him and get in a headshot with a nicely aimed bullet. Tricky feller, this varmint.
4. Pharah: “Aerial superiority achieved.”
Though not one of my favorite characters, I have a friend who will play Pharah whenever he selects an offense hero, and I can see why. She’s the one offense hero who can actually fly. An Egyptian soldier by nature combined with an experimental battlesuit, Pharah is deadly to enemies on the ground, who she can blast to pieces with her rockets or her Rocket Barrage Ultimate.
As a flyer, Pharah uses her rocket boots to hover around and a boost when she needs to gain better air. With her sights on the ground, she can unleash rocket after rocket, especially on players who focus on what’s in front of them and not above. A quick Concussive Blast can send players sailing away from an objective or even over the edge of the map. I’ve tried her a couple of times, and while I can’t get the hang of her flying, she’s fun to play as. She’s actually more like Iron Man than Genji is, able to bring a decent level of firepower to a team in need of a hero who can blast away their enemies. If you want to stand a chance against her, you either need a character who can fire far, like Hanzo with his arrows, or a hero you can keep a steady aim with, such as Tracer. Pharah v. Pharah battles are fun to observe as the two enemies try to blast each other out of the sky. Just don’t watch too long; the winner may set their sights on you.
5. Reaper: “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Gabriel Reyes was a member of Overwatch until a falling out with Commander Jack Morrison during a low point in the team’s history caused the destruction of the team's base. Seemingly killed in the accident, Reyes returned as Reaper, now sided with Talon, always keeping an eye out for Morrison. Wielding dual shotguns, Reaper is a character who, like McCree, can’t wait to get all up in your personal space and bring the hurt.
Reaper goes through shotguns like some people do cash, blasting waves of bullets at opponents, which cause more damage the closer he is. Capable of becoming a wraith and teleporting, Reaper ensures he can escape dangerous situations or get close to an enemy, avoiding their attacks as he prepares his own. Reaper is great for taking on tanks, coming in close and weakening them or finishing off heroes with low health. His Death Blossom Ultimate tears through opponents as he spins a circle of destruction, firing everywhere. He’s a chaotic ghoul for any player who enjoys causing mayhem or disrupting plans. It’s frustrating to be a character like Hanzo or Widowmaker, having found a perch to snipe from, only to be blasted at from behind by a Reaper who snuck up behind you. Ferocity knows no bounds. While a character like Hanzo or Genji may require more precision than Reaper's shoot first/aim later strategy, he's effective at delivering decent amounts of damage if you're looking for kills.
6. Soldier 76: “We’re all soldiers now.”
Remember Jack Morrison, from above? Like Reaper, Morrison survived the same accident, returning as Solder 76. He’ll be most familiar to players already used to first-person-shooters, as his design fits with the typical soldier from that genre of games. This guy’s the leader, the Captain America of the team, the patriotic hero ready to serve his country the best way he knows how: by fighting until there’s nothing left in him. As the animated short about him clearly displays, he battles on the side of justice, and he does so doggedly. “I won’t quit til the fight’s done,” he routinely comments upon respawning. With Overwatch reuniting after it initially disbanded, he’s ready to lead them against their enemies and crush Talon for good.
Good thing he’s armed to the teeth. Equipped with a pulse rifle, Soldier 76 can take out enemies from a distance or close up, firing both bullets and a trio of deadly rockets; it’s an effective combination and, when used well, can take out enemies fairly easily. Though not a healer, Soldier 76 can also drop a biotic field that gives him and also other nearby teammates some health, offering them all a boost. This actually brings up another point I have yet to mention: obviously, Overwatch is a team-based shooter, so when a character like Soldier 76 can assist his teammates instead of just going solo to get kills, it's a definite advantage to the team. Any hero can do this really, whether by healing or by piling on damage together, but Soldier 76 is a good example of that team quality. His Ultimate lets players automatically target enemies, unleashing a hail of bullets at you if you happen to walk into his line of sight. Shouting “I’ve got you in my sights!” Soldier 76 drives back opponents by cutting right through their ranks; it’s a sad day for any team that’s clustered together when he starts firing. Though not one of my favorite characters, I’ve had the pleasure of playing as him a handful of times. He’s a tough veteran that really makes you feel like you’re fighting for something, even if it’s only just a game.
Overwatch Short: "Hero"
7. Sombra: “Propaganda is useless.”
One of the sneakier members of Talon, Sombra is the spy and hacker of the group. A Robin Hood-like vigilante, Sombra seems to be on the side of the weak and powerless, but her hacktivist actions have put her at odds with the law. She’s up to the task of facing these threats, armed with a machine gun pistol and some cybernetic enhancements of her own.
Sombra is more of a stealth-type hero and has plenty of abilities to help with that, as evidenced in Blizzard's animated short below. As a hacker, she can disable both health packs and players’ abilities for a period of time, keeping them from recovering and eliminating their ability to use special attacks while she moves in for the kill. While her machine pistol takes some getting used to, it’s very effective in finishing off the player she just humiliated by hacking. Invisibility helps with this greatly, as she’s able to sneak up on unsuspecting players from behind and take them out or use a translocator device to teleport a short distance away if she finds herself in trouble. Finally, with a shout of “Propaganda is useless!” Sombra unleashes an EMP that destroys barriers and hacks all enemies caught in the blast. It can be a debilitating move and one her teammates can take advantage of, clearing away their enemies as they struggle to fight back with only their primary weapons.
Overwatch Short: "Infiltration"
8. Tracer: “Cheers, love, the cavalry’s here!”
The final offense hero on this list may also be the most fun. Tracer has become the poster child for Overwatch, being one of the heroes to appear in the animated announcement video I mentioned in earlier, gracing the cover of the game box, and having the honor of being the very first hero created for the game. Obviously, a lot of love has been put into her creation, and it shows. In the Overwatch mythology, Tracer was a pilot selected for an experimental aircraft that vanished from the timeline; when she returned, she was out of sync with time and needed to wear a device that kept her in the current timeline (man, this stuff is as weird as comics…). This device also allows her to manipulate herself within time, speeding around quickly and recalling herself to go back to where she was a few seconds earlier.
An incredibly fun and joyful character, Tracer is able to zip around the map with enhanced speed boosts, firing at enemies with her pulse pistols and slipping away with her boosts or the recall, sending her back to a previous position and restoring some lost health. Tracer routinely jokes and laughs during combat, a spunky hero who’s good at coming in and finishing off enemies or delivering a good kill with her pulse bomb, casually thrown at an opponent like a present. She can easily come in out of nowhere, and a favorite tactic for players is zipping in close, dropping the pulse bomb, and then recalling themselves before it goes off. Though not the most effective Ultimate, it’s good at humiliating players (read: me) who find themselves on the other end, caught unawares by her sudden intrusion. While she’s is definitely one of the weaker heroes in the game, she’s also one of the enjoyable and can be used to continually frustrate enemies by running circles around them. Certainly one of the best offense heroes in the game.
Those, then, are the eight offense heroes that Overwatch has to offer players. These guys and gals are the soldiers, the fighters, and heroes who will focus on eliminating the enemy, capturing that point, or moving that payload. They’re sometimes tricky and take some getting used to, but if you want one for your main, they offer a diverse selection of weapons and abilities to help your team out really well.
On the Offensive
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn