In recent history, the heroes of Overwatch have been dormant. The game has been having a tough time keeping the attention of its players. Whether the reasons range from toxic behavior to stale gameplay, the overall quality of matches has been down. But on June 26th, 2018, Overwatch’s newest patch (22.214.171.124) hit the scene and players across the board could not be happier. For the first time since release, we’ve been able to see glimpses of the game that once took the internet by storm. With the brand new “Endorsement” and “Looking for Group” features, several small balance changes and the long-awaited Symmetra rework, Overwatch has never looked better.
Let’s get into it.
While Blizzard has expressed in the past that Overwatch was always intended to be a shooter with heavy emphasis on the team-based aspects of the game, this model could only work if the community went along with the ideals of team play.
In comparison to other games of the genre, Overwatch has always been notoriously bad with its unranked play. This is due to the fact that the majority of the players have a tendency to lean towards damage-based roles as opposed to supportive ones. This proves to be a problem when standard team compositions require just two damage dealers and far too many Quick Play teams wind up carrying four or more. This regularly leads to an uncooperative and, oftentimes, toxic gameplay environment. But this lack of coordination is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The new “Looking for Group” feature is finally live, and not a second too soon. Players now have the ability to create teams based on their desired specifications. You can join forces with up to five other players before starting a match. The system also allows users to set preferred roles, place restrictions on the roles of prospective teammates, and require that members participate in voice chat, among other things. This allows for a smoother and more controlled gameplay experience.
Gone are the days of suffering through 6 DPS hero compositions or queueing in with a Torbjörn main who refuses to communicate. The implementation of this system has essentially given players some much-needed agency over their gameplay experience. It’s likely that we’ll see a new era of team-based Overwatch because of this.
What combats toxicity better than positive reinforcement after every game? Apparently not much, as we’ve come to find out with Blizzard’s newest “Endorsement” feature. With the latest patch, players are now able to choose three outstanding individuals from each match and give them an endorsement. The three categories to choose from are shot caller, good teammate, and sportsmanship. The shot caller endorsement is meant to be used for players with strong leadership skills. The good teammate endorsement is used for helpful and communicative players. The sportsmanship endorsement is used for players who promote fair play and humility. This system is paving the way for a less hostile and more cooperative environment alongside the LFG feature.
While it is still unclear where Blizzard will go with endorsements in the future, we do know that rewards are on the way. Once a player has obtained enough endorsements, they will start to climb the endorsement ladder up to a maximum level of five. Based on the player’s endorsement level, they will be rewarded with having more queueing options in the LFG system. Blizzard has also released a statement saying that there will be periodic rewards for endorsements. All we know right now is that they will be based on a player’s endorsement level. No other details on what that could mean have yet been released.
With this patch, Blizzard has also introduced a few balance changes. The biggest of these updates is the brand-new Symmetra rework. With the recent Mercy and Hanzo reworks, Overwatch players may have thought they’d seen it all. Not quite. This may be the biggest hero redesign yet.
Symmetra now has a fully revitalized set of abilities, including changes to her primary fire, her ultimate and everything in between. This is an immensely changed hero that should definitely impact the meta in the weeks to come.
By far the biggest change to Symmetra’s kit has to be her redesigned teleporter. This portal can be placed anywhere, giving low mobility heroes infinitely new options. Does a friendly Ana need to reach high-ground? Do you need to get your Reinhardt into the enemy backline for a devastating Earthshatter? A well-placed Symmetra teleporter can make all of these dreams a reality.
A few smaller tweaks have also come the way of McCree, Orisa, and Doomfist. McCree now has increased range on his Deadeye to take out pesky aerial targets. Orisa’s supercharger will see more up-time with reduced ult charge needed to deploy it. Doomfist received an increase in shielding when using abilities and in movement speed when using Meteor Strike. All of these changes can be considered quality of life improvements, bringing these heroes up to speed with the current state of the game.
Finally, a snazzy makeover of Lunar Colony Horizon has just hit live servers. This update comes complete with altered map areas, high-ground barriers, added cover, and sectioned spawn doors. All of these aspects will make for a much smoother and more exciting experience while playing on this map. The design choices were spot on, giving greater accessibility to different areas of the map. We can also expect more hero variability because of the new resources found in the reworked setting. I think it’s safe to say this map update was one small step for the meta and one giant leap for enjoyment.
Blizzard caught everyone off guard with a patch of this size and effectiveness. The LFG system along with the new endorsements have created an environment that makes Overwatch feel brand-new again. With toxicity declining to all-time lows, players are able to focus more on their games. You now have the power to enjoy Overwatch the way you want to, whether that be in a group of like-minded players or alone braving the ranked ladder. The game feels refreshed just in time for the summer and leaves us looking forward to whatever else Blizzard has in store for the future.
French Canadian/Jamaican lover of all things digital. I’ve been gaming since around the time I could walk, and analyzing gameplay since around the time I could speak. Currently a biochemistry student at the University of Toronto as well as a print model. Looking to complete the triforce by coming out with new gaming articles and insights for community enjoyment. My background and interest currently lies in Overwatch, having been a coach and player since beta. “I hope to be of assistance” -F.L.U.D.D.