Sinisa Bucan, November 16, 2016

Overwatch 1.5 Brings Sombra, Arcade, New Map, and Hero Balance Changes

The new patch for Overwatch was available for about a week in PTR, but it’s now ready for everyone. Probably the biggest addition to the game is the newest hero, Sombra. Sombra was teased for quite some time prior to her release. Everyone, including Blizzard, would readily admit that the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) involving the stealth hero outstayed its welcome. That’s all behind us now, as Sombra can finally be played by all Overwatch players.

Sombra is a notorious hacker and master manipulator; her allegiances are constantly shifting, and she is always looking out for her best interest. Sombra’s main weapon is a fully automatic machine pistol, which feels (and sounds) good in combat. If you press and hold the alt fire button, Sombra will hack enemies or items, making them unusable. If you hack an enemy, they will be unable to use their abilities for a few seconds. Additionally, Sombra can also hack health packs as well as Torbjorn’s turret.

Sombra’s Thermoptic Camo ability allows her to become invisible and increase her movement speed for several seconds at a time. However, if she takes damage or attacks an enemy, she will be instantly revealed. Sombra can also use a Translocatora device which can be tossed like a grenade. When you activate the Translocator, you will be teleported to its location, even if it’s still in mid-flight. Sombra’s ultimate ability called "EMP," detonates an electromagnetic pulse in a wide radius, hacking anyone caught in it and destroying enemy barriers and shields.

Arcade Mode and Ecopoint: Antarctica

Overwatch now has an Arcade mode suitable for casual play. You can play 1v1 duels, 3v3 skirmishes, and an alternating selection of both old and new brawls. Additionally, you can play a regular 6v6 game in which hero stacking is allowed. From now on, you will not be able to do that in Quick Play. Arcade mode also offers up to three Loot Boxes each week. Duels and skirmishes are played on a brand-new mapEcopoint: Antarctica. This map is a former Overwatch installation and the base of climatologist Mei-Ling Zhou. Its compact size is suitable for smaller, faster matches.

Hero Balance Changes

The new patch introduces a number of balance changes to almost half the heroes in the current Overwatch roster. There are also two changes that affect all heroes. From now on, dealing damage to things other than players (such as turrets or teleporters) will no longer charge ultimate abilities. Additionally, the cost of ultimate abilities has been increased by 25% for all heroes. Blizzard felt that “game-changing ultimate abilities were coming up a bit too frequently.”

When it comes to hero-specific balance changes, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle changes. Ana’s ultimate ability "Nano Boost" no longer increases movement speed as it was deemed too powerful when applied to certain heroesmost notably, Reinhardt. D.Va’s "Call Mech" ultimate ability cost has been decreased by 20% in order to compensate for the overall increase in ultimate cost. Her mech’s health has been increased to 200 (up from 100) and her movement while firing has been increased by 25%.

Lucio’s healing per second took a hit and has been decreased by 10% as Blizzard didn't like the fact that Lucio has almost always been a mandatory pick. Mei’s ultimate ability was recently buffed (wider radius) with the cost being increased by 15% as it was coming up far too frequently. Mercy will be able to survive longer thanks to her passive health regeneration change, which now activates when she avoids taking damage for 1 second (formerly 3 seconds).

Pharah’s rocket launcher has been buffed. The minimum explosion damage has been increased by 13% while the minimum explosion knockback has been decreased to 0%. The boost of her jump jets has been increased by 35% in order to give Pharah more mobility while hovering. Soldier: 76’s pulse rifle has also been buffed; bullet damage has been increased from 17 to 20 and the maximum bullet spread has been increased from 2.2 to 2.4. This change affects both his normal fire and his ultimate.

In an effort to make Torbjorn more viable in competitive matches, Blizzard has given the Swede a few buffs. Torbjorn will now accumulate scrap automatically over time. However, to compensate, the amount of scrap collected from downed enemies has been decreased by 40%. The swing speed of his forge hammer has been increased by 25% whereas damage has been decreased by 27%. The goal is to make the hammer a much better tool, and not that great of a weapon.

Widowmaker’s venom mine will no longer damage the player who placed it when it detonates. Additionally, the charge rate of Widow’s Kiss has been increased by 20%. The goal is to make Widowmaker more flexible and reactive. Lastly, Zarya’s particle and projected barriers have been nerfed. The power gained from both barriers has been decreased by 20%. Once again, this boils down to Blizzard disliking the fact that Zarya was starting to feel like a mandatory pick in high-level play. This change will make achieving maximum power and damage output slightly more difficult.

Leveling System Tweaks

If you reached level 100 and were promoted further, you probably noticed that going through levels 1-23 was just as fast as when you started playing Overwatch in the beginning. This will no longer be the case. Now, each level will require 20,000 XP (down from 22,000). Blizzard claims that their primary concern was that the old system encouraged some people to stop playing the game after they’d been promoted. The idea being to save those first 23 levels for a seasonal event in order to get more Loot Boxes.

Some people expressed concerns that this is simply Blizzard’s way of trying to increase the sale of Loot Boxes, but Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan remains adamant that this is not the case. “This change has nothing to do with a desire on our part to drive more or less interest in Loot Box sales. This change is to prevent players from binge behavior or halting play… and to prevent players who are not close to prestiging from feeling like they somehow missed out on ‘bonus’ items. This change exists to add levity to the leveling experience,” Kaplan explained.

“We want you playing Overwatch or not playing Overwatch when you want/don’t want to. That’s the entire reason for this change… nothing else.”

Sinisa Bucan

Siniša is a writer and translator from Croatia, a small European country on the Adriatic coast. Apart from being a passionate Hearthstone player, he enjoys all kinds of video games, including strategy, role-playing, adventure, and action. Other interests include listening to indie rock and travelling. You can follow him @SinisaBucan.