With Overwatch‘s Offense heroes out of the way, we’re now clear to move onto the Defense heroes, who are much more interesting.
This’ll be a bit of a long one for two reasons. First, Defense heroes are a bit more complex, so there’s more to say about most of them. Second, there are loads of Defense heroes, so there are also quite a lot of people to talk about.
By and large, Defense heroes are all about area denial. There are exceptions – the pair of snipers, for instance, are also really good at picking apart entrenched positions – but for the most part, this lot are about making it really hard to approach through particular avenues. This is also probably why your least favourite hero of the moment is likely to be in this particular list. This pack of bastards are the most annoying heroes in the game, and I’m probably going to swear a lot when we get to a few of them.
Let’s start with everyone‘s least favourite hero in low-level games.
Or, as he’s better known, “Play of the Game.” Bastion is, essentially, a Transformer as built by the military-industrial complex. He’s not a walking robot that shapeshifts into a dump-truck. He’s a walking robot with a machine gun that shapeshifts into a minigun turret and a tank. Not only that, but this fucker can repair himself.
Bastion’s a tough one to talk about, if only because the level of threat he presents seems to oscillate wildly as you get better. When you start off, he’s an unkillable monster, whose ludicrously accurate minigun makes mincemeat of anyone approaching. Get a bit better and you figure out that he’s pretty easy to take out (or at least, force him to move, which shuts down the whole “area denial” thing that he’s good at) with sniping or continual pokes or having Junkrat throw grenades at him from around the corner. Get a bit better still and Bastion will suddenly be in more unexpected places which are far, far harder to counter-snipe; or he’ll start teaming up with a Reinhardt or Zarya so that the usual tactics are bordering on the suicidal. Etc. Get better and he becomes easy to deal with, until he becomes hard to deal with once again.
The most important thing with Bastion is to never, ever, ever try to take him on directly. You might think that a walking minigun would be inaccurate. You would be wrong: unless you’re at extreme ranges, Bastion can lay down a continual stream of fire and cut basically anyone apart long before they manage to return the favour. If you’ve got a Reinhardt providing shielding you might have enough time to take him out before that shield breaks, but it’s a risky move. That shield breaks fast against Bastion.
A better bet is usually to have a Tracer blink in and drop a sticky bomb on him, or use his lack of mobility against him. Hanzo’s ultimate works quite nicely; while almost everyone else can run away from it, a turret Bastion won’t have time to shift back into robot form and escape unscathed. Otherwise, heroes who have the mobility to get around him and force a shutdown work well; Reaper can take him out fairly quickly, a Roadhog hook (if close enough) can pull him out into the open, etc. He doesn’t have too much health, but unless you’ve got a means of stunning him or bursting him nearly instantly, he’ll beat most people in a straight fight.
Heroes who can turn his high attack power against him also work quite neatly. If Genji can get close, he can finish him off fairly swiftly; not only that, but his ability to deflect projectiles means you can make Bastion kill himself. I’ve had some success with Zarya, too: if the turret bastard focuses on you, pop your shield and watch as your damage skyrockets.
Also, you don’t have to kill him. Quite often, it’s enough to force him to back off and repair: if you’re escorting a payload through and a defending Bastion has to move away from his hidey-hole, then you’ve essentially bypassed that hidey-hole. That’s about as good as killing the bastard.
If you’re playing as Bastion, try not to expose yourself too much. It’s hard to offer much specific advice without going in-depth into each map, but find little nooks that make it difficult for people to get behind you. You can go one of two ways: either try to get the support of your team so that you’ve got a defensive front-line to keep you safe, or you can stay away from your team so that nobody’s looking at you.
The latter is a pretty neat trick in some payload maps, for that matter. If the entire enemy team is bunched up around the payload, you can often find a way around the back of them, where you can shift into turret form and rack up three or four kills in quick succession.
It’s usually not worth taking him when you’re on offense, but there are exceptions: sitting in turret form on a moving payload can work out rather nicely, especially if you’ve got a Reinhardt sitting in front of you providing you with shields. Just be wary of foes getting around behind you, because neither Reinhardt nor Bastion deal well with enemies hitting them from multiple directions.
One of the game’s two sniper classes, and a hero I’m spectacularly shit with. Hanzo is arguably a bit more versatile than Widowmaker and I’d say he’s got a higher skill cap, but he’s also much harder to use effectively.
Hanzo’s gimmick is that he has a bow and a wide variety of specialised arrows. He’s the Japanese Oliver Queen, essentially, especially if you’re good with him. Other than basic damage arrows he’s got one that produces a sort of sonar pulse, highlighting all enemies within a small area, and a “shotgun” arrow that splits into ricocheting projectiles when it hits. Finally, his ultimate fires an arrow that summons a giant magic spirit dragon, because why the hell not.
In terms of mobility he’s got the same scrambling-up-walls ability as Genji, which gives him an easy way to get into sniper spots or behind enemies.
As far as defense heroes go, Hanzo is surprisingly good at causing chaos. His ultimate is so slow it’s not going to get too many kills without either a setup from someone like Mei or Zarya, or the surprise element of it going through walls, but it’s superb in terms of area denial. You might have the best push ever, but when that giant spirit dragon starts barrelling towards your team, you’re going to have to scatter or die.
Two things of note: first, all of Hanzo’s arrows appear to count as “regular” arrows until they land. That means that, yes, you can kill people with your magic recon sensor arrow, or with a direct hit from your exploding ricochet arrow. Secondly – and I can’t confirm this, but anecdotal evidence suggests it – his arrows seem to gravitate towards headshots. I don’t know whether they just have a giant hitbox which counts as a headshot if it overlaps with the head or what, but I’ve gotten far more headshots with his arrows than I reasonably should.
His trade-off with Widowmaker is that he tends to be better at mid range, but worse at long range. His arrows are affected by gravity, which means that landing a headshot from a distance takes considerable skill. However, he can draw and fire arrows faster than Widowmaker can charge up for a full-power shot, and his ability to spam them out means he can usually inflict more regular damage. The downside is that, if things get up close, he’s a bit more screwed. He doesn’t have the fast escape of a grappling hook or the reliability of a machine gun to provide support.
Continuing on with the occasional theme of “[Overwatch character] is [Team Fortress 2 character] but a bit different”, Junkrat is the Demoman – but a bit different.
Junkrat is a pretty balanced hero with regards to being useful on both offense and defense, though his kit definitely leans more towards defense. Other than his grenade launcher (which has slightly less splash than you’d perhaps expect) he can stick down bear traps that lock enemy heroes in place, as well as a massive remote mine. As should be pretty obvious, they’re both most useful for setting up defensive lines.
Although that’s not to say they can’t be used offensively. The bear trap is great in contested areas, like when you’re trying to push through a heavily defended area and someone from the enemy team overextends a bit, and the remote mine is really good for blowing up cocky players who get a little too close to you. It’s also really good for rocket jumping, if you’re into that. Then there’s his ultimate, which sends out a big exploding tyre that you can steer into a group of enemies and then detonate.
Despite this, Junkrat is not much good at close encounters: he’s far more the “sit at the back or around a corner, lobbing grenades and charging up his ultimate” person. If you can get close to him with pretty much any hero, and he doesn’t have a remote mine or a bear trap in place, he’s probably dead. He doesn’t have much in the way of mobility and he’s not a particularly good duelist.
The problem, as ever, is getting to him. He’s one of the only heroes who can actually hit you without even being in vision range, and if he’s doing this from behind his entire team… well, good luck.
Damn Mei. She’s technically the anti-Pyro, in that she sprays frosty coldness instead of fiery death, but that doesn’t quite sum it up. (Also, if anyone would like to spray me with frosty coldness, I would appreciate it. This room is currently about 30 degrees Celsius and I’m in the UK so I’m not used to this temperature.)
Mei is phenomenal at three things: killing people in one-on-one situations, fucking over groups of enemies, and annoying the piss out of the entire enemy team. Let’s start with one-on-one situations, where she dominates thanks to her ice spray freezing people solid after a second or two of sustained contact, which is really easy because it’s a spray. Once they’re frozen, she can use her (otherwise sluggish) alt-fire to propel an icicle directly through their forebrain. This spray is a lot less effective if there are two people around, because she can only really freeze one person at a time, but her alt-fire is a surprisingly good poking weapon at a distance before anyone really engages.
A few heroes can deal with this better than others. Lucio’s speed boost can get him away from it, nullifying its slowing power; Reaper can shift into wraith form and escape; Tracer can rewind time. Nonetheless, being close to Mei is a bad idea if you’re on your own, and because it’s a spray rather than a projectile, quite a lot of the usual defensive tools – Genji’s shot deflection – don’t do a damn thing to it.
Then there’s her ultimate, which is great at fucking over groups of enemies. This fires out a little drone which sprays the entire area with frosty murder, freezing every enemy in the radius solid. This might be enough for her to notch up two or three kills, but honestly, it’s way more effective when combined with another ultimate. Get a Junkrat Rip-Tire, a Tracer sticky bomb, a Pharah missile barrage, or even a Hanzo magic murder dragon and congratulations! You’ve just wiped out basically the entire enemy team. (Although they’ll probably get the credit in the Play of the Game, because that’s how it works.)
Finally, her ability to annoy the piss out of the entire enemy team, which is down to her remaining two skills. One conjures up a giant ice wall (which she can use to propel herself to greater heights, and most levels have their heights specifically tweaked so that the ice wall will get her onto a higher piece of terrain). This is tremendously good for blocking off chasing enemies, blocking off escaping enemies, or blocking off enemy ultimates. Incoming D.Va mech explosion? Stick a wall up. Roadhog going crazy with Whole Hog? Stick a wall up. Widowmaker preventing your team from making it across this gap? Stick a wall up.
Her other ability is arguably even more annoying, as she encases herself in a block of ice and becomes completely invulnerable for a few seconds, healing up all the while. She can break free of this at any time to either resume her attack or to escape, depending on exactly how much your attention has wavered. And of course, while you’re waiting for her to break out of that block, her team is probably sneaking up behind you.
Basically, Mei offers an awful lot of control and – when her ultimate is up – a tremendous amount of area denial. It’s very hard to capture a point when a Chinese girl in a big thick coat leaps in and turns the entire point into a winter wonderland, freezing your team solid. It’s hard to kill her when you chase her down, barely avoiding being turned into a popsicle, and then she just hunkers down in ice for a few seconds and gets half of her health back while the rest of her team turns up. She’s a pain.
She is, thankfully, pretty awful at range. Her icicles hurt but they’re difficult to aim as there’s a delay between pressing the button and them actually firing, and she also has difficulty against small groups of enemies. Big groups will eat her ultimate; solo players will get frozen solid by her spray. Two or three players, however, can rip her apart… unless she just hides in ice and wastes your time.
After that giant wall of text, we have someone about whom I really don’t have much to say: Swedish engineer Torbjorn. Or Torbjörn, but putting the accent in is troublesome on my filthy English keyboard.
Torbjorn is, indeed, the Engineer from Team Fortress 2 with a few tweaks. His rivet gun either fires out a gravity-affected shot or works like a shotgun. He builds turrets, which he can repair and upgrade by whacking them with his wrench. He gathers scrap, which is not used for upgrading turrets, but instead lets him craft armour packs. We’ll probably be talking a bit more about armour and shields when we get around to tanks and supports, so for now just consider it a bit of extra health.
He differs in that his turrets appear to have a 360 degree of rotation, and there’s no “level three” upgrade for the turrets, exactly: that’s done by activating his ultimate, which not only boosts the turret up to super-powered levels, but skyrockets his health and his damage.
You can treat him like Bastion in a lot of ways. Countering him mostly relies on poking at his turret (and as it takes a split-second to lock onto a target, you can pop in and out of cover to do this), while playing as him relies on finding spots to place your turret that have enough access to shoot charging enemies, while still being covered enough that it’s not too easy for foes to get at you. Around corners from the rest of your team is normally a pretty safe bet, so anyone who tries to approach while shooting at them will get flanked.
Just don’t pick him when you’re on offense.
Oh, you want some advice on Widowmaker? Here’s some advice: stop picking Widowmaker. No, we don’t need a second Widowmaker on our team. No, really; two Widowmakers and a Hanzo is terrible. We’re on offense. We’re supposed to be escorting a payload. STOP IT.
Widowmaker is the bane of my existence, but this is primarily because I remain unable to convince my team that having multiple snipers in skin-tight latex is a really stupid idea. She’s a decent (if dull) hero, but one is enough. Quite often it’s more than enough, especially if you’ve also got a Hanzo.
The primary point of Widowmaker is to act like Team Fortress 2‘s Sniper: she has a sniper rifle which charges up as you aim, and then you fire. It’s hitscan, it kills most enemies on a headshot, and it zooms your view in so far that it’s very easy to develop tunnel vision and flanked. When not zoomed in, this sniper rifle doubles as a machine gun. Fairly ineffective, but better than trying to do an MLG 360 noscope or whatever you call that shit.
That aside, she’s got a proximity mine that releases a cloud of poison gas, and a grappling hook with a deceptively long cooldown time. As such, you’re going to primarily want to sit in one place, relocating only when you have to. The proximity mine is a really good signal for this: set it up in one of the routes leading to you, and if you get a big flashing TRIGGERED sign on your screen, get moving.
Despite her commanding long-range murderpowers, she’s pretty weak to anyone who can actually get up close, or who can lay down suppressing fire on her perch. Pharah is a pretty easy target for her most of the time, but a grounded Pharah can pelt windows with rockets. Junkrat can do the same. Bastion can rain down hell. Genji, Tracer, and Reaper can all get up close and personal with her pretty easily (although they should be wary of her mine, as that poison does a surprising amount of damage). She’s good, yes, but you really don’t need five of her on a team.
Arguably the most useful part of her kit is her ultimate, which basically gives your entire team a wallhack. Advice: save this. A lot of people use it as soon as it’s available, but they’re the sort of people who pick a second Widowmaker when you’ve already got one and a Hanzo. It’s incredibly good if you’re either about to push, or if you’re about to get pushed; if your team knows exactly where the enemies are coming from (and where sneaky heroes like Genji or Pharah are circling to) you can defend easily, or line up shots on entrenched enemies. It’s really, really good, and shouldn’t be wasted by just popping it as soon as it’s ready, especially if four of your team members are dead.
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Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.