Taking a Deeper Look at Hero Roles in Overwatch



Mon 8th May 2017 - 11:45am

Hero roles in Overwatch are something that a lot of people look over when it comes to improving in Overwatch. If I were to ask you right now what roles you can play in Overwatch, what would you say? Offense, Support, Defense and Tank? If so, you'd be correct. But there's a little bit more to it than that, Overwatch's roles aren't always as simple as the game says. You may already know this if you've played a little bit more competitive play, such as how Tracer and Genji are flankers for example, and how people like Soldier: 76 and McCree are the primary damage dealers. Inside this guide, you're going to find out multiple different roles, including ones you may not have heard of, and I'll be explaining to you what is actually involved in playing that role, what heroes excel in that role and more.

Assault Related Roles

- Flanker

Genji mains rejoice, you've got your own special role. Well, and Tracer, Sombra, Reaper... it's more than just Genji. This role is extremely helpful for dealing with the backline of the enemy team and doing so better than anyone else in the game. While the DPS characters might be the ones who focus the important heroes in a team fight, it's your job as a flanker to go out round the back, distract them, and when possible take them out fast. The reason flankers don't do as much damage as someone such as a Spammer or a DPS, is because as a flanker you have a huge amount of mobility in comparison to any other character in the game, and if this was combined with the damage of someone else like say McCree, you might become something the gaming industry calls busted.


- Spammers 

Spammers are the kinds of characters who you'll find are highly effective against things such as barriers and even useful in certain chokepoints to help deal with people in areas your standard DPS just can't quite reach. These kinds of characters do a lot of damage when played correctly, but you'll usually find that because of this, they're low mobility characters with some fairly clear disadvantages that can be easily capitalised on by the enemy.

For example, Hanzo has a little bit more mobility but requires serious skill to have a significant impact in the game. Bastion, whilst a lot stronger lately, still has low mobility. Pharah is able to do damage from tons of different areas and has a lot of mobility in comparison to the others, however, she's a priority target to the hitscan on the enemy team, and considering they're a hard counter to Pharah it's pretty hard to get the job done. And finally, Junkrat. Whilst he's able to spam grenades out everywhere, it's very difficult to do much more than spam barriers down. His mobility consists of a mine to knock himself around, but it's imprecise and better used for traps and more. 

- DPS / Damage Per Second

The DPS role is a bit simpler than the flankers or the spammers, their job is to do exactly as it says in the name. Deal damage over time. However, these guys are a lot better at being a DPS than someone such as Junkrat, who is better as a spammer, rather than focusing on doing flat out damage to others. While they may not do as much damage as some characters like the spammers shown before this, they're nowhere near as weak as someone such as Pharah for example when it comes to vulnerability. Whilst squishy and low health targets, they are hitscan and have impressive range, letting them survive a little bit easier than the others due to them being able to hide a lot more in the backline with little to no repercussion.

Their role is extremely useful for picking out very specific targets on the map, such as the squishy, annoying as hell Pharah floating around and decimating your team. How so? Thanks to them being hitscan, they're able to simply shoot and kill enemies. There's no special alignment or technique like some projectile characters have, they just make sure their crosshair is in the right place, and fire. It sounds simple, but it's difficult to some since they're not too sure whether they should be doing the job of a spammer, or focusing on taking out specific targets for example. Of course, which DPS you use is up to your personal preference and the enemy team's choice in heroes. Also, as a short mention, don't let your teammates fool you. Widowmaker is a great counter to Pharah and an even better counter to something such as Pharah-Mercy. If you're feeling confident, don't feel bad about pulling the Widowmaker pick every now and then, just remember her weaknesses and her strengths and switch when you need to.

Tank / Defense Related Roles

- Tank

These kinds of tanks in this situation are there specifically to prevent any kind of damage from being dealt to you and your teammates. Whether this is through some fancy ability like D.Va's Defence Matrix, or rather someone like Reinhardt/Orisa with their barriers to prevent damage from even getting past a certain point at all. These kinds of characters will mostly have some sort of control mechanics to them, not necessarily crowd control but in other ways. For example, can knock enemies out of position, Reinhardt can move up with his barrier and block off certain areas (whilst protecting his teammates too), Orisa can place a mobile shield to temporarily lock off specific areas.

Having a decent tank will end up being extremely useful to counter an enemy DPS. Whilst yes, the DPS will be able to take you down if you're not careful, if you play correctly and focus properly, you will directly counter the DPS players since they won't usually be able to out damage you in the short space of time of something like a 1v1 (with the exception being someone like Orisa, or out of mech of course) for example. As a tank, you're going to want to look out for the flankers. They're not going to out damage you, however, if you're not careful and keep letting them tickle you from the backline, you can have your health taken down to dangerous levels a lot quicker than you think. Whilst this is more something your teammates should be worrying about, the agility and mobility of flankers make them difficult for you to target, so if you're mispositioned then be prepared for flankers to focus you down.

- Initiator

The next role that I'm going to mention is the initiators. These kinds of heroes won't actually be the "tanks" you'd expect them to be. They're not there to protect your team from damage primarily, they're given defensive related shields or heals for self-sustain more so than protecting the rest of the team, and they're also usually tanky enough to survive a solid engage. As you can probably guess from the name, these kind of heroes are extremely good at starting fights due to their abilities allowing them to engage easily by either taking a straight dive like with Winston or getting a pick on an important enemy with Roadhog or Mei. These kind of heroes are a great counter to flankers that are causing your team trouble too since all of them shut them down completely when utilised effectively.

These kinds of heroes are also extremely viable for when it comes to holding back the enemy team from making any advances or breaking up a solid defence. The reason for this varies depending on the hero. Roadhog is able to get picks on vital targets, Winston is able to make the enemy team focus him whilst he attacks supports, allowing his team to rush through, Mei is able to wall off enemies to allow them to get picked off easier. Their ultimates also apply heavy pressure, a gigantic area of effect freeze, a small minigun knocking back players and quickly tearing down shields, a heavily mobile character with tons of knockback. You get the idea with that. Because of their heavy bully potential, this makes them great for initiating and holding back the enemy team from setting up a solid defence.

Support Related Roles

- Offensive Healer

Offensive and defensive healers don't have much to say about themselves, as they kind of describe most of their job in the name. An offensive healer will be moving along with the team to help go attack the enemy team and help get kills. For example, you have Lucio's speed boost which allows your team to make a quick engage and also surprise the enemy team, catching them off guard and allowing for quick pushes through chokepoints to disorientate the enemy. Also, you're able to utilise Ana for things such as the sleep dart which allow for great picks and shutdowns (Sorry Reinhardt, that pin just won't work this time) and even complete turnarounds in team fights with your biotic grenade. It's up to how you play them because an Ana is still pretty great on defence, however better when running a tank reliant composition.

- Defensive Healer

Like I mentioned about the offensive healers, there's not much more I can say about the defensive ones. Your job as a defensive healer is to make sure that your defending team stays alive during the fight. Unlike an offensive healer, your positioning is far more important due to your abilities. If you're playing Mercy, your primary job is to make sure that when you have your revive up that you're positioned well, second to making sure your teammates are kept alive. This is because it's far more important to use a Resurrect to try and turn the tide of a battle than not use it at all because of mispositioning.

The same goes for Zenyatta too, except you don't hide as much as Mercy since you're not reviving anyone. Make sure that you're behind a tank that can keep you safe is great, but making sure you can see when a team fight is about to breakout is essential, as your ultimate can turn it completely thanks to the insane amount of healing done. As you can see, defensive healers are more heavily reliant on their ultimate abilities, but their healing outputs are so good, you can't live without them when defending.

- Support

And finally to conclude all the roles, we have the general supports. Whilst the healing is nonexistent, these will be able to help your team in other ways, whether it be through armour or through teleports. It's not much of an issue in terms of damage either, as Torbjorn has his turret which is absolutely amazing at locking off certain areas and/or distracting the enemy team for what could have been a good push. The same for this goes to Symmetra, with good turret placement, the enemy team can turn into panic mode, allowing your teammates to capitalise on the distraction.

The main problem with supports is that without their turret(s), they're generally quite vulnerable. A good flanker is able to jump in and completely destroy them, and get out before anyone can do much about it due to their low health. They can have a little bit more self-sustain thanks to Symettra now having a shield generator and Torbjorn being able to drop armour, but they're still quite susceptible to a flanker if slightly mispositioned. Making sure that you play these heroes as supports and not as some sort of DPS makes them a lot more useful, which usually means you're going to want to stick next to your tanks and the rest of your team more than you think. Whilst your utility may work the best from the backline, you're not always the best there. Torbjorn does have good damage alongside Symettra, but only when played correctly and safely, otherwise you're just going to get completely shut down.

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