Along with the announcements of Overwatch‘s pricing and release plans came the introduction of the final three characters — Mei, Genji and D. Va — bringing the game’s total roster to 21. Being the Overwatch nut that I am, I made it a priority to get extensive hands on time with each of the new characters and fully dive into the roles that they play.
Let’s start with my favorite of the newcomers: D. Va
Despite being very similar to Imp and Z-Mech from Garden Warfare 2, D. Va is one of the most unique characters in Overwatch and she provides counters to a few characters that previously were very difficult to deal with. Every match begins with D. Va inside her mech, which essentially can be described as a mobile version of Bastion’s turret. It’s got two heavy-duty machine guns that never need to be reloaded and will tear enemies to shreds from close to mid range.
Her E ability pulls up a shield that initially seems very similar to Reinhardt’s, but there are a few key differences. First, the shield can’t break, and will remain up regardless of the amount of punishment it receives until its timer runs out, or the player cancels it on their own, which means yes, it can even protect her team from Pharah or Reapers’ ult. Second, it blocks everything that’s considered a projectile, including Symmetra’s charge shot, which is the main counter to Reinhardt’s shield. And finally, while it can’t be broken, it’s on a pretty substantial cooldown so it can’t be used quite as often as Reinhardt’s can.
D. Va’s movement ability is where her true value lies. It’s a high speed dash that lasts for about three seconds, and can go in any direction. This makes her by far the most mobile of the tank characters, and an absolute nightmare for a character like Widowmaker or Hanzo, who thrive on being able to get to vantage points where most characters can’t reach.
The most interesting thing about D. Va, though, is that she actually has two life bars. If she dies inside the mech, she will eject and can still be a threat on the battlefield with a surprisingly deadly auto pistol. She loses all of her abilities, though, so the goal when mechless is to try and build up meter as fast as you can to bring back her mech with her ultimate.
If you manage to build up your ultimate while inside the mech, say good-bye to your enemy’s defenses. With her ultimate, D. Va can use a self-destruct ability on her mech that can take out most enemies in a single blast and has an explosion radius the size of a nuclear bomb. The explosion is actually so huge that unless you use her charge ability to throw the self-destructing mech forward while you run the other way, it can be extremely difficult to escape the blast yourself.
Overall, D. Va is a fantastic option for your team’s tank and her mobility and overall stickiness on the battlefield makes her a great counterpick when you’re dealing with a Widowmaker, or a team that has holed up at the objective with a Bastion or Torbjorn turret.
Mei is labelled as a defense character, but her role on the team is very different from that of a Torbjorn, Bastion, Widowmaker, Junkrat, or Hanzo. While other defense characters focus on being able to defend a point by fortifying an area with stationary defenses or unparalleled long-range capabilities, Mei’s job is to provide utility to her team and be a disruptive force on the battlefield, rather than rack up kills for herself.
Her main weapon is a freeze gun that can fire a short range stream of icy air that will slow an enemy down and eventually freeze them solid. Its secondary fire is a long range blast that has the same effect. Neither attack does much damage, but the slow is substantial and can be very problematic for characters that rely on their speed to keep them alive, like Tracer and Lucio.
Her “E” is a move that will be familiar to anyone who plays nearly any MOBA. It’s an ice wall! Mei’s ice wall provides some interesting utility for those who are able to communicate and work together. It can seal up one of the entrances at the start of the game, prompting enemies to go through another entrance where you could have your defenses waiting; it can be used as a platform to boost up characters to high places that those characters might normally not be able to reach; it can be used to shield your allies from a Bastion or Widowmaker’s line of sight and allow them to enter a path that’s normally heavily guarded. There are a wide variety of interesting uses for it, but all require a level of coordination that is hard to achieve if you’re playing with a bunch of random strangers.
Mei is not one to actively go seeking a fight, but when a fight finds her, she’s able to use her “Cryo-Freeze” ability to encase herself in impenetrable ice for several seconds, gaining nearly all of her life back in the process. It’s an important move for Mei as she doesn’t have a huge amount of HP, and it allows her to take the aggro off of herself in a team fight.
Once her ultimate is charged, Mei really change the tide of a team fight by tossing out a device that will slow and eventually freeze all enemies in a wide radius while dealing substantial damage over time.
Mei is a tricky character to use effectively, and is the very definition of a team player. Good communication is essential when Mei is on the team in order to maximize her utility.
Like Tracer, Pharah, Reaper, and the other offensive heroes, Genji focuses on speed, mobility, and being able to dish out crazy amounts of damage is a short amount of time. His main weapon are his shurikens, which are accurate, are shot out in a burst of three, can be used from fairly long range, and deal a ton of damage if they all hit their mark. He can also use the alternate fire to shoot them out shotgun style, dealing less damage, but hitting a wider spread; ideal for fast characters like Tracer who are low on life.
While his shurikens are great, his real value comes in the form of his shift ability, Swift Strike, which allows him to perform a quick dashing slash that not only deals good damage, but also inflicts bleed on an opponent, dealing significant damage over time. If the bleeding character dies by any means, the cooldown on Swift Strike is reset, allowing him to potentially use it multiple times in quick succession and clean up a group of enemies.
But I think the real reason people will want to play as Genji will be because of his “E” ability, which puts him in a reflect stance that will reflect just about any projectile to where he is aiming, including Pharah’s ult, so if you’re Pharah, you may want to think twice about using that barrage of missiles against a Genji. It can also reflect sniper shots, making Genji a great counter pick against a Widowmaker or Hanzo.
Genji’s ult gives him access to his sword as his main weapon, giving him an extremely powerful melee attack with a wide reach, while also strengthening his Swift Strike ability, giving him even more opportunity to dive into the fray and deliver sharp and steely death to anyone in his way. It’s a dangerous ult to use though, as it doesn’t give Genji any extra survivability, so you’ll still need to remember to use his reflect as a way to protect himself while dashing around picking up kills.
It should also be noted that Genji has a double jump, and has Hanzo’s ability to scale walls, allowing Genji to take paths to the objective that other offensive characters like Tracer and Soldier 76 can’t traverse.
Genji is one of the most fun characters to play as in the game, and just his very presence on the enemy team will make people think about their own composition and whether they want to risk having their projectiles reflected back at them.
I can’t wait for D. Va, Mei and Genji to make their way into the Overwatch beta, as their presence truly makes Overwatch feel complete. Characters that felt like they had very few or no counter-picking options now have real threats to look out for, and there are now even more options for the attacking team to deal with well-fortified defenses without completely tipping the scale in the other direction.
Be on watch for Overwatch when it hits the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in Spring 2016.