Five Things We Love About Overwatch's New And Improved Symmetra
After teasing big changes to Symmetra, one of Overwatch's least-played heroes, Blizzard has finally unveiled their overhaul of the character. The next big update for the game will rework her abilities, give her a second ultimate ability, and improve a couple of her current abilities and weapons.
The character is currently playable in the PC version's Public Test Realm, where patches are tested before they go live to the main client. I've played several rounds as the new Symmetra, and I'm impressed by how Blizzard has been able to make the character much more useful without betraying her essence.
First, I should say that Symmetra is my second-most played hero in Overwatch (the first being Roadhog). I generally tend to like "builder" characters in class-based games (I've played lots of the Engineer in Team Fortress 2 and Techies in Dota 2), and I like that Symmetra can play that builder type without relying on it exclusively; before the update, she could give her team shields, could play keepaway with her charged up orb shots, and her short-range Photon Projector could be deadly if the opponent didn't kill her first. But she currently has issues being useful on the offensive, and her ultimate wasn't as useful on defense past the first capture point.
Her Main Weapon Lets Her Survive More Easily
The most simple change is to her main weapon, the Photon Projector, which attaches itself to the target automatically and deals more damage the longer it's used in a short duration. The update increases the range of the Projector quite a bit, as you can see below.
Here's the maximum range of the weapon before the update:
And after. Notice the position of the 5-meter line in both images.
This makes it easier for Symmetra to dance around her target while the beam is latched on (since she doesn't have to worry about aiming it too much), and more difficult for close-range heroes like Roadhog to get a bead on her. I love the new range, since it also makes it easier for her to capitalize on enemies getting slowed by her turret traps and get kills more easily. It also means she can use it to more aggressively chase elusive targets like Genji and McCree. She still has issues hitting Pharah while she's airborne, though, so it still has its weaknesses.
She Can Be More Playful With Her Turrets
Symmetra can now have a maximum of six Sentry Turrets at a time. The reason cited in the Developer Diary for this change was to make it easier to set up before the match started when playing on defense, but it has other uses as well. I found I could be more aggressive with my turret placements on the attack, putting them on the payload or nearby chokepoints freely without worrying about running out. They still won't last long against a good team, but with more of them available at a time, that doesn't matter as much. If a turret can distract an enemy long enough to save a teammate or score a kill, it's done its job.
And on defense, the increased count made me more prone to swap the location of my turrets regularly, when they weren't threatened. At the start of a given round, I used to have no extra turrets to place. Now, because I can place six turrets from the get-go, I get a few back while waiting for the match to start. After getting a couple of kills with the turrets at one location and anticipating a counterattack, I can easily move all the turrets to where I think they'll attack from and catch them by surprise again. I also learned you can put a turret on the basketball inside the mobile base on Control maps, but you could always do that. I just wanted to point that out.
Her New Shield Ability Has Several Uses
Symmetra can no longer provide her teammates with shields whenever she wants (that ability has been moved to her ultimate, which I'll get to in a bit). Instead, she can summon a new, moving shield that works much like Reinhardt's. She can't hold onto it, though; It moves at a steady pace (about as quickly as Symmetra can walk) and is indestructible. This means you can force Bastion to move off his camping spot by running behind it and threatening his perch, or walk right up to Torbjörn's turrets if they're placed poorly enough.
It also blocks a number of other abilities. With the right reflexes, the shield can block Roadhog hooks, Reaper surprise attacks, and D.Va ultimates. Symmetera can also use them to protect her turrets in places where they might otherwise be vulnerable to long-range attacks, like in the first point of the King's Row map.
As Kotaku points out, the shield also has a number or other, er, less conventional uses. We'll see how many of these uses make into the build that goes live for everyone, but it's likely the uses I've pointed out here will survive any tweaks, giving her a nice defensive option against attacks she was normally helpless against.
Her New Ultimate Is A Powerful Option
Symmetra can now choose between two ultimates: her old teleporter ultimate (which is now sturdier and recovers health) and a new shield generator, which gives everyone within its reach 75 bonus shields. To use the new ultimate, you press the ultimate button once to bring up the placement hologram for the teleporter, then press it again to switch to the shield generator. The range of the generator is enormous, the limit of which you can see here. The picture above shows where I placed the generator, and the one below shows you the maximum range. The orb icon indicates where the shield generator is.
It's pretty tiny in the second picture. Move any farther away, and you'll use your bonus shields after a second or two. And you don't have to see it to be affected by it. Like the teleporter, it doesn't have a limited duration. And unlike the teleporter, it doesn't have a limited number of uses, which means that if you hide it right, you can give your teammates a nice buff for the entire match. 75 shields is nothing to scoff at, either: this puts many heroes outside of Roadhog or Widowmaker's instant-kill range, and can make it incredibly difficult for teams to stop the offensive momentum of a team that's placed the generator on the payload. At this point, I always used the generator over the teleporter, but after the new sheen wears off, I think I might still be hesitant to use the teleporter.
She's A More Well-Rounded Character (But Still Has Her Weaknesses)
Even before the new update, I always thought of Symmetra as a Defense hero, not a Support. She couldn't heal teammates, and was generally not the type of character that needed to be anywhere near her teammates to be useful (just shield them up once per life and forget about them). After the update, I feel even more confident in the assertion she should be moved to Defense. Her powers are a lot more diverse, but they're all very defense-focused, and while teaming up behind her shields is an option, she can do a lot on her own now.
She's also not as situational a pick as she used to be. I used to never pick her on Attack (or, if I'm being honest, when I wasn't in a mood to care about what my teammates thought of me), or on Control maps. Now, I feel like she can be more useful on the offensive. If your team can't make headway on offense in a payload map, she can help break through that chokepoint with her shields and ultimate. She won't turn the tide on her own in these cases (since her teammates will have to follow her lead and push when the shield deploys), but she's no longer useless. As a frequent Symmetra player, that's great; I don't have to switch off her when I don't want to anymore.
We'll see how Blizzard address some of her glitchy aspects and whether these changes will be toned down after release, but overall, Symmetra is a lot more fun to play now. I definitely enjoy her more, and don't miss her old shield-giving ability in the least. I'm still finding new uses for her shield ability, and her offensive capabilities make her a decent pick on Attack. I expect more people to pick her up after the update, even after the initial excitement dies down. For now, though, I'll have to put with having to implement my patented first-pick maneuver* in every Quick Play match. Considering she used to be among the game's least popular characters, I'm okay with that.
*Highlight where the character will be before the match starts and mash the mouse button and H key until successful.