Overwatch is marking its first birthday this week, and as part of the Anniversary celebrations there's a free Overwatch weekend running from May 26 to 29. The community at large has gathered tons of useful tactical data and advanced strategies since release, and if you're joining the fight for the first time it might be a bit overwhelming to try and soak up all that collective knowledge when you're just starting out.
That's where these tips come in. If you follow the tidbits of tactical guidance below, you and your teammates are bound to have a better time, whether you're attacking or defending an objective. And if you enjoy the free weekend enough to purchase the full game, these golden rules will stand you in good stead to keep up your win rate.
1. Be flexible and learn at least one character of each class
Until you've reached the upper echelons of skill, it's best to focus on balance when figuring out your team's hero composition. The in-game prompts do a great job of nudging you in the right direction, giving a clear indication of when your ranks could really use a Support hero or a turret builder. But, as is the case in most multiplayer arenas, you'll inevitably get paired up with some players who insist on playing their favorite hero, with no consideration for what the team actually needs. You're not that selfish - so you should endeavor to master at least one hero from the Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support classes so you can fill in at a moment's notice. If you're unsure which playstyle might suit you, look to Soldier 76, Bastion, Reinhardt, and Lucio - they're effective and beginner-friendly heroes in their respective roles.
2. Stay focused on the win condition
Team Fortress 2 veterans will surely remember the Medic's classic line, "Get on the point, dummkopf!" Translation: If you're chasing after kills instead of prioritising the objective, you're not doing it right. Takedowns will only go so far in Overwatch, because the win conditions are always objective-based, whether you're capturing a point or pushing a payload. It's most important to remember this when your team wipes out the opposition and starts gaining momentum - that's when it's easiest to get cocky and overextend way too far into enemy territory, rather than using the downtime to lock down the objective. Ideally, you should always be standing on a point, escorting a payload, or focusing on the next opportunity to do so.
3. Don't fight alone
This is a classic mistake that plagues plenty of multiplayer shooters: amidst the chaos of a battle, your teammates keep charging the enemy one by one, and predictably get picked off in quick succession by the grouped-up opposing forces. It sounds obvious, but always remind yourself: this is a team game, and your team needs to stick together. Your abilities are designed to excel when used in tandem with your allies, so grouping up makes you (and by extension your team) that much more effective. Even if you're playing a hero who's incentivised to go rogue and flank the enemy, like aggressors Reaper and Tracer or snipers Hanzo and Widowmaker, you should still aim to engage when the opponents are actively distracted by your frontline Tanks and Support allies. There is one exception, though...
4. It's worth it to die for Overtime
Overtime is the only instance where diving into the fray solo makes sense: if you're able to contest a capture point or merely touch your team's payload, you'll get a brief time extension on the match. And while your team won't always be able to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat in those final precious seconds, it's always worth it to try. Don't be the player who backs away in some strange sense of self-preservation at the end of a match - seize the moment and bravely leap onto the objective, dancing around to try and stay alive as long as you can. The better you are at stalling the conclusion of the match-ending objective, the better chance your team has to take home the win with a miraculous finish.
5. Master the art of constant movement
Snipers are just as deadly in Overwatch as they are in any other FPS - maybe even more so, given that Hanzo and Widowmaker both have abilities that let them see you through walls to help line up the perfect shot. So to make snipers' lives harder and prolong your own, you need to keep moving at all times. Get used to the idea that you should constantly be dancing around mid-fight, especially if you're playing a highly targeted Support hero. Even traditionally stationary heroes like Bastion and Torbjorn should always be mindful of how fatal standing still can be, and should be looking to switch up their defensive posts to keep the enemy guessing.
6. Use that Skirmish time to learn new characters
The average player isn't going to create a Custom Game just so they can explore every nook and cranny of the maps. But what you are guaranteed to encounter, at least if you're playing in a group, is the Skirmish mode: a welcome way to pass the time while Blizzard's servers try to appropriately match you up into a game. Here, you're able to freely move around a randomly selected map in a little sparring match, where objectives aren't present and the outcome at large doesn't matter once you load into an actual match. Instead of battling opponents like you always do, use this brief respite to poke around the map and see if you can find any health packs, hiding spots, or alternate paths you might've overlooked before. You never know when that map awareness will come in handy.
7. Pursue alternate routes when you get stuck
As the attacking team, there will inevitably be times when your momentum seems to stall out at chokepoints that heavily favor the defending side. Maybe it's downwind of the perfect sniper perch, or small enough that you just can't seem to break through a Reinhardt shield. Chances are, if your team keeps stopping dead at this junction, repeatedly blitzing the problem area isn't going to fix things. Overwatch's maps don't do the best job of telling you this, but there are usually multiple routes you can take to reach your objectives - it's just that they're sometimes tucked away in shadows, or connect to an out-of-the-way opening in your spawn point. Keep a lookout for these side avenues of attack whenever you team is stuck in a rut, because odds are, the opposing team either isn't expecting an offensive push from that side, or they too had no idea it was there in the first place.
8. Blow off some steam with Arcade modes
Like all competitive games, Overwatch can sometimes make you go on tilt. If you've lost a few games in a row, failed to seal the deal on a dominating early lead, or got saddled with uncooperative teammates, it's easy to get frustrated - and that frustration will inevitably impact your play for the worse. Instead of falling further into despair, take a break from the 'regular' action of Quick Play and hop into one of the Arcade modes instead. Mystery Heroes assigns you a random hero on respawn, whereas No Limits lets you select any hero without restrictions, and these for-funsies modes drastically alter the flow of matches. The unbalanced chaos of these brawls can be just the break you need from the 'serious' stakes of regular matches. Win or lose, the sheer variety of these modes should alleviate your stress and make you excited, rather than furious or anxious, to play more.