Beginner’s Guide To Overwatch
Hey guys, Gangsir here. After looking at all the posts on the internet of people coming back to OW for role queue, as well as a few people looking to get into the game, I decided to write up a comprehensive beginner (and returning veteran) guide to modern OW. A handy guide to teach the basics, so you have a good base to learn more from and expand.
Games like this can be tricky to get into, as there’s a wall of info that you have to know before joining in some cases. But, fear not, I’ll break it down.
When loading up the game for the first time, you’ll be greeted with the main menu after a cinematic. It’s fairly standard, it’ll show a random hero in the center, your battletag and icon in the top right, the current event and a “what’s new” button in the bottom right, and the list of submenus on the left.
Going down the list, the submenus are:
PLAY – The main access to the game, clicking on this brings up a few boxes you can click to queue for different modes. I’ll talk more about game modes later.
TRAINING – This is where you find the tutorial, (a good idea to play, especially if you’re new to FPS games), the practice range (a place to test abilities and graphics options), and the Play vs AI mode.
HERO GALLERY – This is where you can customize your heroes with cosmetics. I’ll talk more about cosmetics later, but for now, you can click it to check out the available heroes. There’s 31 of them, as of the time of this writing.
LOOT BOX – Here’s where you can open lootboxes for cosmetics. You earn these by playing the game and levelling your account (more on levels later), or they can be bought. They only ever contain cosmetics though.
OVERWATCH LEAGUE – OW has a high tier competitive scene, similar to games like league of legends. This button lets you check the schedule for upcoming games, as well as buy skins to support your favorite team(s).
HIGHLIGHTS – This button takes you to the highlights screen. Highlights are recorded while you play if you get multiple kills in a row, or preform a lot of healing, etc. If you get play of the match, a recording of it will appear here too.
SOCIAL – Self explanatory, access the social menu where you can view lists of players you’re friends with, or that were in your last game, or currently in your game.
CAREER PROFILE – All about you! This is your profile that keeps track of your stats on every individual hero, as well as overall. It’s a fairly complicated screen, so I’ll go over it more in a later chapter.
OPTIONS – Access the game’s options. This game has a huge number of options that you can set however you like. I’ll go into setting options up correctly later.
EXIT GAME – ….you can probably guess what this does.
“Overwatch”, as I’m sure you read on the tin, is a competitive team-based multiplayer FPS. The goal of the game is, depending on the mode, to complete an objective within a certain timeframe to win. There are two teams, each with 6 people. One team defends an objective, and the other tries to capture it. From your perspective, all teammates are blue, and all enemies are red. These colors can be customized in the options. Heroes with abilities that create things will have those things colorized to their team too. Basically just remember blue = friendly and won’t hurt you, red = enemy and will probably hurt you.
The hero pool is divided into three categories, Damage (usually agile, low health, high damage heroes), Tank (slow, high health, medium damage, have defensive abilities, etc), and Support (low health, usually low damage, but have utility abilities like debuffs and healing). Each team gets two heroes of each role.
When a game begins, each team selects their heroes from the pool of 31. See the next chapter for how selecting heroes works in detail. After both teams are made, the doors open, and away they go.
After the doors open, at the top of your HUD you’ll see indicators that show the current state of the objective. For payload (aka escort) maps, this will show the cart’s progress. For capture point (aka assault or control), this will show the capture progress of the points. It also shows a timer, this is how long you have to attack/defend for.
Maps in OW are fairly linear, with a main path that leads from spawn to point to point, or that the payload follows, and 1-2 flank routes that can be utilized to get behind enemies undetected. Maps are also scattered with various objects that both make the map look good, and provide cover. No shots/abilities/ults will ever penetrate the map, with the exception of Hanzo’s ultimate ability.
A key thing in every shooter, health and ammo is handled a bit differently in OW. Firstly, ammo is infinite. Your only limitation is your magazine, and how long it takes you to reload. Some heroes don’t even have a magazine, and can keep firing forever, just limited by their fire rate. Finding ammo on slain enemies or restocking is never needed. Health is similar, in that rather than having medkits or other limited consumables, health can be obtained from your team’s healers (preferably) or from health packs scattered across maps. Health packs, once taken, have a little timer they go through before they can be picked up again, and can be used by either team, no matter where on the map they sit.
Speaking of health, the game has a couple of different types of health. Normal health is white colored. It’s basic and boring, and every hero has some amount of it, some more than others. White health can be healed from any source of healing in the game. Second is shields, aka “blue health”. Blue health is special in that it will regenerate if you don’t take damage for 3 seconds. Only some heroes have shields, however, but if your chosen hero does have it, shields are damaged before white health, meaning that if you never take enough damage to break through your shields, your healthbar will regenerate.
Third (and most complicated) is armor health. Armor is yellow colored, and typically only tanks possess this type of health, with a couple exceptions. Armor can be healed like white health, however it reduces incoming damage, making it “worth more” than white health. Armor reduces damage of each hit (shotgun shots count as multiple hits) by 3, unless the amount of damage is <6, in which case it’s halved. (Kinda complicated, right?) As an example, say you have 100 armor. You take a shot that deals 50 damage. Against white health or shield, you’d just take 50 damage, but since it’s armor, you instead take 47. If you get hit by an attack that deals 4 damage, you instead take 2. (Not 1, because <6 gets halved) It’s not super necessary to understand this, just know that armor health is a bit more tanky than shield or white health.
Through your career playing this game, you might notice that sometimes your health exceeds its normal limits. Don’t panic, you’ve merely been given temporary health. A few different heroes have abilities that can grant this health to themselves or others. There’s two types as of this writing: Temporary shield (aka dark blue health), and temporary armor (aka orange health).
These behave similarly as their non-temporary health types, with the exception of always going on top of other health (so it’s damaged away first), and disappearing over time instead of persisting.
Barriers, as opposed to shield health discussed above, are physical objects that block shots, but can be shot through by the team they’re aligned to. You can determine if a barrier will block or permit your shots by it’s color, blue shields can be shot through and will block enemy shots and abilities (with a few exceptions that pierce barriers, like melee attacks and some AOE abilities), where red barriers will block your shots/abilities and permit enemy shots/abilities. Barriers can always be walked through by either team.
Barriers are generated by heroes in the Tank class, with the exception of Brigitte, who’s a Support, and Symmetra, who’s a Damage hero. Several different shapes of barriers exist, from domes to walls. Barriers also have health, and will break upon taking enough damage. This applies to all barriers. To indicate their health, barriers show visual cracks as they get lower and lower, and when a barrier is broken, a shattering sound can be heard, along with some exclamation by the hero that made the barrier. Barriers will always fully block or not block shots. This means that an attack that exceeds the remaining health of the barrier will still be fully blocked, but the barrier will break right after.
Currently, there are 7 heroes that can generate barriers, these are: Brigitte, Symmetra, Orisa, Reinhardt, Sigma, Winston, and Zarya. Brigitte can generate a small, weak personal shield, Orisa deploys a static hemisphere-shaped shield, Reinhardt deploys a large rectangle shaped barrier that moves with him, Sigma deploys a rectangular barrier that’s static after he places it, Winston places a weak spherical barrier, Symmetra (as her ultimate) creates a vertical barrier that spans the entire map, and Zarya can apply small, temporary, spherical barriers to herself and allies.
OW, as a twist on typical FPS games, has abilities. Each hero has a few abilities, along with an ultimate ability. Regular abilities provide mobility, apply status effects to enemies or teammates, activate defensive things like self healing or barriers, or simply provide extra damage. Each ability has a short cooldown, ranging from a couple seconds, to half a minute. Most cooldowns are around 5-8 seconds.
Ultimate abilities are strong abilities that, instead of being on cooldown, require damage dealt or healing to charge. You can see your ultimate’s charge at the bottom center of your screen. These are valuable and powerful, and careful consideration should be used before using them.
Whew, that was a lot of nerd stuff. Let’s play! If you click play on the main menu, you’ll be brought to a screen with 4 boxes: Quick play, Arcade, Competitive Play, and Game browser. These are the big 4 gamemodes that parent all of the minor gamemodes.
Quick play – This is the equivalent of casual play in most other games. No penalties/gains for losing/winning, leave matches whenever, loose matchmaking that won’t try too hard to put you with equivalently skilled people. The majority of people in this gamemode don’t try very hard, and are mainly looking to practice hero mechanics, or mess around.
Arcade – This button spawns another submenu of different gamemodes outside of the base game, stuff like deathmatch and capture the flag. Same as QP, people don’t take it really seriously and it’s fun to mess around in.
Competitive play – Serious land. This mode penalizes you if you leave matches early, and you’re given a skill rating that determines how good you are in comparison to the rest of the community. There’s 7 ranks (technically 8, but the 8th is a sub-rank of the 7th), and SR goes from 0 (extremely bad) to 5000 (insanely good). As players approach either end, an asymptotic effect occurs where you gain/lose less and less SR. Ranks are in 500 SR increments after bronze, which goes 0-1500. For more info on this, right click the competitive play button, and click “Tier legend”. The grand majority of people are in Gold, with smaller and smaller amounts of people as you go up and down. Diamond, for example, is top 15% of all players, according to statisics released by Blizzard.
Game Browser – This is a place for people to make and play custom games designed by the host of the game. There’s some really interesting rulesets here, and is a good way to experience new ways of playing the game.
When you’re ready, click on the quick play button. Until you reach level 25, you won’t be able to queue for competitive. Personally, I would recommend waiting until level 100 if you’re new.
Upon doing so, you’ll be greeted with three more buttons, labeled Damage, Support, and Tank. This is the role queue system that was implemented shortly before this guide was made. You can select any number of roles (well, at least one), and you’ll be queued into a match on whichever role you selected. If you selected multiple, you’ll still get queued into only one role, but it’ll be whichever’s the fastest. (Eg if you queue Tank+DPS, if there’s already a game that needs a tank, you’ll get queued as a tank) Once you’re in the game, you’ll only be able to select heroes from the pool you queued for.
As mentioned earlier, games are composed of 2 of each role. Every team has 6 people, made up of 2 damage heroes, 2 support heroes, and 2 tank heroes. This was recently put into place in order to stabilize games and balance, as well as remove some nasty frustrations people have had.
Anywho, select a hero, and away you go. Enjoy your first OW game, do your best, and have fun!
Under the training menu is where you can access the tutorial, the practice range, and the button to queue for a VS AI match, where you and 5 humans fight a team of 6 bots.
The practice range is the big one here, this is a little solo realm where you can practice landing shots and abilities, try out emotes and sprays, chill and shoot bots, etc. It’s a great place to warm up your aim before a match, or to grind aim while listening to music.
Overwatch has cosmetics
just like every game nowadays, and these cosmetics let you personalize your heroes. There are 5 types of cosmetics, skins (which change the look of your hero), voice lines (that can be played while playing the game), sprays (images that can be put on a surface), emotes (little animations/dances your hero can do), and victory poses (poses your character can make on the victory lineup screen at the end of a game).
To access and change your cosmetics, click HERO GALLERY on the main menu, and select a hero you’d like to change. The menu for this is fairly intuitive, so I won’t need to explain it.
You might be wondering, what are credits and how do I unlock cosmetics? Well, you do that via earning lootboxes. Now, before you throw the game away because it’s just another lootbox simulator, hear me out. OW handles lootboxes in a really healthy way. Yes, you can buy lootboxes to open for cosmetics, but you can also just earn these lootboxes by leveling up your account, playing the arcade, or randomly on logging in, etc. No matter how you get them, they’re always free to open.
Credits are used to directly obtain certain skins that you want, and these come from unboxing bundles of credits, or by unboxing duplicate cosmetics (which only happens when you have >70% of the cosmetics in the game), which convert into credits. As of now, there’s no way to sell cosmetics you don’t want, unfortunately.
While playing, OW will keep track of several stats. The usual Kills, Damage, Deaths, etc, but also stats for abilities, ults, etc.
It also records your games serverside, storing them as replays and highlights.
All of these can be accessed under the CAREER PROFILE and HIGHLIGHTS submenus of the main menu.
Highlights are little clips that are either manually captured (by hitting the capture highlight keybind during a game after the event happened that you want captured) or automatically captured by the server. These can be watched back, as well as exported to a file.
Unless exported, highlights do not persist more than 24h, or until a patch happens, or until they’re replaced by the server. Save them if you want to keep them.
Replays are full games that get automatically captured as you play. These allow you to watch back the last 10 games you played, from any perspective. The menu also shows match results, giving a quasi-match history.
As of now, there’s no way to save or share replays. The community expects that this feature is in the works, as the replay feature is fairly new.
When you click career profile, you’ll be greeted by an overview screen showing you several things, like the time you have on each hero, your account level, amount of hours playing the game, and more. Mine looks like this, but yours’ll be a lot more empty if you haven’t played much.
Along the top are several tabs, “Overview” (where we are now), “Statistics” (a more detailed view where you can see individual stats for each hero/comp season, etc) “Replays” (where you can view and watch replays), “Achievements” (Where you can check your achievements for each hero), and change your player icon, which are unlocked from lootboxes.
The overview screen looks complicated, but it’s merely a collection of different stats. In the top right hand corner, you can see your total games won, your skill rating if you have a competitive season selected (and have placed in that season), and the hours you’ve played.
On the left side, records for stats are shown. These are the highest numbers for each stat you’ve ever attained in the mode you have selected. If you have “All modes” selected, these are your best stats attained in any game you’ve ever played. Your highest amount of kills, highest healing, etc. Beneath each stat is the average per 10 mins (this is tracked in 10min intervals, rather than by game, since game length varies), as well as the total of each stat, across the life of the mode you have selected. If you have a comp season selected, this will be the total of the season.
On the right side, a bar graph of stats is shown, divided up by hero. Be default, this will show hours on each hero, allowing you (and anyone else looking at your profile) to see what heroes you primarily play. If you’d like, you can check out the bar graphs of other stats like elims using the drop down above this chart.
Speaking of other players seeing your profile, by default profiles can only be seen by people you’ve friended on battlenet, if you’d like to make your profile public, (or private completely to only you) the option is under the social tab in options.
Something that a lot of newbies get confused is the difference between someone’s account rating, and their SR.
As a player plays the game, they’ll earn XP towards their account level. When your account level reaches level 101, you’ll reset back to 1, and gain a star under your hero picture. Gain 5 stars, and your border turns silver, and you start gaining silver stars. Gain 5 silver stars, your border turns gold, etc. Here’s a (slightly outdated) chart that goes up to 5 star gold border.
Often, new players will falsely believe that this coincides with skill. It does not, it merely indicates time spent playing the game. It’s possible to play the game for a long time and not improve much, just like it’s possible to play for only a short time and improve massively.
In order to determine skill, the only real indicator is Skill Rating, which is separate and not a progression system.
Overwatch has an absolutely huge amount of options to customize, so many that detailing them here would take way too long. Instead, I’ll link you a guide I wrote a while ago, on how to customize OW’s options to suit you, what each one does, etc. Give it a read when you get a chance.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a beginner guide without a glossary of most of the common terms the OW community uses.
Push – Going in to attack as a team, trying to complete the objective.
Wipe – Die rapidly one after the other as a team. This usually happens when a successful Damage ult is deployed.
Full hold – Don’t allow the enemy team to capture any of the objective. Usually means the defending team is playing significantly better than the attackers, and often ultimately results in a win for the team doing the full holding, due to how the point system works.
Point – The objective. Not to be confused with objective points, which is used to track progress. Each point captured or payload threshold reached awards one point.
Spawn – The place where you appear after you die.
Spawn camping – To kill enemies right outside their spawn. Usually means the team doing the spawn camping is doing significantly better. Individuals can spawn camp other individuals, however.
Stall – Trying to delay the enemy capture to burn away their time. Usually done with stalling heroes.
Stalling heroes – Heroes with strong defensive ability and/or mobility. Common stalling heroes include Wrecking Ball (also known as Hammond), Mei, Lucio, etc.
Blade – Genji’s ultimate.
Trans/Trance – Zenyatta’s ultimate.
Pulse – Tracer’s ultimate.
Shatter – Reinhardt’s ultimate.
Nano – Ana’s ultimate.
Matrix – Can be used to refer to Baptiste’s ult, or D.va’s Defense Matrix.
One-trick (also: One trick pony, OTP) – A person who plays only one hero competently. Will generally be unable to swap off their hero to another.
Flank – To go around the enemy team, and attack from a different angle than the rest of your team. (said as: “X is flanking” “I’ll flank” “X on flank”)
Whiff – To utterly miss an ability, shot, or ult, gaining 0 value out of it.
Shutdown – Stop/block/prevent an enemy play, usually an ult.
C9 (also C9er, C nine, Z9, etc) – To leave the objective willingly when you’re capable of staying on it, resulting in a loss. Usually happens to players not paying attention during overtime. Named after the professional team Cloud 9, after making the mistake several times in a match they had.
Teamfight – A fight where all 12 players are present. An exchange that usually resolves in either team’s favor.
GG – Good game. Can be sincere, or sarcastic depending on context.
GR – Good round. Can be ….
Counter – An effective hero/ability against another hero/ability.
DPS – Another term for a Damage hero, or damage per second, depending on the context.
222 – A shorthand for two Supports, two Tanks, two Damage. Before role queue, this was one of a few different possible team compositions.
Main tank/off tank – Subcategories of tanks. Main tanks tend to be the crux of the team, and determine overall playstyle of the team, whereas off tanks tend to be there to close weaknesses or support the main tank’s efforts.
Bursted (down) – Killed extremely quickly, but not one-shotted.
One-shotted – Killed in a single shot. A few Damage heroes are capable of killing with a single shot.
Lit/Low/One (shot)/Can die – A hero that’s very close to death, such that a single shot from most heroes would be enough to kill. Usually means < about 30 health.
Ult advantage – The team with advantage has more completed ults than the other team. This generally means that they’ll win the next teamfight.
Ult economy – Overall efficiency of ults. Wasting ults, having ults be shut down, using more ults than the enemy, etc leads to bad ult economy.
Highground – Elevated ground. Provides a defensive benefit to anyone on it, due to how angles work.
Contest – Can be used to refer to staying on the objective so the enemy can’t capture it (see also: stalling), or can be used to mean “fight enemies out of an area, and claim it”, eg Contesting highground.
Stomp/Roll – Where one team wins extremely easily. Usually the result of skill imbalance or poor decisions by the stomped team.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have fun playing OW! If you have any further questions or comments, don’t hesitate to drop them below.