Unless a hacker took down your internet this past week, you’ve already learned that Overwatch’s newest character, Sombra, was announced at BlizzCon. You may have also heard that she just hit the Public Test Realm (PTR) on Monday 11/7. Geek & Sundry can sometimes go a bit overboard on the hyperbole, but believe us when we say that this update changes everything… in a very good way! We’re taking a look at all of the hacker prodigy’s moves, their impact on the game, and why this change makes Overwatch an even better game than it was before.
First off, if you haven’t played Sombra or watched any of her gameplay, go check her out ASAP. Anyone can play on the Overwatch PTR, so there are no barriers.
Sombra plays like she’s in a completely different genre of game than the rest of Overwatch’s cast. Though she’s an Attack unit like McCree or Reaper, her damage output isn’t exactly stellar. Sombra is almost as maneuverable as flighty attackers like Tracer and Genji, but while the latter two use their mobility to flank enemies and unload on them, Sombra uses her strengths to get into enemy ranks and sow chaos, disrupting offensive pushes or defensive lines without necessarily eliminating units.
Let’s look at her first and most important ability: Hack. Like “Silence” effects in other Blizzard games, Sombra can hack into her enemies’ weapons and abilities, temporarily disabling ultimates, shields, and most Shift and E key abilities. This hacking can also temporarily shut down Torbjorn’s turrets and can even hack health packs to prevent enemies from taking them. Sombra’s ultimate, the EMP, is a more robust version of Hack, which spreads the Silencing goodness in a wide pulse around her.
So why is having a Silence ability good for Overwatch? One word: strategy. Unlike Blizzard’s other popular competitive games, Overwatch doesn’t have a lot of randomness in its core gameplay. The result is that gameplay in Overwatch is more about coordination, strategy, and skill than risk assessment and probability. By allowing a Sombra player to win fights in ways other than “shoot them until they die,” the game allows much more varied team gameplay strategies. It rewards smart players who focus not just on primary objectives, but little details like where health kits spawn. By reinforcing unusual strategy over straight offensive power, Sombra brings out the best of Overwatch’s gameplay.
Sombra’s most controversial ability is her Thermoptic Camo. Invisibility, in layman’s terms. It lasts until she uses another ability or until she takes damage. So, what’s a hero to do?
Winston is an expert spy-checker, and Sombra’s worst nightmare. His primary weapon essentially creates a no-spy zone around his team, leaving our new amiga with no way to deal with the monkey. The jury’s out on whether or not introducing spy-checking is good for Overwatch, but introducing full-fledged stealth definitely is. Compared to the fast-paced action of usual gameplay, adding Sombra’s stealth feels like a totally different genre of game. Players burned out on running and gunning will find a slightly slower-paced, Metal Gear-ish character a welcome change of pace.
Sombra’s final special ability is her Translocater, a bit of technology stolen from Tracer (just look at its design!). This teleportation device can be thrown like a grenade, and lasts for 15 seconds after touching a surface. During that time, you can activate this ability again to instantly recall to where it was placed, no matter how far away you are. Special movement options like this are nothing new to Overwatch, but it’s all of Sombra’s abilities combined that make her truly revolutionary for this team shooter.
Sabotage, invisibility, and a panic button. They’re not the most original of ideas for a stealth character, but they are an effective and evocative blend. What’s most interesting is the effect Sombra’s stealth has on an otherwise straightforward team shooter. The sheer fact that Sombra is on the enemy team sows distrust among ranks, and affects everyone’s gameplay. While good Overwatch players know to adjust their playstyle from character to character, how differently does one play when facing Genji versus facing Tracer? They’re both quick skirmishers with high burst damage, and they can both be killed by quick, precise attacks. Dodge, shoot, keep moving towards the payload.
Sombra is different. With Sombra, you always worry she’s going to decloak behind you and shut down your best abilities. Maybe her very presence forces your Reaper to switch to Winston, crippling your damage output against more traditional enemies. Sombra is a team player for gamers who know that victory is sealed through cleverness, not through being an unbeatable carry.
Did the Sombra trailer get you excited to get stealthy? Have you already played her? Let us know in the comments or tweet to @GeekandSundry!