Thanks to a bunch of funny people, the most difficult aspect of Overwatch 2 right now is probably just getting into the damn game. But if you’re new to this franchise, what awaits is a whole suite of heroes with unique abilities that mesh together into a hectic first-person shooter in which teamwork is absolutely essential. Overwatch? More like Overwhelming. (Sorry.)
You might be apprehensive about diving in, asking whether or not you can really wrap your head around all these heroes, or if you can keep up on the field with veterans who go all the way back to the first game’s launch in 2016. But I can assure you that Overwatch is a very understandable game and you’ll be scoring victories before you know it.
These tips assume you know nothing about Overwatch and will give you some fundamentals going in. These will help point you in the right direction and will set you up to understand the sometimes-hectic nature of this game.
Each hero is a rabbit hole of tactics unto themselves, so let’s iron out the basics of who to choose and demystify this incredibly popular shooter.
Over a dozen heroes, but just three classes
First-timers get tossed into the First Time User Experience, which will limit the number of heroes you can play for the tutorial section and some of your first few PvP matches.
Don’t freak out too much when you have to choose among 15 different heroes you know nothing about. As the game will explain, all of these heroes slot into three classes, drawn from RPG lingo: Tanks, Damage, and Support. When looking at the hero selection screen before a match, you’ll note that the heroes are broken up into three columns representing these classes. You’ll also see an icon indicating which class a hero is: A shield is for Tanks; bullets are for Damage; and a plus/heal sign is for Support.
Tanks are there to soak up damage from enemies and keep their attention away from the more vulnerable Damage and Support characters. Your priority on the field should be distracting opposing forces and blocking incoming fire with your physical size and special abilities. You’re the anchor for your team.
Damage is all about, well, hitting them hard! Compared to the other two classes, you’ll fare better in a head-to-head showdown with another Damage hero. But if your team is working as it’s supposed to, you’ll be more of an opportunist, picking off the fools too busy dealing with the Tanks.
Support heroes heal and buff allies and sometimes debuff foes. Your primary goal is typically to keep your teammates’ health topped up, as well as provide buffs to things like movement speed or damage output. Try not to get the attention of your opponent’s Damage heroes or get caught in the crossfire. As a Support, wise use of your abilities on the field can prevent a skirmish from sliding too far toward your enemy’s favor.
If you’re starting out, I recommend cycling out of each class with a hero you’re drawn to each match. On the field, make choices based on the role of your class, not so much the unique abilities of your chosen hero just yet. Over time, you’ll learn how to use those specific abilities to better play your role.
Break those bad habits learned from other shooters
Many other shooters bake sprinting and aim-down-sights into your very reflexes. Unlearn that for Overwatch. Only Soldier: 76 can sprint like a Call of Duty character. Other heroes have additional movement options, but they’ll often be tied to a cooldown, so you want to be sure to save that for when you really need to pick up the pace or get the hell out of the way.
Outside of a handful of characters with scoped weapons, there really isn’t an aim-down-sights option, either. Right mouse or left trigger is usually reserved for a secondary fire or power of some kind.
Basically, if other shooters have trained you to sprint like a maniac or constantly aim your weapon, you’re most certainly going to have to unlearn that. Even heroes with more genre-familiar attributes like Soldier: 76 or Sojourn will require you to adapt in this way.
Find your main and practice, practice, practice
Now that we’ve divided up the many heroes of Overwatch into three broad categories, it’s a good idea to just pick one from each class and stick to them until you fully understand their strengths and weaknesses. With time, you should try everyone available to you so you can understand how to deal with those characters, but to start out, focus is good.
The goal here is to figure out who your mains are going to be, as well as which role you prefer. You may not always be able to choose your main hero in each match, but the lessons you learn with your early choices are going to become reference points for mastering the skills and abilities of other heroes.
If a hero confuses you at first, don’t be afraid to drop them for one you might be able to understand a bit more directly. Also, Overwatch is a game full of style and character, so while you’re new and haven’t yet digested the meta, go ahead and pick a character who speaks to you based on style and personality. Video games are about having fun after all.
If you’re coming from a more traditional shooter like Call of Duty, I recommend spending time with Soldier: 76. If you’re more comfortable with more modern, speedier shooters like Apex Legends, Sojourn’s fast slide (which can launch into a super-fun jump!) will likely be more familiar to you. Sojourn unlocks for free if you play during season one.
If you’re looking to jump into Support, Mercy isn’t a bad choice to start with, as you’ll be less tempted to engage in firefights. Her main “weapon” heals and buffs, and it can bend around corners, which is a reminder to keep your head down. Her automatic pistol is capable if you’re quick, but her abilities are very narrowly focused on filling that Support role.
D.Va isn’t a bad choice for a starting Tank, either. I find her to play a bit more closely to a standard shooter character than the other Tanks, and when her mech bites the dust, you can stay on the field while it recharges. D.Va is not one of the starting heroes, however. So you’ll need to play a minimum of two unranked matches to unlock her. (If you do playD.Va though, be sure to audibly say “stand by for titanfall” every time you recall the mech. And don’t you ever apologize for it.)
Figure out which role you enjoy filling the most, and within that role, which hero fits your playstyle the best.
Battle some bots, study your victories and defeats
If you’re a first-timer, you’ll have to go through the tutorial which, while helpful for the very basics, is likely to mirror so many other shooter tutorials that you might gloss over the details.
Battling AI, though, that’s where the (fun) learning really begins. While there is a practice range to romp around in, I recommend spending your first handful of matches battling AI alongside other players in the PvE mode found in training areas. Resist jumping into PvP matchmaking until the AI battles begin to feel boring. There are three AI difficulties to choose from, but start with casual. Trust me.
AI matches are an optimal opportunity to learn the basics of Overwatch 2’s different modes without the pressure of an actual PvP game. You can learn the maps, how different heroes function on the field, and other basics. Remember, you’re just fighting AI here, so it’s no big deal if you have to take a moment to hit F1 on PC to remind yourself what your hero’s abilities do. (The hero information overlay is not bound to a gamepad button by default.)
That said, the bots are no slouches. If your team isn’t working together, they will take advantage of that and quite possibly send you to a defeat. This can happen even on the easiest of the three AI difficulties.
You might feel a little humiliated if you lose to bots, but it’s actually a fantastic opportunity to study why you lost. Since you’re fighting AI, a loss is more likely due to poor teamwork than the opposing team’s innate talent.
Take a look at the makeup of your team and of the opposing side. How many Tanks are there? How many Damage dealers? Support? Was Support keeping everyone nice and healthy during the match? Was Damage failing to take out enough foes? Were the Tanks not acting as Tanks? As you start answering those questions, you’ll both learn the game better and understand what you need to do differently next time.
I typically kill all voice chat in a game, so it was delightful to see Overwatch 2 has a detailed ping system to communicate critical information to your team. It’s better to get used to using it sooner than later.
A generic “ping” is accessible with the middle mouse button on PC and the left d-pad on a controller. This will highlight to your teammates whatever you’re looking at, be it a landmark or a foe, with a prominent HUD indicator they can see through walls. Use that for calling out advancing enemies or sneaky Damage heroes looking for an opportunity to take out one of your comrades.
The first ping command you should dedicate to muscle memory beyond the standard one is calling for help. On PC you hold down the middle mouse and then pull downward to activate the “Need Help” ping. On gamepads you hold down the left d-pad, selecting the desired ping with the right thumbstick. If Support is doing their job, they’ll hopefully come by shortly.
Dedicate this to muscle memory. Call for help as you flee, when you’re near death, when things are getting chaotic, or if you’re just low on health and there aren’t any health packs nearby.
Learn to read the scoreboard
Whether you’re pulling up the scoreboard to check in the heat of a match or reviewing the details of a game that’s just ended, the information there isn’t just for bragging rights: It’s a reflection of how well or poorly your team is doing. The scoreboard can tell you why you’re winning or losing.
Before you even look at the numbers, the first column will tell you the makeup of the teams, how many Tank, Damage, or Support heroes are on the field. Sometimes the answer to why one side is getting annihilated is found right there. As you develop a sense of each hero, you’ll get a better understanding of how balanced a team is.
Moving rightward, we have some familiar stats: E, A, and D stand for Eliminations, Assists, and Deaths, respectively. Deaths should be low across the board, while Eliminations should probably be highest for your Damage heroes. Assists should likely be high for Support or Tanks. If you’re losing, these might very much tell you why. Are the Damage heroes racking up Eliminations? Are Deaths too high across the board?
Moving over to the next three columns we have DMG for overall damage output, H for healing output, and MIT for total damage mitigated. Generally speaking, Damage heroes should have the highest DMG, Support’s H numbers should be high, and Tanks ought to have high MIT.
Reading this scoreboard and acting based on what it tells you is key to contributing to your team’s success.
Don’t die, be patient
This goes without saying, but you really should prioritize your life. Yes, you’ll respawn in a matter of seconds, but so many of Overwatch’s game modes are like one giant multiplayer arm wrestling match. And if you’re dead, that’s a few precious seconds where you don’t have an arm in the fight.
But if you do die and respawn, and essential members of your team are still on a respawn counter, hold on a moment before heading back out into battle. This is especially true if you’re playing Support. You want to stay alive for when your comrades respawn and rejoin you. If that means letting the enemy team hold the objective point a little bit longer or push the payload up a bit further, you’re going to be better off responding with your collective strength rather than individually.
Overwatch 2 is far more team-driven than your average first-person shooter. And being a great team player requires more than just learning your hero well enough. Timing and staying alive ensures that you have a team functioning as best as it can, regardless of who’s on the roster.
As a live-service, free-to-play game, Overwatch 2 is likely to see changes to the finer details over time. That said, there is a core, team-based FPS beating at its heart that relies on playing the right role at the right time. It can be a lot to understand all at once, but by drilling the basics, you’ll have a solid foundation to build on to carry you and your team to victory.