By the end of May, Overwatch will have been out for more than two full years, yet somehow the game captures my attention and time like no first-person shooter before it. Not only is it colorful and fun, but it transforms into an almost entirely different game depending on which character you play as. You can stomp around as a slow-moving obese man with a grappling hook and shotgun or as a deft sword-wielding ninja capable of double-jumping and climbing walls. With 27 heroes and counting, the gameplay consistently feels fresh.
Despite a dearth of story details, Overwatch accesses a wide-reaching fan base because it merges highly competitive shooter gameplay with a campy variety of character types that cater to virtually any playstyle imaginable.
If you ever want to get good at Overwatch, then you need to play the game for what it is: a highly competitive team-based first-person shooter that requires not only teamwork but balanced team composition as well. And that’s only the beginning.
So whether or not you play on PC or consoles, are a newb or not, here are the 5 essential steps you should take to get good at Overwatch:
5. Start With the Mystery Heroes Arcade Mode
The “6v6 Mystery Heroes” mode in the Overwatch Arcade is the best place to get acclimated to the Overwatch experience by forcing you to play random heroes while simultaneously teaching you the fundamentals of the 6 versus 6 game modes.
Jumping right into Quick Play is what most people do at first, but that’s arguably the most alienating and frustrating mode in the entire game. You’ll see the worst side to Overwatch in Quick Play because nobody takes it seriously. It’s for filthy casuals experimenting with new characters or young kids playing on their siblings’ account. Don’t do it.
6v6 Mystery Heroes is way more exciting, forcing you to fumble around and die — a lot — until it starts to click. Rest assured, this is total chaos and baptism by fire. At the very least, this forces you to gain an appreciation for how each character functions in the game’s overarching meta, and you discover surprising things about your Overwatch playstyle.
One person I played with once joked that “your Main chooses you.” Much like how wands choose wizards in Harry Potter, discovering the characters we’re best with sometimes happens accidentally, with them choosing us. Mystery Heroes is the best place to discover what, or who, you’re missing out on.
4. Settle on 1-2 Heroes Per Hero Class
You should eventually master only 1-3 characters total, but it’s more important to be a Jack of all trades.
Overwatch characters are broken up into four classes: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. These roles should be familiar to anyone who’s played a team-based video game before or even just Dungeons & Dragons. Because Overwatch is a team-based gaming experience of 6 versus 6, it relies heavily on balanced team compositions. There’s nothing worse than being put in a position where nobody on your team can fill a needed role, like healer, so be one of the good ones that can play a character for the team and not because you really like “that cyborg ninja guy” or “the samurai archer dude.”
So pick one or two heroes of each class that you can be at least somewhat proficient with. If you aim for specific heroes, you might as well start with the ones officially categorized by Blizzard as the lowest in difficulty. That’s Reaper and Soldier: 76 for Offense; Junkrat and Bastion for Defense; Reinhardt and Roadhog for Tank; Brigitte and Mercy for Support.
But who knows, maybe you’ll organically just be a really good D.va or Symmetra. See what clicks in Mystery Heroes and follow your heart.
3. Play a Lot of Free-for-All Deathmatch With Your Best Characters
The most important training zome for you are the free-for-all (FFA) Deathmatch game modes in the Overwatch Arcade, where eight players kill each other until someone gets to 20 kills.
Perhaps the most common Deathmatch in the Arcade takes place on the Château Guillard map, which is small island castle with some narrow corridors, a particularly deadly basement dungeon, and a spacious library. It’s a glorious clusterfuck that will extract the hidden warrior within you after you walk into a room with four people shooting each other.
Other team-based game modes might make it too easy for newcomers to rely on the skills of their teammates, but FFA teaches you that even characters you almost never see elsewhere — like Doomfist — can be effective. Obviously, some characters are better than others in FFA, but finding a way to win with less-common heroes is a great way to prove your skills and your worth.
2. Keep Dabbling in Different Arcade Modes Until You Reach Level 25
Try and do everything in the Arcade, from tense Elimination modes to the even more harrowing 1v1 options. Doing a lot of Quick Play will teach you a lot about various maps, but Arcade modes will teach you even more about the versatility needed to thrive in Overwatch.
Racking up 9 Arcade wins in a week also gets you an additional three Loot Boxes full of cosmetic items like character skins, which is an added bonus for Arcade.
Total Mayhem, in particular, is a great place to go if you want to get the feel for a specific characters ability sets. In Total Mayhem, you get double the health, abilities cool down 75 percent faster, and ultimate abilities charge 50 percent faster.
1. Start Competitive Play
Once you reach tier 25 in Overwatch, you unlock the stressful privilege of Competitive Play, which sorts players according to skill level after ten placement matches and pits them against each other in serious teams of 6 on 6.
These much longer matches require the utmost coordination and teamwork, and they also represent Overwatch at its most frustrating yet rewarding. Each match impacts a player’s Skill Rating based on whether they win or lose, and that ranking lasts for an entire season before the whole process starts over.
Historically, Seasons last anywhere between 50 and 89 days. Competitive play is where Overwatch organically creates its player hierarchy and where PC players get the opportunity to enter the pro league if they’re adept enough.
Making the climb up through the Overwatch skill levels can be a truly grueling experience, but this end-game is where the game really sinks its hooks into you.