Grinding your way through the ranks in a video game is often described as “climbing the ladder,” but this isn’t an accurate phrase for most players. The truth is, it’s more like scaling a mountain. Your ascent will be slow and unpredictable. Some days, you’ll go on a tear and ride a winning streak that gives you a clear route upward. Other days, you’ll fall short no matter how hard or well you play, and be forced to pause and reassess your position.
And for “Overwatch 2″ players, it’s been an especially difficult ascent. The game has been slammed with a series of DDoS attacks since launch, with a third wave occurring on Oct. 11. Players are still getting randomly disconnected during matches. Torbjörn has been removed from competitive mode and Bastion removed in all modes due to glitches that grossly empower their ultimate abilities. I logged on last night to find that I could only select a handful of heroes from my roster, forcing Blizzard to shut down the entire game for emergency maintenance.
Despite all these hurdles, I’m still enjoying “Overwatch 2” and steadily making my way up the ranks. Even after six years of “Overwatch,” it’s not been easy.
Review: ‘Overwatch’ died for ‘Overwatch 2.’ It was totally worth it.
Take it from someone who has grinded to the top ranks of several games. As a kid, I was the top “Nox” player in North America and the only player in the top 10 of “Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight” (ranked through its multiplayer hub, The Zone) on a 56K modem. In “Titanfall,” I hit Diamond V, the game’s highest competitive rank, every season.
If you’re having trouble ranking up, believe me, I feel your pain. “Overwatch” is chaotic, and a conventional strategy like “save your Nano Boost for Genji” isn’t always the optimal one when the Genji on your team is feeding and refuses to switch.
Here are some tips for “Overwatch 2,” including both general and class-specific recommendations.
Start by identifying the win condition
Whenever you enter a game, picture yourself as a caster spectating everyone and explaining what’s going on to an audience. Why is a particular team winning engagements? Who is the weakest player? Who is the best player? What will one team have to do to beat the other?
All of these factors will help you determine the win condition, which is the objectives you need to complete to achieve victory. In “Overwatch,” those objectives are usually to exploit an underperforming player on the other team or to enable the best player on your own team. If you notice the enemy tank keeps overextending, punish them often. Get your whole team to gang up on weak enemies. If there’s an ace on your team mowing the enemy down, create openings for them to keep popping off.
Some win conditions involve synergy. If you have a talented Zarya and Hanzo on the team, then a good win condition is for them to save up their ultimate abilities so they’re always used together. Zarya can trap the enemy team with her Graviton Surge and Hanzo can mop them all up with his Dragonstrike.
Other win conditions can involve swapping heroes to counter enemy compositions. If you’re the enemy team dealing with a nasty Zarya and Hanzo duo, then you can counter with D.Va and use her Defense Matrix to completely negate Graviton Surge with the right timing. If your team is getting rolled by a skilled Winston, switch to Reaper. It’s cheesy, but hey, it works — and you’re in this to win it.
But keep in mind that coordinating with four strangers can be difficult. Not everyone knows how to make call outs and some people don’t even use their mics, so find a simple win condition and encourage your team to band behind it.
Identifying the win condition isn’t a guarantee to win every game. Sometimes, you and your team will struggle on the execution, but going in with a game plan is always better than winging it, so keep developing your “caster eyes.”
Position, position, position
Positioning is an important tactical consideration in any game, but Overwatch has characters that can wall climb, double jump, fly and attack from all sorts of angles. Positioning is king. It can make and break engagements.
What is the best corner for you to fire from while still having a swift escape route? Where can you place yourself to anticipate a retreating enemy? If you count three enemies pushing the front line, where could the other two be hiding? These kinds of questions are important.
To start, focus on the fundamentals. If you’re a damage or support player, be aware of where your tank is so you can run over to them when you’re getting ambushed or assist them during a push. If you’re a tank, be aware of where your teammates are so you cover for them.
Is aim assist fair? Pros, experts and developers can't seem to agree.
Tweak your settings for clarity and smooth aiming
If you’re playing “Overwatch” on PC, then your frames per second (fps) matter a lot. The higher that figure is, the smoother your aim will be. Dot Esports published some helpful guidelines for video settings to maximize your frames. Basically, you want to turn most of your settings down to low, set model details to high (so your teammates and enemies aren’t fuzzy) and try to hit at least 100 frames per second. If your PC is capable of running “Overwatch 2” at 300 fps, that is the golden number. You’ll notice a remarkable difference whenever you whip around your view or manipulate your mouse.
Also, be sure to disable dynamic rendering scale in the video options and enable high precision mouse input in the gameplay options, under the general sub menu.
If you’re playing damage, don’t worry about precision
Most “Overwatch 2” fights are battles of attrition. Teams trade damage back and forth in volleys, hoping to get a kill. If that doesn’t happen, then whichever team has built up the most ultimate ability charges has the advantage and can suddenly swing the engagement into their favor.
This is why, as a general rule, it’s important for you to rain down as much damage as you can. I’m not saying don’t try to go for headshots and critical hits, but in between trying to develop your deadeye aim, keep spamming damage so you can have your ultimate ready ASAP.
Tips: How to play Tracer, according to two OWL pros
Constantly hurling damage downrange also creates pressure. It breaks shields, forces enemies to reposition and sets up teammates to finish kills. Be sure to stick close to your team but position yourself away from the other damage player whenever possible. This ensures that you’re both attacking from multiple angles and are less likely to get killed together on a push — though you can still fall back with your team if you need help.
The same philosophy applies for when you’re defending your supports against ambushes and flankers. If you engage with an enemy flanker harassing your support and can’t secure the kill, that’s fine. Damaging them enough so they’re forced to retreat is still a win.
If you’re a healer, sometimes you should let your teammates die
Picture this: You’re leaving the spawn room with your tank and as you round the corner together, you see the enemy approaching. Without a second thought, the tank charges straight toward the entire enemy team while the rest of your comrades are at least six seconds behind. You instinctively follow after your tank, hoping that you can keep them up long enough for your team to catch up. You do this because you’re a nice healer, and nice healers don’t let their teammates die, no matter what.
Your cause was noble. But now, you and your tank are dead. The rest of your team died shortly after.
Stuck playing Support in ‘Overwatch 2’? We’ve got tips.
Healing in “Overwatch” is a practice in triage. Nice healers try to save everyone all the time and die horribly. Good healers prioritize targets. When a fight gets really dicey, good healers make cost-benefit decisions on who to save and who to sacrifice. This is a fluid, situational process, but the first lesson is simple: let your teammates die. There are times when it’s worth martyring yourself to keep someone else alive, but in most situations, keeping yourself alive is the top priority. You’re no good to anyone if you’re dead.
If a tank is going on a suicide mission, don’t follow them. Do what you can from a safe position without exposing yourself; if the risk gets too high, bail.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in games getting bullied by flankers, with none of your teammates around to provide cover. In those instances, you’ll need to play selfishly for the good of your team. If you’re constantly getting harassed as Ana and not getting help, reserve your sleep dart and biotic grenade to protect yourself. Your teammates might get bitter, but if that happens, explain to them that you aren’t receiving the defense you need to stay alive and heal them.
Your job is to make sure everyone else survives, and you can’t do that from the spawn room.
Tips: How to play Sigma, according to two OWL pros
Tanks, remember: You’re team captain, not just a damage sponge
It’s a common misconception in “Overwatch” that a tank’s primary job is to guard their team and soak up damage. While these are both part of the job description, a tank’s primary role is to seize and maintain space for their team. By managing space, tanks control the flow of the match and are therefore the most important role in game.
Tanks lead the fight by creating opportunities for their teammates and enabling kills. If “Overwatch” was basketball (a rather apt analogy now that the game is 5v5), then the tank is the point guard. A good tank reads the field and puts the rest of the team in a good position to win the fight by controlling the space.
What is space and how does the tank control it? Space is any area where a fight could take place, most importantly, an objective or a choke point. As for control, here’s where things get complex: Each tank performs their role of space management very differently.
Reinhardt maintains space by standing ground from behind his giant energy shield, and takes space by slowly marching his team forward. Wrecking Ball creates space by scattering an enemy formation by bouldering straight into them and diverting attention away by popping out and pelting a vulnerable target with his quad cannons. Roadhog secures space by hooking targets out of position and swiftly securing a kill, or by hovering over an area to scare the enemy from engaging too aggressively. In every instance, the tank is the team member who decides how an area will be defended or assaulted. You’re the playmaker who controls and passes the metaphorical ball.
As the tank, you are also in the ideal role to exploit an advantage or cover shortcomings. You can bully a mistake-prone enemy or suppress a high performer by focusing on them. You can roll out the red carpet for your team’s ace or keep an eye on the enemy’s weakest link.
What is skill-based matchmaking, and why do streamers hate it?
Some games are just unwinnable, and that’s okay
Solo queuing in “Overwatch” requires you to wear many hats. Sometimes you’re the leader, sometimes you’re the follower. There will be times when you’ll need to play selfishly, and others when you’ll pawn your life for someone else’s. Many of the team compositions and strategies you see used at the pro level won’t be applicable because you won’t have the coordination to pull it off with a bunch of strangers from the ladder, so you’ll have to make do with weird offbeat strategies.
Even the best players in the world still lose ranked matches because of factors completely out of their control. When losses happen, remember to take it easy and not be so hard on yourself. There’s always the next game.