Below you'll find general information on Overwatch as well as tips when it comes to playing the game and building an effective team. This information is geared towards new or returning players, and may not apply to high-level ranked, competitive play. Feedback is appreciated, you can tweet @PrestonDvorak or leave a comment at the bottom of any guide page.
Overwatch consists of four map types. It's important to understand the differences between these types as some heroes will perform better than others depending on the objective and whether you're attacking or defending.
On Escort maps, the attacking team must move a payload to its destination within the time limit while the defending team tries to stop them. Along the route, there are several checkpoints that will extend the attacking team's remaining time.
To move the payload, players from the attacking team must be standing near it, and the more players standing near the payload, the faster it moves. If no attacking team players are standing near the payload, it will slowly move backwards, up to the last checkpoint. At any point if there are players from both teams standing near the payload, it will not move, even if there is only one player from one team and six from the other.
It becomes increasingly more difficult for the attacking team as the payload moves closer to the end because the defending team's spawn point is closer to the final destination.
The meter at the top of the screen on Escort maps shows the time remaining in the round, your objective (stop or move the payload), and the progress of the payload. On the progress bar, you see the current location of the payload, which direction it's moving and how many players are moving it, as well as all of the check points along the path (denoted by the white markers).
On Assault maps, the attacking team works to capture a series of objective points within the time limit while the defending team tries to stop them. The objective points are denoted by large blue or red squares on the ground (blue for the defending team, and red for the attacking team). Each objective the attacking team captures will give them additional time to capture the others.
If the attacking team is standing on the point with no defending players present, the progress circle will begin filling up, and when it fills up completely the objective is captured. The defending team can pause the capture by also standing in the marked area, and can revert some of the progress by standing in the area while no attacking team players are present.
Again, it becomes increasingly difficult for the attacking team to capture the final objectives because the defending team's spawn point is closer.
The meter at the top of the screen on Assasult maps shows the time remaining in the round, your objective (attack or defend), and the capture progress of the current active point. Around the progress circle, you'll see white tick marks that show progress "checkpoints." If the progress bar passes one of these checkpoints, it cannot be reduced any lower by the defending team. Finally, the small white circle at the bottom shows the number of enemy players currently contesting the point.
Hybrid maps combine the Assault and Escort mechanics. The teams must first attack or defend an objective point. If the point is captured by the attacking team, a payload is released, at which point the payload must be moved or stopped, as explained above, to win the match.
The meter on Hybrid maps combines the same elements from Assault and Escort maps.
Control maps function similarly to Assault maps, except there is only one objective point that both teams are fighting over at the same time. While a team controls a point, their progress bar fills up, and the first team to reach 100% will win that round. The final winner is the first team to win two rounds. You can think of this mode as being like "king of the hill."
The meter on Control maps is divided into two sides, one for the blue team, and the other for the red team (your own team always shows up as blue). The white circles on the outer edges of the meter show how many wins each team has when they're filled in. Next, the two rectangles on either side show the victory progress for each team. Finally, the inner circle shows which team currently controls the point as well as the capture progress if the enemy team is currently capturing the point. The small circle at the bottom shows the number of enemy players currently capturing the point.
There are four types of heroes in Overwatch: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support.
Offense heroes specialize in dealing damage on the front lines or behind enemy lines. They have moderate health pools, self-healing, and high-mobility.
Defense heroes specialize in controlling sections of the map and slowing down enemy heroes. While they can deal significant damage, they're more tuned to doing so when they can setup and stay in one area. They have higher health than Offense heroes, but much lower mobility, and often less direct damage.
Tank heroes specialize in defending their team from damage, helping to split up the enemy team so they're more easily killed, and staying on objective points. They have high health pools, defense abilities, and usually low-mobility.
Support heroes specialize in healing friendly players and hindering enemy players through various buffs or debuffs. They are suitable for both attacking and defending. They have small health pools and low mobility. Protecting support heroes is key, and if you're playing a support hero you should usually stay behind the rest of the players on your team.
These tips apply to most heroes on most maps, and while they can seem obvious after reading them, they're often forgotten during a match.
Every hero, except Reinhardt, has a melee attack (used with the V-key by default). While melee attacks aren't particularly powerful, they can be great for finishing off an enemy if they're low and you would have to reload your weapon otherwise.
When your team is defending, it's important to remember that your objective isn't to push the enemy team back into their spawn point. While it can be a fun display of power to do so, it leaves you easily open to a counter attack and the long run back if you're killed. You should hang out on the control point or the payload, or at the nearest convenient choke point, and wait for the enemy team.
When your team is attacking, chances are you'll be trying to push through a choke point or into the enemy team's established defenses. The worst thing you can do is run in one or two at a time as you respawn. While you won't always move in as a large clump, you want to make sure everyone is pushing in at the same time through whatever method their hero is best at. Some will follow the tank on the front-line, while others will move around behind the enemy team to further disrupt them.
Team composition is a huge strategy piece in Overwatch. Some heroes are strong on certain maps, or while fighting against specific heroes, or when paired with another hero on their team. Despite how complex it can get, there are some general rules I like to follow to help my team's success.
Tank heroes excel at getting close to the enemy and taking a lot of damage, and they can help split the team up and allow the weaker heroes to be picked off while also protecting the weaker heroes on their own team. Having a support hero that can heal will help give your team the ability to stay in a prolonged fight and push on much longer than if they had no healing.
Snipers tend to hang back and pick off targets from afar, which sounds great, but not so much in an objective-based game like Overwatch. While a single good sniper can make a huge difference, having two or three on your attacking team is never good. Arguments could be made for having multiple snipers while defending, but as a general rule it's still not worth it.
An exception to this rule is Ana, while she is a sniper, she's also a support hero that can heal and follow closely behind the team to great effect.
Another hero that complicates this rule is Pharah. While not technically a sniper, her play style doesn't usually support sitting on an objective, but rather flying above it or behind the enemy team. This means in many ways she does count as a sniper, but is still more flexible than traditional snipers. If there's already a Pharah on your team, consider playing something other than a sniper.
Pushing into objective points or passed choke points is the bread and butter of being on the attacking team in Overwatch. If you're finding your team is having trouble breaking through the defenses, and you only have one tank hero on your team, consider switching to a second tank. Having a second tank gives your team another large, hard to kill target to keep the enemy team busy while your offense heroes do their work. The exception to this advice is if you're playing a support hero and switching would leave your team without a support hero.
Similar to the above advice, having a second support hero, especially one that can heal, can give your team the longevity it needs to win team fights. The exception to this advice is if you're playing a tank hero and switching would leave your team without a tank.
October 08, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.15, with only minor wording changes made.
September 05, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.14, no changes needed.
June 21, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed guide for patch 1.12, no changes needed.
June 04, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Did a full guide review, added Orisa as the recommended tank for new players.
March 03, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.8, no changes were needed.
February 09, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Guide launched!