By Michael Mendis
Welcome to our Overwatch series! Overwatch is a fast-paced, colorful, team-based shooter that we are playing with gamers as part of our outreach efforts to the gaming community. This series takes a look at some of the key aspects and strategies of the game. This third and final part examines the various maps in the game and some strategies for each one. Click here if you’d like to read the first part, focusing on the game’s Heroes (now updated to include the latest character, Sombra), or here for the second part, covering the different game types.
Hanamura is perhaps the easiest assault map for defenders, as both objectives have choke points that make it difficult for attackers to break through. The first control point of Hanamura sits inside a small building just past a large gate; for most attackers, the gate is the only way through, so be sure to have a good tank who can absorb all the incoming fire directed at that spot. A small opening high up on the wall next to the gate is another spot that can be exploited by those characters like Pharah and D.Va who can fly up to it, as well as Genji and Hanzo since they can clamber up walls.
Point B isn’t any more forgiving for attackers than Point A. The large pagoda in which this second objective is located features many high vantage points where defenders can set up and have clear line of sight on the point (and from numerous angles as well). The main entrance to the pagoda is even more difficult charge through than the gate from earlier in the match, but there are a couple side entrances as well.
Temple of Anubis
Defenders have a pretty good spot to set up early on, as the attackers have to cross under a pair of tall archways on their way to the Point A. They can’t get too comfortable there, though, because if a character like Tracer or Sombra can get through the archway unnoticed, there are side routes they can use to get behind enemy lines and cause trouble.
Just like with Hanamura, coordination becomes particularly important for the attacking team as they approach Point B; while there are several routes to take to the point, all of them are narrow, and attackers who try to sneak through by themselves are likely to be picked off. A combined and well-timed assault will be necessary to penetrate the defense and take the objective.
The most likely place where fighting will first break out on this map is underneath a broad archway that the attackers will have to push through on their way to Point A. There’s a wrinkle, though, that good defenders have to keep in mind: before attackers even reach the archway, there is another route they can take on their left that bypasses the choke point and winds its way to the back of Point A (it’s on the other side of a large pit, though, so only characters that can cross the pit, like D.Va or Tracer, for example, can make it across). If no defenders hang back near the Point itself, they might find that someone has snuck around behind their line and has started capturing the first objective.
The second objective sits inside the Volskaya warehouse. While the front gate is the most direct way in, there isn’t much cover for attackers, so an effective tank is vital here in order to make a push. Sneakier characters can use the high window on the left to get inside the building, and the entry on the right side of the building offers a some crucial high ground for attackers as well.
Multiple high rooftops overlook the payload’s starting point as well as the first corner and long stretch of the path, so sniping or setting up a turret here can be very effective. Once the payload moves past this first part of the map, however, much of the high ground disappears, and most of the rest of the fighting will take place at ground level, which favors the attackers. The courtyard near the first checkpoint and the corner approaching the second checkpoint are still decent places for the defense to try to hold off the attackers, though.
While the first two thirds of the map is outside, the last third moves indoors, and there are a few more walkways and upper rooms above the payload’s path that the defense can take advantage of. The path also narrows considerably in the last stretch, which can make it a much tougher slog for attackers than it was outside.
This map features a whole lot of walkways and rooftops for both teams to take advantage of as the attackers move the payload. Fighting is likely to break out as soon as the match starts, as the payload starts in an open area with plenty of good spots where the defense can station themselves. Once the attackers have broken through here, they’re path continues through a ditch and then around a corner to the first checkpoint. From there the match moves inside a hangar, where the payload winds around several corners; attackers will need to be prepared to deal with threats from the walkways above.
Once the second checkpoint is reached, the payload exits the hangar and makes its way toward the finish. The path approaching the endpoint narrows a bit, taking away some of the attackers’ maneuverability and giving the defense a good opportunity to set up and push back; Torbjorn’s turret can be particularly effective here when well placed.
Defenders have plenty of good spots to choose from as they set up at the beginning of the match, as there are high vantage points overlooking the payload’s starting position, as well as the first corner of the path a little further ahead. I’ve seen plenty of attacking teams get stopped before they even reach the first checkpoint, so this is an opportunity the defenders won’t want to miss. The second checkpoint is much easier for the attacking team to reach; while there are plenty of walkways above the path through the main part of the town, these spots are easily accessible to both teams, and the defenders have a much farther to go from their new spawn point.
The push to the end of the map takes place inside a warehouse; defenders have a big advantage here as they have a lot of maneuverability right in front of the end point, while attackers are crammed into a narrow passageway. Pushing the payload the last few meters to the finish can be a real challenge as the defense makes its last stand.
Snipers on both teams have some great spots the fight breaks out over the control point at the beginning of the map; attacking snipers can take advantage of the uppermost opening from their spawn room, which lets them see over the first major choke point, while defending snipers have their own high spot which overlooks the control point itself. If the attackers succeed here they’ll begin pushing the payload through some narrow alleyways; while they don’t have a whole lot of room to maneuver, the defenders now have a very long way to travel from their new spawn point. Most likely the match will come down to a hard-fought struggle as the attackers bring the payload into the factory at the end of the map.
There aren’t many good spots for defenders in the first part of this map, so most of the fighting early on is likely to take place at the assault point itself, where defenders have more high vantage points with better lines of sight. Keeping the attackers from taking this point is doable, but defenders will have to keep their eyes on the multitude of pathways attackers may use to get there.
The wide streets of Numbani offer plenty of maneuverability for the offense, making it relatively easy to move the payload through most of the path; the final leg before the finish, however, forces the payload through a short tunnel and around several corners that offer defenders a chance to push back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Once attackers leave their spawn point and move start to make their way toward the point, they’ll need to either push through a large archway or move through a small room on the right. Most attackers will opt for the archway, as it provides a little more space to maneuver (as well as easy access to a path that leads around behind the point itself), but defenders can’t afford to ignore small room, as any attackers who make it though will be right in front of their objective. Setting up turrets are a great strategy for defenders here; Symmetra’s turrets can catch enemies off guard in the small room, and Torbjorn can set up his own turret on a moving platform that overlooks the point as well as the flanking route behind it.
If the attackers take the point, they’ll move the payload through an outdoor movie set; keep your eyes on the skies here, as there are some rooftops and walkways above the payload’s path. Upon reaching the checkpoint, the route then moves inside a building and around a couple corners before heading down a long narrow stretch to the finish in the parking lot out back. The defense has another good chance to set up turrets here, so attackers will need to make sure they have a tank to absorb some damage, and should take advantage of the cover provided by the payload itself.
Capturing the control point here can be a real challenge for attackers, as the defense has a great choke point very early on the map: attackers will have to make their way under a stone bridge, and with no flanking routes on the side, defenders can bunch up at the bridge without having to worry that much about their backs. Reinhardt is particularly useful on dense here, as his shield can cover over the most of the space under the bridge. It’s all but imperative for the attackers to have someone like Pharah or D.Va who can fly over the bridge and disrupt the enemy team.
If the attackers can penetrate the bridge underpass and take control of the payload, they’ll begin pushing the payload toward the main castle. Defenders can use the high walls and parapets to rain fire down on their enemies. Inside the castle, the battlefield tightens up considerably as the payload makes its way toward its destination in front of the throne.
The three control points are located in a Village, a Shrine, and a Sanctum. The village point sits in the bottom portion of a small two-story building; fighting in here is cramped, as there are only two open walls from which to enter the room, and the low ceiling means that no character can take advantage of high ground or airspace.
The Shrine point is raised up above most of the area around it, giving its occupants the advantage of higher ground. It can be entered from all four sides, however, and players can use a couple of high ledges nearby to fire in on the shrine and disrupt the enemy team trying to maintain control.
In contrast to the Shrine point, the Sanctum point is set lower than most of its surrounding walkways and is very exposed from most angles, so its occupants need to keep their eyes peeled for threats from all sides. The point is bordered on one side by a wide bottomless pit, giving characters like Pharah and Lucio the chance to knock enemies off the point to instant death; Roadhog can station himself on the walkway across the gap and pull enemies off with his hook, as well. On the opposite side of the point is a small room; players looking to approach the point in a sneakier fashion can drop down into that room from above and surprise the enemy team.
The Night Market point is square shaped and sits inside a large pagoda, which can be entered through a couple of doors facing the front as well a door on each side toward the back of the building. Each doorway is narrow and acts as a chokepoint; a team approaching the building has plenty of cover on their way there, but clearing out entrenched defenders on the control point itself can be a challenge. Genjis and Pharahs should take advantage of the high windows and ceiling.
The Garden point is inside a smaller building with a low ceiling, and is octagonal in shape. Three of the four sides open into a small courtyard, which is where most teams will make their approach, but one side is also open in the back, and is a good route for faster and sneakier characters. The pillar and walls in the middle of the point provide cover and create a subtle division between the front and back halves of the room. A couple of high windows also provide characters like Genji another route in, and Junkrat can spam his grenades onto the point through those windows as well.
The Control Center point is circular and sits inside a large building with a high ceiling. A team occupying the point can use the numerous walls scattered around the point (as well as the pillar in the middle) for cover, but their opponents can approach from a couple of spots nearby that give them the high ground, which helps balance out the gameplay.
On Ilios, teams fight over control points located at a Lighthouse, a Well, and some Ruins. The Lighthouse point is inside a small building underneath the lighthouse itself, which can be entered through two doors on the front, on on the back, and one on each side. Most of the fighting takes place in the claustrophobic space inside the building, with a few skirmishes taking place in the courtyard just right in front. The doorways on the sides and back face out toward some bottomless pits, so Lucios, Pharahs, and Winstons should work to knock enemies off the map. There’s also one other way to enter the room: a small hole in the upper part of the building that leads down below. More than once I’ve seen a Pharah sneak in from the top and clear out the room with her Barrage ultimate.
The point at the well is a much larger space that is surrounded by high walls and tall buildings. Again, enemies can be taken out instantly by knocking them into a bottomless pit, this time the circular well in the middle of the point. Roadhog can be lethal here, standing at the edge of the pit and pulling enemies over top of it with his hook. There’s also plenty of airspace for Pharah to take advantage of.
The point in the Ruins sits much lower than the surrounding terrain, giving attackers a height advantage; however, most direct route onto the point is narrow, making it a bit more difficult to make a push onto the point than it might seem at first. Careful coordination is especially important for a team trying to wrest control of the point on this map. Attacking from multiple angles can be effective when timed properly, and a good tank or two goes a long way.
A symmetrical arena, Ecopoint: Antarctica is the sole map used for Elimination and Mystery Duel, as well as Mei’s Snowball Offensive (a temporary winter-themed game type). It features two bases from which each team begins the round, opening out into a space with several vehicles and buildings that provide a fair amount of cover. In the middle is an open courtyard, overlooked by large two-story structures on both the left and right side. Since there are no respawns in any of the game types used for this map, fighting can take place within the bases unlike other maps where those spots are protected spawn rooms. There also aren't any health packs on this map, so keep that in mind when you and/or your teammates are picking your characters.