Welcome to Overwatch! Here's everything you need to know when you first fire up the game.
Our Overwatch beginner’s guide contains hero and map tips, tricks and tactics, as well as an overview of every game mode.
It seems like only yesterday that Overwatch hit retail after a lengthy beta phase, but over the last year or so so we’ve seen plenty of updates in the form of new heroes, maps and even new gameplay modes. Whether you’ve been part of the action since the very earliest Alpha days but have since taken a break, or you’re coming to the game completely new, there’s now a huge amount of gameplay information to wrap your head around. If you’ve found yourself sticking to a handful of the same heroes since launch, it can also be hard to expand your repertoire and find a new niche to master.
Taking all of the above into account, we thought it would probably be pretty useful for the playerbase at large if we put together a beginner’s guide, one which contained an overview of everything you could possibly need to know about each hero, what mastering every map entails, and how you might go about gaining the upper hand when it comes to mastering all of the objectives in Overwatch. Regardless of your experience with the game, we think even at this stage of Overwatch’s life there should be something new for everyone to discover from this hub.
As well as helping total newcomers by providing a very broad overview of all things Overwatch, we’ve also made sure there are clear links out to all of our other guide content as well: heroes, maps, team builds and more. If you want to dig deeper into a particular area of the game, make sure you check these other articles out while you’re here. They each contain detailed information that’s guaranteed to make you a better Overwatch player, and much more quickly than if you just dive in without any knowledge of the hero or map in question.
We think the end result should be a pretty robust starter guide all things considered, but if there’s a topic that you think we should be covering, then we’d love you to let us know in the comments section so we can look at adding it in. We consider even the biggest of our guides on the site to be a work-in-progress, and we’ll continue updating every article in the months and years ahead, and to reflect the very latest developments in Overwatch’s massive and ever-changing metagame.
Editor’s note – Update #5: With a new Free Weekend almost upon us, we’ve taken the opportunity to polish up our old beginner’s guide, and add in all the latest detail. If there’s anything you’re unsure of, just ask in the comments and we’ll do our best to help you out..
The Heroes in Overwatch
Overwatch has 25 live heroes at the time of publication, with a pretty broad spread of characters across four distinct categories: Offense, Defense, Support and Tank. Despite their rough classifications, each one of these character brings something very different to the table as a result of their unique abilities – abilities which define how each one plays. Some characters also do a better job of directly countering other heroes in battle, and the real art of war lies in blending the right heroes together for the current map.
Here’s a quick run-through of who’s who in the Overwatch universe, and what you can expect when you play each one. Check the individual links for our guides to each Hero, as every one of these special features is guaranteed to give you the edge in battle.
If you’re not sure which Hero to start with, take a look through our pick of the best Overwatch Heroes for beginners. Our Overwatch counters guide will also help you pick a solution for every problem!
No idea what on earth is going on in the game’s lore? Try our character biography guide on for size.
Doomfist– The game’s first melee brawler packs a pretty might punch on the battlefield – Doomfist guide
Genji– A shuriken-flinging robotic Ninja who requires fast reflexes to play with finesse – Genji guide
McCree– Overwatch’s gunslinging Hero. Packs a revolver and a stun grenade for close-quarters combat – McCree guide
Pharah– Uses a jetpack to rain death upon her enemies from great height using her rocket-launcher – Pharah guide
Reaper– A deadly assassin who floats and teleports between targets to take them down in a flash – Reaper guide
Soldier: 76– The closest thing Overwatch has to a traditional run-and-gun soldier archetype – Soldier: 76 guide
Sombra– The latest hero to hit the live servers, Sombra is an opportunistic assassin with a gift for hacking Health Packs and enemy heroes – Sombra guide
Tracer– Blink and you’ll miss her. A Hero with rapid teleportation powers and equally rapid-fire weapons – Tracer guide
Bastion– A walking turret capable of dishing out some serious pain against the attacking force – Bastion guide
Junkrat– Overwatch’s grenade-throwing, trap-laying master of mechanical mayhem – Junkrat guide
Hanzo– One of two sniper Heroes in the game, Hanzo uses a bow to pick off enemies from afar, and a dragon to clear out corridors – Hanzo guide
Mei– A frosty, feisty character who can slow enemies down and throw up defensive walls of ice – Mei Guide
Torbjorn– The mechanically-minded Torbjorn specialises in placing auto-firing turrets on the battlefield – Torbjorn guide
Widowmaker– Overwatch’s second sniper also packs a grappling hook to ensure she gets to a new defensive position fast – Widowmaker guide
D.Va– With her cannon-firing, missile-dodging mech suit and aerial mobility, D.Va is an extremely flexible tank – D.Va guide
Orisa– If you love crowd control you’re going to have a great time with Overwatch’s newest “anchor” tank – Orisa guide
Reinhardt– Overwatch’s second tank projects a forward-facing shield for his team to bravely cower behind as they take pot-shots at the opposition – Reinhardt guide
Roadhog– A meaty, mighty Hero who moves rather slowly, but can pull targets towards him with a vicious grappling hook – Roadhog guide
Winston– Winston combines mobility with meatiness to produce an absolute powerhouse. Can throw up a shield to protect allies too – Winston guide
Zarya– A Hero capable of using an enemy’s damage to feed her own deadly weapon, with enough shields for everyone too – Zarya guide
Ana– Ana uses her sniper rifle to deliver healing shots to friends and deadly damage to foes – Ana guide
Lucio– Lucio blends speed and healing boosts together to get the team back into battle quickly – and ensure they stay there longer – Lucio guide
Mercy– This Hero’s weapon can be used to either heal an ally or boost their damage output. Mercy can also revive a fallen Hero on the battlefield – Mercy guide
Symmetra– Combines healing powers with defensive turrets, and can even provide a teleportation device to get dead allies back in the fight fast – Symmetra guide
Zenyatta– A Support Hero who’s as adept at healing team mates as he is debuffing enemies to ensure they take more damage – Zenyatta guide
All of the Heroes in Overwatch are pretty well balanced, but some can make a bigger difference when played alongside random teammates. Take a look at our regularly updated Best Heroes Tier List for the latest insight on who’s ruling the roost at any given time.
All the maps in Overwatch
At the time of writing this article, there are 15 different maps in Overwatch, separated into four very distinct gameplay modes. Here’s the lowdown on how each one plays.
Hanamura (Assault): Set in Japan, Hanamura was one of the original maps of the beta game and includes plenty of sniping spots and hidey-holes – Hanamura guide
Temple of Anubis (Assault): Stairways and overpasses define the Temple of Anubis, and team combat often finds you first… – Temple of Anubis guide
Volskaya Industries (Assault): The industrial Volskaya favours tanky characters due to the wide open spaces available to snipers – Volskaya Industries guide
Horizon Lunar Colony (Assault): Fancy a little low-gravity action? Overwatch’s space-based map has just what you’re looking for – Horizon Lunar Colony guide
Ecopoint Antarctica (Arcade): Mei’s spiritual home is only available for a handful of unique modes in the Overwatch Arcade – Ecopoint Antarctica guide
Ilios (Control): A Control map with objectives set around crisp white villas – Ilios guide
Lijiang Tower (Control): Lijang Tower is a Control map set in a bustling Chinese metropolis – Lijiang Tower guide
Nepal (Control): On this map, teams compete to control zones set within an ancient Nepalese monastery – Nepal guide
Oasis (Control): Overwatch’s desert-themed map features the game’s first jump pad – Oasis guide
Dorado (Escort): One of the prettiest maps in the game, Dorado provides plenty of hiding spots for trapping the unwary – Dorado guide
Junkertown (Escort): This run-down town is the thematic home of Junkrat and Roadhog, and is the latest map to hit the game – Junkertown guide
Watchpoint: Gibraltar (Escort): Stuffed with hiding spots and bottlenecks, this is a tricky map to master – Watchpoint: Gibraltar guide
Route 66 (Escort): Overwatch’s homage to the classic American highway – Route 66 guide
Eichenwalde (Hybrid): A castle assault map that represents the first new battleground to hit the game since launch – Eichenwalde guide
Hollywood (Hybrid): One of Overwatch’s newest Hybrid maps takes you through three distinct film sets as you escort the payload to its destination – Hollywood guide
King’s Row (Hybrid): Fight through the cramped London streets where assassins hide around every corner – King’s Row guide
Numbani (Hybrid): There are balconies galore on Numbani, just waiting for industrious snipers to take up their position – Numbani guide
Overwatch’s game modes
At the time of publication there were four different game modes available in Overwatch: Assault, Control, Escort and Hybrid. Here’s a quick overview of how each one works – check the individual guides for specific advice for how to play Offense, Defense, Tank and Support Heroes on each one.
Assault – Here, the teams are once again in Attacking and Defending roles, with the former team attempting to capture specific objectives, while the latter does its best to stop them from taking them! – Assault guide
Control – On a Control map, both teams compete to take control of objectives in a best-of-three series of rounds. Once a team has been in the vicinity of a control point for long enough, their progress meter will increase. When it fills up completely, the point is considered their’s and the next round begins – Control guide
Escort – When it comes to Payload maps, the task is somewhat different. Here, an Attacking team must stay in close proximity to a payload in order to keep it moving towards its delivery point. The Defending team does their best to halt the progress. Maps have timers but checkpoints apply – Escort guide coming soon!
Hybrid – Hybrid maps are a mixture of Assault and Escort modes. First an attacking team must push forwards and claim a control point, then they must escort a Payload towards its destination. A fun mix-up of the two modes which demands a great deal of flexibility when it comes to switching in and out of Heroes – Hybrid guide coming soon!
Once you’ve upgraded your Career Profile to Level 25 by playing Quick Play matches, you’ll be able to participate in Competitive Play. In this mode, you’ll fight to level up through the ranks each season to unlock exlucive rewards. Check out the two guides below for more detail on what to expect here.
Loot and levelling in Overwatch
There’s no pay-to-win element in Overwatch, and nothing to unlock beyond purely cosmetic rewards. Each match you play rewards a certain amount of experience points (XP) depending on your performance. Earning XP allows you to level up through the ranks, and each time you hit a new rank you’ll earn an Overwatch loot box.
Contained within these boxes are various cosmetic rewards, such as new voice samples, emotes and skins. What exactly you’ll receive is entirely random, but any duplicates are automatically converted into Credits, which you accumulate and can then spend on unlocking specific items for your favourite Heroes.
You can also buy bundles of boxes from the in-game shop for real money if you wish. The contents will still be randomised, but again there are no pay-to-win elements here. The system instead allows people to take a shortcut towards adding some cosmetic flair to their favourite Heroes.
Take a look through our Overwatch levelling guide for more information on how the progression system actually works.