Sombra, Overwatch 2’s hacking, harassing, stealthy damage hero, has been one of my favorite characters on the hero shooter’s roster since I started playing in 2019. Her cloaking and hack-based kit is distinct, and even after her rework leading into Overwatch 2, I’ve still had a lot of fun with her hit-and-run style. Well, Blizzard is reworking her in the game’s seventh season, and I’ll miss you girl, because this seems like a step too far.
Sombra’s rework in Overwatch 2 gives me pause
In the original Overwatch and up until now in the sequel, Sombra has been able to place a Translocator device anywhere on the map and teleport to it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. The idea is she can get into an enemy’s backline, hack a foe to briefly turn off their abilities, and then deal additional damage to the afflicted hero before making her escape. The Translocator sitting somewhere far away, most likely next to a healing pack, made her an absolute pest to deal with because she could disengage in a split second if she got overwhelmed. But the rework is changing how the Translocator works, and it feels like a sanding down of what made Sombra’s playstyle so distinct.
The Translocator is a key part of Sombra’s rework, which will launch when Season 7 begins on October 10. Now, when Sombra throws the device, she will teleport to it instantly wherever it lands. This means no more leaving it across the map for a quick, clean retreat. Now your teleportation will be limited to Sombra’s immediate surroundings. This change makes the Translocator more in-line with other quick mobility abilities like Moira’s Fade or Lifeweaver’s Rejuvenating Dash. It no longer lets Sombra bring down defenses and retreat, but forces her to stick around and deal with the consequences.
On paper, I get why this move was made. I’m sure enough people complained that getting killed by her and having kills denied by her was annoying, or “unbalanced.” But my counterpoint to this is that sanding down all your heroes’ playstyles to be like every other character is the most elementary approach to balancing a competitive game. Part of Overwatch’s fundamental appeal is in counterplay and understanding how different characters interact with each other. If every character gets reduced to slight reskins of each other’s movesets, sure, you might have more predictability to competitive interactions, but you also rob Overwatch of the elaborate, synergetic plays that make it rewarding.
Sombra isn’t even the most egregious example of this, but her rework does point to a larger design philosophy that doesn’t sit well with me, and that philosophy is revealed in more than just the changes to the Translocator. Now, her cloaking ability has been turned into a passive skill, meaning it activates automatically after a few seconds if she isn’t dealing or taking damage. This, again, feels in service of making Sombra commit to fights because now she can’t hide at will and is forced into situations where she is no longer actively making stealthy decisions in the middle of a scrap. Sure, you can still sneak up to engage, but once you’re exposed, you’re stuck in the fight unless you can toss the Translocator to a decent spot while you’re getting shot at.
All of this leads to her one new ability called Virus, which is a skill shot move that damages enemies over time. If you’ve already landed a hack or EMP on an enemy, the Virus will do more damage. I’ll be interested to see how it fares in-game, but after all these other changes, I’m not thrilled to see Sombra tweaked further into being a pure damage-driven hero when her saboteur play style seems to be taking blows.
Everything else in Overwatch 2 season 7
Sombra’s rework is just one side of Overwatch 2’s seventh season, which is bringing a new Battle Pass with spooky-themed skins, including a Diablo crossover skin for Moira. This comes as part of a crossover event called Trials of Sanctuary, which places a group of heroes against an onslaught of enemies led by Moira. Sombra, Zarya, Illari, Lifeweaver, Reinhardt, and Pharah will all be playable in the PvE event.
Other notable aspects of season seven include the return of last year’s Halloween event, a new Control mode map in Samoa, and a mythic skin for Hanzo at the end of the battle pass. Route 66, an Escort mode map that originates from the original game, is also getting retooled to give attacking players more cover options at first spawn. The full description reads as follows:
Route 66, one of the original Escort Maps for Overwatch, is getting some adjustments that should give better protection for attackers to exit their initial spawn. Despite the overhanging rail cars blocking the view, the Panorama Diner is pleased to announce that they are open for business and offers additional cover from either the hot sun or the barrage of weapon fire from the Defending team. As you push the Payload past the first checkpoint, the doors will now malfunction and only close part way giving attackers more options to work through the difficult choke points. Defenders will have more options to stop attacking teams from capping the final checkpoint as some of the cargo is now removed in the Deadlock Gang’s lair. You’ll also be able to cool off with new overcast lighting for the map. We look forward to seeing you all cruise the payload down the new Route 66.
For more on the state of Overwatch 2, check out Kotaku’s look back at the sequel’s messy first year.