Blizzard’s philosophy is to make every character unique in design, gameplay, and personality. No two characters in Overwatch are alike. So when changes have to be made to character’s abilities, the Overwatch Team keeps the theme of the character in mind.
Since her release, Jeff Kaplan has been adamant about Sombra’s role as a disruptor in Overwatch.
"One area, where we might not see eye-to-eye on with the player-base, is we don't expect Sombra to ever be a vicious assassin. [...] We see her more as a disruptor—a back-line disruptor—than a front-line flanker or assassin."
– Jeff Kaplan, Developer Update - January 17th, 2017
The current changes on the PTR reflect the ideology of Sombra as a disruptor—an infiltrator who takes opportunities and distracts the enemy team while giving information to her teammates. However, many Sombra players are skeptical of the changes and believe that it will only hurt her more.
To address these concerns, we should identify the problems with Sombra’s current kit as she tries to execute the role of disruptor. If you are unfamiliar with Sombra’s abilities, you should read about them before engaging with this post. (I can’t link them here, sorry).
It’s not about Hack
In a perfect world where bugs don’t exist, Hack is a strong ability. It stops enemy abilities mid-cast and prevents other abilities from being used for 6 seconds. Being Hacked feels like an eternity of helplessness.
In the past, the Overwatch Team has tried making changes to Hack that fortifies Sombra’s role as a disruptor. Changes we have seen are:
- Cooldown reduced from 12 seconds to 8 seconds – (Jan 12, 2017)
- Cast time reduced from 1 second to 0.8 seconds – (Jan 12, 2017)
- Cast time further reduced from 0.8 seconds to 0.65 seconds – (Feb 27, 2018)
- Hack disables more abilities, most of which are movement related – (Feb 27, 2018)
Hack’s cast time was buffed to allow Sombra to more consistently cast it within the short time she was present in an engagement. However, this didn’t provide counterplay for the enemy as Sombra could teleport away shortly after Hacking a target.
- Now goes on a 2-second cooldown when interrupted by damage – (Mar 20, 2018)
- Now more consistently interrupted when targets break line of sight – (Mar 20, 2018)
The 2 second cooldown nerf to Hack allows enemies a chance to fight Sombra and encourages her to think through and position before her engagements.
But Sombra has a problem—consistency. Not with casting Hack, (although we know there have been bug issues in the past, but that’s another post), but with consistently providing pressure and being present in fights. Sombra’s inconsistent presence in fights results in fewer opportunities for her to cast Hack and disrupt the enemy.
It’s about Mobility and Consistency
The Overwatch Team’s goal is have Sombra fill the role of a disruptor. Sombra is intended to be a character that lurks close to the enemy team, disrupts / startles enemies with Hack, takes advantage of poor positioning, and punishes enemies for having low HP. However, Sombra’s current kit does not permit her to do these things consistently.
The Bungee Effect
Translocator can be used to aggressively reposition in a fight, however most Sombras will use Translocator defensively by setting it at a safe location, usually on a health pack. She’ll run out in Stealth, position behind a target, attempt to kill or hack them, then teleport back with Translocate whether her mission was successful or not. In some cases, Sombra has to travel a great distance to get to a fight—only to Translocate away and be very far from the action again.
Worst case scenario, Sombra isn’t in a position capitalize on enemy mistakes and she needs to blow cooldowns in order to reach a favorable position again.
As a result, Sombra engages an enemy with Translocator placed, Stealth on cooldown, and only Hack available (which goes on a 2 second cooldown if she take 0.1 damage), leaving her only option to Translocate away—this is the Bungee Effect. Sombra spends so much time traveling back-and-forth that she lacks a consistent presence in teamfights.
Forcing Sombra to teleport away in the middle of a fight is incredibly valuable to the enemy team and gives them the advantage to fight 6v5. And, to be clear, this should be valuable to the enemy team. It provides counterplay and requires meaningful decision making by the Sombra player. However, in her pre-PTR state, the Bungee Effect directly leads to her inconsistency to provide pressure and fulfill the roles of an infiltrator and disruptor that the Overwatch Team wants for her.
What the PTR changes are
In the past, the Overwatch Team has tried making changes to Hack that fortifies Sombra’s role as a disruptor. However, none of those changes really addressed the Bungee Effect. Sombra was still spending more time and resources getting to a position to cast Hack than she was able to take advantage of landing one.
Let’s talk about the changes to Sombra’s kit on the PTR and how they directly reflect the Overwatch Team’s vision of her as a back-line disruptor:
Sombra – PTR - Jun 28, 2018
- Now lasts indefinitely
- No longer can contest objectives while invisible
- Enemy detection radius increased from 2 meters to 4 meters
- Movement speed buff decreased from +75% to +50%
- Now lasts indefinitely
- Can now be destroyed (has 5 health) after being deployed on the ground ✶
- Can now be recalled (canceled) by Sombra (2 second cooldown) ✶
Developer Comments: These changes allow Sombra to more easily play as an infiltrator and scout for her team, as well as give her time to pick and choose when to reveal herself to ambush her enemies.
✶ Not mentioned in PTR patch notes
These changes reverse the roles of Stealth and Translocator, with the aim to bring consistency to Sombra’s role as a disruptor.
Stealth has been used as the primary tool to reposition and travel, thus the drop to +50% bonus movement speed appears unfavorable to many players. Stealth is no longer an offensive tool used to get behind the enemy as quickly.
However, Stealth now has an infinite duration allowing Sombra to lurk around the enemy team and take advange of opportunities as they unfold. Sombra has more freedom with her movement on the PTR. She can now use Stealth in conjunction with Translocator to quickly access flank paths and freely position behind the enemy without being on a 6 second timer.
While Stealth is not as aggressive of a repositioning tool as it’s pre-PTR counterpart (move speed now 50% from 75%), it has become a protective shroud that keeps Sombra safe and unnoticed as long as she stays within it. Sombra can now exert her presence more consistently and for a longer duration than she ever could before.
In the Bungee Effect, Translocator has primarly been used as a “get-out-of-jail-free” ability allowing Sombra to escape death by the skin of her teeth.
With the PTR changes, Translocator can now be “recalled” by Sombra using the interact key (F). It’s put on short 2 second cooldown, and allows Sombra to advance her base of operations by setting it in a new location with the safety provided by Stealth.
Translocator having the ability to be destroyed now means it should be placed thoughtfully in locations that are difficult for other characters to access. Translocator should no longer be carelessly placed on a Hacked health pack as it is too easily discovered, and should now be hidden from plain sight.
Translocator has a 4 second cooldown, 2 seconds shorter than Stealth, and can be reliably used in combat as an aggressive repositioning tool as it is indestructible while flying through the air.
The aim of the PTR changes is to clean up the Bungee Effect and provide consistency to Sombra’s role as a Disruptor and Infiltrator.
- She now has more consistent presence in fights.
- She can pick and choose her engagements more freely.
- Stealth now enables Sombra to wait for the right moment and protects her from harm.
- Translocator can still serve as a safety net when placed intelligently, but can now be used to aggressively re-position within the safety of Stealth as well as during fights.
- Sombra should spend less time running to a fight and more time being present in it.
These changes may require a change in playstyle, but it’s well worth it to provide consistency to Sombra’s presence on the battlefield. It won’t make Sombra kill anyone faster, but she was never intended to do that in the first place. If players can understand the role Sombra was intended to fill as a Disruptor, I think they will better understand and appreciate these changes.
Sombra is a Disruptor. Not an Assassin.
The PTR changes help Sombra accomplish her role as in Disruptor more consistently.
Infinite Stealth makes it easier for Sombra to be in proximity of the enemy team and be present in fights.
Translocator can now be canceled, allowing Sombra to advance her position into enemy territory.
Translocator is now a permanent safety net as long as Sombra places it out of reach of the enemy.
Read the damn post.