For the last few months, there have been countless questions and rumors about the next character in Blizzard's incredibly popular Overwatch. What would her name be? What would her relation to the titular Overwatch be? Footage indicted that she'd be a "support sniper," but what exactly is a "support sniper," exactly? Now, thanks to a series of videos Blizzard released Tuesday, we have some answers. Chief among them is the fact that the new character, Ana Amari, is a killer mom.
Let's put all the combat stuff (cool as it is) to the side for a second, because Ana is yet another example of why Overwatch's character design and use of simple narrative hooks has helped it to build a huge fandom in only a few months. Ana's backstory (as shown off in her "Origin" video) isn't anything especially fresh: She's a sniper from the now-defunct Overwatch team of sure soldiers who went missing in action back while the squad was still active. The twist is that she's also the mother of Pharrah, the game's high-flying, rocket-blasting Egyptian hero (and my personal fave).
That's already a pretty great hook, but one of the most exciting things is the way that Blizzard extends her narrative concept into her visual design. Her cloak and hood not only communicate that she's a subtle markswoman, but also expand out into an eagle-like silhouette when she leaps down from heights (mirroring the bird-wings design of her daughter's robotic suit). Plus, like Pharrah, Ana sports an Egyptian eye tattoo—though unlike her daughter, she only has one eye. The other was taken in combat, years earlier.
In fact, it's that Ana wears the years spent on the battlefield on her face that makes the character really unique. Some fans of Overwatch have pointed out that, despite the fact that many of the game's female heroes are supposed to be in their middle ages, many of them have convenient narrative excuses for appearing much younger than their years. That is not the case with Ana, whose gray hair and grizzled face make her appear every much as bit a veteran as Soldier 76, Reinhardt, and the other aging (male) members of Overwatch.
Ana's backstory isn't especially fresh, but it's effective.
This all comes together in her ability suite, which shows off exactly how she spent all those years backing up her team from a distance. Ana is indeed a "support sniper." What's that mean? Well, she she has a versatile arsenal that lets her pivot from healing her team from the backline to de-buffing and eliminating members of the enemy squad.
Though Ana carries a low damage pistol that fires sleep darts, her main weapon is a biotic sniper rifle that deals solid (though not exceptional) 80 damage to enemies over a 1.1-second period when she lands a hit. The trick to Ana, though, is that when she targets her allies rather than her foes her biotic darts heal them instead of doing damage.
This dual-effect ability style is shared by Ana's other power, a biotic grenade. It not only heals allies, but also boosts the amount of healing they'll receive for the next five seconds. Against enemies it deals 60 damage, but more importantly it totally shuts down their ability to be healed altogether for the same five-second span. Used effectively, this could totally break an opposing push at a critical time.
Her ultimate, on the other hand, seems built to serve exactly the opposite purpose: To give your team that big push it needs to turn a game around or close it off succinctly. "Nano Boost" buffs a single friendly target for eight seconds, giving them bonus damage, cutting the damage they receive by half, and increasing their movement speed. Blizzard's gameplay debut shows exactly how devastating this ability can be:
Ana hasn't rolled out to the main Overwatch servers yet, but you can play as her by opting into the game's Public Test Server. To do that, restart your Battle.net app, go to the Overwatch tab, and choose "PTR: Overwatch" from the drop-down menu. Once the game has updated, you'll be good to go.
Though Ana has definitely stolen the show, she's not the only part of today's PTR update. D. Va, the mechs-piloting eSports star, has received a pretty substantial buff to her Defense Matrix energy shield, plus she'll no longer die if caught in the blast of her own Self-Destruct ultimate. There's also been a shift in the way "overtime" plays out at the end of games, ensuring that matches wrap up more quickly than normal. There are some other experimental changes in place (including a debuff of Mercy's game-saving resurrection ultimate), so head over to the official Overwatch blog to see them all.
Remember, though, both Ana and these updates are only rolling out to the game's test server. Each new change is liable to be tweaked before making their official debuts. So if you happen to find a broken team composition or an overpowered strategy, make sure to report it to Blizzard (and, you know, enjoy it while it lasts).
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