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In late November of 2016, Overwatch made a few changes to Symmetra. One of the greater changes in my opinion was the addition of a second ultimate ability. A Shield Generator was added as an alternate Ultimate ability to compliment her teleporter, and largely I think this was a good change. A Photon Barrier was a nice addition to her toolkit as well; it works great for either absorbing incoming enemy attacks on defense or helping your team advance in an offense situation. However, I feel that one of her bigger bugbears has remained unfixed: her primary weapon, the Photon Projector.

Buried among the multitude of changes to Symmetra—and other things, as with most patches—was an increase in the range of Symmetra’s Photon Projector from five meters to seven meters. The Photon Projector is a particularly easy weapon to use and it’s quite powerful. Hold down left click with an enemy vaguely in range and the beam will lock on and begin to do damage. As time goes by, the beam will increase in damage. The beam remains locked on, and much like Mei, once you’re in range of Symmetra, you are inevitably going to take a good bit of damage simply because she points in your general direction. These changes weren’t made lightly, of course; Jeff from the Overwatch team put out a developer update talking about the changes they’ve made and discusses them in great detail.

I think the increase in her Photon Projector range made a problem that already existed all the more obvious: Symmetra’s primary fire requires almost no skill whatsoever to use and it’s practically unavoidable in most cases.

It’s such an easy weapon to use that you only really have to vaguely be in range of the enemy and hold down left click. A Symmetra Play of the Game will typically either show her hopping around holding left click in a crowd of enemies or sitting behind a nest of turrets and melting people as they come through. Take a look at this Play of the Game from YouTuber Rurouni Shynra that illustrates the former situation—and the core of my complaint. When you watch this particular Play of the Game, pay attention to where the crosshair actually is and look at how Symmetra is moving.

Granted, some characters are meant to have strong points. If Reaper gets really close to you, you’re going to eat up a lot of damage. If Mei gets close to you, she will probably freeze you and pop an icicle into your face. If you have clear line of sight to Roadhog, he is going to hook you, and if you have under 200 health he can insta-pop you. These situations may feel unfair at times, but it’s at least possible to dodge or otherwise avoid the damage.

That simply isn’t the case for Symmetra, and fighting against her in medium-to-close quarters is a tremendously frustrating experience. She’s arguably taking on the memetic role of Team Fortress 2’s Pyro in the context of Overwatch—hold down W + M1 to win. Make sure to jump around a good bit to avoid taking damage yourself, but as long as you’re pointing roughly towards your target, you will melt away a good portion of their health. There are other characters with beam-based or stream-based weapons such as Mei and Zarya, but they at least require you to be on target instead of simply having your target somewhere on the screen and in range.

So what to do about this? I propose that her weapon is kept largely the same but make the auto lock-on require a bit more skill. Here’s a graphic to illustrate what I’m talking about:

A change in the damage based on accuracy would make it so Symmetra feels much less OP and her Photon Projector require more skill. Right now, she is arguably one of the easiest characters to do damage with in Overwatch (assuming that you’re in range of the enemy).

The way I would change things is this: make Symmetra’s crosshair comprised of three circles. If you can keep your target in the center circle, you will maintain lock and do full damage as she does now. If your target is within the middle circle, you do 66% of damage. If it’s in the outer circle, it does 33% of damage. If your target gets outside of the circle, the lock breaks. Currently, Symmetra’s lock breaks within 0.5 seconds, and I feel that should be tuned down to 0.1-0.2 seconds.

This change would still make her a powerful character in close quarters, but more importantly, it would require her to actually aim. The standard defensive Symmetra strategy of “jump around and dodge while holding M1” has the trade-off of making it more difficult to hold your crosshair on target. It wouldn’t demand absolute precision to do damage from the player, as it does with Zarya’s beam, but it would penalize less-accurate aim with less damage as opposed to no damage. I think this strikes a nice middle ground between “look at the enemy to kill them” and “hope you can keep the crosshair on Tracer, lol.”

Ultimately, while I feel that most of the changes made to Symmetra were great, her Photon Projector is one of the most unfun things to face in Overwatch. That is simply what it comes down to for me; it feels cheap and unfun to lose a fight against a character that doesn’t have to aim. If you’re fighting against her, you have to be on target with your weapon, but such requirements aren’t demanded of your opponent playing Symmetra. I think this change would make Symmetra slightly less OP and, more importantly, much less rage-inducing for her victims.

What do you think of the changes made to Symmettra in the Overwatch patch at the end of last year? Are you satisfied with how her weapon currently functions or do you feel that it needs tweaking of some sort? What do you think of my proposed change to her primary weapon? Let us know in the comments below!

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Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!