Overwatch Character Highlight: Zarya

Published: July 8, 2016 1:00 PM /



Welcome to the first of a series of articles regarding how to play specific characters in Overwatch. These will be not just how to play posts but also tips and tricks that one might not have considered. Let's start this series off with Zarya!

Zayra I feel is one of the least used tank characters (next to Winston). She has 400 total health, 200 of which is made up of shields. This means that half of Zarya's health will automatically recover and quite quickly. Zarya is actually the only Tank class character with shields as a part of her health, so this gives her a lot of staying power; however, she has no armor, so she can't just push a team like others can.

For those who don't know the difference, Armor is represented as yellow on the health bar, and prevents half the damage that they take until the armor is gone. Shields are blue on the health bar; they don't protect against additional damage, but they regenerate over time.

zarya shot

Zarya's Abilities Include:

  • Primary Fire
    • Zarya fire's a long range energy beam from her weapon. The beam itself can be somewhat difficult to aim properly, or to determine how far your beam can actually reach, but when in doubt, assume it's reaching farther than you think it is. Either way, the enemy will attempt to dodge it.
  • Alternate Fire
    • If your opponent is moving around a lot, in a tight space, or you just can't hit them with the beam, your can use your gun to launch an energy grenade. As a grenade, it takes up 1/4th of her ammunition, so you can get four shots off with the alt-fire before needing to reload, which doesn't leave you many chances to hit. You should use the grenades sparingly and aim for groups of enemies or cornered ones.
  • Particle Barrier and Projected Barrier
    • Zarya's primary abilities project a 2-second barrier on either herself or an ally. These barriers are not very strong, they do not last long, and they have a long cooldown (10-seconds on yourself, 8 on an ally). However, these shields are what give Zarya her uniqueness. Whenever these shields take damage, it increases the damage of Zarya's weapon!
  • Ultimate Ability
    • Zarya has an incredibly powerful ultimate, the Graviton Surge. This fires a black hole forward and pulls any and all enemies nearby towards it, leaving them completely open to a team assault.

Tips and Tricks For Playing Zarya

  • Because of the short duration and the long cooldown of her shields, you need to use the shields very sparingly. These are not the kinds of abilities that you should throw out just for the sake of throwing out. Knowing when best to pop a barrier on yourself or a teammate is vital to knowing how to play Zarya, and it's honestly going to come with experience.
  • Once you build up power using your barriers, the number in the center of the screen will rise up from 0 to 100 and start counting down from that point. The power drains regardless of how much you use your weapon, so don't be reserved about saving the power.
  • A recent strategy for the Graviton Surge was to use it near a hole in a stage. Maps like Nepal, Lijiang Tower and any others that have a giant hole in them are ripe for this. Just throw your Graviton Surge on a wall or near the edge and enemies will get pulled off the map! However, you have to make sure it lands on a surface, whether that's a wall or the floor, because it won't just hang in the air.
  • Is there a Torbjorn blocking your way? Get in front of his turret, pop your barrier and soak up the damage!

Zarya actually works best as a Tank that follows the front teammates on the front lines (stays behind Offensive characters and front line tanks like Reinhardt or Roadhog). She definitely can lead the charge if necessary and with enough people following her, but I wouldn't feel confident in her enough to have her be the only tank on a team. Your primary goal should be to soak up hits, like a Tank would, but to also protect teammates who are pushing the most.


Heroes Zarya Is Great Against

Torbjorn is definitely a big target for Zarya, or at least his turret is. Torb himself can't do much damage himself, and his turret is a stationary target for Zarya to hit. D.Va is great target for your laser, as it pierces her matrix shield. Genji, McCree, Soldier 76, all of these offensive characters can't do much against Tanks in general, and they're good targets for damage absorption. Zarya is actually an all around character that can work in many situations, if you can pull off your ultimate, the enemy team are just sitting ducks for your laser cannon.

Counter Characters To Watch Out For

Junkrat immediately comes to mind as a troublesome character to Zarya. Junkrat is rather unpredictable; the way his grenades bounce and his sporadic nature makes it difficult to hit him and to time your barriers. If you get caught in his trap, I'd probably pop the personal barrier if you can because you're not going anywhere for a while.

Tracer, or any fast characters really, is going to be tough for Zarya to handle. Zarya is better against large and slow enemies, while Tracer won't be able to deal much immediate damage to Zarya, she'll be a pain in the ass regardless.

Pharah and Widowmaker are also going to be difficult for Zarya solely because they can deal a lot of damage from far away. You can pop your barriers, but they can just wait till it's gone and then you've got 10 seconds to survive while they pick you off from afar.

Lastly, Bastion is a gamble. In my experience, he can just continuously hammer you and even if you pop your barrier, you likely won't survive a 1 on 1 confrontation, not unless you get a head start on him.

That concludes our first Overwatch character analysis! What do you think of Zarya? Are there any strategies I didn't include? Leave a comment on your thoughts down below and let me know what you think!


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May 24, 2016 (Calendar)
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