Locked and Loaded: Tracer in Heroes of the Storm

May 3, 2016

With the upcoming release of Blizzard’s newest game Overwatch, many players were excited by the prospect of characters from the world of Overwatch making their way into the Nexus. All of Blizzard’s previous Heroes came from well-established and understood universes, but Overwatch is completely new. During BlizzCon last year, it was announced that Tracer would be the first to join us—a fitting choice for the first of her world. Her iconic profile and unique playstyle are perfect for the transfer over from FPS to MOBA, not to mention her upbeat optimism which, strangely enough, kind of helps ragey players stay positive too.

Her personality follows her seamlessly into the Nexus and legitimizes Overwatch lore as something worth delving into. It’s the perfect meshing of two spheres. If you haven’t seen the Tracer trailer, go watch it. Right now. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Similar to the release of Artanis alongside Legacy of the Void, players who had pre-purchased Overwatch were given an opportunity to play Tracer one week early. After waiting with great anticipation, a dedicated few gained the chance to explore her unbelievably fun and interactive gameplay. As an in-and-out assassin, she shines as a high-skill character by dashing around the battlefield and making short work of her opponents. She is now available in the shop to everyone for 15,000 gold, which will likely be reduced to 10,000 gold in a few weeks. If you have some extra money lying around, go ahead and purchase Tracer and have some fun!

Let’s take a closer look at the energetic Brit!

A Niche Role—Hypermobile Ranged Assassin

Interestingly enough, her kit transferred over to Heroes almost 100% verbatim; It’s literally like playing Tracer from a third person perspective. She has three dashes which render her hypermobile and impossible to catch. As if that isn’t enough, she also has Recall which allows her to go back to her position three seconds ago. Trying to land skillshots on her in the new “2Fast2Furious” meta is like a cat trying to catch a laser: it’s futile.

Offensively, she has a Melee ability which deals a bit of burst damage and charges up her Heroic ability Pulse Bomb. Pulse Bomb allows her to drop a bomb charge at an enemy Hero’s feet which will detonate shortly afterwards and deal massive AoE damage. Unlike the other Heroic abilities in the game, Tracer’s is available as early as level 1 and charges up based on her auto attacks; Melee will also charge the Pulse Bomb up faster.

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Finally, we have her auto attack. In my opinion, the most fascinating and defining part of her kit is her auto attack. She can move around while attacking at a high speed with her trademark pulse rifles, but she has to reload every 10 rounds. This unique trait sets her apart from all of the traditional Heroes in the game with introduction of a moving shot and reloading. Of course, reloading is a common thing is FPS games, but it brings a unique set of challenges for MOBAs.

Reloading Mechanics

Before we talk about reload mechanics with Tracer, let’s take a step back and look at its place in League of Legends. Jhin and the Graves rework recently ushered in a mechanic unique to MOBAs which—to my knowledge—had never been done before: reloading. Just like an FPS, a character has a limited number of bullets and has to reload when the clip is empty.

It’s an interesting mechanic that gives characters short “bursts” of damage followed by a vulnerable period. This vulnerability presents a whole world of possibilities for abusing reload times and requiring players to think critically about how they use their resources (bullets) and when to reload. It is, in fact, one of the most brilliant advances in MOBA character design because it’s simple, intuitive, and differs from continual reinventions of line or circle skillshots that are so ubiquitous to MOBAs.

Wow, it's a circle that deals damage. Never seen that before....
Wow, it’s a circle that deals damage. Never seen that before….

Unfortunately, I would say that Blizzard has failed in this aspect. If there is any criticism of Tracer, it’s that reloading literally means nothing for her. Her insane mobility and consistent torrent of damage means that she has essentially no downtime. In fact, her reload time in Heroes is actually significantly shorter than in Overwatch (0.75s compared to 1.0s). Bullet management is practically nonexistent except with the Locked and Loaded talent at 16 which increases the damage of her next clip if she reloads early, but that only affects the way Tracer is played, not how to play against her. This failure is perhaps a problem with translation from FPS to MOBA, but it makes one wonder why she has a reload mechanic at all except to mimic her FPS counterpart.

A Success Overall

It’s hard to transfer characters from different games into Heroes of the Storm while still retaining their iconic abilities and feel, but Blizzard is steadily getting better at it. Hero concepts like Greymane or Cho’Gall don’t always pan out perfectly, but Tracer works well in the Nexus. Playing her allows you to zip in, deal some serious damage, and zip back out before players can return fire; it feels good and it feels right, like the way that she should be played.

“Cheers, love! The cavalry’s here!”

Secondly, she also sits in a nice place balance-wise. Blizzard’s last incarnations over the past few months have typically been somewhere between pathetic and undeniably overpowered, but Tracer feels pretty solid right out of the gates. She’s obnoxious to get ahold of, but if you can poke her out, she quickly becomes a non-threat. There are obvious strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited, and she influences the game in a healthy way with her new mechanics.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, she brings the newest universe to Heroes in a convincing fashion, legitimizing the lore and setting up a solid stage for later Heroes. Other than nitpicking about her reload mechanics, she is honestly a great Hero—fun to play, hard to master, and downright lovable. Commendations to Blizzard for another step forward; it looks like a bright future for subsequent Hero releases!

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Christopher Meek
Chris is an esports aficionado who has followed and written about several different games, including StarCraft II, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm. He has served notable time at Team Liquid, among others, in the pursuit of becoming a freelance writer and editor. He’s sometimes been known in the MOBA community as “that feeder” but continues to improve and remains optimistic for the future.
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