Let me preface this Sombra guide by noting my massive hard-on for the stealth genre. I’m a huge fan of stealth games, and I’ve poured untold hours into everything from big franchises like Tenchu, Splinter Cell, Dishonored, and Metal Gear to smaller indie titles like Mark of the Ninja. I exclusively play Rogues in D&D, and I even actually taught myself how to throw knives and pick locks in real life.
I like stealth.
Of course, the first time I played Overwatch, my first thought when looking at the characters was “which one is the sneaky one?” I quickly chose Genji, who–although technically a ninja–isn’t exactly stealthy, mostly due to his high-flying, katana-swinging antics. (For what it’s worth, I’m a terrible Genji, and I offer a sincere apology to everyone I played with for the first six months.)
After I found out Overwatch was getting its very own sneaky “hacker” character, I followed the ARG and mulled over the puzzles with the folks with more brains than me over at r/Overwatch. My squeals of excitement shattered my neighbor’s windows when Sombra’s cinematic debuted. But after the long wait for Sombra, the character Blizzard gave us felt a little… underwhelming.
Sombra’s kit seemed awkward–two moves for covering distance? Her weapon does hilariously inefficient amounts of damage, and hacking enemies is more annoying than anything else. She can be used to great effect in the right hands, but being half-decent with tremendous skill wasn’t enough to keep the longbow in modern military circulation.
But I am a Sombra main, dammit. Here’s what’s on my mind while I’m writing this article:
- What, specifically is wrong with Sombra?
- From a mechanics standpoint, what could be tweaked about the character to make her both more enjoyable and effective for players?
- In the meantime, what can players do to improve their Sombra experience without having to wait for Blizzard to deploy tweaks?
- What should new players know about how to play Sombra? What are some effective Sombra playstyles.
Sombra: The Bad
Let’s start with Sombra’s submachine gun. It’s a peashooter that hoses out marshmallows with all the accuracy of a nerf gun that’s got a loaf of bread jammed in the barrel (despite the vestigial foregrip Sombra cleverly ignores). The deceptive reticle shows a bloom when firing, but the weapon actually fires from the full bloom spread. The bloom is a lie.
That being said, Sombra’s invisibility feels great. It makes you invisible, speedy, and helps you sneak behind enemy lines. But when you find a lone, unsuspecting target at low health and you exit camo, your options are frozen for what feels like eternity. In these situations, it’s easy for opponents to spot the would-be stealth hero and delete her off the map.
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Her Translocator expires after a 15 second timer, her Invisibility lasts seven seconds, and her health packs stay hacked for one minute. Pushing with Sombra feels like you’re trying to juggle three different egg timers, and that’s before you include all of her ability cooldowns.
And Jeff Kaplan says, Sombra isn’t supposed to be a vicious assassin, and is instead more of a support. Which is why she can see enemies with less than 50% of their health through walls without being able to do anything about them, right?
The Hack? If Mei sneezes in your general direction, your Hack fails, and if you pull it off, congrats, you now have a very angry enemy bearing down on you with a primary fire that still works much better than yours.
And of course, the problem with the hack is multiplied by up to six after landing a successful EMP.
Nate’s Suggested Fixes
Sombra badly needs a damage buff, but not one that’s strong enough to put her on par with other DPS heroes, I’m thinking one of two things, if not both. Either:
- Make her bullets actually spread as you’re shooting, so that your submachine gun starts off with a much more accurate cone of fire. This would give her at least a little practicality in a firefight, and would even let her focus down those heroes her passive ability lets her see.
- Grant her a damage boost against hacked enemies. This would keep her from feeling so helpless against hacked enemies, and would also allow her ultimate to be of limited use if she chooses to use it solo.
With her Thermoptic Camo, I’d be thrilled if Blizzard kept everything the same–even the voice cue–as long as they remove the lengthy animation she goes through when exiting stealth and performing an action. Let us break stealth immediately by shooting or hacking
As far as Sombra’s survivability is concerned, the timer on the Translocator seems kind of arbitrary. If it were up to me, her teleportation device would last forever, but at the cost of destructibility–in other words, like Junkrat’s mine.
As for Opportunist, seeing enemies who are at 50% health doesn’t always end in your favor. After all, a Roadhog at half health still has 100 more health than Sombra does. So how about either reducing it to only seeing enemies at less than 25% health, or making it a flat 100 health? Also, keeping them highlighted when they’re not behind walls would help clue Sombra players in on to who to focus down during an open firefight.
The recent Hack buffs have been the best thing to happen to Sombra so far, and were even enough for Sombra to make some notable appearances in the pro circuit. But getting interrupted by taking damage is still the worst. I may be trying to fix something that’s already been fixed, but what if instead of needing to be a solid .8 seconds, the Hack worked on some kind of resource mechanic? Meaning an enemy hero has a hack-o-meter you need to fill to successfully hack them–taking damage will still interrupt the hack, and the meter drains fairly quickly, but you can return to finish the job if you’re fast enough.
Nate’s Sombra Guide: Git Gud
Honestly, this is my favorite part. I’m going to tell you how to clean shop with Sombrita in spite of these weaknesses.
- As the Jeff said, you are not an assassin. Don’t make murder your primary mission with Sombra. Instead, make it mayhem.
- A white hat hacker would hack a health pack on her teammate’s side, but a black hat hacker would hack the health packs behind enemy lines. This makes retreats much more difficult for enemies, and lets your team push them further and further back towards their spawn.
- Don’t be a doofus and try to hunt down a Hog at half health. Instead, prioritize picking off supports. It sounds like easy advice, but you’d be surprised how tempting it is to chase down any old red silhouette.
- Exiting camo behind a group of enemies is better than exiting camo behind just one. Sounds counterproductive, but when there’s more than one enemy, especially when they’re focused on combat, they’re less likely to hear you exit stealth. This is the perfect time to Hack the Reinhardt and zip away.
- Never enter an engagement without your Translocator active. There’s a certain tempo you have to get used to when making pushes as Sombra. Hack the healthpack, throw down the teleporter, inviz behind enemy lines, hack a target, and warp back.
- Make life easier for your team. Trust me, nothing appeals more to your independent spirit than setting your team to do all the work for you. Keep your logo over those healthpacks, keep Bastions out of turret, and boop Rein’s shield. When you think in terms of what your team can do for you, you’ll find yourself wasting a lot less EMPs.
Hopefully this helps improve your Sombrability. I’ll leave you with some more wise words from Jeff on Sombra.