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Bastion’s Role in Overwatch

The character Bastion in Overwatch is currently causing a fair amount of consternation among the game’s players. Paul Tassi, writing for Forbes, asks  “Should Overwatch Just Cut Bastion from the Game Entirely?” A running joke in the Overwatch community is that Bastion always gets play of the game. Another joke revolves around how all bastion does is left click. Many players I’ve talked to agree that facing a Bastion player can be a very frustrating experience.

Bastion is frustrating mainly because he deals a ton of damage very quickly. The way he works is that he can walk around as a robot, but when he finds a good spot, he can turn into an immobile sentry turret. In turret form, Bastion has a rapid firing, accurate, powerful weapon with a huge clip. The damage it does is enough to melt most heroes very quickly, even tanky heroes. He is the only hero I’ve seen that can consistently and easily tear through Reinhardt’s barrier shield, which is usually quite effective at protecting his team.

Interestingly, though, it is also the consensus that Bastion isn’t actually overpowered. In games with skilled players, Bastion is rarely picked, and when he is, he is generally not that effective. Skilled players are able to pick effective counter heroes, stay out of his field of fire, and take advantage of his immobility to take him out. He is what you might call a “pubstomp” hero: a character who is good at killing poorly skilled opponents, but fails against players who know what they’re doing. Players who complain about Bastion too much or too hard face the formulaic response “get gud,” meaning that instead of complaining, they should learn to deal with the threat Bastion poses.

So what is Blizzard to do? A lot of players are upset, and many games are made more frustrating because of Bastion’s presence. Does that mean Bastion should be removed or changed significantly?

In my opinion, probably not. I think there are hidden upsides to having a character like Bastion in the game. It is true that losing to a Bastion is frustrating. However, Bastion’s existence in the game strongly encourages players to explore different tactics. Other, more subtle chances to counter the opponent’s strategy are lost on newer players. Nothing is less subtle than a Bastion shredding you with his ridiculous machine gun. The need to change plans to counter him is very obvious, even to new players. At higher levels of play, counter picking heroes and changing up tactics to overcome the enemy’s strategy is a significant part of the game. Bastion brings that sort of play to a lower-level, introducing it earlier. It encourages players to start thinking about the game this way much earlier than they otherwise might. It also adds a layer of fun to the game. It is true that getting whupped by a Bastion is frustrating, but it is also very satisfying to outsmart or outplay the enemy team to kill a well-positioned Bastion.

Paul Tassi points out that when Bastion is played, the game becomes about him to some extent:

Whenever this topic comes up, everyone is quick to talk about how there are counters to Bastion, and this is true. He can be flanked by many heroes like Reaper, Tracer and Genji (though now with a 360 field of view, that has become far less effective). He can be sniped by Widowmaker and Genji, or bulldozed by Reinhardt. But the fundamental problem with Bastion is that in all his iterations, he becomes the focal point of the game. In capturing an objective, he is first and foremost on everyone’s mind. Tucked into a corner or behind a wall, everything becomes about “how can we kill this damn turret?”

Tassi sees this as a problem, but I see it as adding a new layer of objective-based play to the game at lower levels. It forces players to think about how to counter the actual enemy position instead of just rushing into the objective and hoping for the best. That’s not a bad lesson for new players to learn. I know for myself, it can be a fun challenge to try and puzzle out how best to deal with this specific enemy challenge.

However, I do think that some slight tweaks could make life easier on newer players without destroying the constructive role Bastion plays in the game. Ideally, Bastion should be just effective enough to encourage counter play. Right now, he is probably somewhat beyond that point.

The tweak that I would like to see would be to reduce Bastion’s clip size in turret form. This would immediately make Bastion a slightly more skilled hero, since there would be more decision-making around when to reload. Right now, I’ve found in my own games playing as Bastion that you rarely need to worry about how much ammo is left in your clip. You can pretty easily tear right through multiple enemies without ever having to reload. I would bring the clip size down to enough to kill one enemy and deal significant damage to another. Bastion would still be able to crush enemies who walk into his line of sight unsupported, but it would be easier for a coordinated push to take him out or sustain through his assault.

I also think more could be done to emphasize the “teachable moment” role Bastion plays. For instance, there could be special achievements for doing various things to counter Bastion. Genji could get an achievement for deflecting a certain amount of Bastion damage back at him. Roadhog could get an achievement for hooking a turret mode Bastion a certain number of times. The tips on death could offer advice about who to switch to in order to deal with Bastion. There could even be an achievement for eliminating a Bastion on your first life as a new hero.

Ultimately, I think Bastion currently plays a constructive role in Overwatch. Changes can be made to tone him down or to make him less frustrating, but I think that any change should be made with a light touch and should maintain his role as a threat new players have to learn to counter or die.

Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Tom Goldthwait (@Authw8)
Tom is a furry woodland creature. At times, he emerges from the enchanted forest to make a new blog post.

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