Simple Geometry -
Understanding and Taking Advantage of Overwatch's Level Design


Overwatch is a game that hardly needs introduction. Since its official release in May of 2016, Blizzard's hero shooter has taken the world by storm. There are tons of people not only playing Overwatch, but also talking about and analyzing it. With that in mind, it may feel a little redundant to continue talking about it at such length, but there is much that has yet to be discussed. For instance, why are the maps designed the way they are? This may seem like a silly question, but understanding the whys of Overwatch's map design can help you create new strategies and ways of looking at your environment. Today, we will be focusing on the newest set of control point maps: Oasis. I won't be going into too many specifics about particular character strategies or team compositions (we'd be here all day), but rather, I'll be looking at the overarching ideas behind the set of maps as a whole and try to help you understand the general strategy for this map set.

Storming In

There is something fairly important to know that each of the points in Oasis has in common with one another: flanking routes. Oasis is designed in a very circular manner, with many avenues for entry on both sides. As such, there are very few choke points, and entering undetected into the point itself can sometimes be a relatively easy task. Let's compare Oasis: City Center to Nepal: Village.

Artist Credit: Nathan Mundt

Now, all of the control point maps have multiple ways to enter the point, but Nepal: Village definitely has the least. The whole point is boxed in with entrances on the left and right side. This makes choking out the enemy (or being completely barred from entering) a very easy task. Reinhardt, Mei, Symmetra, Junkrat, and Torbjorn all have pretty large advantages here. Now, compare that to how the point is set up on Oasis: City Center. Not only is the point itself much larger, but it also has four primary means of entry. This makes slipping in unnoticed a lot easier, as you can flank from behind while the enemy is distracted by your team's push. This goes for Oasis: University as well, and even more so for Oasis: Gardens, which has seven entrances (or six, if you want to count the two main doors as one).

So why did Blizzard make Oasis so easy to attack? My guess would be because of the negative feedback received about points that are too easy to defend. For instance, Hanamura has just a single choke point the defenders have to hold. Yes, there's the window to the left side, but only certain heroes can get in there, and it's pretty easy to keep an eye on. For another control point example, look at Ilios: Well; only two primary means of entry, and one requires a big detour to even get to its entrance. Control point or 'King of the Hill' type maps should have an ebb and flow to battle; control of the objective should go back and forth at least once or twice for a game to be really exciting and enjoyable. A complete shut-out should be very difficult to obtain, and the fewer entry points to an area, the easier it is to set up and unbeatable defense. Keep that in mind as we look at being the defender in Oasis.

Holding The Line

Now you may be asking yourself, "If it's so hard to hold a choke on the objective, how am I ever supposed to keep it under my control?" Don't confuse an easy-to-enter point with one that's completely un-defendable. With Oasis, defending the point relies a lot on taking advantage of the environment and using cover to your advantage. Looking again at Oasis: City Center, one can point out the first big piece of cover with relative ease.

The hut in the center can be used for cover from an oncoming push or as a place to retreat to if things get to hairy. But be warned, this hut creates a huge blind spot if you're trying to defend from the high ground that's accessible via jump pad. If the enemy team isn't careful, they can also become divided by this hut. It's such a huge obstacle, that it can actually cut line of sight between teammates and cause two different fights to break out on opposite sides of the hut. Don't forget that you can also use the very same flanking routes that the enemy uses to get behind their team and try to get a pick. This is pretty dangerous though, and I wouldn't recommend it too much.

Enough about City Center, let's talk about the other map with something sticking up in the middle: Gardens. Oasis: Gardens is likely the most complex map in terms of defense, as it has a whopping seven entrances. Similar to Ilios: Lighthouse, the point itself is situated a bit off to one side as opposed to right in the middle. This creates an incursion zone right in front of point itself, which may seem like the place you want to try and hold the enemy off. However, unlike Lighthouse, Gardens has arteries that link to the backside of the point, meaning you can't just choke the enemy before they reach the objective.

With all these entry points, it can seem a little daunting trying to guard all of them at once. My best advice to you would be to coordinate as best as you can with your team and try not to get separated. You can use the walkway that links to the center pillar as a retreat point if the ground gets too chaotic, or use the pillar itself as a small piece of cover for a brief respite. For those of you who despise this kind of chaos, Blizzard did cut you a bit of slack with Oasis: University. It's much more similar to the designs of previous control point maps, and it’s much easier to hold a choke there than it is at either City Center or Gardens.

No Rest for the Weary

There's a lot more that can be said about Oasis, particularly in regards to specifics with characters and team composition, but I'm no expert on Overwatch and I feel like strategies and tactics are best when they're brewed through experience rather than listening to lectures. Try testing the strategies you use on Lijiang Tower and see how they apply to Oasis. Think about what areas were designed for which character and how using those areas with different characters affects your ability to attack or defend.

Good luck, heroes!