This post serves as a guide to using Symmetra more effectively in Overwatch. I’m no pro, but I play Symmetra often and I’d like to share what I know for those who want to learn. Keep in mind that this guide is based on experience and opinion, it’s not intended as the “be all end all, 100% correct in every way” rule book for playing this character. Enjoy and feel free to add anything I may have missed in the comments!
Let’s begin with the basics:
Symmetra is a support character in Overwatch, however she is vastly different from all other support heroes in that she is the only one who cannot heal her teammates. Instead of healing, Symmetra provides defenses for her team through turret placement and barrier projection as well as her unique choice of two ultimate abilities: a shield generator or a teleporter. Her full kit includes:
- Photon projector: Symmetra’s main weapon produces a photon beam which connects to an enemy and stays connected within a short-range, dealing damage which increases the longer she stays connected. The weapon can also be charged up to release a high damage dealing energy ball.
- Sentry turrets: Symmetra can place up to six sentry turrets in a map at a time and each turret auto-connects to nearby enemies, slowing their movement speed and dealing a small amount of damage.
- Photon barrier: This is a moving barrier that absorbs damage as it moves forward in the direction in which it was deployed.
- Teleporter: One of Symmetra’s ultimate abilities is a teleporter which holds six charges and can instantly teleport teammates from the spawn zone to the area in which the teleporter was placed, allowing for a swift comeback of fallen teammates.
- Shield generator: Symmetra’s other ultimate ability is a shield generator which applies +75 shield points to teammates within its range (which is large).
Her kit was recently reworked which has allowed Symmetra to be played differently. I spent a good deal of time with her before and after the rework and can safely say that the changes have made her a more viable character as well as much more fun to play. There isn’t much point in discussing how she used to play, so I will obviously be focusing on how she plays now. It’s hard to say that Symmetra is an easy character to play but she isn’t difficult; she simply requires thought and patience to be used effectively.
That photon projector, though.
Symmetra’s main weapon is very powerful and easy to use, the trade-off is that she doesn’t have a lot of health and needs to be close to the enemy for maximum damage. Many players find her to be “overpowered” due to the fact that her weapon deals high damage and doesn’t require aim, but when playing her it’s easy to see that she isn’t overpowered unless she is allowed to be. One of the best tips I have to give in regards to attacking the enemy flat-out is to do so when they are distracted. When an enemy is attacking your teammate, for example, simply get in position and stay off to the side or behind them to deal heavy damage. Symmetra can easily take out tanks and DPS characters simply by catching them off guard and using her mobility to stay close and out of the line of fire. It’s still risky though, don’t forget that she is rather squishy and can’t take very much damage so if the enemy gets just a few good shots in – she is toast.
One common trick to attacking with Symmetra’s photon projector is to lock on to the enemy and run around them in a circle. This allows her to deal damage and potential avoid taking much when going toe to toe with most characters. Keep in mind that while characters like Mei and Winston can be harder to attack head on, they are easily taken out when attacked from behind or while they are engaged with another teammate. When it comes to being blocked, Symmetra’s beam can go through D. Va’s defense matrix but is stopped by Zarya and Reinhardt’s barriers (plus it does provide a hefty amount of charge to Zarya when locked on to one of her barriers so beware). The trick is, as previously stated, to get in close and stay locked on. It can be risky so play it smart; when you are successful the reward is many fallen enemies and copious amounts of salt from the enemy team.
Symmetra’s bread and butter: Sentry Turrets.
Sentry turrets are the key to success with Symmetra; proper turret placement can make or break a match. Sentry turrets are small orb-like turrets that project beams of light which slow down and damage enemies who are near them. They do 30 damage per second and reduce movement speed by 25%. Symmetra can have a maximum of six turrets placed at any given time in a match and can reposition them at will. She begins each match with six turrets at the ready and after each one is placed there is a cooldown period on their reload time. So you can immediately place six but if those are quickly destroyed or you decide to reposition them by placing new ones elsewhere, you have to wait for them to reload one at a time. The damage these turrets do is relatively minor, however when all six are trained on one enemy they can drain that enemy pretty quickly as well as severely slow them down allowing for Symmetra or her teammates to go in for the kill.
I find that sentry turrets are best placed around corners frequented by the enemy team and close to your position, around choke points, and on objectives. Since they are easily destroyed it’s best to place them in locations that are either difficult to see or are completely out of the enemy line of sight until they are within the turrets range (ie around a corner, behind a wall, etc). This way they come as a surprise to the enemy and aren’t destroyed before having the change to be effective. Placing them around choke points (a doorway that the enemy has to go through, for example) is another great place for them because the enemy will be forced to walk through them, maximizing their effectiveness. With this, it’s best to spread them out a little and make them at the very least a slight challenge to destroy. Grouping them all together means that a character like D. Va can easily shoot in one direction and destroy them all at the same time with her weapon’s spread of fire. It’s also great to place turrets in or on objectives, whether it be on a moving payload (which is admittedly tricky, especially if you are on defense) or in a control point. On payloads they act as a first line of defense or as an annoyance to the enemy team, while the enemy is distracted with trying to destroy all the turrets you can be attacking them then simply placing more turrets in different locations. In control points they help to slow down enemies and split them up; often the turrets serve as a distraction in this way, which allows you to capitalize by attacking the distracted player.
When it comes to objective specific placement, I find it’s best to place turrets in places that aren’t so obvious when on payload maps, especially when the payload is being moved; this maximizes their effectiveness as an annoying distraction to the enemy team. Every time the enemy turns to destroy the turrets your team has a chance to pounce. Before the payload is captured, turrets often work best on choke points or around the capture area. In control point maps, whether it be maps such as Ilios or Temple of Anubis, turrets can serve to help defend the point. Placing turrets around a zone that you are trying to hold down or defend is a great way to have control over the general area. The turrets will slow down and hurt anyone who tries to enter the zone and ultimately help you to eliminate them before they have a chance to take the area. In these scenarios, turrets are especially effective against teams who aren’t working well together and trickle in rather than group up and attack as a team.
There are lots of ways to use turrets and I have found that a lot of it is trial and error on the player’s part. Of course there are certain points or configurations that nearly every Symmetra player lines with turrets due to how well they work in that given area, but there are a lot of areas that you just have to be adventurous with and try for yourself. Sometimes you will get lucky and it works, sometimes they will be destroyed. Luckily the cooldown is pretty short for turrets so don’t be shy; find out what works for you and keep doing it. There are always new things to try to learn with Symmetra.
What’s the deal with that Photon Barrier?
Symmetra’s photon barrier is a pretty simple aspect of her kit. It’s a barrier that works similarly to Reinhardt’s shield but is smaller, absorbs less damage (about 1k vs. 2k) and projects out in the direction that it is cast with a cooldown time of about 10 seconds. In my experience it’s best used to keep a barrier between you and the enemy you are attacking. People typically try to move away from Symmetra when her photon projector is locked on to them, so putting the barrier between you and them while walking with it helps to shield you while you eliminate your enemy. You can also use it to mask energy balls shot from the projector when timed right. Of course, it can be used effectively in more obvious ways such as protecting your team or yourself while you relocate or hold a choke point.
Keep in mind that the barrier can be vital when used efficiently. Be sure to have a purpose when projecting it so that you always have it when you need it rather than simply shooting it out whenever it’s ready. Also, be aware that the barrier as well as the energy balls shot from the projector can give away your location to the enemy team. I typically try to deploy these from various random places as opposed to in a stationary zone next to my turret set up. This assures that the enemy, unless they are specifically looking for you, is mostly unaware of where you are or where your turrets are placed and therefore will be more surprised by a turret set up.
Two ultimate abilities, one choice.
Symmetra is currently the only character in Overwatch to have two ultimate abilities to choose from. Since the beginning she has had the ability to place a teleporter, but in the recent rework of her abilities she was also given a shield generator. When you ultimate is charged you will have the choice between deploying the shield generator or the teleporter, so you have to be able to decide what is best for your team. The teleporter will allow for six players to go through and instantly be transported from the respawn area to wherever you place the teleporter (keep in mind that they will be coming out of the side facing you when you deploy it. A common misconception is that they come out of the back of it which leads to disorientation upon teleportation). The teleporter will stay up until all six teleports have been used, the teleporter is destroyed, or the respawn area moves. The shield generator deploys +75 shielding to allies within it’s range (which is rather large) and will stay up until it is destroyed or the respawn area moves back as a point is reached or captured.
In a lot of ways this choice is situational. For example, if we are defending a point that is far from our respawn area then I will place the teleporter in order to move us to the defendable area more quickly. However, if my team is doing well and not dying then I may place the shield generator instead in order to provide some extra defense. If you are new to using Symmetra (or new to the game in general) then I recommend playing it safe and sticking with the idea that the teleporter is more useful when far away and the shield generator is more useful when trying to hold a point close to spawn. As you continue to get more comfortable with the character and/or the game then get creative and do what you think is best for the team. It’s also worthwhile to ask your team what they would prefer, if possible.
The number one rule here is that since either choice can be easily destroyed by the enemy team, placement is key. You never want to place either ultimate in an area that is easily visible to the enemy team or in an area they frequently go through. It takes a little time to figure out the best spots, so it’s a trial and error thing for newer players, but as long as you avoid putting them in the line of sight of the enemy you should be alright. If necessary you can also create a little nest around the teleporter or shield generator by placing turrets around them which will hurt enemies as well as let you know the moment an enemy is close to them. You can also stay nearby either ultimate in order to protect it yourself. Depending on where you place them you may be able to attack the team as well as defend your ultimate at the same time.
Last but not least…
One of my favorite aspects of playing Symmetra is how dynamic she is. There are so many different things you can do with her if you want, she doesn’t have to just be used for a specific reason (ie holding a point) and in the right situation can be used for support, defense and offense. I get “Play of the Game” with her often due to how well she can turn a match around. Setting up turrets then attacking the enemy team while they are slowed works so well for multi-kills and when paired with a supportive team, she can feel unstoppable. Often times this invokes the ire of the enemy team. I’ve been the sole target of the entire enemy team often times due to my prowess with Symmetra. The best part is that while they are chasing me down I can still pick them off and distract them from the objective, leading my team to victory.
The best advice I have for new Symmetra players is to make your own mold, don’t simply do what you see other Symmetra’s doing (including myself) just because they are doing it well. Forge your own path! Symmetra is one of the few characters that you can do that with so embrace it and enjoy yourself as you experiment with how she plays in different scenarios. Another piece of advice is to trust yourself when choosing her. She is often a pick that is resented by both the enemy and friendly team, you may be pushed to switch characters from time to time, however if you are confident in your abilities then stick to player her. Keep showing folks that she is a good pick in the right hands. Never forget: The true enemy of humanity is disorder.