written by Disco
Pathing in Overwatch is a topic that is easy to understand but difficult to master. Most players, on a fundamental level, know that the direction and path they take does matter. However, it takes practice, game knowledge, and understanding of the situation to determine the best approach regarding pathing. This is an introduction to pathing in Overwatch (and how to start applying it to games) by looking at point A of King’s Row.
The working definition for pathing is simple: choosing a specific path from one part of the map to a different part of the map. There is no requirement on where the path starts or where the path leads to – all that matters is that there is a path to follow. This generalized definition is very important to expand understanding of how to play specific maps and specific points dependent on defenders and attackers.
A common mistake in planning fights is that a team will choose a path before knowing what they will do there. This is a mistake because planning fights centers around win conditions – the conditions that, once achieved, enable victory in fights. Paths should be chosen based on win conditions, rather than the other way around. Because of this, a team’s win conditions should be identified before considering what path to take.
Above is a map of the first point of King’s Row. Suppose that the defense is running an Orisa/D.Va/Junkrat/Widow/Mercy/Zen composition, which was a very popular choice in Stage Four of the Inaugural Season of the Overwatch League. The win condition for this composition is to use the sustainability of Orisa’s shield and D.Va’s ability to stall the point to give time for the damage dealers to do enough damage to push back the enemy team. The Zenyatta (and potentially the Widowmaker) will play in Halls to have line of sight to the different areas of the map while being away from a non-vertical rush of any kind. Once the enemy team has gotten onto point, however, it becomes much harder for this composition to succeed.
So how does pathing apply here? Because the win condition is to give enough time for the DPS to do damage, the team should not set up on point. Rather, they should start on the right of the clock tower (highlighted in yellow) to allow them access to the high ground advantage, pressure from that location to the attacker’s spawn, and distance from a tank rush. Once they have been pressured out of that spot, they should move through clock tower to the left side, and set up there. Finally, if the attackers have been able to get onto point successfully, the tanks can drop to point and play in the back left corner, making it harder for the enemy to surround them.
This path – right of clock, left of clock, left of point – is a path for the tanks (specifically Orisa) to allow the team to rotate successfully in order to achieve the win conditions. Without those win conditions, this path doesn’t make sense. Other paths, if not properly established, don’t enable this specific win condition, making them very irrelevant to the current plan to hold the point.
How about for the attackers? Suppose the defense are playing the exact same defense listed above. The attacker’s plan of attack should be to get onto point without having to deal with too much of the damage from the Junkrat and Widowmaker. Ideally, it should also attempt to take care of the Zenyatta in Halls before settling on point. Finally, it should avoid trying to take a head-on fight with the defense, as the Junkrat makes a rush up to the clock tower very difficult.
There are many different paths to the point. One possibility is to go through the alley. However, the defense will be able to keep that area locked down with the Junkrat and Widowmaker, and it does nothing to deal with the Zenyatta. Another option is to go through Statue or Mid directly to point. While this is a better plan, it still leaves the team vulnerable to damage. Finally, as stated earlier, rushing through Closet to the defense is a poor choice.
The best option is to go through Mid into Hotel, then pushing onto point. Having a D.Va instead of a Zarya allows for the team to send only one person (the D.Va) up to Halls to take care of the Zenyatta and Widowmaker while the team pushes onto point. SInce the team goes through Hotel, the damage done to the team is minimal, giving the team more health to survive the fight on point.
These are two examples of how pathing can be built from win conditions. Note that, for solo queue, this may not be the best way to establish pathing, as teammates cannot be consistently relied on. However, for every player, understanding what path they are taking is very important, as taking a path that helps achieve the team’s win conditions is key to winning fights. This idea, while it may seem obvious, is very hard to put into practice until the process of establishing win conditions and planning fights has been established. Though it may take work, it is a very important part of Overwatch, and one that won’t go away any time soon.