Balancing Act: Goodbye Scatter Arrow

Back in January, Jeff Kaplan came out in a Developer Update to talk about some community complaints. Of course, some of the complaints were for Hanzo. Because Scatter Arrow, for as much as it has become a deep part of Hanzo’s playstyle, just isn’t that great.

Right now, Hanzo is kind of unbalanced and niche. Compared to Widowmaker, he has a certain amount of mobility and speed that the other sniper may not always have readily available. Yet still, compared to most other heroes, he seems to be missing a lot of utility. His skills are geared toward recon and hopeful lucky shots in the form of Scatter Arrow (though some of us are able to do some cool things with Scatter, see my tweet below).

When you use Scatter Arrow the right way. #Overwatch

— Najee "Kamijace" Walker (@Kamijacegaming) March 12, 2018

And it’s not just people being killed by Scatter Arrow, but plenty of people who love Hanzo (like myself). Yes, Hanzo can kill most other characters with a well-placed Scatter Arrow to the feet. However, if that is really the only gimmick he has, it doesn’t really make him diverse or fun to play either. Hanzo players get pigeonholed into either being “good headshot” players (as they kind of should, they’re still a sniper) or into being a one-trick-Scatter Arrow-pony.

During Jeff Kaplan’s discussion on the frustration, players were having about Scatter Arrow, he spoke of looking at how they could either change the ability or make a new ability overall. After some playtesting here and there, we have some idea about how Hanzo might look in the near future.

Let’s break down some of the ideas so far:

“Right now the direction we’re exploring is giving him a completely new ability that gives him a window when he fires off the ability to shoot arrows in rapid succession,” Jeff Kaplan said in another Developer Update in February. “Right now we’re experimenting with five arrows at a very high fire rate.”

Jeff Kaplan said that he felt this was a lot of fun in playtesting, and I think I’d agree. Right now, Hanzo has no means of engaging enemies who are in his face. Scatter Arrow can help to either scare the enemy or to take out an enemy quickly--if you can aim at the feet quickly enough--but it really doesn’t guarantee more than that.

Though it is unclear if these rapid-fire arrows do the same damage as a fully-drawn arrow, it still mimics the idea that most Hanzo’s employ when faced with a very close enemy: spam arrow shots, quickly. Theoretically speaking, the rapid-fire arrows can still do enough damage to take down an enemy who is in a Hanzo’s personal space, and perhaps with a little more skill than a scatter arrow does. You might even land a headshot!

This would also give Hanzo a bit more flexibility with his new skill. No doubt that this skill can be used effectively from a distance as well, and could perhaps help drop tank barriers quicker, or help pick off enemies.

“...we’ve also given Hanzo a horizontal leap that allows him to leap in whatever direction he’s facing to either forward, back, left, or right,” Jeff Kaplan continued. “This is more meant as a disengage for Hanzo, of course, you can sometimes use it to get into cool interesting places, that’s pretty fun also.”

This puts into perspective Hanzo’s inability to engage--or in this case, disengage--enemies.

Almost every hero has an ability that allows them to get away from their enemy. Reaper and Moira have their phase or shift ability, D.Va has her boosters. Hanzo has… Sonic Arrow? I mean, I guess it helps when you’re trying to figure out which way to run away from Winston when he comes charging for you.

The point is, a disengaging jump is like the Shimada sign of being a Shimada. Arguably, Hanzo’s horizontal jump will work much like Genji’s dash, except that it probably won’t do any damage when it crosses through an enemy. Still, the ability or option to get away from the enemy that isn’t limited to just his passive wall climb is almost necessary for Hanzo.

Either or both of these skills can turn Hanzo and people who main him, from a joke, into something more viable. Even the best Hanzo players can benefit from some fine tuning. Not that I think Hanzo is a joke.

Now, Mr. Kaplan just needs to give the green light to put these possible changes onto the Public Test Region. There hasn’t been much talk of these changes recently, and they have not been confirmed and ready for public testing, so it is hard to say if these supposed changes will actually be seen anytime soon.

Whatever changes that may come down the line, and, whenever they do hit the game or the Public Test Region, they will truly put Hanzo on the stage with the rest of the heroes as something a little more balanced and that makes both Hanzo players and players against Hanzo a little less angry.