Junky or Funky? Junkertown

Junkertown was the first new map announced in Overwatch that I saw and thought to myself “that looks really cool”. As many others have pointed out, the aesthetic of the map is very reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. Although it’s hard to pinpoint what specifically gives the map that feeling, it’s likely the wasteland environment, warm colors, and scrappy metal building structures. The rundown junky feel also gives it something different than the usual elegance and high-class environments of other maps in Overwatch. Junkertown also has a level of polish to it that other post-release maps like Oasis and Horizon Lunar Colony lack, which made them feel like bare, unfinished test maps.

Lore

As part of Junkertown’s polish, it’s packed with personality that makes it a fun map to just admire. It’s oozing with lore (if that’s your thing) and hints at a few potential future characters by promoting the faction of “Junkers” and their queen. There is a lot of details on the buildings, on the walls, and even in the background that can be missed if you’re not looking out for details. Stop and smell the roses, y’know?

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Faded posters featuring junky D.VA knock off’s “Kelvin 506 vs Bludger” (right)

and Wrecking Ball “The Champion” (left)

Gameplay

Beyond story and lore, the escort map offers three distinct gameplay experiences as the payload and players progress. The first point starts in a big open wasteland with a few pieces of junk spread around for cover, which is an experience completely new to Overwatch. Typical maps in Overwatch feature tight corridors, archways, bridges and narrow paths for progression. The middle section is the opening of the Junkertown gates, which feels more like the aforementioned typical Overwatch maps. Finally, we get to The Queen’s vault which focuses on maneuvering around the big spinning blades (turbine) in the middle. The map’s open environment can be overwhelming at first, but as you become more comfortable with it, it may not be as bad as you first thought and my opinion of the map’s gameplay has improved over time.

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The first point. Outside of Junkertown.

You can expect a ranged hero on defense stationed at any of those three openings above.

Try to use the alleyway in the back (right side of this image) to sneak by.

 

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The second point. The opening gates of Junkertown.

Narrow road with lots of high ground areas for defense.

 

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The third point. The Queen’s Vault.

Featuring large central turbine

A Note on Balance

The three distinct experiences each point of Junkertown has to offer, at the very least, make it a map that offers variety. The initial complaints about the map on release, highlight an overall challenge in designing a balanced experience for Overwatch; A challenge that can be seen in other game modes like Capture the Flag and the Free for all Deathmatch. Hero abilities in a class-based shooter game can introduce overpowering advantages and disadvantages in certain scenarios. Something as normal and standard in FPS games as a large open field is a source of player gripe shows that designing a map for Overwatch, given the variety of hero abilities, is really hard. It’s easy to look at a single hero and say “That’s OP” but when the developers are designing a map, they have to keep all 25 heroes in mind at once. While it’s inevitable that certain points and maps will favor certain heroes, I believe it is the responsibility of the player to adapt their style and their hero pick to overcome these challenges.

Hero Picks

This map is open and really rewards heroes with mobility. For this reason, I have to say, Pharah is by far the best pick for Junkertown. While a good Widowmaker might be able to take you down on the first point, your ability to get in and out on the second and last points make you a constant threat. One notable example is how she can fly over the large building the payload wraps around on the second point and catch the enemy off guard from both sides. If you don’t abuse this route and wait till you have your ult you can expect a clear opportunity to ult and rain justice on an unexpecting group. Regardless of offense or defense, Pharah is by far the best pick on this map.

Other heroes who I think perform well on this map include:

Defense: Genji, Widowmaker, Hanzo, McCree, D.VA
Offense: Tracer, Mei, Lucio, Winston, Ana

Of course, a player’s skill level with any given hero takes priority over expected advantages/disadvantages.

A Closing Remark on Common Complaints

Much like Eichenwalde on release, many players feel that the first point strongly favors the defense. Unlike Eichenwalde, the problem is not a narrow choke point but the big open section in the beginning. There really is nothing like this first point in the normal rotation of Overwatch maps and I believe as time goes on, players will overcome the initial feeling of “what the hell do I do about this” and learn to adapt and navigate around the expansive area of Junkertown. The map really brings a lot of new elements to experience for Overwatch.

It’s inevitable that developers for any popular online multiplayer game will receive a lot of backlash from the community on changes they implement. However, it’s important for us to keep an open-mind as updates get rolled out. If the game is going to evolve and avoid getting stale, sometimes, the players need to evolve with it. Junkertown may be awkward and clunky at spots at first, but I still have high hopes for this map and think it’s a big step forward to break new grounds for the game.