(Context: I'm a very mediocre "support-minded" player with the Beta, playing Symmetra in probably about half my games since it started. I'm certainly no Quake/TF2 pro, and probably represent the "average" player skill level. I'm usually the second voice on u/OneAmongstMany 's stream for those who watch it).
So after rather a lot of Symmetra games, I figured I'd jot down my thoughts here about the various elements of her kit and how I feel she performs. A brief TLDR: she seems underplayed, she's certainly not the strongest hero but I don't think she needs (m)any changes, and people are currently undervaluing some elements of her. I feel she is as strong on attack as defense despite her mostly being seen as a defense pick.
1 - The Charge-up Alt-Fire Plasma Ball
I'll start with the good. Usually in shooters, an alt-fire mode to a weapon is a niche option you use in certain rarer circumstances compared to a weapon's more versatile primary fire. Not Symmetra. I don't think I'm resorting to hyperbole when I say I firmly believe the alt-fire charge up ball is the strongest element of her kit, and is actually worth picking her for. I think a Symmetra with no alt fire would be a good deal weaker than a Symmetra with no -turrets-. It's that good.
A fully charged ball does 125 damage and passes through -everything-, including Barriers. This is where the counterpick element of symmetra comes in. You'll never hit a Tracer or Pharah with one unless you get lucky and dash into it, but that Reinhardt advancing and shielding his team clustered behind him? RIP. Winston dropped his E on top of a payload? No biggie.
The Bastion setting up in a corner? You can kill him in 2-3 shots through his shield.
It's certainly not a precision weapon - it moves so slowly that a monkey playing with their feet on a trackpad could dodge it if they saw it coming, but you can fire a large amount of them downrange and just make any barrier-based defense struggle. It's also very easy to pop out of cover for a millisecond to fire one off.
2 - Turret Nests
Symmetra is sort of billed as a Torbjorn equivalent who lives and dies by her turret nests. Whilst it's fun to see a tracer run into a 6-turret deathtrap and fall over in a second, it's comparatively rare this happens. If it does happen, it probably only happens once.
The issue with Symmetra's turrets is that pretty much anyone can kill one by coughing on it. Winston's sparky lightning gun will obliterate all turrets in a room in a second just by him running near them, and pharah/junkrat aoes will easily kill them in a splash. Ultimates like Soldier 76 or Reaper's will usually takek out all turrets in a second by accident. Even Mercy can kill them instantly with her pistol.
Thus the turret minigame is all about positioning them on ceilings and behind little bumps and walls so players can't get vision of them until forced to run directly past them. They'll never protect a point in the way a Torbjorn turret or Bastion will - they just arent damaging enough, die too easily, and have too long a cooldown to set up.
Instead, they seem more about side-objective control. A good example is on King's Row - the very final payload push to the end has an L-shaped room to the side with health in. Setting up a 6 turret nest in here with a Teleporter can usually win the round for both attackers and defenders. It's not the objective itself, but it's such a vital secondary ground to hold that it's hard to get setup on the payload without controlling it.
The issue Symmetra faces is how easy it is to set her back if you clear out her primary turret nest. Sure, she can setup a 6 turret nest for a while which will protect a sideroom for a bit, but once a Winston gets into it and blows everything up, running back from death with only 1-2 turret charges saved up can make it really hard to fortify an area before it's attacked again. I do feel Symmetra could perhaps have the rate at which she regenerates turrets sped up slightly due to how easily they get taken out, but this is generally a sign of a team losing heavily and being pushed back by a very aggressive push.
On defense, Symmetra feels very weak if you have a super fast pushing team like Lucio with Winston, constantly fighting over the point with no real downtime or breaks. Unlike Bastion who can setup instantly or Torb who can use his Ult for a level 3 turret, Symmetra can get into these awkward periods where she has no turrets on the map, dies, and has to run back and only has enough charge to place one turret somewhere, which promptly gets blown up immediately. In such situations it's usually worth just swapping away from her onto something like Bastion, unless the enemy team is toting a heavy Barrier-based lineup with bastions/reinhardts where Symmetra's Alt-fire makes her worth a spot.
3 - Shields and the Pre-game
Symmetra's perma shield buffs are -fantastic-. It's difficult to quantify the power of regenerating shields on the entire team, but considering the average health of a teammember is 200 and she adds 50 to this, making your entire team on average 25% harder to kill is superbly strong.
The shields have two issues really. The first is tied in to the issue with turret farms being destroyed above - Symmetra can get into these nasty "down periods" when behind. If her farm is cleared out, and she dies, and a large number of her team dies, she's very very much on the back foot. Not only does it become super difficult to setup a decent turret nest, but it takes 40-50 seconds to reapply shields on the team after their deaths due to the 8 second cooldown. This is necessary for balance of course, but it does further amplify the idea that Symmetra is NOT a strong hero when your team is fighting from behind and is losing engagements and being pushed back. The more your team is repeatedly dying and losing ground, the less and less effective Symmetra becomes until you can win a big team encounter and gain a minute or so to re-shield and re-nest. It's an interesting aspect of her, but sadly I find myself swapping -away- from Symmetra when defending the final point of a match if we're being stomped.
The other element of her shield is the curiously frustrating pregame. It takes 40 seconds to apply shields to your whole team, and that's basically the entire setup time before a match starts. It's fine with organised players but with pickup groups it can be curiously frustrating to chase pharahs around the map trying to shield them, or trying to get LOS to shield the Widowmaker who rappelled away immediately. No other hero has as much pre-match setup as Symmetra, and ideally you want to use this time when defending to setup your first turret nest ASAP, not chase people around the map applying shields.
It's a small quality of life buff, but it kinda feels like the cooldown of her shield should maybe be reduced to 1 second in the pregame so she can shield her whole team quickly at the start rather than the frustrating running around, then have the CD back up to 8+ seconds once the match begins.
4 - The all important Teleporter
Teleporters are awesome. Everyone can see that, and everyone is well aware of how much can swing a map. Outside of picking Symmetra for her Alt-fire vs a heavy Barrier team, the Teleporter is her main strength. Keeping it protected, finding good spots for it and knowing which areas of the map are safer from casual Tracer run-bys are all part of a really fun side game that Symmetras play.
The one interesting thing about the Teleporter though further enhances the thing about her falling behind though - the usefulness of the teleporter is very much dependant on the phase of the game. When defending, the teleporter is insanely useful on the FIRST points because of the distance of run-back. However, on the final point of a map it rarely saves much time. Hanamura is a great example of this - putting a teleporter anywhere on the final point at best saves 1-2 seconds runback, at worst disorientates people and makes it harder!
As a result, when Symmetra falls behind on defense and it's the last point, there really is no reason to play her in most cases. Her teleporter wont do much, her turret nests will take too long to re-setup and she probably wont be able to maintain shields without a strong pushback. The irony is that the opposite is true on attack, quite often.
On attack, having a teleporter able to dump people right next to the final point is stupidly powerful, and whilst you'll rarely get a full turret nest up, a few turrets here and there and 1-2 key pushers being shielded makes a major difference. Thus my feeling with Symmetra regarding her turrets, shields AND teleporter is that she's very very strong in the final phases of an Attacking team and the starting phases of a defense team, but becomes rather less useful on the final phase of a Defense and can be a poor pick if you're struggling to take the first point of an Attack.
5 - The Primary Fire Homing Beam
And now the duff. In my opinion, Symmetra's primary fire is -terrible-. It CAN be strong, but is very very situational, and most of the time it's actually rather un-fun. It feels frustrating, and sometimes feels buggy and broken even though it's working as intended.
The problem is twofold. It has a VERY short range, and it does very poor damage until you've been able to hold it on a target for a while to charge up. The range is the main element. I can certainly see it being overpowered if it had a very long range, but the issue with Symmetra is that she's not especially durable, and having to be in close range with just about ANY other hero will result in her death unless you happen to have turret assistance. This is likely part of the reason it's balanced as it is.
The tips and tricks state that the homing beam is a perfect counter to Tracer and Pharah because they can't dodge it... whilst this is true, a good tracer will stay at the sweetspot out of its range and just obliterate you if it's a straight 1v1. In all honesty the Primary fire feels more like a slightly better Melee attack, best designed purely for finishing off already very low health targets, or helping your turrets if a Reaper happens to blunder into your Nest with wraith form on cooldown.
The thing that makes the gun frustrating is the annoying graphical fluff that fires out of it when missing. It just LOOKS like you should be hitting something, and half the screen is covered with swirly blue things whilst you run around chasing something. It's hard to explain, but i find myself regularly duelling heros in tight situations and thinking "what the hell, SURELY he's in range of my primary" whilst my gun decides that nope, the Reaper 1 meter infront of me is too far for a lock on. Maybe it's latency related, but it feels "off" somehow.
In truth I don't think anything necessarily needs to be done about it. I can see that a chunky range increase would probably render her overpowered and frustrating to play against, and they probably erred on the cautious side and made it weaker than it could be. I'd love to see how Symmetra feels with a -small- range increase on the primary fire. Right now it's barely worth using compared to how strong the alt fire ball is. Virtually ever hero in the game bar maybe Mercy will easily be able to kill you in a straight duel in the range of your Primary fire, so it's purely a "finisher". I just wish it didn't feel so clunky to use.
6 - Gaining Charge
This is a curious one. Symmetra is quite a defensive character. Even on the attack, you'll be on the backlines, perhaps defending a vital sideroom, and generally if you get into a short range duel with the roaming Assaults like tracer or reaper, you're dead (unless they walk into your turret nest). As a result, the only damage you tend to do consistantly is from firing off charged balls at slow moving tanks and emplacements. Fire enough and sure, you'll hit assaults and healers that sidestep round corners blindly and just walk into them, but her damage is nowhere near as reliable as someone like Hanzo or even Zenyatta. Hitting stuff as Symmetra requires you to bait people into turret nests or remain very still.
The problem is that doing damage is the only way for her to gain charge, which can be an issue against certain teamcomps where you really need a teleporter up fast. Thus sometimes I find myself playing stupidly over-aggressive and almost suicide-rushing the enemy to try and gain charge as fast as possible. Dying a few times but being able to gain a Teleporter faster feels worth it, and this can make Symmetra feel a little "off".
Once you get into the midgame you're fine - generally by the time your first Teleporter runs out of charges or is destroyed, you'll have enough charge to plop down another. But getting charge for your FIRST teleporter can be a real struggle, and thus Symmetra becomes very vulnerable to speedy "rushdown" comps that Lucio-boost to a point with 2+ tanks. This can make Symmetra quite the binary pick, and I feel she's much stronger on Payload than on Point Capture.
On Payload the slow speed of the vehicle means Symmetra always gets time to build up charge and setup turrets throughout the course of a map, and is a very strong defender. On Point Capture, you can run into these situations where she feels useless because a fast push has killed your turret farm AND you havent got close enough charge to drop a teleporter to help get back to it.
Defending Hanamura and Volskaya as Symmetra feels very very touch and go, and these are the two maps where I have experienced the highest number of rounds where I flat out feel -useless- and have to swap to Bastion or a tank.
7 - Closing Thoughts
Symmetra is likely to be my Overwatch Waifu till the end, unless someone even more awesome comes along. She's a very niche pick but has some incredibly strong advantages against specific team comps.
I feel the playerbase has possibly misunderstood her in the early beta, and I firmly believe she's stronger as an attacker than a defender - her strength in being able to counter Bastion, setup quick nests to defend key siderooms as you push a payload, and teleport attackers to the final hardest points of a map feel her best assets. Likewise, she can feel incredibly weak as a defender in the final points for many different overlapping reasons that can render her into a "behind" state where she adds very little to a desperate last defense.
I do feel she's possibly one of the weaker heroes on average, but not by much, and only due to versatility. There are times when a match has reached a certain point where Symmetra does feel literally useless and should be swapped away from, though I'm sure virtually all heroes have these kind of troughs to their play.
I -would- like to see a SMALL range increase on her primary fire, and a reduced cooldown on her shields during the pregame phase to reduce chase-the-team-in-setup frustration, but otherwise I get the feeling that she's a little undervalued by the community right now and has some really amazing hidden strengths that arent quite as obvious as some.
Everyone can see the instant effect of a reaper leaping onto a point and ulting to kill 4 people, or a Bastion locking down a corridor. It's harder to see the effect of everyone having 20% more health, and having non-vital Side Rooms completely locked down. It's easier to see the instant impact of a Mercy Res than to realise that your teleporter is saving 20 seconds of runback time for every teammember after a death.
I'm certainly not disappointed in her, and maybe my complaints about the lesser elements of her kit are just due to be being fundamentally a rather mediocre FPS player. Perhaps when I read this thread back in 6 months time I'll facepalm at how much I undervalued some of her kit.
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