Overwatch is Blizzard’s team based FPS in the vein of TF2 but unlike TF2’s tongue in cheek industrial aesthetic, Overwatch beams with colorful optimism that is shown off in its varied cast.

In this episode of By Design I want to talk about what I feel is the most balanced character, both in the mechanical and karmic sense.


As a former monk of the Shambali Monastery, Zenyatta shares the belief that the Omnic, like humans have souls, bestowing in him a calm that comes from the idea of spiritual equality among all beings. While his teacher Tekhartha Mondatta and the rest of his order went on to become global sensations spreading that message of harmony, Zenyatta’s seeks to achieve the same goal in a different manner. After leaving the Monastery in Nepal he wandered the world for years forming bonds and sharing those ideas with those he befriends.

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While he does not inspire on the same scale as his teacher, Zenyatta’s efforts do help people, as we have learned from his time mentoring Genji. While it’s not clear if the rest of the Shambali are pacifist, Zenyatta’s sense of adventure will steer him into a fight but only as a means to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I know I should try to avoid story in By Design videos, but I love the lore behind Zen. He’s a faux-Buddhist Robot. It was unavoidable I was going to like his character, it’s a relief that he’s so well designed.

So let’s get to the crunchy stuff. As a support class character Zen heals his teammates, one at a time with Harmony orbs and just as any other healer he can defend himself. He can launch orbs consecutively or charge up the attack for multiple and do greater damage in one burst. His attacks are pretty accurate which aids in the fact he’s an offensive healer. While a single orb does currently 46 damage, a fully charged barrage will do 230 damage. That’s enough to drop most non-tank characters. Learning the timing means skilled Zenyatta play will allow the player to get sneak kills on lower HP targets or take enemies who are stuck in place. Just be careful as the orb volley is a high risk, high reward mechanic.

His ability to heal only one ally at a time will make him a less than optimal pick as the only healer on a team but Zenyatta’s adaptive nature means he has the programming to scrap better than you think a level headed monk robot could execute. It’s best to pair him with other healers or a cohesive team and a Soldier 76 who’s on point with his biotic field.

With his discord orb enemies will receive 30% more damage, which was a nerf from a previous 50%. Even at 30 Zen’s discord orb is an invaluable asset and can be utilized in great conjunction with offense characters. Are you playing with a skilled Hanzo? Your discord orb will tell him who to aim at for instant kills. Is there a Pharah harassing your team? Discord her and you can at least scare her out of the sky. There’s a Bastion in sentry mode where you can easily keep line of sight? Not for long. Did another Reinhardt charge yours? Put a harmony orb on him and a discord orb on the enemy Rein. There’s a great chance he’s going to make it and the enemy team just lost their Reinhardt. Attacking the opposing Reinhardt makes it all but certain.

A tank is going to feel softer with a discord orb on them and a team that focus fires on discord orbs will make make quick work of the enemy team’s front line. I like to think of Zenyatta as a secret tank buster. I’ve won several one on one fights against Roadhog as Zen, as long as I dodged his hook. With enough space I can carefully overcome tanks in solo fights. The only tank who is a little harder to fight is Zarya, as her safe space bubble will immediately drop any discord orb that’s on her and her constant beam has some deceptive reach I’m not used to yet. As one might expect with someone like Zen, overcoming your enemy is a game of skill and patience.

As one of the game’s slowest characters you must choose your actions carefully and look for your openings. You must be a teamplayer, because as his lore suggests you are stronger because of the bonds you form with your team. Keep a distance between yourself and your foe so that you aren’t vulnerable during a lengthy reload and avoid getting swarmed. He doesn’t have a lot of health but with 150 of it being shields they will regenerate on their own.

As for Zenyatta’s ultimate ability he temporarily achieves Transcendence. In this heightened state of being Zen becomes invincible and the aura around him heals his team at an incredible rate. The obvious use of this would be to help the team push through a defense but I’ve used Transcendence to save my team from all kind of scrapes, whether it be a hard counter to keeping my allies alive during Zarya’s Graviton Surge or rushing bravely into Hanzo’s Dragonstrike to save my team. In the past I’ve been able to keep tanks and characters on the edge of his attack alive by offsetting the damage output. The cries of astonishment from Hanzo players when I transcend the dragons with my team is pretty priceless. Makes me think he could benefit from Zen’s teachings like Genji did.

While it might sound counter-intuitive sometimes it’s worth using Zen’s ult BEFORE you’re near your team as that extra speed means you might get to them for one last push or to put a hold on the cart or capture point.

There are times where Zen’s Transcendence feels like it lacks a little something to make the difference. The philosophy behind it makes perfect sense, but I wonder if it would be too powerful if he also exuded a slight discord effect on enemies who fell within his aura. Zen’s inability to attack in any way during Transcendence and acting as the front of a push, when he’s not usually a front line character feels a little incongruent compared to how he normally plays.

While I’m sure Blizzard might tweak Zenyatta in the future to better work with the change of the other heroes, I feel that he is one of the closest things I can think of when it comes to perfect game design.

From his appearance, to his story, his abilities and his team interaction mechanically or otherwise, Zen feels, if you will excuse the pun, in harmony.

Overwatch trumpets the theme that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and Zenyatta is the kind of character I would love to see in more entertainment. Hopefully there will be an animated short for Zen sooner than later.

When so much tells us a hero is someone who brazenly dominates a situation it can be hard to remember that it’s not the only way to get things done. Don’t underestimate a soft spoken robot who has the patience to help people.

The world could always use more heroes.

Take care.

Until next time.