Few things are better than a Russian power lifter. Zarya is an iconic new addition into the Overwatch character list. She packs a massive punch and plays as a solid tank class in the game. At PAX East, Blizzard announced Zarya and McCree to the fans. Zarya is a very solid tank with mid-range attack abilities and some great defensive specials. In the psycho-paced game of Overwatch, Zarya will quickly become a fan favorite despite her low speed.
Zarya’s offense is a huge Particle Cannon that has two types of attack. The first is her medium ranged laser which means a lot of moving around and trying to catch speedy players up close. It also leaves her open to attacks that are further away (snipers). The right click lobs particle bombs that have a small but deadly AOE effect. These work better if you are further away from a target however they use a lot more particle ammo than the beam. Her “Q” ability or Ultimate skill is a nasty Graviton Surge that pulls all the enemy characters in the area into small tight area and holds them there for a few seconds. Pairing this up with McCree's Deadeye can be very rewarding if pulled off right.
While Zarya’s offense capabilities are nasty, they are not nearly as effective as linking her with another characters for her defensive abilities. While characters like Reinhardt have the front shield for an extended time, Zarya puts a small defensive globe around herself when she wants to play defense. She also can put this globe on her teammates to protect them if needed. The Particle Barrier can be used as a final plan of defense, or used to protect a player going in for the kill. Timing is everything with Zarya, and she's definitely harder to play than the other tanks.
When playing Zarya in the match I found she works best as a sort of support or pocket tank. When teamed with McCree or someone like Tracer, Zarya finds her true potential. She can use that barrier to give her partners an extra second of protection. If you start to add these into something like Reaper’s Death Blossom it becomes brutal. He can then get into position using Zarya’s shield, then unleash his Q skill. In the meantime, Zarya is a threat in her own right. The beam attack of her cannon at close range can quickly kill multiple opponents. We had success with her on the offense side as she went in close and was able to get some kills on unsuspecting enemies. Also when working with Mike as he played McCree we were able to do some serious damage. Overall, Zarya is a pretty straight forward class. The technique comes in knowing when to use the barriers to maximum effect.
The question in all of Overwatch meta now is not who the strongest character in the game is, but what will be the best character combinations? Zarya with any class is effective. She can stay back and tank for support classes or move up on offense to not only protect killers, but do some killing herself. She can play the bait, let some damage get in on her, and then pop the shield. All the while, as she soaks up more damage, she outputs more as well. Making her this whole giant Russian snowball of potential damage. When combined with a healer, she can be truly deadly.
We liked Zarya a lot actually. She is fun to use and easy to learn compared to some of the other characters in the game. She definitely plays on the good side of the lore unlike the darker toned Widowmaker. Her backstory of being a weight lifting champion who has put down her personal glory to help others is a positive one. I think Zarya will be a fan favorite as more players get their hands on the game and it's certainly nice to see a female badass take to the ranks of the upcoming MMO shooter.