The Roar
The Roar


Will the new changes make Overwatch's capture the flag mode work?

The Overwatch World Cup is returning. (Image: Blizzard Entertainment)
9th February, 2018

In a recent YouTube video, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan announced the return of a vastly-tweaked capture the flag mode to the game as part of the upcoming Lunar New Year event.

The mode is clearly set to become a larger part of the Overwatch ecosystem, with the video also revealing a new capture the flag-specific map as well as a four-week competitive season for the new game mode that will coincide with the Lunar New Year event.

Capture the flag was originally introduced during last year’s event in the thematically appropriate form of ‘Capture the Rooster’, before being revised to simply capture the flag after the three-week event ended.

While the mode has only ever existed in the game’s arcade and custom match zones, there was still considerable discontent from fans about a number of issues the mode had.

Fundamentally, being a mode that lends itself so heavily to traditional shooter rules and mechanics, capture the flag had a much greater limit of competitively viable heroes than any other map type – with some heroes proving unstoppable.

An all too common (and almost unavoidable) trick was to have Sombra place her translocator a safe distance from the enemy flag, go invisible, capture the flag and just teleport back for an easy capture. Tracer’s triple blink proved annoyingly frequent too, as did Winstons using the quick cooldown their ultimate gives their jump pack to get to the other side of the map in a flash.

There was room for characters like Torbjörn and Bastion in defence, but an unacceptably large portion of the roster found themselves fundamentally unfit for the type of game.

The other big gripe fans had with the mode was the absurdly high number of draws.

To win a game of capture the flag, your team needed to capture the enemy flag and bring it back to your base three times – obviously before they could do the same. If time expired before that happened, the team that had captured the most flags won.


If they were locked in a tie? The siren sounded and everyone went home unsatisfied.

Kaplan explained in the video, however, that the development team “took a lot of feedback and advice” from the community and that both of the mode’s problems will hopefully become a thing of the past.

The draw issue will certainly come to an end, with Kaplan explaining that “every time [they’ve] had draws in Overwatch, there’s been discontent in the playerbase.”

Capture the flag will now employ a sudden death mechanic, whereby if both teams are tied as time expires, both flags will be moved closer to the map’s centre and as soon as one is successfully captured, the game will end.

The changes to the rules and mechanics of the mode are where things should get more interesting.

The big change as far as abilities are concerned is moves that grant their character “great mobility” or temporary invincibility will now be classified as “restricted abilities” and will result in the character dropping the flag.

Winston’s jump pack was used as the example, however other abilities that spring to mind as potential restricted abilities include Tracer’s blink, Reaper’s teleport, both Sombra’s stealth and translocator, D.Va’s boosters and Moira’s fade.


The other change to flag capturing is the elimination of the 2.5-second uninterrupted stance players needed to assume at the pedestal to capture the flag.

Kaplan claimed the changes had resulted in the playtesters seeing a higher rate of flag capture, with games proving a lot more action packed and also rarely heading to sudden death.

If characters can no longer cheat their way back to base, it’s certainly not hard to see Kaplan being right. With the viability door thrown wide open to all sorts of characters, this could see some incredibly interesting strategies around capture and transport evolving – especially given Overwatch’s capture the flag, unlike other shooters, allows you to capture the opponent’s flag while yours is unsecured.

Unlike the game’s other imported traditional shooter mode Deathmatch, it’s conceivable to see a unique, but genuine, metagame evolve in capture the flag.

When capture the flag was first unveiled last year, Kaplan expressed concern with restricting abilities as it would make characters feel more like generic shooter characters and less like Overwatch heroes.

For me, what makes Overwatch what it is is the incredible variety of team compositions and ability combinations teams employ to complete a common objective. With capture the flag no longer the domain of a few zippy heroes, capture the flag will now better embody what the game is really all about.