The annual Overwatch Lunar New Year event has returned in 2018, with over 50 new seasonal items to unlock in loot boxes. The update includes a new Capture the Flag map set in Thailand called Ayutthaya and tweaks to the Capture the Flag game mode.
There are six smashing new legendary skins – Black Lily Widowmaker, Qing Long (Azure Dragon) Pharah, Xuan Wu (Black Tortoise) Zarya, Bai Hu (White Tiger) Genji, and Zhu Que (Red Phoenix) Mercy. Don’t forget that all the Lunar New Year skins and cosmetics from last year’s event are once again available in loot boxes and for purchase with credits at regular prices!
Capture the Flag was first introduced in last year’s Year of the Rooster event and became a big hit among players, prompting Blizzard to make the game mode regularly available in the Overwatch Arcade. Players had to adapt their usual attack/defend play styles in this mode as they had to balance doing both at the same time, defending their team’s flag while coordinating their efforts to claim the enemy’s flag.
Included in this patch is Ayutthaya, a beautiful map created specifically for Capture the Flag that was inspired by the city of Ayutthaya in Thailand. One team spawns in a ruined temple, with rounded spires fashioned after traditional Buddhist temples such as Wat Chaiwatthanaram in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
The opposing team spawns in a luxurious white and gold royal palace, similar in style to traditional Thai palace architecture such as Wat Benchamabophit.
The map accurately emulates the style of Thailand’s cultural landmarks while at the same time being appropriately careful by removing any prominent religious symbols such as the Buddha. That allows them to remain neutral to its massive international fanbase as well as avoid the offensive scenario of characters shooting at a Buddha statue. Thai fans of Overwatch will definitely be ecstatic to see their country being faithfully represented in the game.
From a gameplay perspective, the map layout makes for some interesting strategies as it is the first map created specially for Capture the Flag, with the game mode being played on existing control point maps such as Lijiang Tower and Ilios in the past.
Compared to the wide open area where the flags were situated in control point maps, the two flags are now nestled within the two buildings. There are both high ground and underpass pathways at the left, right, and centre of the point which are accessible to all heroes via staircases.
Defenders have to be vigilant and watch out for attacks from any of these routes. The abundance of attack route options also comes with its setbacks for the attacking team, as it becomes highly important for teams to coordinate and push through the same pathway to avoid separating and getting picked off individually.
The elevated areas to the left of the point (from attacker’s point of view) and the centre would be the best routes for attack as they provide high ground advantage and slight cover with the pillars. The small doorway in the middle would not be an ideal pathway, as attackers would be susceptible to Junkrat grenade spam and Symmetra turrets. Static defenses similar to how a team might defend enclosed capture point maps such as Hanamura Point B might prove effective, with Torbjörn turrets and tank shields to defend the flag.
With a new year comes new rules, and there have been some new features implemented in Capture the Flag.
Rule Changes from last year:
- Flag Pickup is 2.5 seconds → Flag pickup is instant
- Flag can immediately be picked up after dropped → Flag cannot be picked up for 5 seconds after dropped
- Flag return is 2.5 seconds → Flag return is 4 seconds
- Flag return stops when taking damage → Flag return does not stop when taking damage
- Match length is 7 minutes → Match length is 8 minutes
- After scoring, the flag takes 3 seconds to respawn → After scoring, the flag takes 15 seconds to respawn
- NEW: Restricted abilities drop the flag (specific hero skills)
What does this mean? The instant flag pickup seems to be the most impactful change, as now you no longer need to hover over the point for 2.5 seconds to claim it. You would think fast heroes will naturally be at an advantage for flag pickup duty such as Genji, Lucio, and Tracer, but Blizzard has decided to even the playing field by introducing a list of restricted abilities. Those are specific hero mobility/invulnerability skills that cause the bearer to immediately drop the flag when used. This encourages more teamwork in capturing the enemy’s flag, as opposed to mobile heroes darting in and out to grab the flag on their own. Having a Lucio use his Amp it Up speed boost to accompany the flag bearer back to base is still a good strategy, along with a tank such as Zarya who can use her bubble shields to protect teammates.
The introduction of the sudden death mechanic into Capture the Flag is also a welcome addition. Previously, it was possible for intense, evenly-matched battles to end in an anticlimactic draw. Now, draw endings have been removed and if teams have equal scores when the timer runs out, a new round begins with the flags closer to the centre of the map, and the first team to score wins. This allows for more satisfying matches with definitive results, and a more enjoyable experience playing Capture the Flag
The Overwatch Year of the Dog event runs from 8 February to 5 March 2018. The full patch notes, including hero updates, user interface updates, and various bug fixes can be found on the Overwatch website. Log in this festive season to claim your free Lunar New Year loot box and we wish you great fortune in your Overwatch adventures!