Analysis of Design: Reinhardt
I’ve got Overwatch on the brain. It’s got me pretty good, honestly. I’ve been meaning to play more Tahira: Shadows of the Astral Empire and to make more progress on my Baldur’s Gate playthrough, but every time I sit down to play something I find myself twitching for everyone’s favorite class-based shooter du-jour (season 2 competitive has been a particularly fun time.) So I’m gonna channel some of that excitement here, namely through some analysis of the game’s fantastically diverse and interesting roster of playable characters. We’ll see how mayn we can get through before Sombra comes out (eventually???) starting with the der große mann himself, Reinhardt.
First off: aesthetic design. Reinhardt is big. Physically, vocally, and kinetically, he is very difficult to miss. Although every character in Overwatch has a distinctive silhouette, Reinhardt’s is probably the most instantly recognizable. The distinctive high-shouldered power armor, heavy footsteps, and bright blue/red expanse of his barrier shield are made to draw attention to him. His voice responses and lore color him as a quixotic idealist, with staunch opinions of what is right and what is wrong. His age is made apparent only in dialogue and when he has his helmet off, since he is arguably the hardiest character in the game. This all serves to give his character an almost mythic quality of an unstoppable paladin from an age gone by who has not faded with age. Keeping in line with the lore of the crusaders as we know it, Reinhardt serves as a bulwark against danger, keeping his friends safe and punishing enemies that stray close enough to his hammer.
Gameplay-wise, Reinhardt is generally considered to be the game’s most straightforward tank. He has a huge amount of health and armor but moves and attacks a bit slowly, which makes him susceptible to being harassed by faster DPS heroes. In addition to this, his massive frame makes him very easy to hit both at range and close quarters. However, played correctly, Reinhardt is never alone. This is due largely in part to the centerpiece of his ability kit: the barrier shield. When activated, it projects a large rectangular energy field in front of him, preventing most types of damage from passing through. The shield may be destroyed but it has a massive amount of HP that recharges whenever it is not deployed. The size of this shield makes Reinhardt a clear choice for defending choke points, pushing objectives, and generally making sure his team members stay alive (specifically backline support heroes). The flipside of this ability is that Reinhardt may not attack while sustaining the barrier, and moves much slower while it is active.
Firestrike is Reinhardt’s only ranged ability and is mostly useful for the ability it’s damaging blast has to pass through barrier shields and multiple enemies alike. It’s slow speed can be a hindrance at long range though, since it’s likely to be dodged or reflected by an attentive Genji. Moreover throwing out a firestrike drops the barrier shield, exposing your team’s less hardy heroes to snipers, enemy ultimates, and other incoming damage. However, it’s a great way for Reinhardt to finish off low health heroes, harass clustered enemy formations, and charge his ult faster.
Charge, his third ability, is one of the most fun in the game for me personally, partially because the cavalier way it throws Reinhardt at the enemy is so neatly in keeping to the kind of person he is presented as. When activated, Reinhardt charges forward, grabbing any enemy in front of him, knocking others aside, and dealing massive damage to anyone caught between his charge and a hard place. It’s a great mobility move that can be used to relocate Reinhardt quickly, but there is no way to stop a charge one it has started. This means that a bad charge can easily put Reinhardt way out of position. Worst case scenarios include: directly in the middle of an enemy team, in front of a deployed bastion, miles away from an objective, or my unfortunate personal favorite – off a cliff.
His ultimate, Earthshatter, is an excellent AOE stun that runs along the ground in a cone in front of Reinhardt. It has excellent range and can crawl over some terrain and objects as well. It is best utilized when coordinated with another damage dealing ult like Reaper’s death blossom or a Pharah barrage, but it also is useful on it’s own for scattering a team when followed up by a charge. The stun lasts a full 2.5 seconds and is a great way to disrupt a team’s momentum by handing yours a big window of opportunity. With proper timing, it may be used to nullify some enemy ults but it also is able to be blocked it’s by an enemy Reinhardt’s shield. This makes for an interesting engagement when Reinhardt meets Reinhardt on the battlefield: whichever team’s shield falls first is likely to get stunned.
So taking his kit into account, lets bring it all together and look at the role that Reinhardt is designed to play within Overwatch. His huge size and ability to keep his teammates safe as they advance or defend means that he has the ability to create a distinct frontline that his team can rally behind. With the third person camera afforded to the Reinhardt when using barrier shield, he enjoys a higher level of possible situational awareness. This allows him to easily call out flankers or priority targets from relative safety, and to keep his team informed about when it is a good or bad time to engage the enemy team. Everything in his kit is centered around being a foundation for team play. On his own he is still dangerous but the large commitment and cooldowns his abilities have, as well as his short range, means that he can easily be outplayed and outdamaged in a 1v1 fight. Reinhardt is designed to serve as a team’s spatial foundation, meaning that wherever Reinhardt is, at least some members of his team should be close behind. Playing him effectively requires good communication and a solid amount of patience, as well as knowing when its better to fight and when to give ground. His damage abilities allow him to be a competent close-range brawler but where Reinhardt really shines is at the tip of the spear, dictating and defending the positioning of his team, keeping them safe and always leading from the front.