I have previously waxed on at length about how much I love my primary Overwatch character, Mercy. My secondary character, Symmetra, is a discussion for another day. She’s had so many power level adjustments in the past year that you’d think she was the Modern format. Today, I want to wax on about my tertiary character, Lúcio.


For me to break it down about Lúcio you need to understand Overwatch’s character roster. Some of the characters, particularly the ones from earlier in the game’s development (as opposed to Sombra, Ana, and the ones added in during the Beta), are “borrowed” from other properties. Soldier 76 is “generic RPG guy”, McCree is the Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns, Roadhog and Junkrat are callouts to the aesthetic of the Borderlands franchise, and Reinhardt has a skin that is literally just armor from World of Warcraft. It works because that’s basically his design. Amidst all these things there is Lúcio, a character who calls back to Jet Set Radio. It is not subtle, but it is awesome.


Jet Set Radio was a strange (read unique) “tagging” game in which you used roller blades to maneuver around an urban landscape, grinding on rails and walls to get places, where you would then drop your tag. It’s not the most popular game, but it is iconic for these mechanisms. To replicate that feel, Lúcio wears skates and can “wall grind,” a feat in which Lúcio adheres to a surface and then continues moving along it in a straight line. This ability sounds rather uninteresting, and is typically seen as one of weaker movement abilities, but the broad definition of a wall means you can grind against the payload. And that’s a thing I love to do.


Escort missions are ones in which the attacking team is trying to shepherd a large floating object (the payload) to a finish line while the defense team tries to cut them off at various checkpoints. These objects vary in size—the smallest one is a car while for Christmas a different payload was tricked out as Santa’s sleigh. Basically, they are of notable size. As long as only one team is touching the payload, it will move closer or further from the target depending on whether the controlling team is attack or defense. Should more than one team have hands on, the payload is “contested”, which means it stops dead in its tracks.


So when you’re on defense, it’s really useful to have a character who can stick on the payload and jump from side to side, using the mass of the payload as an invulnerable shield. Enter Lúcio.


Lúcio, as a healer, doesn’t immediately seem like the best character to ride a payload. He doesn’t have a ton of health, he doesn’t do a lot of damage, and the wall grind is only so useful. But Lúcio has two other attributes that make him amazing at this: he’s a healer who heals himself and everyone in line of sight passively (he can “amp it up” when a boost is needed), and he has a knockback attack for when people get too close to you.


Between these factors, a good Lúcio defending a payload can be super hard to eliminate. If you take some damage, jump to the other side until you heal. If you’re running into the melee characters that seem to have the easiest time prying him off the side, bounce them out of range and move to another, further part of the payload. And wall-grinding in this situation helps minimize your hit box and keep you moving.


The key, though, is that Lúcio can do all this while not losing sight of his role on a team. If you’re on hard payload defense, your teammates are probably within line of sight. As is, you can amp up your healing whenever the cooldown resets, “spamming heals” almost as effectively as if it were your primary focus. It allows you to focus on that role, which then buys time for your teammates to make it back to the payload to back you up.


Lúcio has one more ability, and it ties all the others together: speed boost. This is line of sight, and trades off with your healing passive (his whole flavor is that of a Brazilian musician, so these abilities are sonic in nature). Speed boost is primarily used to zip out of the base in a different type of map (“control” maps where each team is released simultaneously to capture a shared point, and I will say more on that in a second), but it provides two pieces of utility when you’re payload dancing. First, if you’re set on health you can switch to speed boost, to hasten your allies as they fight back to the payload. Second, though, sometimes you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed. In those cases it’s better to back off than to die (you’d respawn but it charges your enemy’s ultimate ability), and speed boost lets you fly away on winged feet.


On control maps, Lúcio has a different dance that he can do. Many (but importantly not all) of the control levels (which are divided into three different discrete maps to do a best of three challenge) have some sort of central pillar, and Lúcio can grind on those things forever. If you gain height, a feat you can accomplish by jumping and the wall grinding again, there’s a sweet spot where you’re high enough to be above eyeline and low enough to hold the point against the other team’s conversion attempt. Often, this move is the difference between winning and losing a level.

An example of one of those columns on a control map. I can zip around that center post pretty well.

An example of one of those columns on a control map. I can zip around that center post pretty well.

I play mostly on the Xbox One, and the default control scheme isn’t particularly forgiving for that. You jump with the button used to aim, so it’s hard to jump and move (this is not a problem on the PC version). But when I upgraded to the Xbox Elite controller, I was able to unlock the full power of the wall grind. And it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. It’s stressful and peaceful in all the best ways.


I am primary support, which occasionally feels like a weird place to be. After all, I devote a ton of time to the game, am vaguely good at it (Platinum this competitive season), and yet my average kills is way below an attack main of similar experience, or even most of the primary tanks. That is typically the measure of these types of shooting games, and yet Overwatch does a great job of offering different ways to play the game.


Mercy will forever be my favorite, but Lúcio is almost as enjoyable. It seems I am at my happiest when I can move freely across the screen, worrying less about sniping off stragglers. Basically, I love getting into the midst of the scrum before darting away. Lúcio is great for that, and your teammates will almost always be glad to see you selecting a Lúcio.
Jess Stirba is aware Aether Revolt is on the verge of release, but just doesn’t have the bandwidth to devote to Magic these days.

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