The Rock Climbing Walls In Overwatch, Reviewed


Screenshot: YouTube

When Overwatch unveiled new map Horizon Lunar Colony last summer, players were quick to catalog its every feature and develop strategies for how best to defend or attack the moon base. There are airlocks that lead to the surface of the moon, a single mega health pack right next to the first point, stacks of hydroponic veggies, as well as crisscrossing corridors that afford decent high-ground position to attacking snipers. The general consensus in the Overwatch community, though, is that the map “sucks,” unless of course you’re a weirdo who likes turret heroes.

Horizon does feature something that no other Overwatch map has, though: bouldering. The first capture point on the map features the remnants of what appears to have been a full-on jungle gym built for Winston and the other genetically enhanced gorillas who used to inhabit the colony.

Workout equipment was not enough to pacify Winston and his fellow gorillas; according to official Overwatch lore, the colony was abandoned after the gorillas led a violent uprising and massacred the colony’s entire human population. All that remains after that ape bloodbath is a few foreboding tires and seven red and blue bouldering problems on the room’s walls. Players can interact with the tires but not the climbing holds on the walls.

That’s a shame, since I’d really like my favorite video game to also feature my favorite hobby, though I understand why it doesn’t. A video released by the Overwatch team showed a prototype of the climbing area while a developer mentioned the team’s desire to show off “where the gorillas were trained.” (Gorillas love training, including rock climbing.)

Screenshot: YouTube

So how realistic are the map’s seven climbing problems? How difficult would it be for me, a human, to climb them? Were they specifically designed for gorilla beta? What would it be like to crush a gnar sesh at the Horizon bouldering gym? Here is my analysis, route-by-route, featuring helpfully annotated and super cool screenshots from my PS4.

We begin with Route #1, the shortest of the seven. Every problem in this gym is missing three crucial points of information: which holds you start with your hands on, where the problem ends, and how difficult it is, so I’ll attempt to estimate answers for each of those.

Typically, climbers will start somewhere towards the bottom, with a place to put their feet, and problems always end at the highest hold or at the top of the wall. I’ll note where each problem on Horizon begins and ends with an arrow indicating the start and a star indicating the finish. There are no rules governing where you can put your feet, and that should be helpful on Horizon, since the problems here tend to be rather minimalist. Perhaps the scientists in charge wanted the gorillas to develop arm strength?

Bouldering problems are rated by difficulty on the V scale, with a V0 the easiest and V17 the hardest. Anything harder than V10 is difficult enough that the distinction between levels is esoteric.

Assuming the stippled texture of the wall is not entirely slick, you’d probably start this problem with both of your hands on the lowest handhold, and your feet positioned against the wall. The first move is tricky, requiring you to move your right hand up to the second-lowest hold, hook a heel onto the starting rock, then stand up on your left leg while moving your left hand up. It’s not entirely difficult from there, though there is a decent gap between the fourth and fifth holds, which seems like it would require you to push off from the fourth hold and grab the fifth with your right hand. You wouldn’t need your feet to leave the wall entirely, but it would require balance. However, there’s a clever way to solve this, which would be to use your left hand on the edge of the wall to allow yourself to stand up on the third hold and reach your right foot onto the fourth, negating the need to make a dynamic move. Therefore, based on the hardest two moves, this is probably a V3.

The first hand hold is small, but at least you get two feet on the wall to begin. This is basically a longer version of the previous problem, with precious few holds and a series of big moves. This wouldn’t be a problem for a gorilla, much less one with a jetpack, but I’m not grading these for jetpack gorillas—I’m grading them for humans.

Something that becomes apparent the second you enter Point A in an Overwatch game is that every hold in this gym is basically the same. Each one is roughly the size of your hand, vaguely rectangular, and far enough off the wall to allow most halfway decent climbers to support their weight on one hold. Since none of the walls are canted backwards, this means that the only variation between problems is the arrangement of the holds, which is understandable, since there’s only space for seven.

Anyway, this is a V4, due to the length of the problem and the series of big moves you’d have to do.

What’s the first move you’d make here? It seems tempting to go for the hold directly above the starting hold, but you’d have nowhere to keep your feet. Better then to move left and work your way up piece by piece, until you reach that huge gap before the two holds next to the ropes at the very top of the problem. That next move looks like a real fucker, and it’s both far away enough to require a dyno (basically a jumping move) and far up enough that the risk of a nasty fall would be greatly enhanced by a failed dyno.

This problem is not realistic, even in a decorative rock gym made for genetically enhanced gorillas to get in shape on the moon before they murder a bunch of humans in a video game where I get owned nightly by 14-year-olds. Working on that dyno would destroy you, and even if you got it, there’s nowhere to put your feet. It’s a V7—at least—and if you saw it at the gym, you’d probably steer clear of it on account of not wanting to break your head, an instinct which I can warn you from personal experience is a good one to listen to.

This red problem is set on the closest thing that the Horizon gym has to an overhanging wall, which makes it slightly more interesting. I would start this with my left foot on the bottom right hold and my right leg out above it to the right, then torque myself up on the starting hold to reach the rock directly above it with my right hand. This move requires you to simultaneously move at least one foot up to the starting hand hold. From there, it’s not too tricky, and this V4 is one of the more realistic ones at the Horizon gym.

I dunno! It’s a poorly lit hybrid of #2 and #3! Boring! Maybe a V4? It seems that Blizzard’s routesetters started to run out of gas around this point.

My question: What’s up with the tires? I would like to swing on one of them.

Hell yeah.

What the shit is happening here? This rules.

The gym’s sixth problem is easily its best. It’s got a sensible start position, footholds in the right places, and a real progression to it that the best sorts of bouldering problems do. My favorite problems require the climber to navigate a handful of different scenarios in rapid succession, testing your power, balance, and creativity. The leftward shift at the end of this problem is weird as hell, and the fact that it’s so high up makes the finish all that more exciting. Could you break your head on this? Sure! That just makes it that much more exciting. V5, and five stars.

You see: a blob of blue rocks, stuck in the corner to fill out the climbing area’s design.

I see: a pair of intersecting V2s that afford the climber two similar routes to similar endpoints. The two V2s cross over and share some of the same holds.

Next time you play Horizon, impress your friends with your new climbing knowledge.

Compete is Deadspin and Kotaku’s joint site dedicated to competitive gaming.

More Info: