Science is a key part of the Overwatch universe, but some creative players are learning how to bend the rules to their advantage. After Sigma was introduced in August, players quickly realized how destructive his ultimate, Gravitic Flux, was to their teams. Sigma was introduced to competitive mode and the playoff patch of the Overwatch League on a lighting-fast schedule, leaving ample opportunity for players to find and abuse bugs and glitches related to the hero.
Gravitic Flux has seemingly random rules as to which characters are consistently affected. This is an issue that needs to be tackled by the developers. But in the meantime, understanding this “science” is key to staying alive in the current Overwatch meta.
Understanding Gravitic Flux
During Gravitic Flux, Sigma creates a circle on the ground that lasts five seconds until the area is “confirmed” by the casting player. When confirmed, Gravitic Flux lifts all characters within the circle up in the air for two seconds, inflicting 50 damage in the air. Sigma then slams all affected heroes to the ground, inflicting 50 percent of their maximum health as damage.
A Doomfist caught in Gravitic Flux would take 50 damage from the lift and 125 damage from the slam, since the hero has 250 maximum health. This means a full-health Doomfist player would be down 150 health after Gravitic Flux, leaving them extremely vulnerable to elimination. It’s a devastating ultimate for any hero who has a maximum health under 300, which is nearly every damage-based hero.
Gravitic Flux is powerful, but some heroes have the ability to escape the ultimate. Four hero abilities can be used to consistently escape Gravitic Flux: Mei’s Cryo-Freeze or “ice block” colloquially, Moira’s Fade, Reaper’s Wraith Form, and Orisa’s Fortify. All of these make sense within the science of the Overwatch universe since they can be used to escape many other ultimates, like D.Va’s Self-Destruct or Zarya’s Graviton Surge. These are the legitimate ways to avoid the ultimate, but many players have found alternate methods to get out of taking damage.
Implications of glitches
During an Overwatch League playoff match between the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Vancouver Titans, a fan noticed that Titans DPS Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong used a Doomfist glitch to escape the slam damage of Gravitic Flux. As Gladiators tank Kang “Void” Jun-woo cast Gravitic Flux on the Titans, Haksal took the 50 lift damage along with his team. Before the team was dropped to the ground, Haksal used Doomfist’s Meteor Strike ultimate to avoid taking any slam damage.
The timing of the Meteor Strike was so perfect that it’s hard to believe this isn’t an abuse of a well-known glitch within the pro community. Tracer’s Recall can also be used to escape the ultimate in the current patch used for the Overwatch League playoffs, according to commenters on the Reddit thread. But the Recall glitch has been fixed in the current Public Test Realm (PTR) patch.
The problem is less about professional players using glitches since they of all people would know Overwatch’s limitations. Instead, it’s an issue of glitches not being noticed by developers until the implications are dire. The Vancouver Titans went on to win that map as well as the series. While one single abuse of a glitch wasn’t the reason for that win, it begs the question of how many other glitches or “workarounds” exist for Sigma’s ultimate.
Multiple updates were required to fix issues with Gravitic Flux that were present at Sigma’s launch. A recent patch to the live servers, Patch 1.39, fixed a bug that allowed an enemy Sigma to avoid Gravitic Flux damage by casting his own ultimate. The same patch fixed a bug where Pharah wouldn’t be affected by Gravitic Flux when she used Barrage. Because of multiple glitches and long times between changes, many players have referred to the ultimate as “broken” and impossible to counter.
Thankfully, there are counters outside of avoidance for some support characters, but even this is questionable science at best. Zenyatta’s Transcendence can negate Gravitic Flux entirely since the healer’s ultimate can be cast at any time. Brigitte’s Rally can also nullify some of the damage of Gravitic Flux. While it can’t be cast after Brigitte is already stunned into Flux, if Rally is triggered before the initial “lift,” all characters receive armor. Gravitic Flux won’t take this armor into consideration when inflicting 50 percent max health damage, so heroes have a higher chance of survival.
Another ultimate that can nullify Gravitic Flux through some very shaky science is Lúcio’s Sound Barrier. Sound Barrier adds armor to allies within a certain radius, but Lúcio must hit the ground to “drop the beat” and cast the ultimate. Lúcio can normally be stunned, knocked back, and charged to delay or nullify this ultimate. But Lúcio can cast Sound Barrier with no problem while suspended in air during Gravitic Flux. How?
Flux creates a “new gravitational floor” that Lúcio can use to trigger Sound Barrier, according to multiple commenters. While this is unconfirmed by the developers, the explanation works within “Overwatch science.” Sound Barrier is a critical defensive ultimate. Not being able to use Sound Barrier to avoid the damage of Sigma’s ultimate would break the very loose “rules” of gravity within the Overwatch universe since Lúcio can also use his ultimate within Zarya’s Graviton Surge. It’s questionable science, but for the sake of fairness, it works.
Upcoming balance changes
Gravitic Flux, like many ultimates from new heroes, often feels overpowered. Balance changes happen over time, and developers recognize that.
“We’ve just barely entered into 2-2-2 role queue and released a new hero at the same time,” Overwatch developer Josh Noh said in a forum post. “It’s important to collect statistics/data, as well as feedback to make informed decisions.” More ways to avoid Sigma’s ultimate are upcoming, including Sombra’s ability to hack him out of casting Gravitic Flux.
Changes are coming, but players’ frustration toward Gravitic Flux is a lasting issue—so is the ability of highly-skilled players who abuse glitches that developers may not have fully explored. Gravitic Flux seems to operate by rules that are only loosely tethered to the established science of the Overwatch universe and the developers should consider the implications of this issue before the next hero is introduced to the game.