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Overwatch 2: How to Play Zarya (Abilities, Skins, & Changes)

Play Zarya to protect your teammates while you shoot energy grenades at your enemies!

Zarya is an already-known character that is coming back in Overwatch 2 as part of the game’s roster. Overwatch 2 has brought considerable changes especially for tank characters since now there aren’t two of them in each party. This just gives Zarya the sweet spot to shine as a tank who brings a lot of utility to the team and can change the flow of a match if played correctly. 

Zarya’s Abilities

Zarya’s kit is pretty simple, but it will demand from players some experience with the character to better understand the timing for each skill. First, let’s cover our bases going through Zarya’s attacks.

Basically, Zarya fights using the Particle Cannon which holds a total of 100 rounds before needing to reload the weapon. Her Primary Attack is a short-range beam of energy. Since you need to hold the button to use it, the amount of rounds utilized depends on how long you keep it pressed. It’s the best option when fighting other players that engage your team or when pursuing someone, for example.

The Secondary Attack is a grenade of energy. You can reach farther locations depending on the inclination you aim, turning this mode into a great option for poking the enemy team while you are waiting for your cooldowns or to farm your ultimate. The grenades also have the effect of knocking back enemies and they are great to farm your ultimate skill. On the other hand, they are really difficult to hit flying enemies or anyone who can dash, like Genji. It’s important to know that each grenade costs 25 rounds, so keep in mind that for every four shots you are going to need some time to reload your Particle Cannon. 

Zarya’s ultimate skill Graviton Surge is a game-changer if used correctly. When activated, she launches an orb that creates a gravity field that pulls enemies to it. This is more of a utility skill, since it doesn’t have the potential to deal a lot of damage by itself.

In terms of skills, Zarya is a pretty straightforward character. Both of her skills are different versions of a bubble-shield. Although they are simple, shields are fundamental to how the character works and her kit. The first one is called Particle Barrier and it’s a shield cast instantaneously to herself. The second skill is the Projected Shield which casts a shield to one of your teammates.

The shields last around two seconds and a half or until they are broken. It’s important to keep in mind that you have up to two shield charges that are split between the first and second skill. So, you can, for example, shield yourself and a teammate at the same time by spending the two charges. However, since each charge has ten seconds of cooldown, it’s important to analyze the situation and avoid spending unnecessary shields. 

Both her attacks and skills are strictly connected with one of Zarya’s passive skills.

Zarya receives the passive role skill Tank, making her more resistant against knockbacks. She also generates less ultimate through healing and damage received. 

Her second passive is called Energy and this is fundamental to her kit. Thanks to this skill, the Particle Cannon damage increases based on the damage blocked when using one of Zarya’s shields. So, whenever you or a teammate with a shield takes damage, the energy level will increase and both of Zarya’s attacks will deal more damage.

To check how high your energy level is, there are two indicators on the screen. The first is a half-circle with a number in the middle. The second one is the sphere of energy on Zarya’s Particle Cannon that gets bigger depending on the Energy level. Your energy level will begin to decrease after some time without taking damage with a shield up.

More on how to synergize her kit in the Strategy section of this guide.

Overwatch 2 Zarya Changes

In general, Zarya hasn’t changed that much in Overwatch 2. She has become more resistant to damage thanks to her base health having been increased by 50 points and her base shield by 25 points. This is mostly because of the change in the team composition which now has only one tank character. 

Besides that, there are other changes in her kit:

  • There are two charges for shields split between the Projected Barrier and the Particle barrier.
  • The shields’ cooldowns begin right after you use the skill.
  • Zarya’s Energy level decreases faster now (2.2 energy every second).

Zarya Strategy and Team Composition

As a Tank, Zarya is supposed to be the front line of the team and mitigate the damage. After the changes that she received for Overwatch 2, she can handle more damage but it all depends on how well you manage your shields. It’s because of the Graviton Surge that Zarya shines, making farming your ultimate top priority. So, your main concern while playing Zarya is to find an angle from where you can throw energy grenades to poke enemies and fill your ultimate.

Because of how her kit works, your secondary goal is to focus on tracking shield availability and Energy level. She won’t do much in battle without a charge of her Particle Barrier to protect herself. Besides that, engaging an enemy with high energy is always the best option.

Try to always call the enemies’ attention and use your shield. When you do that, avoid using a Particle Shield to anticipate damage. Zarya already has a good amount of base shield, so wait until you’re taking damage to cast your skill. The same idea works for the Projected Shield: do not waste it trying to anticipate the damage your teammate is going to take. 

Last but not least, knowing when to use your ultimate is key to playing Zarya well. Check your teammates’ ultimates and see if they are ready. Nothing is more frustrating to a Zarya than grabbing four enemies with your ult and having no follow-up. 

Now that Zarya takes the seat of the main tank, it’s important to consider that she is not a Reinhardt or a Winston in terms of shielding the group. Because of that, in terms of team composition, Zarya works pretty well with characters with a considerable level of sustainability so they don’t rely totally on her shield.  

Overwatch 2 Zarya: Skins 

Overwatch zarya

As of the time of writing this guide, Zarya has 23 different skins. While some are from seasonal events, most of them can be bought using the in-game currency.

  • Overwatch 1 – Automatically unlocked
  • Overwatch 2 – Automatically unlocked

Rare (75 credits)

  • Violet
  • Brick
  • Goldenrod
  • Taiga

Epic (250 credits)

  • Dawn
  • Midnight
  • Frosted – Seasonal event
  • Racer – Seasonal event

Legendary (1900 credits)

  • Arctic
  • Barbarian
  • Cybergoth
  • Champion
  • Cyberian – Seasonal event
  • Industrial
  • Polyanitsa – Seasonal event
  • Siberian Front
  • Snowboarder – Seasonal event
  • Totally 80’s – Seasonal event 
  • Weightlifter – Seasonal event
  • Workout – Seasonal Event
  • Xuanwu – Seasonal Event

That’s all you need to know to start your journey as Zarya in Overwatch 2!