'Overwatch' Guide: The Difference Between Shields, Armor And Barriers

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Torbjorn and his armor
Torbjorn and his armor Furious Paul

Overwatch is easy to pick up and nearly impossible to master. There are so many tiny nuances that Blizzard’s hero shooter never really tells you about. You can find every single hero ability, ammo count and map choke point by playing the game a ton, but there are a few things that require research. Armor, shields and barriers are all integral to understanding how Overwatch works, but nowhere in the game is it explained.

Knowing how much damage you can take in a fight in Overwatch can be the difference between a victory or defeat. Say you are a Reinhardt with a Symmetra’s Shield Generator nearby and a Lucio ultimate are on you. A Junkrat tire and a D.Va ultimate come your way; do you survive? Let me break down the difference between shields, barriers and armor in Overwatch.


Armor is that yellow segment on your hero’s health bar. Whenever you take a hit on your armor, it’s reduced by half, up to five damage. That means, a Torbjron spread shot will do half as much damage to your armor as it would your normal health bar. Say an ability deals 10 damage, that means it’s better at destroying armor.

Ability granted armor always gets destroyed before a hero’s base armor. That means, if a Torbjorn throws a Bastion an armor pack, the Swedish meatball’s buff will be destroyed before the robot does.

Heroes with Armor: Bastion, D.Va, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, Winston

Winston is an angry monkey
Winston is an angry monkey Blizzard


Unlike Armor, which can only be restored with healing, Shields regenerate on their own. They don’t reduce damage but restore 30 points per second after being out of combat for three seconds. Characters with Shields tend to be in the middle of the fight, disrupting opponents with annoying abilities. Knowing when to fight and knowing when to run and let your shields come back is an important lesson all Overwatch players need to learn.

Heroes with Shields: Symmetra, Zarya, Zenyatta


A Barrier in Overwatch is a shield that can be propped up by certain heroes. Winston has his happy circle, Symmetra has her floating wall of pain and Reinhardt has his rectangle of safety. Eeach of these intangible Barriers can block a certain amount of damage before beaking. It has to be applied to the front though, if you shoot behind Reinhardt he will still take damage.

Some abilities can phase through Barriers, like: Winston’s Tesla Cannon, Mei’s Blizzard, Zarya’s Graviton Surge, Hanzo’s Dragonstrike, Reinhardt’s First Strike and Symmetra’s balls. These abilities won’t cut through Zarya’s bubble though. Unlike the rest of the Barriers, hers makes herself on an ally invulnerable for two seconds.

There’s only one hero in Overwatch that uses a special Barrier and he lets you know all about them. The loud DJ Lucio’s ultimate works differently than any other health buff in the game. When he tells you to break it down, your hero gains 500 health. That health decreases rapidly, at a rate of 80 per second, but is pretty much the same as regular health.

Heroes with Barriers: Zarya, Winston, Reinhardt, Symmetra

'Overwatch' May Not Be Perfect, But It's Damn Near Close
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