You might’ve noticed by this point that every hero in Overwatch has health. Obvious, right? If you shoot them, they do take damage, and if they take enough damage, they do in fact die. What you might not have been able to figure out, though, is how exactly shields and armor affect the damage you take. Health is simple enough. If something does 100 damage, you take 100 damage. Easy-peasy. Health meters across all characters are divided into segments of 25 , hence why Roadhog has so many bars and Tracer has so few.
Shields are similar, only shields regenerate after not taking damage for three seconds. That’s why it’s so important for Zarya, who has an innate 200 shields on top of her 200 health, to back out and let her shields regenerate if she takes too much damage. It’s also important to recognize the order in which types of health are depleted. Shields take damage before armor and health, and then armor goes, and finally health is chipped away.
While Shields and Health itself are straight forward, armor is a bit trickier. Armor reduces the amount of damage taken from all sources by a straight five, and for anything less than ten, it halves it completely. Characters like Tracer, who attack quickly with a fast-firing weapon, are really ineffective versus anyone with Armor, especially D.Va because she has the most. It’s also effective against shotguns, like Reaper and Roadhog, reducing the damage of each pellet. Armor is significantly less effective against larger attacks, like Pharah’s rockets or Zarya’s right click.
When being healed, Armor also regenerates 50% more quickly than health. If Tracer was already having a hard time fighting that D.Va, one being healed by a Mercy is virtually indestructible. There’s also an added benefit for armor that a lot of players don’t realize. Torbjorn can grant allies 75 of it. For any character with shields, (notably Zarya) armor reduces the amount of damage taken by that, too. Torbjorn can basically turn shields into armor. As long as a character with shields has at least one point of armor, all damage taken gets reduced.
Having knowledge of shields and armor is invaluable to knowing which heroes counter which. Roadhog doesn’t have health or shields, so many characters melt him, but few melt him as hard as Tracer and D.Va. D.Va can simply run up on top of him, lay her crosshairs on Roadhog’s head, and unload. D.Va’s also effective against Winston for similar reasons. Reaper does do reduced damage to armor, but he already does so much damage in close range that it can still be tricky for a Reinhardt or a D.Va to solo him, especially if he’s good at landing headshots. So don’t expect to be the one who reaps if you’re playing a character with armor. Of course D.Va is also at a disadvantage because her critical hitbox, i.e. what counts as a headshot, is the cockpit in the middle of her body, which makes it quite an easy target when a Reaper or anyone else jumps on top of you. That’s why, despite her massive amount of armor, D.Va seems to die so quickly.
It’s a shame that Blizzard doesn’t really explain any of it in the game itself, and to get a full understanding, you have to dig around a bit. Understanding the effectiveness of Armor, Shields, and Health, and how they all interact with each other is paramount to countering heroes in Overwatch, and creating a team that synergizes well. So the next time you’re on defense and are being accosted by six Winstons, grab six D.Vas and show them the what for.