Published on June 27th, 2016 | by Peter Freeman1
Summary: Overwatch is simply one of Blizzard's best games in years and helps to push the FPS genre forward in new and exciting ways.
I imagine that for a lot of people, Overwatch was the last type of game they expected Blizzard to create. Not only is shooter a genre the developer has never explored, but Overwatch is the company’s first completely new IP in nearly ten years (Hearthstone is considered a spinoff of WarCraft). Because of all this, there was a lot of curiosity around this game.
Overwatch is a character-based team-focussed first person shooter. If that sounds like a lot of terms all at once, know that Overwatch is actually surprisingly simple in its execution. Yes, there are twenty-one different characters with unique abilities and a slew of modes, but it isn’t hard to grasp onto the concept of each mode or character. The game has some pretty decent tutorials for each character that helps you learn all their abilities if you need it.
The game modes are pretty straight forward. There’s a payload mode, a attack/defend control point mode, and a king of the hill type mode where players compete back and forth for a central control point. There are a few variations on these modes, such a map that starts with a control point and then becomes a payload map, but for the most part they stick to those three types. This keeps things simple and easy for you to understand what you’re getting into based on the map that you load into. All the maps are strikingly different, so you’ll never be mistaking one for another. There are the snowy mountain village of Nepal, or the old ruins of Ilios. In some maps you even head through Hollywood where the map is made up of old movie sets, or good ol’ Route 66 where train crash highlights the beginning of the map.
Of the modes in the game, the most exciting tends to be the king of the hill map. This is where – in my experience – the most push and pull happens. Many times it tends to come down to the wire between teams. There’s nothing more exciting than managing to bring back the point under your control just before the enemy team could claim it.
There are also weekly brawls where things are even crazier. One week you’re all the same character, another week you’re a different character each time you spawn. It’s a very stress free way to get familiar with some of the mechanics and characters while also having a great deal of fun. No one is really taking the brawls seriously, so you don’t have to worry about performing at your peak.
Though the idea of there being twenty-one characters might seem intimidating, there’s no reason for you to play all of them. All you need to do is experiment with a few in order to find someone that fits your playstyle. As someone who enjoys very mobile characters, characters like Tracer and Pharah really appealed to me. But if you prefer someone who can snipe, or who are bullet sponges and can deal tons of damage, there are characters like Roadhog or D.va that fit that too. It’s part of the mass appeal of Overwatch: no matter your playstyle, there’s at least one character that will fit your interests.
Because there are such a variety of characters, no character plays like another, even within the same role. For example, a character like Mei is a defense character, but her ice gun has a short range and she can be easily killed. Someone like Junkrat, though, has grenades that bounce off surfaces, giving him more range to play with. Overwatch even has several different supports that do more than just heal other characters. Symmetra fights off enemies with turrets and helps bring her team to the forefront with teleporters. Lucio on the other hand, can allow his team to move at a much faster speed, which gives them the edge in the opening moments of a map, or towards the end when they need to rush the point.
Stylistically all the characters look very different as well. Junkrat’s grenade launcher looks like it’s being held together with duct tape and glue, while someone like Pharah has a very professional look to her suit of armor. Lucio fights off his enemies with a sonic blaster, while the vanguard Reinhart battles enemies with a giant hammer. In its own way, this is part of Overwatch’s storytelling.
Even though Blizzard has never made a shooter before, you’d never know it by the way that Overwatch plays. It’s super smooth, responsive and is amongst the top tier of shooters. The game is very generous with your aim, but that allows you to feel like you’re contributing more to a fight and actually doing something instead of constantly missing shots or never getting any kills. This is especially true for the sniper characters like Widowmaker or Hanzo, where you might feel like you’re “accidentally” good as them because of the generous aim. The fact that kills are never tracked, or really a main focus of the modes helps as well. And at the end of every match the game highlights the positive things players have done in the game. So if you performed poorly, the game goes out of its way to avoid telling the rest of your team.
Blizzard has stated that all future characters and maps will be free for the entire life of the game. The only thing that you can choose to pay for, are loot boxes. These loot boxes carry all of the cosmetic items within Overwatch. These can range from lines of dialogue, sprays, poses for characters, and finally, character skins. Naturally the most interesting and important are the skins. Many of them are simply color swaps, but the legendary skins are actually different costumes for each character. You can also earn loot boxes by playing the game though, with a persistent player leveling system, but as times goes on earning them will take much more time.
There isn’t any story mode – or any single player mode at all – in Overwatch, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of lore or story in the game world. The maps are filled with fun little Easter eggs. Depending on which characters are on your team, they’ll react to place their in. When in Hanamura, Genji will talk about how he wasted his youth at the arcade. Before the matches start, certain characters will talk to each other, giving way to relationships between the characters. If Tracer and Zenyatta are on a team, Tracer will express her condolences for the loss of Zenyatta’s spiritual leader. Little touches like this are fun.
The only problem with Overwatch is the lack of a competitive mode. The mode was set to be included right up until a few weeks before released. But due to confusion amongst beta players, Blizzard opted to take it out of the base game. It will return later, but for those looking for a place to strategize and compete on a higher level, it’s a shame that we’ll have to wait (as of now there’s no solid date on when the mode will arrive).
Overall though Overwatch is a tightly made package that even the worst FPS player could have a good time playing. The eclectic cast of characters, the varying playstyles, it’s all there. Overwatch is a marvel to play and you’d never have expected it based on Blizzard’s past outputs. That said, it would be hard not to recommend Overwatch to anyone who enjoys having fun.