After what seems like a grueling wait for the launch of one of the most anticipated Blizzard titles, Overwatch is finally here! At least in the coming future! This review is being pushed out a day early in order to help provide prospective players some insight on what to expect from this title! Now onto the details! Overwatch is the first new IP from Blizzard in a long while and it is the first time Blizzard has attempted the multiplayer, Shooter arena style. Your goal in Overwatch is a simple one, your team either guards an objective or pushes a payload towards a predefined area of the map while the opposing team either attempts to capture or push back your goal(s). You play the game by choosing from a large roster of characters from which each ones has their own unique ways of play. You could choose the quick Tracer in order to harass the enemy lines or you may choose a further approach and play a more defensive Widowmaker. Maybe you aren’t the combative type and would rather assure your teammates health by playing a healer like Mercy. Blizzard has got you covered in your choice of play style.
Now this is going to seem a lot like Team Fortress 2 and it would be frank not to say that this game does take inspiration from the already tested and tried title that is TF2. What Overwatch brings to the table is a more diverse cast of characters and more play styles to bring in a greater amount of individuals. Now the diverse roster is more or less where the differences end, the game types play out in similar fashion, one team defends while the other team attacks. It is pretty standard material when you think about it. However it’s the charming characters that really helps this title to standout. In traditional Blizzard fashion, they have managed to create so much lore for a game that is not even out yet. This is the beauty of this title, being able to find characters that you love and enjoy so much that you enjoy your match that much more. While our experience with the game has only been relegated to the beta and what information has been released, we can vouch for how stable the game actually played. The queue times were quick and finding a match was the least of anyone’s worries. While Blizzard does not enforce a character count per match, every player is free to swap heroes at will and that allows for on the fly strategy and dynamic gameplay. You never know if you will end up facing a horde of Bastions or a whole team of quick and agile Tracers. Granted this presents a slurry for frustrations and issues however it is easily mitigated by choosing a character that can counter said character that you are up against.
The Gameplay: The game is a shooter. Not in the traditional, Call of Duty, sense but the online arena play sense. You simply chose a character you wish to play from a bracket of different class types. You have at your disposal, Offense, Defense, Tank & Support and from here you have the choice to play a role in the match. The game does it’s best to let players know if their team is to support heavy or to tank heavy. Granted I have had matches where most of the helpful hints were tossed aside when most of the team wanted to play Tracer. Once your team is settled and the countdown finishes you are free to chase after the objective. The objective can be something as simple as capturing a point or two or maybe fighting over one point in general; you could even be fighting to move a payload towards an enemy objective in order to win. The matches are very straightforward and they provide you with enough challenge to help you get the most out of your chosen champion. The game also to my own personal opinion feels stylized after how MOBA’s operate as well. While there is less emphasis on deeper skill and laning, you still have the structured sense of a MOBA and I feel that has a lot of earned credit from their own MOBA, Heroes of The Storm. While it is an arena style shooter, I still get this MOBA-ie vibe when I approach the queue screen and I got to choose my character. This is all the more evident when you have various players sticking to their character’s role type.
The following footage was captured from our PS4 during the May 5-9th Open Beta
Now your champion of choice will have abilities. Some may help them move faster while others may allow them to place a turret or use a secondary attack with their main weapon. Each hero has a diverse spread of moves that will help them traverse or battle their way across the battlefield of play. Widowmaker may use a grappling hook to get from place to place while Reaper will simply teleport up to his balcony of choice. The maps allow for such traversal that it can make some maps seem lopsided when attacking or defending an objective. While there are the obvious spots that players may chose, the game will at least allow them a sense of free form movement in order to make the most of each map and these maps are huge. Each one has a unique layout that helps to not damper the gameplay. Each ones feel uniquely made to suit the cultural style or game types. Just about any type of playstyle can be at home in these maps that Blizzard has lovingly created.
Through the completion and leveling up after matches, whether it is a win or loss, the player can also earn in-game rewards such as currency or loot boxes! This currency can be used to purchase store skins, avatars and even spray paint (will need clarification upon release). The loot boxes are as simple as they come. Opening these may allow players access to special character skins, avatars or paints without having to drop a lot of currency down on them. While we have yet to see what else is possible in the full release of the game, we can only hope that there are some skins that you can only get through progressively leveling up and unboxing loot boxes to get them.
The Teamwork: This game is a game about teammates. It is the first and foremost principle that is made evident when playing the game. While you may be the best support or have the highest kills over deaths, you can still lose the game. IF you are not guarding the objective or pushing the payload to or away, then the games are going the be nothing but losses for you. This is Blizzard’s way of letting players know about the greater whole to the game. That’s great that you are playing a good game as Bastion or Reaper but your wins versus losses won’t be looking pretty at all. While I have yet had a match where this was made painfully evident, most of the games I had were played with teammates who each understood the roles of their chosen heroes and played them out as best as they could. Understandably many will not have game matches like this and they will unfortunately run into players who see it as a dog eat dog world.
Luckily Blizzard does have a few fail safes installed to help combat poor-sports and players who dip out of matches early. Experience penalties are put in place on players who would rather concern themselves with a loss than sticking it out with their teammates. While this only applies to mid matches I do not know if it will apply to players who have dipped out in between rounds. Sadly this won’t be enough to discourage players from leaving matches early. Frankly most systems don’t do much but it is still a nice backing to have and to also see a publisher/developer greatly concerned with how their fanbase is playing.
The Characters: Now this game is all about the characters. I know what you all are thinking, “Kausus! I thought it was about the gameplay experience? The fun matches had with friend and foe alike!?” Now while that is an essential part to any multiplayer game, having characters with fleshed out backstories and lives is something that is phenomenal and rewarding in it’s own right. We grow to love the characters and we grow to love how they play during our matches. With a roster of over 21 heroes to choose from, you have a game that will literally provide you with an almost unlimited amount of play choice. While the Offensive characters and the Support characters will all play into their roles, every character within the Offensive or Support sections will play these roles differently. Take Zenyatta for example. A supportive hero by nature but a decent damage dealer when he needs to be. Zenyatta can tango with a lot of the other champions out there, due in part to his ability to drop an orb that allows himself and other allies to do more damage to a targeted individual. Now look at Mercy or Lucio, they may not be as powerful but they each have their own unique ways of providing support. Now look at someone like Tracer. She is fast, her two SMG’s allow her to deal out some pretty painful damage but one sniper shot or some well placed hits will knock her down. She is squishy but she prides herself in being the most mobile of the champions. Able to do circles around her enemies with ease. Compare her to McCree and it is a night and day situation.
Having such an impressive launch roster and with the promise of more hopeful character in future content patches or DLC releases, Overwatch may very well be for the arena shooter, what League of Legends is to the MOBA world. Having a choice in character type and play style is more empowering to the player than anything else. Having to luxury of playing as more than 6 or 7 characters is just awesome. Now, that could very well mean that there are heroes that are less played than others but I can safely say that almost every match had a diverse spread of players choosing different characters each match. Now what else is powering is the fact that players can pick and choose characters that they relate with. While there has been controversy on the female front of character options and sexual portrayal, we do see females like Zarya the Russian body builder, Mei the Chinese environmentalist with curves or Pharah the Egyptian Soldier with non flattering armor. It’s awesome to see women finally getting a diverse spread of representation here. Now I am not trying to make this into a gender discussion issue based review but it is of important note to many out there to hear that you have developers who are listening to the community and ones that want to try and bring to the table a large and diverse demographic of men and women.
Lasting Impressions: Overwatch is a game that has personally brought me back into the more competitive shooter market with it’s brilliant cast list and the ease of play and how polished of a game it seems to be. While there are issues of game matches with players choosing only Bastion or of one character overall, it does present a unique and frankly interesting experience. The game has managed to charm me and it is frankly the sole thing that has been on my mind for the whole month of May. Blizzard has always wowed me with the quality and professionalism that comes with their titles and while they are never bug free they genuinely feel that way. Having been out of the competitive shooter market since Halo: Reach, I can safely say that Blizzard has managed to bring me back up to bat with this beautifully crafted title. Overwatch will be available for purchase on PC, PS4 and XBOne.
While not entirely perfect, the game manages to shine through on all platforms and provides one of the most satisfying, multiplayer shooter experiences to date. With a bright future with DLC releases, we can expect to see a lot more to come from Blizzard in the coming months after launch.
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