If I was given only 3 words to describe Overwatch I’d honestly struggle. The reason being that Overwatch is so damn different (3 words) to anything I’ve ever played before. If you are a frequent reader, you may have picked up a few of my favourite descriptive words: incredible, smooth, VARIED – the latter is arguably my most used term, and applies heavily to the wonderfully stylised Overwatch heroes. The variety in characters along with some intricately designed maps and game modes group together to provide a strong base for creative and innovative tactical play – a reassurance that each time you play the experience will never be repeated.
For anyone struggling to extricate themselves from the rock they’ve been hiding under; Overwatch is a team based first person shooter (FPS), although the shooter part is flexible (see Reinhardt). It is online only and supports 6 v 6 matches of objective based game modes, no team deathmatch (how new and exciting!). Before you gape at the huge misjudgment on Blizzard’s part in not offering a campaign, we’ll cover it, don’t worry!
No K/D ratios?, No Leaderboards?!
All part of the formula – an intricate herding of the FPS community away from selfish solo campaigns of destruction, and toward a greater team awareness. The lack of leaderboards prevents teammates from competing. When you do damage to a target and someone steals your kill, you still get the kill on your record. This encourages players to pick lower damage heroes who may have other more useful abilities like tanks or support classes. ‘Play of the game’ caters to the glory hunters out there who still need to be the best. Usually the most impressive moment is showcased at the game’s conclusion. This is followed by a voting system where 3 or 4 facts about certain player’s performance are shown and everyone votes for their favourite. These two nifty little additions seem competitive, but cleverly increase team ethic and social interactions between players.
There is no gun attachment or perk customization in Overwatch. Each hero is perfectly balanced to perform a certain role within a match. Offense heroes have low health but high mobility and damage potential: Tracer the cocney Brit warps around flashing dual machine-pistols whilst Genji the Samurai climbs walls and dives forward with a katana and throwing stars. Defense characters are also hard hitters, but are usually more stationary. Torbjorn and Bastion use/are turrets, whilst Hanzo and Widowmaker act as snipers, taking damage off the enemy tanks at range. Support are your healers, each with unique methods for supporting the team in their efforts. Mercy is an angelic figure who uses her wings to fly closer to individual teammates, healing them or providing a damage boost. Lucio the skating boombox wielding Rastafarian is utterly different; he skates around the arena and automatically, albeit gradually heals everyone close and occasionally upping the tempo. Tanks are the heros who have a lot of health, and act as bullet sponges. They intimidate the opposition and push the objective forward. Reinhardt is just a huge man with an even bigger energy shield, whilst Zarya uses a temporary personal shield to absorb the damage of foes and direct it back at them using a laser cannon.
Each hero has unique abilities. They have strengths and weaknesses which can most effectively be exploited by certain characters (or counters). It is encouraged to switch character ‘on-the-fly’, meaning that if your Reinhardt isn’t packing enough punch you can easily switch to Zarya or D.Va. Ultimates are also an integral part of the game. These charge up as you play and can be unleashed when they reach 100%. These massive abilities can range from Mercy’s resurrection ultimate to Reaper’s death blossom (DIEDIEDIE (kill everyone)). Communicate with your team and use your ultimate at the perfect time it can mean the win.
Game modes and maps
Much like in Star Wars Battlefront there are not many different maps and even fewer game modes. In Overwatch this is less important, partially because the gameplay is so strong but also because each map is painstakingly designed and utterly different from the next, and all 4 game modes work an absolute treat on their respective maps. The maps use real world influences and are each based around a different country (dedicated to a particular hero). Their cartoonish style and fun soundtracks add a sense of identity to each, craftily masking the brilliance of the level design. Choke points and varying verticalities encourage tactical play, especially when setting up or flanking a defense.
The four game modes are: Escort, Assault, Hybrid and Control. In Escort the attacking team have to move a payload from start to finish through a series of checkpoints before the time runs out. Assault is simple attack vs. defense: one team has to catch the objectives whilst the other endeavors to stop them. Hybrid is an Assault mode followed by an Escort mode. Lastly Control is where 2 teams clash to control 1 objective. They all seem very simple, but believe me there are painstaking tactics attributed to each. Competitive mode is unlocked at rank 25 if you fancy something more challenging; but for casuals like myself there is only the ‘Play’ option where games are randomly set up. Aside from that there are weekly random game modes where Blizzard set unusual rules; for example one week Soldier 76 was the only choice and all the abilities had been tweaked to make a chaotic Control mode.
Although there aren’t too many maps (12) and gamemodes (4) it is evident that Blizzard have set up for the long haul. 21 characters represent 21 countries, only 12 of which have been represented so as well as adding more heroes it is likely Blizzard will continue to add more maps and maybe even a couple more game modes as the months progress.
An argument which is frequently brought up over online only titles is the lack of campaign. Should there be a story?! Well a story has been introduced through short animated pieces prior to release, however since then the only ‘lore’ available is in the character’s voice lines and interactions with each other. As intrigued as I am about the story I’m glad the focus has been put on the online gameplay. In the future maybe there will be space for it, but for now the lime light has been fixed on the delicately balanced multiplayer. It’s ballsy, but it’s working for them thus far!
I don’t know many people who play Overwatch, so when online I always join a team of 5 randomers. There are certain ways to succeed as a lone wolf in a dreadful team, such as picking an offensive/self-sustaining hero like Soldier 76. Half the fun of Overwatch however is trying out new heroes and mastering all of their abilities. Also so many hilarious and random things happen it is a shame not to share them. Overwatch played solo is still solid, but joining with a party just seems more fun and having more team communication makes for a less frustrating experience!
Ahhhh the Loot
Once again the loot has me enraptured. Loot boxes are awarded for leveling up, so even when I’m on tilt and mega raging at my “f-ing team” (when I’m just as terrible), I’ll justify playing a couple more matches to get the xp for a Loot Box. As with many current FPS titles there are common, rare, epic, and legendary items in the form of speech lines, sprays (you can spray walls…), victory poses, play of the game animations and most importantly SKINS. I’ve already said how impressed I am about the art in this game; they’ve gone crazy with the skins (or costumes) for each hero. Below is just an example of one of my favourite variations.
Indeed after a while I find playing dress up with the characters can be more engaging than the actual game.But that may be more of a reflection on me than the game itself.
I’ve played 24 hours of Overwatch so far. Its one of those games you can dip into and enjoy very quickly but unfortunately without a group of friends to play with I know I’m missing the point of the game!
The multiplayer experience is very new and exciting, so top marks to Blizzard for bringing something new to the table, however I can’t give Overwatch more than an 8.5/10 because you NEED buddies to play with.
Unique and incredible art and game design with a minimalist set of maps and game modes containing hours of deep team based gameplay.