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Blizzard’s newest game, an objective-based shooter entitled Overwatch, was one of the most hyped up releases of the year. Its unique character roster and gameplay, alongside the beautifully animated cinematic trailers, seemed very promising to players. The anticipation and excitement for Overwatch are apparent by simply looking at the statistics from Overwatch’s 7-day long open beta which, according to Blizzard, brough 9.7 million players with 4.9 billion combined minutes of gameplay in only one week! Now that the game has been released for awhile, the question arises: does it live up to the hype? To take a closer look at Overwatch, I’m going to focus on its overall competitive gameplay feel, character roster, game modes, and maps.
Overall Competitive Gameplay
Blizzard handled designing the competitive aspect of Overwatch in a great way. For example, Overwatch’s gameplay utilizes a mechanic described as “Favor the Shooter.” This means that, despite lag/poor connection to the server, a hit will still register on an enemy as long as they are in the right position on your screen at the time of you shooting. This rule does have some exceptions, but that’s the gist of it.
Overwatch’s numerous platforms (Xbox, PC, PS4) are also all independent from each other. For example, a PC player can’t play with a PS4 player. This is due to technological differences as well as controller differences and speeds. Also, characters are balanced differently from version to version.
These seemingly minor details really show how much thought Blizzard put into making their game both fair and fun. Even if you don’t have the best wifi connection and your communication with the server is slow, you are still able to play the game (unlike many other competitive online games).
I also really enjoy the fact that there are no unlockable items/weapons/abilities to unlock for players who level up or play as a certain character for a long time. While these types of unlockables do incentivize playing the game more and mastering one character, choosing to omit them makes the game fairer to new players. Have you ever joined into a competitive game a little after its release? The feeling of starting an online game where other players not only have more practice but also have better gear makes me feel unmotivated to play. By designing it like this, Overwatch gives new players only one hurdle to overcome: being better at the game, not getting better items.
An obvious aspect of the competitive aspect in Overwatch is team composition and character design, which will be discussed next. However, I will mention now that being able to change your character mid-battle is a genius decision. You can change your team’s composition to fit the situation of the battle. If your strategy isn’t working, you can just try a new one instead of admitting defeat because of your bad team composition.
Character Roster and Gameplay
Overwatch boasts an impressive roster of 22 fully unique characters. Now, I normally don’t like using “unique” to describe things: it’s a cop-out way of describing something you don’t want to admit you dislike. For example, if you have a good friend who shows you an original artwork that, for lack of better terms kind of sucks, you say something like “Wow! That’s really unique!” Right? But I’m using unique in its purest and truest meaning here; all of Overwatch’s characters are completely different from one another. They all look different, they all have different intricate backstories, and most importantly they all have their different gameplay style. Every single character in Overwatch feels like playing a slightly different game.
Characters are split up into four categories: offensive, defensive, tank, and support. Every category has a different objective and place to fill in a team: offensive characters need to rack up kills, defensive characters need to hold objectives, tanks need to soak up damage from enemies, and supports need to keep their team alive. Each type of character has a different play style, theoretically providing one suited to each player, and each of the characters has their own abilities and mechanics. In this way Overwatch doesn’t have 4 playstyles: it has 22.
For example, Genji and Reaper are both offensive characters. However, Genji’s shuriken-throwing, wall-running playstyle is vastly different than Reaper’s close range and evasive combat. These unique characters within each role are the main reason why the gameplay in Overwatch doesn’t grow stale and boring. If you grow tired of one character’s playstyle but you still really want to heal up your team as the support, you have 4 other options to choose from! I found it fun being able to rotate through the character roster until I found the one that fit my play style the best. Another great thing to add about the character roster is that it’s going to be expanding for FREE, and Blizzard have already added the first character DLC.
Unfortunately, Overwatch’s game modes make up its weakest category. Overwatch currently only has three different game modes (with one hybrid mode that switches between two of them): escort, assault and control. In escort, your objective is to escort a vehicle (dubbed the payload) from one end of the map to another (or to prevent the enemies from doing so). In assault, you’re attacking or defending vantage points across the map and, lastly, in Control both teams try their best to take over a central objective point.
Having three game modes is a bad thing already, but the fact that two of them, namely assault and control, feel very similar to each other worsens the situation. Both of these game modes feel like “I need to go stand at that spot!” or, alternatively, “I need to stop the enemies from standing at that spot!” Sometimes it just feels like a really big online game of king of the hill. There’s not enough variety in what the objective has you do as a team. Escort is a bit different, but not enough to redeem Overwatch’s game modes for me.
There’s not too much to say about Overwatch’s maps. It features 13 different maps, 3 for each game mode and 4 for the hybrid game mode. They are all generally well-designed and have what you expect a competitive online map to have: secret little lookout areas (that everybody knows about), high vantage points, contested hallways, a main open combat arena, etc. They all have a great atmosphere with all kinds of intricate little details and Easter eggs but, while the maps are good, none of them really stood out as great to me. I couldn’t find any map where I instantly thought “I LOVE THIS MAP!” To describe it from the perspective of 15-year-old COD-loving me, there’s no Rust or Nuketown.
Overall, Overwatch is an incredibly fun multiplayer experience. The game modes may not have much variety or contrast, but that’s not what makes it fun. The wide character roster and multitude of play styles made it appealing to me, allowing you to quickly swap and change your strategy through each game. The objectives may not have much variety either, but how you and your team choose to handle those objectives really makes it interesting. Trying all kinds of team compositions makes you think on your feet and try to assess what would be best for the situation (and, obviously, for winning the game – can’t forget that part!). Overwatch is definitely worth picking up if you’re into competitive gameplay with quick-changing scenarios and if you have a couple of friends to play with. You can play it solo, as long as you’re ok with a team of randomers (which could be good if you fancy a different kind of challenge).
What do you think of Overwatch? Leave your comments below!