The open beta is over. Hopefully you were able to get in some quality time with Blizzard’s first person shooter/squad based action game Overwatch, coming out May 24th for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. At first glance the game seems kind of like any other team based shooter, but once you get your hands on it and play around with the different characters and classes it becomes much more than a first person shooter. I had marginal interest in the game before the beta, misjudging it as another MOBA-esque game I wouldn’t care about, but after playing the beta almost nonstop the last couple of days I don’t know if I’ll anticipate a game more in 2016 than Overwatch!
Without question the first thing I thought about Overwatch was how similar in execution it is to Valve’s Team Fortress 2. Before I started this blog I played TF2 weekly, logging in over 300 hours of gameplay in the span of a couple years. The wonderful thing about Team Fortress 2 wasn’t in the excellent shooting or beautifully designed characters and vivid art style, but in the necessity to play a different class in order to increase the chances of winning. It might be inviting to jump on Sniper when you’re defending a particular map, but if you’ve got one or two already you wouldn’t be contributing anything to your team’s success by doing so. Because of this, I had to pick up a small group of characters to make my “mains” instead of just one. Yeah, Sniper was my favorite, but I definitely knew how to throw down as Scout, could rock a solid Medic, and even enjoyed the occasional Heavy when it was needed.
Overwatch is immediately like Team Fortress 2.
Or at least it was when I first played. After a couple hours with the game I found myself rethinking how to play a sniper, wondering how Tracer, a hero that essentially plays the same role as TF2’s Scout, required a different strategy to come out effective than I was used too. When I started thinking of Overwatch as it’s own game and not as another TF2 clone I started to appreciate it for what it was.
For the uninformed, Overwatch is a team-based shooter where one squad of six needs to complete an objective while another squad of six tries to stop them. After you come out successfully of unsuccessful, the roles are swapped and you try at it again. Some characters in the game are more focused on offensive tactics while others on defense. There are bigger characters designed to soak up more damage and stay on the frontlines as well as others which are strictly there to support their teammates. At any time during the game you can go to your base and swap out your character, changing to a more effective one for the current situation, and get back into the fray! In several ways this is Overwatch’s best aspect: you’re not screwed at any point in the game because of your team’s composition.
Speaking of composition, I really enjoyed the team chemistry in Overwatch. Each of the game’s 21 characters has their own awesome qualities which makes the effective, but when combined with any other character they become so much more. Take for example a really common pairing of Reinhardt and Mercy. Reinhardt is a tank character who can put up a massive shield to block incoming fire from the enemies, and Mercy is a support character who can heal her targets. I think it’s plain to see their abilities go well together. But I liked the more uncommon matchups more, like Mei’s freezing powers combined with Genji’s massive melee damage! Or even Widowmaker’s ability to show her entire team the location of every enemy player. In short every character has their powers that makes their team (and teammates) better!
Gameplay is solid, the stages are fun and there are a lot of them, and given how different each character plays its unlikely the game will get stale any time soon. Perhaps more excitingly, and having little to do with the actual game, are the Loot Boxes. As you play the game you’ll earn experience which will eventually culminate in your account (not your individual characters) gaining a level. At each level you get a Loot Box, which contains four random “upgrades” for your characters. These are all cosmetic and have nothing to do with gameplay outside of simple, fun changes. These include alternate outfits and colors, new win poses, and even extra dialogue options for your character to spout during the game. These damn boxes are addictive, and will have you yearning to play just one more game to see what you might get.
Blizzard has stated they would create extra content for the game, including new stages and possibly even new characters (and I can only imagine more customization options), which will breath a lot of new life into the game down the road. And since it’s Blizzard my expectations are exceptionally high. The response I saw from the open beta was unanimously positive, and my own experiences were grand. I kept being reminded of how much I loved and played Team Fortress 2, and I feel like I’m ready for another game to be that sort of go-to game when I have nothing else to play.
Clearly I was a fan of Overwatch and cannot wait for the full release. Were you able to play the game last week? Are you looking forward to the full release as well? Who was your favorite character (mine was for sure Hanzo… or maybe Soldier 76)? Let me know, and I’ll see you in the game!