Overwatch is the first new IP from Blizzard Entertainment in 17 years. The company has a history of quality franchises consisting of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. However, the first person shooter genre is crowded and has arguably been oversaturated in the market for awhile. Luckily, Overwatch is a worthy addition to Blizzard’s library and one of the best multiplayer first person shooters in years.
Overwatch is a class-based multiplayer only FPS consisting of 21 unique characters. The game blends in the MOBA genre with each hero having a few special abilities including an ultimate and the roster is split into four categories: attack, defense, tank and support. Even within these four is a wide amount of variation. For example both McCree and Genji are attack heroes but play very differently. McCree moves slowly, but his revolver deals out a ton of damage. Genji is fast and can climb walls which is great for flanking. This is just one example of one category, but this extends to all of them. Ultimately at the beginning of each match, you will want to have a balanced team who covers all categories or else games can get out of hand quickly.
If my thoughts read as scattered, it’s because they are. There are so many different abilities and strategies and counters to other heroes that Overwatch is a deep game when it comes to the gameplay. However, it’s not so deep that it is inaccessible as you can jump in and have fun right away. What adds to this strategy is that you can change characters mid-game if you are in a spawn or in between deaths. So if a Bastion has set up as a turret and is decimating your team, you might want to change to a Widowmaker or Hanzo to take him out from afar. These kind of counters and readings of the game and situations happen all of the time resulting in truly dynamic matches.
Also, like Team Fortress 2, there is no deathmatch or team deathmatch modes in the game. At first, I was disappointed by that as that is my preferred multiplayer mode in competitive shooters, however, in this case it would entirely nullify a lot of characters. For example the support character, Mercy, is entirely useless when it comes to offense. Reinhardt is an amazing tank who can almost single-handedly push an objective but is very slow. All game modes consist of escorting a payload through a predetermined path in a level, an attack and defend mode and control where both teams fight for points in a best of three format. There is a less common hybrid mode of assault and the payload game type. While this may seem like a lack of modes, the character diversity makes every match exhilarating.
Story and Modes:
There is no single-player mode in Overwatch which can be seen as disappointing especially with how colorful and interesting the cast of characters is. But Blizzard has been upfront that there would not be a single-player for awhile now. You get bits and pieces of backstory with things you come across in each level as well as dialogue between characters. There is more story that Blizzard is pushing through alternate media such as animated shorts and comics. However, it doesn’t count against the game because it was never advertised as part of it.
Outside of the different multiplayer game modes, there is also a human vs. AI mode, training and custom matches. While there isn’t a ranked playlist right now, it is supposed to be coming some time in June.
Many might say that these aren’t enough modes and the game might have the same fate as Titanfall. However, while the latter died off quickly, I don’t believe Overwatch will. All 21 characters play so differently and have enough subtlety that there is always someone new to try and understand. Not only that, but not many studios support their games better post-launch than Blizzard. What is in the game has kept me coming back for hours and hours so far, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. Not only this, but Blizzard has confirmed that all future character, map and mode DLC will be free so keep that in mind as well.
Visuals and Sound:
Overwatch is one of the most vibrant and personality-filled games to come from a studio other than Nintendo in years. Characters are expressive and all are well-designed. The slightly cartoon-y artstyle will help the game age well and the environments themselves are varied from deserts, to research facilities and cities. The abilities of the characters also look fantastic with one of my favorites being Hanzo’s ultimate which sends forth two massive dragons to destroy teams if used correctly. The game is a delight for your eyes.
It is also one for your ears with a surprising amount of voicework for a multiplayer only shooter. Every character seemingly has at least one line of interaction with every other character and they all sound good. The music is underrated with songs driving you to move forward and energize the team. A brilliant aspect to the sound that Blizzard implemented is that all heroes either say something or make a specific sound when they use their ultimate. This can be heard across the map so if you hear McCree say “It’s high noon,” or Reaper yelling “Die, die, die” you know that you should hide or be extra careful. It’s a brilliant way to give opposing players to have a chance to counter the powerful ultimate attacks in the game.
At its core, Blizzard borrows a lot from those that came before. This specific objective, class-based gameplay is what Team Fortress 2 has been about for years. Soldier 76 is similar to the playstyle of a Call of Duty while Farrah is reminiscent of the rocket shenanigans of Quake. All of the unique heroes have abilities like in a MOBA. But what Blizzard has done is make a game so much more than the sum of its parts that it is fantastic.
This is the kind of game that the more you put in, the more you will get out of it. Learning characters, trying new strategies on maps, understanding which characters counter who and more will keep you coming back. There isn’t a traditional progression system of unlocks as the characters will always stay the same in terms of weapons and abilities. However, there are cosmetic unlocks in the form of loot boxes that can be earned with each level up of your overall profile level or bought with real money.
While it can be irritating that you can’t buy the legendary skins outright as an option, the loot is honestly secondary for me. The real progression lies in playing all of the characters and understanding the complexities of both characters and matchups. I’m not a competitive person and haven’t been deeply invested in any FPS for quite some time, but Overwatch has changed that. I can’t stop thinking about the game when I’m not playing. I watch streams for the game. I watch character guides for the game. It’s non-stop. For reference, something incredible happened that I don’t recall ever happening before.
Chris and I were playing the game together and could not stop losing. After seven or eight matches he wanted to take a break which I agreed with. We sat on the main menu looking at our stats and about five minutes later, we both wanted to jump back in. I’ve never had more fun losing or winning than in Overwatch. Sure you might have some lackluster teammates in a match, but after it’s over, you can back out and join a new room. The moment to moment gameplay is so great that while the frustrations are definitely there, you’ll probably brush them off and push forward.
The biggest irritations for me are minor such as the play of the game after each match often going to killstreaks when K/D spreads are so deemphasized and that many players play the game like it is team deathmatch. But the former problem is small and the latter is through no fault of the game itself.
Before I keep rambling on, Overwatch is one of my favorite games in the last few years and one which I will keep playing. If you like shooters, this is a game I can’t recommend highly enough.