Reviews

Overwatch: You’re All Soldiers Now.

Ah Blizzard, you never let the gamers down. Overwatch is a gem!

As mentioned in my Battleborn review, both games have seemingly shared the development time and while fundamentally are different games they do seem to somewhat share a portion of the same target audience. Both games were revealed around the same time if I recall correctly. Blizzard showed off a cinematic trailer in typical Blizzard fashion, while Battleborn showed off more actual gameplay footage. But while I’ll buy all Blizzard games by default, and I was certainly blown away by the cinematic trailer, I wasn’t “hyped” for the game initially.

I feel Overwatch has been marketed weirdly. For ages I didn’t really know a whole lot about it, there was a long closed beta, which I didn’t really check out on twitch all that much if I’m honest. As many people pointed out, my initial reaction to gameplay was “Oh cool, its Blizzard’s version of Team Fortress 2” and thought little more of it. Upon realising that Overwatch and Battleborn were out in the same month I became more interested in both titles, but once I played the Battleborn beta, I was definitely swung in that direction. Blizzard was going to get my money, but 2K was going to get my hours played.

That was until the Overwatch Open Beta. While yes, Overwatch is essentially an “updated” version of Team Fortress 2, featuring many similar game modes, somehow it is just… different! The most noticeable difference has to be the characters. While in Team Fortress 2 there are a handful of characters, in Overwatch there are, currently, 21 different heroes spread across 4 different game roles; Offence, Defence, Tank and Support.

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From what I could tell from the “feel” of things, Overwatch had somewhat snuck under the radar and while many people were aware of it, not many people seemed excited for it. There wasn’t much “hype”. But everything changed once the open beta hit. Going from a game that I hadn’t really seen advertised outside of my Blizzard launcher, to a game that EVERYONE was talking about all because of a hugely successful open beta. Most of the advertising I saw came between that open beta and the release.

A Blizzard game invites characters are unique, fun and seeped in lore – even if that lore isn’t really explored in game. The maps are also very varied, with 12 maps split between 4 different game modes; Assault, King of the Hill, Escort and a hybrid of Assault and Escort.

Overwatch is an exciting change from both other FPS Games on the market and other Blizzard games. While most PC gamers will have had at least a foray into Team Fortress 2, if it wasn’t something you stuck with then Overwatch is so very different from almost all other FPS games out today. And I think it is that difference, combined with a strangely successful marketing campaign, which has caused Overwatch to sell over 7 million copies in its first week alone.

Many of you will know how much of a WoW and Street Fighter fan I am. But Overwatch has me so gripped that I’ve not played anything except Overwatch since it came out. I am well and truly smitten! I even turned down other review copies of games, because I didn’t want to miss any valuable Overwatch time.

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Is everything perfect then? No, it never really is. There will always be that little bit that you can’t quite polish out. Although, for Overwatch, that little bit is pretty small – depending who you speak to.

Many people have complained that “Overwatch isn’t worth the cost”, and that they “Won’t pay AAA prices for a game without a single player campaign”. Overwatch doesn’t have a single player campaign (which is where the potentially lore rich background could have been explored). It is a purely online game – just like your Team Fortress 2 and MOBAs, the difference being that those games are free. Or are they? In today’s gaming world there are so many different price models that it can be hard to compare. League Of Legends is free, but makes its money off of almost mandatory micro-transactions, versus Overwatch costing AAA money to buy, then being pretty much free afterwards (you can buy purely optional cosmetics with through micro-transactions) but all actual future content is included in the box price.

So is it a rip off? I honestly don’t think so. I measure a games worth in the hours of gameplay I get out of it. Not off of how much content it appears to have. In the two weeks it has been out I think I’ve pumped more time into Overwatch than any other new release this year that isn’t Street Fighter V and there will be many more hours played in the weeks and months to come. So I definitely feel it is worth the AAA cost. Heck it is only the wrath of Lefranzine that is stopping me from throwing even more money at in game loot boxes!

While I do love the multiplayer modes, and they are the whole thing the game revolves around, it does feel like there is a lot of lore potential within the game that just can’t be explored without a story or campaign mode. It almost seems a waste to create lore for all of the characters and locations but then only have out of game media to explore it. If you haven’t seen the Overwatch “Short” cinematics I strongly suggest you check them out! I don’t know if Blizzard does plan to add a story/campaign mode later down the line. And while I don’t feel it is “necessary” I wouldn’t complain if they did.

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Something that came to Overwatch since release is “Competitive” mode with rankings and skill points to progress through. This has split things up slightly between those who “play to win” and expect people to play “properly” (more on that below) and those who want to get practice in with certain characters, even if there are already 2 Torbjorn’s on the team, and generally just play for “fun” which can include working on achievements at the detriment of the match at the time.

Which leads nicely into another aspect which I’m sure Blizzard are fully prepared to support and milk – eSports. I’m not the biggest Team Fortress 2 player, so I’m not sure if there is any sort of Team Fortress 2 eSports scene, but if there is and I’ve not heard of it – that probably says it isn’t very big if it does exist. This leaves a huge niche in the eSports market for Overwatch to sweep in and be a big hit. A small invitational tournament was held online and caused Overwatch to be by far the biggest game on Twitch for its duration, even knocking LoL off of the top spot.

Combine that with the fact that Overwatch eSports Facebook groups were popping up left, right and centre before the game’s release and you have both an empty niche and an eager player base to fill for an exciting new eSports scene. Watch out for Team Integrity and Team Xtreme Academy at Overwatch tournaments down the line!

One of the biggest in game complaints you see are usually from the “eSports” kind of players against the “Fun” kind of players. Overwatch is very much a game about team compositions adjusting on the fly. Unlike MOBAs where you pick your characters and then stick with them, Overwatch allows players to change characters throughout the course of the match. And doing so is highly recommended. If an enemy Pharah is tearing up your team, switch to Widowmaker and take her out. If an enemy Bastion is locking down a choke point, switch to Genji and destroy him.

However many players go in with the mentality of “D.Va is my main, I play D.Va” and then still pick D.Va even if there are 2 other “tank” characters on the team. Or more commonly you frequently see initial team compositions consist of 3 Tracers, Reapers, Widowmakers or McCrees. Many players will then kick off and “demand” that someone change, but those players point out that they paid their money and can play the game how they want. This is where the split between Ranked and Unranked will come in handy. I will point out that at the highest of levels you do start to see a swing back to “having mains” but even those players are still switching things up as and when the team needs during the match.

Something I have liked with the release of competitive mode was the “Placement Games”, 10 games that determine your skill rank, so that the match making can try to balance teams’ overall skill ratings as closely as possible. Obviously that isn’t always going to work, but in those cases there is a bigger risk/reward factor, if you as a lesser team beat a team with a higher skill rating you’ll earn more point than if they beat you and so on.

As you’d expect, Competitive Mode is just that, people are playing “properly”, are in pre-made groups and there is much more team communication. Even solo queuing I’ve been loving it and having pretty solid success – with a current skill ranking of 61 on PC, putting me in the top 7% worldwide.

 

Overwatch is an immensely popular game, and with rumours of new characters afoot it will likely maintain its popularity for the foreseeable future – especially being a Blizzard game! While there is still no mention of any sort of story mode to fill out the back story the game has, which will put some people off – there is a LOT of gameplay within this game. If you like your FPS/Arena/Multiplayer games don’t let a lack of single player content for the price put you off. The multiplayer is easily worth its AAA price tag!

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