Blizzard has added a funky new FPS shooter to their ranks in the form of Overwatch, so does this new-comer pack some serious weight like some of the other monster titles Blizzards has notched quite firmly on their belt, or is it overshadowed by the current leaders on the platform today?
From the get go, Overwatch looks and feels very polished, and plays incredibly smooth because of the quality Blizzard has given the game. Even when you first encounter the menu screen you can quite clearly see the developers are making an effort for the game to be open and inviting to players of all types and skill levels, and Overwatch isn’t shy about it either. It’s a beautifully stylised game all the way through, from the UI design on menus and hud to colourful characters and scenery in each map, even down to the array of otherworldly sound effects and audio cues. Overwatch sounds and feels SO vibrant as it’s a huge leap from the dark, gritty and pseudo realistic style of games that have flooded the FPS genre over the years, making it a refreshing change of pace for a new FPS to get stuck into.
As character rosters go, this is a rather charming and strong line-up, with each falling into one of four main classes of hero to choose from. Offence Heroes: They do exactly what it says on the tin, the all hard hitting fist of the team the damage dealers. Then the spine of the team, the Defence Class Hero: excellent at impeding the enemy team’s attacks and advances, and being a general nuisance to the enemy. Onto the third class, the Tank Class Hero! The way these heroes just soak up solid waves of heaving damage while creating super narrow choke points to help advance the team to glory is very rewarding! Last but not least is the Support Class: the life blood of the team, the re-animators and buffers! Those good ol’ heroes who have your back!
These four classes blend and complement each other wonderfully, allowing for some amazing team work and results in-game. They glue together in so many different mays you will spend hours just experimenting with them and their abilities. The fact they come in all shapes and sizes help shape the rhythm of the multiplayer games too, you have to slow down and think about what hero is opposing you and what they could possibly have up their sleeve. The openness of some of the maps only helps highlight what a player is thinking about doing, so you can read your other teams mates well if there’s no one chatting but if you do team up with a fully coherent team, them the possibilities seem endless if we are to see additions to the character roster in the future.
So what modes is the game packing? Firstly, there’s the Training Modes: including a tutorial which is a run through of the control and basic abilities, a practice Range where you can mess around with all of the different weapons which is good as not all are just point and shoot. Then there’s the Practice vs AI which is pretty standard and lets you find your feet before going up against fleshy foes. This nice cushy soft net of training will usher in any new comer to the FPS platform it is that friendly! And for your pros, just something to briefly help grasp the fundamentals of the game.
The Main game modes are found in Quick Play, where you’ll get stuck straight into a team of 6 v 6 player games ranging from Assault: attack to fight for a series of objectives, Escort: Escort the target to the delivery point, Control: take/keep control of certain points on the map and then Assault/Escort mix up. The objective based team games are good solid fun and with the way Overwatch has moulded its gameplay, it only helps to bind and pull players into communicating more. The maps are designed near perfectly for the four game modes and characters, there’s multiple tiers to the levels, hazardous and interactive environments and they’re based on location scattered across the globe. The maps do really compliment the rhythm and speed of Overwatch too, offering more than one advantage or choke point. I am still finding new places and things and these maps, also do watch out for the various Easter eggs Blizzard has placed in these maps!
If you want more control over what matches you’ll be playing, there’s also a Custom Game Mode which allows for players to tinker with the rules create custom modifiers like disallowing heroes, increasing ultimate ability charge rate, ect. Then there’s the Play vs. AI Mode, which offers three difficulties. Easy difficulty is a cake walk, you could walk up to the enemy hero’s and just push them over. The Medium difficulty seems like Easy + 1, not really a Medium difficulty just a slight improvement on the Easy difficulty. The AI don’t react very well to air born threats too and end up getting killed in groups, grouping up when they really shouldn’t. Thought they’re still a threat, their tactics are unmistakably AI driven and end up being a bit too on the basic side considering what you can do with these diverse and wonderfully crafted hero’s. The Hardest difficulty… Now that’s more like it! This is perfect if you’ve played any other FPS before, the AI hit hard and fast and gave you a proper run for your money. They can even push hard enough to win; I have seen it with my own eyes! Though the AI isn’t great in Overwatch on the lower difficulties, if you notch it up they can be perfect punching bags for practicing with heroes. And if all this gets a bit repetitive, there’s the quirky but challenging Brawl mode to jump into. The rules get changed up every week to help keep those skills sharp and it’s not a hard challenge, it’s an interesting one. The Brawls mess with the rules of the matches like for example; 200% health instead of 100% or 75% extra cooldown on abilities, which put the games pace that your used to on its head and throws you into chaos. This only compliments Overwatches cheeky, go get’ em attitude!
To real key to getting further and becoming a more formidable foe in the multiplayer world of Overwatch is to learning the counter for each of the characters, just a bit like a fighting game. Each character has his/her own core strengths and traits, which can overpower and overcome some heroes’ attacks and abilities but not all of them. For example: Pharah will destroy Junkrat in a flash as she has the flight advantage (And so many rockets….) and Junkrat is terrible at hitting air born targets, which equals a quick death for Junkrat if the player cannot make a swift escape. Then you have the reverse situation: Reaper will tear apart Tracer if he can get at least three good hits on her, however if the opposing player is better or had generally more practice with Tracer then that player will beat Reapers almost mirror abilities. These two characters are very well balanced against each other, both have escapes, both have duel weapons but have hard hitting Ultimates, so it then comes down to the player’s skill, reaction speed and of course, a little bit of luck! Overwatch just lets you in like that, it’s not prohibited by some of the issues we may have seen before in the FPS genre, Overwatch gives you everything you need to succeed, you just have to invest the time into it to rise through the ranks.
The learning curve starts at around level 10 so you’ll need to have mastered the movement of the characters, abilities and what they can do; just two or three games with each character should take you to a solid level of familiarity with each character’s playstyle. Because of the balance of heroes, the game doesn’t feel like it bars certain types of gamer or tactic. You get players who run and gun, Reaper and McCree are perfect for that type of player. Then there’s the defence and support players like Rienhardt and Mercy who not only offer good strong core abilities for their team, they can pop off a bit of damage too and become formidable when they switch. Having character who can double or duel wield tactics and skills makes the game quite addictive as you can get really drawn in by the intensity of play when you’re in your zone. The large selection of characters and weapon types lends itself to a great deal of experimentation as you learn new play strategies. The game has so much potential for this and it get me excited, I love messing around with different combinations!! Mercy partnered with Genji is a deadly mix: She can buff his attack damage and he can deflect incoming projectiles back to the aggressor, she can then heal Genji and follow him with her Guardian Angel agility skill where ever he bounces off too. It’s so hard to get a hit on them both and if you do, expect to take a hit or two for it.
The game does offer a small rewards feature, Loot Crates. You get four random drops in each one, they contain cosmetics, voice lines and extra poses for the characters. Though this sounds quite inviting, the Loot Crates fall a little on the short side for me. You gain a Loot Crate every time you level up which seems a little lengthy, you also receive a new Portrait Frame at every 10 levels. That’s it though, you can buy more Loot Crates if you wish but there’s no real rush to get them.
So with so many established franchises already dominating the constantly growing competitive scene, can Overwatch make a lasting impact? Some would say It already has, with companies like Twitch promoting players skilled enough to make it to such great heights. At the moment I do think it could go the distance but it still needs some tinkering to get it truly ready, for example the spectator mode needs re-thinking as it’s going to be hard to follow the action (unless you flick through player by player) and some of the characters abilities need nerfing. It could become something great in and of itself, although the character roster could do with a bit of refinement as mentioned and some character additions would be a welcome improvement as well. And if the devs can squeeze in a better/new loot system, that would also go down very nicely.
Before I go dive into my D.Va mecha suit, I do hope the game does get the additions and improvements it deserves as Blizzard have produced a top quality game that brings life and much needed change to the FPS genre. It’s colourful and brash, interesting and fluid! And just with some time and effort into the game you can become quite the formidable opponent with many of the characters Overwatch has to offer, it just makes it all easy to grab and learn from the get go. Definitely a title I’ll be playing for a while yet!