The first time I ever played Overwatch was at Gamescom last year. Despite having an incredibly packed schedule, I made the time to visit Blizzard’s stand so I could see what their first ever FPS was all about. Truth be told, after having seen some gameplay videos online prior, I was not convinced that it would be anything amazing. In short, I was super skeptical, and expected nothing much from my quick hands on with the game.
After playing it for around ten minutes or so however, I was forced to swallow my doubt. Right then and there, amongst all those sweaty, smelly gamers, and after just two rounds, I knew Blizzard were onto something special. Let’s just say that I returned from Germany desperately itching for more of the shooter.
Fast forward a few months, and I’ve now poured dozens of hours into Overwatch, in both the beta and the final product. I can honestly say that I’m just as smitten with it today as I was that very first time I tried it in Cologne.
On its surface, Overwatch is a simple game. It has four modes (spread across twelve maps), and they’re all made up of age-old, tried and tested mechanics. Push this cart, control this point, defend this zone… you get the general idea. It’s the sort of stuff that could get monotonous with time.
Except, Overwatch is anything but monotonous (except for when you have to make the long journey back to an objective after dying – I don’t really enjoy that). Thanks to its vibrant and colourful cast, there is a much more complex game buried underneath those basic objectives.
There are twenty one characters on offer (with more to come), and they’re all incredibly varied. Take Tracer for example. She’s quick, agile, cheery, and just so happens to have the ability to manipulate time. She can hop into battle in a flash, and straight back out again thanks to her speedy skillset. Oh, and she has this neat little pulse bomb that can decimate an enemy or five if it’s used just right.
The thing with Overwatch that surprised me, is that I love each and every single character, almost equally. Don’t get me wrong,Ii have my favourites (like Mei, she’s cool), but I don’t play them exclusively until I’m blue in the face. I hop between the entire cast regularly, and not once have a felt that any member doesn’t fit. They’re all fun to play, and they all have a place outside of their standard offense, defense, tank, and support roles. Junkrat may be an excellent defender for example, but he’s just as useful when it comes to pushing down an objective.
If anything, I think I enjoy every character purely because the game has encouraged me to bounce between them all. Overwatch is all about momentum, and finding out what line-up best fits the situation at hand. If an entire defending enemy team picks say, six Bastions for example, it’s not time to panic and call GG. Instead, the attackers must react, and pick accordingly. A team consisting of Genji, Hanzo, and D.Va for example, is already on the right track to sorting all the annoying mobile Omnic turrets out.
The enemy in turn, seeing that their strategy is no longer working, will be forced to react with counter picks. They can look at adjusting their line-up to include something along the lines of Mei, Winston, and Widowmaker to get their momentum back.
And it’s this momentum I believe, that makes Overwatch so tremendously addictive. The rounds I enjoyed the least were those that were over in a minute or two (it didn’t matter whether I won or lost). My fondest memories in fact, have spawned from the frantic rounds that saw the timer stretched to its limit, and the match played out to the very last second.
One for example, saw my team and I losing the first objective very quickly (it was actually rather embarrassing). With eight minutes or so left on the clock (trust me, that is a long time when you have to defend), all seemed lost. The enemy team knew they had caught us unaware, and they scrambled ahead to the final objective to seize what promised to be a straightforward victory.
Yet, my team held fast. After losing that first point, we quickly reshuffled our line-up and rushed out to put up a better fight. We watched those seconds tick down painfully slowly, and we almost lost more than half a dozen times. But we stuck together, and cheered joyfully as the clock struck zero, and witnessed a play of the game that potentially won the overall battle for us. It’s these moments and little highlights that will keep people hooked, and Overwatch alive well beyond the duration that any campaign could ever hope to provide.
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room though. Outside of AI opponents, there is no single player component whatsoever to be found in Overwatch. Would I have enjoyed having one? Absolutely! Blizzard have proved time and time again that they are more than capable of telling a great story, and if the Overwatch animated shorts and comics are anything to go by, then this game could’ve easily included an epic campaign.
But I really don’t think that it needs one. I mean, how many times has it happened in the past where a single-player focused game gets some lacklustre multiplayer tacked on? The results, often, are not pretty. Why then, do people forget that the opposite could yield similar results too? Overwatch is a multiplayer focused titled after all. Attaching a campaign just for the sake of it I believe, even in the trustworthy hands of Blizzard, could prove to be disastrous.
No, Overwatch is a multiplayer title through and through, and it’s just fine as is. I fully believe that the game’s asking price is acceptable, seeing as there are dozens, and probably hundreds of hours of entertainment packed within. It’s worth remembering that all future additional content will be entirely free too, and based on Blizzard’s track record, we know they’re going to look after this game good and proper in the years to come.
The only thing I wish they’d change to be honest, is the way the cosmetics work. There’s nothing wrong with a full-priced game having microtransactions, but when it somewhat promotes spending money due to lengthy grind times, then I have issue. After each game, experience is earned that goes toward an overall player level. Once the next level is reached, something called a loot box is provided. This box contains 4 cosmetics that included simple stuff like player icons, character lines, entirely new skins, and more.
The first few levels of grind aren’t too bad at all. Within an hour of play, a green player will have themselves a handful of loot boxes, packed with (potentially) nice gear. At higher levels however, the grind begins to feel a bit too long. For people like me, who are suckers for pretty things, it becomes increasingly tempting to pull out the credit card. This wouldn’t be too bad I suppose, if Loot Boxes weren’t so damn expensive.
I think Overwatch could benefit from a quest system similar to those found in Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm. A few daily tasks here in there in exchange for some currency? I would love that! Though, I do get that it could upset the experience somewhat, and work against the game as a whole. Tasking someone with winning three games with Reaper for example, means they would never switch in-game, which thus, would upset the natural balance. Still, there are other options available that I think would work just fine, such as do X damage or win Y games.
That’s about the only area where I feel Overwatch could use some tweaking. Other than that minor hiccup (which really is subjective), I do genuinely think that Blizzard have put together one damn near perfect multiplayer experience. I love it, my friends love it, and we can’t get enough!
When I’m playing Overwatch, time magically disappears into oblivion. For a game that has rounds lasting just a handful of minutes, the hours do sure fly away very, very quickly…
Last Updated: May 27, 2016