Blizzard Entertainment has captured the gaming world with its release of its latest game, Overwatch. Thousands of people are playing it on console, on PC, through Twitch & YouTube, on late night talk shows – even rapper/recording artist T-Pain has exploded into the Twitch broadcasting universe playing Overwatch on stream gaining over four to six thousands viewers per broadcast. Obviously everyone isn’t playing as other games like Battleborn, Doom, The Division and Call of Duty still are steadily holding a consistent collection of players on those titles, but Overwatch has certainly made its presence very well known.
So what should one do? Just let it pass and play other games, or pull the trigger and jump on the bandwagon with the Overwatch brigade? Or plainly, is Overwatch worth your time? Well that is a very varying question and I hope to aid you in your idea of passing or purchasing this title.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS4
Also Available On: PC/Xbox One
Release Date: May 24, 2016, Out Now
There are a number of things that have been said to state what makes Overwatch so fantastic, its art style, game mechanics and control or its unique cast of characters, simplicity of controls but what impresses me the most is that its success has been brought out despite of it being a multiplayer game only at a full cost of $59.99. There aren’t many multiplayer only based games that have warranted this much success. Counter-Strike was probably the first as it was initially just a mod using the Half-Life game engine where it is holds the strongest position in being the most highly competitive eSports game to date. Counter-Strike’s cousin, Team Fortress 2 also enjoys success being a multiplayer only game with an initial $29.99 release which then quickly dropped to about $12.99 while still gaining profits from its microtransactions for additional skins, weapons, and accessories for their character base.
Team Fortress 2 set the formula to which games like Battlefield and Overwatch structure themselves on by presenting class based characters that have unique properties that set them apart from each other. Unlike the Counter-Strike and Call of Duty model that allows players to create a loadout for themselves but where its competitive players truly only seek out one of several specific loadouts to optimize their performance. Team Fortress 2 may have enjoyed more success on console as Overwatch is seeing right now but was already a title in existence on PC for over a year and was bundled in VALVe’s then collection The Orange Box – which included the Half-Life 2 main game, 2 expanded episodes, Team Fortress 2, and the game that probably made the most impact out of the collection, Portal. Then a long gap passed with others trying their best at presenting a good multiplayer experience came and went but it wasn’t until DOTA in 2003 that started people looking into the MOBA genre of games. Very popular for its time then but didn’t make the strongest impact until its sequel release DOTA 2 along with MOBA rival, League of Legends in 2013 that has made the pair the most widely played competitive eSports game currently gathering venues of over 30,000 people just to watch the top two teams in the world compete for a prize of $500,000.
And now, there is Overwatch… earning so much press and publicity, such as from a recent scandal surrounding its face character Tracer for having “too much sexual appeal” that was inappropriate for children. Now a new scandal is trying to take stance with Overwatch as new petition asking for not just Overwatch but other shooters of this type to remove guns entirely… but that is another subject matter for another article. Will that one come to pass? With so many shooter games in existence and not just their popularity but their profit margin, its highly unlikely that it will phase Overwatch’s success as it has seen thus far.
Overwatch is a team-based shooter where you can select any one of a 21 cast of characters to compose your team in a 6 on 6 match. Like Team Fortress 2, the characters vary in their properties that give them special benefits to one of four main traits… Defense, Offense, Support, and Tank classes. 6 characters land in both the Defense and Offense classes, 5 in the Tank classes and 4 characters land in the Support class and within those classes the characters are rated on a difficulty of one to three star ratings towards how they can contribute to a team.
A nice trait of Overwatch is the game’s own assessment of the way the team is composed before the match begins that explains to players where the unbalance is in the team saying things like “Too Many Snipers,” “Too Many of 1 Character,” “No Support Heroes” and so on. This of course does not stop teams from selecting all of the same character as I’ve witnessed at one time where the remainder of my team all selected a Builder character by the name of Torbjorn that gives armor bonuses to allies and can also build a gun turret that can be built up to a level two turret and a level three turret only when his super “Molten Core” is activated. This was on a Payload or Escort mission where our team was on the defensive side trying to prevent the other team from guiding a vehicle along a dedicated path.
One would believe that 5 characters all setting up 5 gun turrets all about to cover multiple points would be a solid defense but we ended up losing that round because the team was not balanced to counter attack the opposing team character which was a more a diverse setup. In theory it could have worked but perhaps it just was that our team’s position points weren’t ideal. Other team layouts such as 2 Torbjorn characters, 2 Reinhart characters, 1 Symmetra, and 1 Hanzo character worked very well in a Control Point match I was in where my team was going up against this layout with next to zero success. Again, it may have been just as simple that our team setup was not properly outfitted to take on such an opposing setup but it does show that while the game’s own assessment of your team may be negative, if you play it “right” your team can win.
Building off the mission types, there are four main game types, Assault, Control, Escort and Assault/Escort. While they are game types that we have all seen before, Overwatch structures these game types in Attack and Defensive positions. Control is a King of the Hill style match, which doesn’t have much in terms of this structure as it’s just a means of who gets to the point and holds it. Assault and Escort do start in offensive and defensive positions where on the defense side, players are allowed 60 seconds before the start of the match to set up positions to hold the control points. Escort works in the same manner but the players have to “escort” a payload vehicle on a set path to a number of control points towards its destination.
Assault has players advancing to two control points one at a time to earn the victory against the defending team. While these three modes don’t offer much at face value, the team is what makes the game different and offers a position for every player. Assault/Escort matches mix the principles of both game types where players must first capture a point to release the payload vehicle to be escorted to its destination for victory. There are a few holes in the strategy where the off balanced team can be successful but there is a way out of every situation and it’s important that players communicate or at least understand where the weakness in their team resides. It’s not that a player “sucks” or is “terrible” that is what makes a game bad or the fault of a particular player, but Overwatch, like Team Fortress tries to make players understand that there is a time when a player may have to change from their norm or get out of their comfort zone with a particular character and try someone else that could be helpful towards the team’s success, though sometimes one player changing their methodology or character isn’t the key to success. Each character has their own unique weapons and skill traits as well as special attack that charges over the course of the match where just using isn’t enough as timing of its use can be the turning point of the match. This is why I particularly like games like Overwatch and Team Fortress as the game does not concentrate on the success of one player and it doesn’t single out players on their own specific contributions. The team has to come together.
Beyond its dynamics, the art style of Overwatch is extremely polished. It is a cosplay enthusiasts dream really as I can already envision the parade of costumes at BlizzCon this coming year. Playing on both PC and PlayStation 4 as well as the beta on Xbox One, the game runs flawlessly. Of course there are moments there where like any other online game that there are moments where things seem to slow down and disconnections from Battle.net servers, but those are very few and far between. It was only just recently where Blizzard stated that that had experienced some issues with players connections to their Battle.net servers. Blizzard recently issue permanent player bans on more than 1,500 players as they have publicly stated prior to the release of the game that cheaters will not be tolerated even after one offense.
It is believed that the majority of those that have been banned are hackers that have bypassed Blizzard’s authentication securities to allow them free access to the game on illegally downloaded versions of the game, though there are those that have exploited some aspects of the game such as moving outside of the start zone, accelerated special attack rates and regeneration, and increased armor buffs. There’s no season pass to be purchase and Blizzard has yet to make mention of any kind of added on DLC for the game but with the success that Overwatch is earning, toppling League of Legends and DOTA 2 stream broadcasts on Twitch in just its first week of release and talks of Overwatch already jumping into the eSports market, one would assume that it is inevitable it will come. New maps or characters perhaps based off of other Blizzard or possibly Activision games would definitely be welcome and invited. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Blizzard was approached by Sony or Microsoft to allow exclusive characters to be put into the game, but that doesn’t seem to be Blizzard’s style.
The true test to Overwatch is to see how strong the game holds its popularity on consoles. The PC gaming community will most likely keep the game strong just as it has with others like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, Starcraft, League of Legends and DOTA 2. Consoles are more fickle because there’s always a new release the next year of the “next great game.” Overwatch is a solid title to just jump in and out of, as it is was designed like it was intended to be a sport. There’s no campaign, no story, no solo missions or episodic content. It’s just straight up multiplayer. There is a practice range to just test out characters and abilities and an A.I. versus mode that allows players to play against bots also for the means of practice and refinement, but none of the awards, trophies or achievements can be earned in this mode.
Blizzard have also thrown in what they call the “Weekly Brawl” where there are special conditions towards the match such as no pick-ups or no special abilities. And the last item to mention is the Hero Gallery and Loot Boxes in the game. The Hero Gallery allows you to view skins, voices, sprays, and poses you have unlocked through leveling in the game and you can use the in game currency to buy the ones you have not earned through loot boxes that you earn after each level you earn. You may also use real money to buy a cache of loot boxes to open but there is nothing to say you can’t earn them in loot boxes you already earn and the items you earn so nothing towards your performance in the game as they do not apply any special benefits to outfitting them to your character. They are strictly just for show.
This is a perfect time to explain where I feel personally Overwatch is lacking. As far as team based games go, there isn’t much one can do to expand on what the games has other than more content. The important thing to have in these types of games is to give players something to look to earn or some incentive to achieving being the top player in a match. The only bonus the game has to offer is grouping up with others giving players an extra 20% experience points boost, but it does not accumulate with each member either and its understandable why it doesn’t as it would be an easy means for players to boost their rank and experience.
At the end of each match, 3 to 4 players are shown to have contributed to some large amount for an aspect to the game. Whether it is offering the most healing to other players, most damage dealt, most damage blocked or absorbed, all players can cast a vote to showcase who would be named “the epic player” of the game. If awarded this “honor”, there is no benefit to the player chosen. It would be great if the player chosen would get perhaps an extra 10% to their experience earned, but once again since it only requires a player to receive a vote of 5 to earn the epic player as well as being able to vote for yourself, it would be easy enough for a team of 6 players grouped up together to help each other and boost their experience earned on top of the extra 20% earned when grouped together. You do get some additional experience just from getting gold medals on some traits but its not very much. Like other games, Overwatch will probably bring about double or triple experience weekends but I honestly don’t think its necessary.
There you have it folks, this is what Overwatch is. So the final question to ask is if this game is for you? As this game relies on its multiplayer activity, there isn’t much else this game has to offer since there isn’t even a local player mode to play offline and truly it wouldn’t work that way either so it makes sense that it wasn’t included. It just comes down to whether or not you like team based games. To the player that loves playing a great deal of different games, this title does not hold a lot for you as there is always something else to grab your attention. For the competitive player, this holds a great experience for team player and a variety of styles of play.
All in all, this game is a great in and out of play style game. With a style of “play it like it is” or basically put that everything the game has to offer is right out of the box. There is nothing vital to the game that is necessary to unlock to be a more effective and efficient player. But this is a great game to play with friends and is amazing in its style and structure. It bears the burden of the question whether or not it’s worth the price tag it has. Other multiplayer online games have fallen fast from their efforts to stay afloat in this manner where I could see many players holding off on this game until it perhaps goes down in price. Do I think it’s worth it? Yes… yes I do. I’d say that if Blizzard ever adds cross platform competition and play, they could very well be king of the hill in the first person shooter genre.