Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Overwatch. Blizzard’s latest major release that breaks into the FPS genre and arrives this month on May 24th! But over the last few days, Overwatch available to play during the open beta and I grabbed at the opportunity to play as much as I could have it, so I could see for myself how the game plays. Many, many hours later, I gleefully admit that it’s a solid and well polished FPS, even after being so sceptical before playing it. Sure the matches would be better to last just a bit longer so that they don’t favour defenders as much and there are some balance issues and the story pretty much goes out of the window since it’s an online shooter, however it’s still a game worthy of playing.
What is Overwatch about?
The story of Overwatch is a simple one and it isn’t exactly explored as you play the game because there is no campaign or anything of the sort, and this absolutely fine as long as it’s explained somewhere. The great thing is that Blizzard have released comics and videos to expand and give additional details on the story and characters of Overwatch. I strongly recommend that you at least check out the cinematic videos to get an idea of what’s going on.
Overwatch is set on Earth, in the near future, with humans and robots (Omnics) co-existed. Eventually, this peace came to an end and the Omnics went off the radar to develop militarised machines to wage a war on the humans. To counteract this, the United Nations united the worlds elitist soldiers in an effort to keep the peace, known as the Overwatch. Over the next 30 years, Overwatch was destroyed by accusations of human rights abuse and other terrible things. As a result, terrorism and corruption are very common. All we do know now is that the world needs heroes, now more than ever!
Very smooth open beta
The open beta played very smooth and there wasn’t a single issue that I could in terms of bugs (except role imbalance) and I’m greatly impressed at how polished Overwatch is and how far it’s come along from earlier versions of the game. It’s not just how fluid the game plays, it’s also the visual and audio quality. If there’s one thing that has stunned me, it’s the voice acting and it’s sublime. The voice acting of each character truly brings out each of their personalities and it’s all the more entertaining when you hear your phrases being shouted out, especially your own character’s! Better be careful when Hanzo blares out the phrase for his uptime skill, “Ryuu ga waga teki wo kurau!”.
Casual and hardcore players can enjoy the game (when it launches with rated play). You can jump right in and be matched with players who are around your level and not worry about being matched with higher level players (even though this doesn’t mean you’re extremely skilled). Levels are just a thing to measure how often you’ve played. But there are ranked matches and quick plays so it suits both the casual and competitive audiences and I’m excited to try out some rated matches! Blizzard have essentially succeeded in creating their vision of the game where they want it to be accessible to a wide audience, including hardcore players and it definitely shows that.
“Create an awesome FPS experience that’s more accessible to a much wider audience while delivering the action and depth that shooter fans love.” – Michael Morhaime at Blizzard Entertainment
What makes Overwatch an in-depth shooter aren’t just ranked matches, it’s also the fact that you need to work as a team and in order to do so, you need to think a bit more instead of blindly going in, one by one. I mean, there are a couple of characters who’s ultimate skills are a little on the mindless button bash side (I’m looking at you Reaper). But after observing each character and how they work, you’ll quickly learn how to deal with them.
Overwatch has a huge line-up made of 21 heroes and it’s not just that they’re unique in design and play style, there are also four roles in which the characters are divided into. These roles are Offense, Defense, Tank and Support and each of them are pretty much self-explanatory.
Tanks such as Reinhardt help defend allies from harm and push your team forward by creating protection, support characters such as Mercy of course…heal allies and provide buffs to aid your team. Defence characters usually bring utility or support from afar, such as Widowmaker’s sniper, Mei and her freeze/frozen wall skills who excel at pressuring certain areas. As for offensive characters, they deal large amounts of damage alongside great mobility, but with the downside of being almost, ‘glass cannons’ with lower health pools than the other roles. Within each role however, each character will be better at different situations. This is it’s important to switch characters during games to adapt to the situation you’re team are in.
There’s much less imbalance than in previous betas, but some heroes still are more powerful than others i.e. Reinhardt (shield barrier), Roadhog, Winston, Mei, Reaper, Bastion. These are mostly because of specific skills that make them too strong and when they’re used well. So it’s not particularly fun going up against these characters and especially when you die from one of their overpowered abilities. But with all things, you must adapt and learn how to counter them. Which is how you improve. Bastion for example, is a character who is used amongst newer players, but one you’ll almost never see at higher levels, simply because he is easy to counter once you know how to. This doesn’t mean that it’s justified having overpowered characters because Bastion has no recoil, impeccable accuracy and 200 rounds per reload, which is infinite anyway.
The game modes play very well and require you to play as a team. Going in one by one won’t get you anywhere because there aren’t any deathmatch style modes as they’re all your standard attack/defend and escort modes, but in order to win, it’s vital that you work together with your team, otherwise you’ll be slaughtered (believe me, I’ve been there). Despite the unoriginal style of game modes, characters themselves and their unique play styles are what make the game stand out. The main focus of Overwatch seems to be on these different characters, which provide far more entertainment and gameplay value than the game modes themselves. I do wish there was a capture the flag style game, but thinking about how certain characters would cheese it, such as Tracer’s blink skill, it would be chaotic to balance.
In Overwatch, everyone has most likely been in a moment where there are simply just no words to describe how epic something you just managed to accomplish was. It’s moments like these that really makes want to play more, even if I get a few losses in back-to-back, I want to play more. What enhances the feeling of the urge to keep playing is the loot box reward that you can get each time you level up. In these loot boxes, you’ll gain random loot consisting of voice lines, emotes, victory poses, skins, sprays, player icons and credits. But with loot boxes, it is entirely random, so you may or may not get the things you want for the characters you mainly play as. This is most likely due to increasing the replay value and giving us a sense of progression with each character, which is great! In case you earn duplicate items from loot boxes, they’ll instead be turned into credits, which can be used to unlock skins, voice lines, poses and so on. Rarer duplicate items will reward more credits. I very much like this idea, but it’ll definitely slow down as you gain more levels and that’s what makes me dread going for these loot boxes, especially if you get items for a character you will never use. It will be interesting to see how it works at higher levels and if they are given from rated matches.
It’s NOT a Team Fortress clone
If we’re going to compare it to Team Fortress 2, because let’s face it, it’s already happening, it plays differently and it’s more fun than TF2. I’ve played TF2 and I can’t get into it because I don’t like any of the characters since they don’t seem as likeable as the characters in Overwatch. There’s even a much larger pool of characters to choose from as well, with each of them playing differently and excelling at different situations. Even . There’s just far more depth to Overwatch.
One thing I did find on the rare occasion, is that I felt slightly bored or worn out from running quick play over, and over again, but this is only because rated matches weren’t enabled. So I’m definitely looking forward to doing some competitive games when it’s fully released.
From what I gathered from the open beta, Overwatch is a solid and well polished game which suffers from no frame rate or graphical issues, despite its visual quality. It’s safe to say that Blizzard’s first and newest FPS will be a much welcome game, however I am worried that some issues regarding character imbalance will persist as the game launches. It seems Blizzard have hit the nail on this one and it’s definitely a game to look out for. There’s still just under a couple of weeks until it launches, which I’ll be putting out a review for. Stay tuned!
Are you going to help the heroes of Overwatch? If not, why not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!