Platforms: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Instead of going for yet another PC digital game copy, I sought out the physical Origins Edition from Amazon and knowing Blizzard’s intricate detail on their game boxes, I knew it was worth it. And so it arrived, albeit a day later than it was supposed to, but that feeling of having a game delivered in a big box with extra goodies had me feeling like a child opening presents on Christmas Day. Opening the package and seeing the contents was a thrill in itself. It gives a feeling of true ownership because you have you the game in your hand, rather than downloaded straight from an online store.
Before reviewing Overwatch, I wanted to play the game for a couple of days and write up my thoughts after I calmed down on my “fanboyism” so I can give a fair review of it, rather than rushing it out and being completely biased. But let’s get onto the review. Is Overwatch a truly great game to play?
There’s no story mode
There is no campaign or story mode in Overwatch, but there is a story. You just have to look to the comics and short cinematic videos that Blizzard have been pumping out recently and I do recommend that you check them out, even if you’re remotely interested. But here’s how it goes (taken from my previous Overwatch open beta post):
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.
How does the game feel and play?
Nothing really has changed since the open beta except for a few tweaks here and there to hero balance and even competitive matches still aren’t available. The reason for this is that Blizzard are reworking it due to the feedback they’d received during the beta. While I’m a little disappointed that it’s not finished yet, I’m glad that they’re improving it based on feedback, and usually with all Blizzard games, competitive matches don’t start until at least a couple weeks after the game releases or a major patch.
Overwatch is suited for both casual and hardcore players. As you probably already know, anyone can buy the game and jump straight into a match or access everything (outside cosmetic items from coins and loot boxes). It’s the competitive matches that will appeal to the more dedicated players. But right now, I can’t tell you how competitive it will be and what these matches will be like because it’s not in the game yet.
The game takes some things from other shooters and puts them all into the mix, and it does it well. For example, Pharah, the jetpack armoured, rocket launching Egyptian woman has a very similar feel to Unreal Tournament and Doom play styles. You jump around, avoiding everything the enemy throws at you, while unleashing a steady stream of rockets a them. This is what has drawn me in particular to Pharah.
Although I’m trying to overuse the word “fun”, Overwatch is exactly that. I haven’t had this much joy in a shooter since Unreal Tournament 2004 or even XIII! Over the years, shooters haven’t really appealed to me ever since because they’re usually the same old thing. With Overwatch however, there isn’t a worry about having to get to level 30 for that gun you want or for certain perks so you can be competitive. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It doesn’t gate you behind things that affect your gameplay, making you unviable against a lot teams until that point. You can jump in at any time, regardless of whether it’s now or a few months from now. Of course the only disparity will be the skill level of players who have been playing it longer, but that’s true in any multiplayer game.
The very difference between each hero (21 in total), playing different compositions and reacting to your enemy team’s composition is where the core gameplay lies. Despite there being completely unoriginal game modes (Assault, Escort, Control and Hybrid) that we’ve seen time and time again, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Perhaps the biggest selling point of Overwatch are the completely diverse and unique heroes. Not one is a copycat of the other and they all have vastly different skills, maybe except for a couple. It’s the extremely personable characters, the way they interact with other during games and their differences that makes Overwatch stand out from all the other shooters on the market.
Assault is an attack/defend capture point game type, Escort is a essentially the attacking team escorting the payload to a specific point on the map. Control is where both teams attack a point and whoever controls it has to defend it until the score reaches 100%. Nothing too fancy so far, right. Lastly, Hybrid matches start off as Assaults and end with Escorting payloads. I feel that there could have been a little more imagination when designing these game modes and I hope that new ones are added in the future.
As I said, choosing the right counter is vital in Overwatch. Every hero can be countered and it’s probably best to choose heroes that counter your enemy if you’re struggling to get capture a certain area. This can be seen as a good and a bad thing. You’re probably not going to have the best time sticking to one character, even though you may be a master at that hero, but what use is there if your hero is constantly being countered? In fact you should be switching to different characters to adapt to the situation your team is in. See that word there? Team. Going solo won’t do anyone good, so it’s best sticking with your own team to help them. Otherwise the rest of them will get outnumbered. Usually in games I stick to one or two characters, but I don’t even mind switching to others heroes because each of them are so different in play style and have such attractive personalities. Need a tank? Then swap to a tank!
Some heroes have a very low skill floor so you’re bound to see them during the early days/levels. But some of those characters will probably not be seen at higher levels or competitive matches because of how easily they can be countered. Again, it’s all about countering. Although it can be irritating playing against Bastion after Bastion or a bunch of Hanzos and Widowmaker’s, once you know how to deal with them, you won’t be as frustrated! I also think Support and Tank characters don’t get enough praise. But some heroes are in need of some fixing, such as Hanzo being able to use his ultimate through walls, Bastion’s incredible ease of use and Mei’s freezing time because when you’re up against some of these characters, it’s not enjoyable when you die in the space of 1 second. Sure Bastion is weak 1 v 1, (especially against D.Va, my main) but if he’s protected by Reinhardt/Winston and Mercy, it’s a lot more difficult.
“Heroes never die!“. Is a perfect summary of the gameplay. It’s common that you’ll find yourself dead and while it’s seen as a bad thing, it’s a indicator of what you did wrong, so next time you can do better. Unlike Battleborn’s lengthy respawn timer, Overwatch is much less painful with its 8 seconds. Although 8 seconds doesn’t seem long, you have to take into account the distance back to the fight and how quick the hero you’re playing as can run. The length of the respawn timer isn’t really a problem because Overwatch is designed to get you in the fray of battle as fast as possible, with the short-ish respawn and run back as a penalty.
At the end of each game, a ‘player of the game’ is chosen for the person who played the best, such as getting a big kill streak near objectives, but not limited to that. What’s also a neat little addition is the fact that you can vote for the MVP (or two since there are enough votes). You can even vote for players on the opposing team. It’s just a good way of supporting players who did well outside of the ‘player of the game’.
There are variety of map locations and they’re nicely designed, but not being able to choose the location is something I feel could be added because it gives us at least a choice in where we play if not the choice of game mode. There was even a map that I hadn’t seen for two days! I know there aren’t a plethora of maps in the game (8), but that was some surprise.
Character customisation is a big part of Overwatch. Each hero has a total of 54 cosmetic (55 with certain heroes if you have the Origins edition) rewards, split into skins, sprays, player icons, emotes, voice emotes, victory poses and highlight intros. Voice lines usually cost 25 credits and skins will cost 250, 500 or 1000, with 1000 being a legendary skin. You don’t need to save up credits to buy these things, since you can try your luck with loot boxes, but it’s likely you won’t get the things you want from loot boxes, unless you’re extremely lucky. Duplicates from loot boxes will be converted into credits, so the more cosmetics you own, the more likely you’ll get duplicates and therefore credits. Individual hero cosmetics just adds something for those who like to collect things and change up appearances from time to time.
To reward player progression and levelling up, player portraits are earned as you level up and there isn’t a level cap. It doesn’t matter which hero you play as, it all adds up to one experience pool. Your portrait gets an improved look as you level up. With increments of level 25, 50, 100 and so on. We have no idea how they look over 100 and I’ve heard that exceeding past level 100 will reset back level 1 and reward you with a more prestigious portrait. But it’s a little extra for the dedicated. So count me in!
What game modes are there?
To tide you over until Blizzard releases ranked matches, you can choose from quick play, arcade or A.I. matches. Quick play puts you with 5 others in a team against 6 players. You can join this mode with a group of your own if you like and be matched with others who are grouped up as well. Matchmaking is pretty good right now, with a close to 50% win/loss rate. This means that you’ll be matched with players around your own skill level.
Arcane is an interesting one because it varies each week, and there are lots of them. This week it’s the Weekly Brawl game mode, giving everyone a 200% health and shield increase, a 150% faster ult (ultimate) cooldown, 75% faster cooldown rate on abilities and quicker respawns (D.Va my main is great to play in this mode). One of the other modes is called Super Shimada Bros. where you can only play as Genji or Hanzo with faster cooldowns but slower ults (ultimates). These are meant to be chaotic and a way to mix it up, rather than playing the same game mode each time and I’m looking forward to playing other Weekly Brawl modes!
The A.I. mode is essentially you vs bots with three difficulties to choose from, easy, medium and hard. There’s also a shooting range style mode to test out heroes in. It’s nothing too exciting but something to get used to the game. Hard mode is particularly difficult. Of course, let’s not forget that there is a training mode as well, which iis designed to get you familiar with the basics of Overwatch.
Let’s talk about micro-transactions
Micro-transactions aren’t really a bad thing in this game. Despite having to pay for the whole game with a one time fee, there are optional micro-transactions for loot boxes. These loot boxes can easily be earned for FREE as you play. So you can play the game for as long as you want without paying for anything extra. just paying extra will get the boxes much quicker. Even so, you have no idea what is going to be in the boxes so the chances of getting the thing you want are the same. These micro-transactions just serve as a thing for people who want loot boxes quicker. And the best thing is that anything that comes from them are purely cosmetic items. Meaning that nothing in them will affect your gameplay. In contrast to World of Warcraft’s base game cost, monthly fee AND store shop, Blizzard seem to have gotten it right this time around.
Besides, future additional heroes, maps and perhaps game modes will be free for everyone. This is probably one of the better reasons to get Overwatch and I’d be highly surprised if Blizzard does release paid heroes or maps since it would go against their reasoning for creating Overwatch in the first place. To make it accessible to as many people as possible. Providing additional content that requires payment would separate the player base.
I believe there should be another way apart from loot boxes, to earn coins. Nothing too major or something you can farm all day. A feature similar to Hearthstone’s daily quests where you can earn between 10-20 coins per quest with a limit of how many quests you can do per day. I just think that it’s very slow right now and there’s too much RNG and a heavy grind involved in getting cosmetics, especially if you’ve been playing a character for so long and you haven’t gotten many cosmetics for that character.
Overwatch is a fine game, hell I’ll even go as far as saying it’s one of the greatest shooters I’ve ever played in recent years, and I’m not just saying that because it’s new or I’m a fan of Blizzard games. When there’s something that’s not good, I’ll outright say it. Warlords of Draenor is one of the worst expansions or pieces of content I’ve ever played and Diablo 3 right now is terribly boring and in need of some new content. But Blizzard have successfully managed to break into the FPS genre with a game that’s fast paced and damn great fun. This is a game I’d recommend you play, especially if you have some friends who are also interested!