Overwatch has been one of the quickest growing games in recent memory, selling over tens of millions of copies since it launched.
Gamers have been obsessed with the team-based shooter which tells the tale of heroes fighting together to help gain back peace in a world faced with war. Fandom has already hit ridiculous levels as the game’s only officially been out for a month and seen an impressive amount of positive reviews, large amounts of fan art and cosplays. Overwatch has captured the hearts of many and is the biggest and best game released in 2016.
What is Overwatch?
Overwatch is an online multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the company responsible for the Warcraft and Starcraft series. Released as a closed beta in 2015, Overwatch was opened to public consumption in May. There’s no story mode or campaign; the game is simply a six-on-six team matchup in objective-based specific modes.
The four game modes are straightforward.
Assault – An attacking team tries to capture an objective point from a defending team.
Escort – A team must escort a payload to a destination against a defending team.
Assault/Escort – An attacking team needs to capture the payload and escort it.
Control – Both teams attempt to secure a spot in a best-of-three series.
Overwatch isn’t a free-for-all. The idea if that you work as a team to win the objectives is not only encouraged, but necessary. It’s not a first-person shooter where you want to rank at the top of the kill leaderboard, but instead want to see a team victory while your character provides their necessary help depending on their class. If your team is selfish and picks heroes who can’t work together, your chances of winning are slim.
You choose from a deep catalog of heroes (21 to be exact) from four different class types, including offense, defense, tank (high hit points) and support (healers). Having a varied squad with each of the class types is of the utmost importance. Without balance, your chances of winning falls apart fairly quickly.
When you enter a match, you’re paired with five other teammates. You can party up with your friends or play with random people across the world online. Team chat can be enabled so strategy can be discussed before and throughout the match. When entering a match, the game will suggest team tips for the most balanced squad. The game will point out if your team is flawed.
The matches themselves are fairly quick. You work with your team to complete the objective at hand. It’s simple, yet exhilarating.
What’s brilliant about Overwatch is that every single one of the diverse characters serves a different purpose and no one character is overpowered or can’t be countered.
For example, if I choose an offensive character like Genji, I’m selecting a hero who’s quick and nimble and has an excellent close-range combat. I can deflect bullets from opposing characters (an excellent way to counter a Tank character like Bastion) and am relatively hard to hit given my speed. The downside is his ability to operate from afar and having low hit points. The counter to Genji would be a character like Mei, a hero with a freeze gun who can create ice walls. All she needs to do is use her cooling powers to slow him down and end him.
Players are given the ability to change who you’re playing as throughout the match, so that if your team isn’t balanced, you can always try something new. If you’re Tracer and your getting mowed down by turrets, changing on the fly to a tank hero like Reinhardt is no issue.
In terms of character design, Overwatch heroes are second to none. Of the 21 characters, there’s multiple nationalities, genders, body sizes, and even robots represented. Blizzard has been very forward about wanting to have a varied cast. The game plays better because of it. The designs are also slick. The heroes all have unique traits, voices, poses, and weapons. All have different abilities and ultimates — a powerful special move which charges up throughout the match. It’s easy to connect to a certain character.
At the end of a five-to-15 minute match, a play of the game is selected. Usually, the replay goes to an attack or defense character who rattled off the most kills in a single 10-second sequence. Unfortunately, support characters get shafted in this process, something Blizzard said they’ll fix. Once that’s shown, players get to vote for MVP of the match. Four players are selected, whether their character blocked the most damage, had the longest killing streak, or healed the most damage. Receiving MVP doesn’t give you a reward other than fellow players showing appreciation. Always vote for the healer.
Overwatch has a leveling system where you gain experience after each game. Once you gain enough experience, you level up. Unlike other online multiplayer first-person shooters, it doesn’t matter what level your Overwatch character is. You don’t get better for being higher level. Throughout the entire game, your hero’s power remains the same. You can’t do more damage through weapon upgrades. What’s the point of leveling up? When you do, you get a loot box. In a loot box, you can get new skins, sprays, icons, voice lines, gold (which is hard to accumulate), and more to customize your character. It’s all aesthetic. Getting a legendary skin (a fancy, hard-to-get skin) is the ultimate goal for most players. I’ve logged over 40 hours of gameplay and I’ve unlocked just four of more than 80 of them. It’s a grind.
The hero I’ve played the most is Reaper. The character is a former military and Overwatch member who’s become a ruthless killer. Reaper has two shotguns, can Shadow Step teleport to viewable locations, and can become temporarily invincible when he wraiths (although he can’t inflict damage when using the ability). He looks badass.
Here’s Reaper in action. In the clip, I use the Shadow Step teleport to drop down on the attacking team escorting a payload. When I land, I use my bullet-spraying ultimate ability (Death Blossom) and sacrifice myself to take out four characters, stopping the payload temporarily.
Reaper is a low-hit-point, close-range shooter. He’s best-played (like most attack characters) walking on the outside of the map, wraithing in close, and finishing opponents close range. My most-played characters aside from him have been Symmetra, a support hero who can plant turrets around a map and give teammate shields. Her ultimate teleporter is very clutch in control the point mode.
Roadhog is my most used tank character. He’s got a healthy amount of hit points and has a chain which can latch enemies and pull them closer to you, so you can finish them off with a spray shot and a melee. He’s slow, but lives up to the tank name.
Junkrat is my defense character of choice. He can launch grenades and can plant mines and traps. When he unleashes his explosive ultimate and you can hear “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines,” you run.
When I started playing, I would exclusively play as characters I was good with instead of thinking about the team. But as I progressed, picking characters that best supplement the team and help win matches is more rewarding. Don’t be afraid to be varied.
Blizzard has been releasing a series of incredible animated and produced shorts to provide backstory for each character. They’re amazing. Hopefully, Overwatch will turn the project into a full-length feature film.
The servers in Overwatch have been hit and miss. Connecting with friends is mostly smooth, but the servers can sometimes be finicky. Getting booted can penalize you and cap how much experience you can gain. Other than occasional hiccups in connection, there’s little to criticize about the game. Overwatch should be repetitive, considering there’s not a ton of variation in maps or game modes, and the action itself is fairly contained. But the amazing group of characters means no match is the same. It’s all about quality and not quantity.
Blizzard is going to expand the game, announcing new heroes, maps, and a competitive mode is in the works. Currently, there are 12 maps, three for each game mode. Adding new maps will make the game feel bigger and varied. Adding new heroes should also improve gameplay. Competitive mode is a no-brainer. With eSports being so popular, it only makes sense to capitalize on ranked matches.
Overwatch has been a massive success for Blizzard right off the hop, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a fun, easy-to-jump-into game which caters to many types of gamers. I wasn’t a fan of team-based first-person shooters like Team Fortress 2, but Overwatch’s personality and replayability hooked me in immediately.
Unlike Call of Duty or other first-person shooters, the game is colorful and fun. It’s refreshing, and like many, I can’t stop playing. If you’re even slightly on the fence about purchasing the game, I’d strongly recommend it. There’s something here for everyone.