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Overwatch Review

A Cult Classic in the Making

Written by Ray D. on June 26th, 2016.

Overwatch is Blizzard Entertainment’s new class-based FPS that has been leaking all over the web. It’s an online shooter that teams players up into ragtag groups of six and forces them to work together for the win. Modeled after MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2, but wrapped in a team objective-based FPS similar to CS:GO, Overwatch is in a class of its own.

At the beginning of a typical match in Overwatch, each team is given a directive to either attack or defend. Players are then tasked with assembling a six man team from a selection of 21 unique heroes – 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 5 tank types, and 4 support heroes. The first moments of a match are both tense and exciting as players mentally prep themselves for the coming assault, along with spray-painting everything in sight and pointlessly shooting at each other. Once the gates are open, all Hell breaks loose. On a typical offense-defense map, the attacking team rushes forward and attempts to find purchase in any available cover while also trying to find a way through the already-prepared defensive team. The defense fights to deny them that. What ensues is a mix of a firefight and a tug of war as the opposing teams attempt to either protect or invade the designated objective, escort or stall a moving payload, or simply fight it out over a central location in King of the Hill style maps.

The gameplay in Overwatch is very tight and enjoyable. Heroes handle well, controls are for the most part responsive, and the pacing is almost always right where it should be. Each hero has a very distinct feel that highlights their individual play style. Torbjörn is the shortest hero in the game, and you can definitely tell when you have to look up to see your much larger opponents. Reinhardt is the largest and his movements are slow and deliberate. Every time you switch heroes, you feel like a different player. You’ll feel fast, slow, powerful, fragile, all in line with how your character should feel. Subtle differences like these really help you feel immersed in the gameplay, and it gives players a reason to try new heroes and assume new roles. You might normally shy away from playing a support/healer type, but Blizzard has made it very tempting to give them a try by giving each support a unique play-style and focus. After a couple rounds as Mercy or Zenyatta, they may just become your new favorite.

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The heroes of Overwatch make a ragtag team. (Overwatch, Blizzard)

Where Overwatch really excels is in its team-based gameplay. Everything about a match – the maps, the objective, your opposition, even the way the heroes are designed; force you to be a team player. The worst thing you can do when attacking is to get too far from your teammates. Likewise, your defense will surely fail if you don’t have a reliable healer nearby. While there is certainly a large amount of tasks to divvy up: flanking, sniping, and covering of individual choke points; the match always ends up evolving into a frantic scramble to hold together and push during those last few seconds. It’s in those moments where the team is really tested, and it’s those moments where everybody needs to work as one.

In order to assemble a winning team, every player, including you, must assume a role, and the distinct feel of each and every hero helps encourage players to fill that role. Each hero provides something unique, and clever players can even use them to fill a role they aren’t designed for. Mei is meant to be a defender with her ice walls and enemy speed debuffs, but she can easily be a leading offensive hero on a Payload map. The game is designed around this concept, and it shows in the ways heroes’ skills and play styles interact with each other. Reinhardt is the perfect partner for a Bastion. His heavy shield will keep the mini-gunning robot safe while he puts heavy fire on the opposing team. Throw a Mercy in there to buff Bastion’s damage, and your team will cut through the enemy like butter. Combos like this are everywhere to be discovered. The only limit is your creativity. In addition to heroes playing well together, there are many heroes that feel almost designed to grief another hero. Mei can be the ultimate grief to a well-placed sniper or a Bastion by walling them off long enough for the team to walk right by. Catch an enemy McCree using his ultimate and an ice wall makes it useless. Just like good combos, these grief combos are everywhere, you just have to experiment. The thing to take away from all of these combos, counters, and play styles is that the focus of Overwatch is in the heroes. Each and every one of them has a full fleshed backstory, complete with lore, videos, comics, and all kinds of content both in and out of the game. Couple that with gameplay where every hero feels different – faster, tougher, more or less accurate, even taller and shorter, and what you get is an original cast and crew that will hopefully grow with time. The maps are good, the game modes are fun, but the heroes are what keep you coming back, and they are the reason that assembling a powerful team is always a new and exciting challenge.

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Mei’s icy weapon can stop a tank in its tracks. (Overwatch, Blizzard)

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Roadhog can use his hook to steal a team’s healer away from them. (Overwatch, Blizzard)

With so many great things about Overwatch, it’s hard to talk about the things that aren’t so good, but they surely exist. The matchmaking system is bare bones and only allows for quick play, with no say in the map or play mode. The only benefit provided by this basic system is that if a player drops out, they are replaced almost instantly, and finding a match almost never takes more than a minute. There is a custom mode, but unless you have 11 friends all online willing to play your way, you are forced to use bots. The game requires a lot of teamwork and coordination, but only provides basic tools to do so. There is standard text and voice chat, but text is difficult to type while being attacked, and many players don’t own a microphone. If your team gets disorganized mid-game, it’s very difficult to bring them back together. Getting disorganized can happen pretty easily because a lot of the maps do a poor job of streamlining the action. I mentioned earlier that the pacing is almost always spot on, but when it isn’t, the map is usually to blame. Deaths on the defending team often result in a 5 second respawn timer, coupled with a long (upwards of half a minute) walk back to the action. Throw in the fact that every hero moves at a different pace, and it becomes a big challenge to keep your team together. Not only that, but when your team is getting hit hard, players end up experiencing 30 seconds of active play for every minute of respawning. Small nuisances like these can really take away from the experience. Playing in a group definitely helps with communication and coordination issues, but Blizzard really needs to show some love for the solo players out there.

My biggest complaint with Overwatch is for how well done and enjoyable the content is, there isn’t a lot of it. The handful of maps are all tied to a specific play mode, and the modes are just a variation of a common theme. Couple that with the fact that quick play does not let you vote on the map or any other aspect of the game, and things start to get repetitive very quickly. I was very excited to see that Blizzard had integrated weekly brawls into the game – a feature that any Hearthstone player knows to be excited about – but ended up disappointed upon realizing they are just variations of the custom game settings. There is no new content or one time only thrill, just some match settings that Blizzard hasn’t properly incorporated into the game yet. For a game so wildly different from standard shooters, it’s sad to say it becomes repetitive just as quickly.

In spite of its flaws, Overwatch is a great game for all the reasons I listed and more – a great community, a seasoned development team who will hopefully listen to its players, and a frantic team struggle that keeps you on your toes. The game hasn’t changed much since beta. It still feels like it is a beta, but it was a great beta nevertheless. It’s a great game, but needs to keep pushing forward the way its players do. Blizzard needs to continue listening to its players, adding the content we want, and fixing the bugs that pop up along the way. If they can give us this, they will surely earn a cult following. There’s already one in the making, and it’s up to the developers to not let them down.


Final Rating

Sound: Chaotic. Gunshots don't really behave very locally or directionally, so everything sounds way more hectic than it should. Also, player catchphrases ring out from all directions, even if they are triggered far away.

Graphics: Great! Everything is crisp and clear, and the art for any given map really ties together with the setting.

Controls: Intuitive. Every hero is a little different, and controlling each one requires something special. Having the ability to have custom settings for each hero really makes it easy to get comfortable with every role.

Gameplay: Aside from the heroes, the heart of the game. Hectic, fast-paced, frantic, and exciting. But most importantly, Constantly Improving.

Developer Support: Phenomenal so far. Blizzard is constantly updating, and they are listening to the players and making changes where WE feel they are needed. At the time of writing this, most of the grievances I have raised are already being worked on. Doubtless by the time you read this, at least some of them will have already been resolved by the dev team.

Final Rating: 8.5/10. Overwatch is great, and it keeps getting better. If you like class-based shooters or frantic MOBAs, this game is worth a try. The hardest part about writing this review was taking time away from playing the game.

Overwatch is a great game, and it keeps getting better.

About The Author

Hey guys, Ray here. I'm a lifelong gamer with a love for all things dev. I'm an Indie freak and wannabe dev myself. I try to look at all new games with a sense of wonder and admiration. Every game is somebody's pride and joy, and my hope is to help them share it with the world.

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