Since it was revealed about 2 years ago, Blizzard’s newest title Overwatch had caught my attention. It looked like a fun, somewhat chaotic new entry to the growing market of MOBA’s dominating the gaming landscape right now. After having played extensively during the open beta, and with Overwatch just hitting live servers, it is my pleasure to be able to give you an honest opinion to help you figure out whether or not this game is for you.
As said on the official website: “In a time of global crisis, an international task force of heroes banded together to restore peace to a war-torn world.” So the premise is good, a bunch of super powered weirdos joining forces to make the world a better place before they are disbanded and sent their separate ways. However, now that conflict has spread across the world, these heroes are once again called into the line of duty to save humanity.
First off, allow me to just say that despite the hype I went through the months before open beta, I went from loving Overwatch, to hating it, to loving it again. I don’t need to explain why I thought I would love this game, we’ve all seen the trailers and read the press releases, it’s natural to get hyped. However, once I got into the game, I came across a problem that drove me away from the games spiritual predecessor, Team Fortress 2; that problem being a lack of fair play. Say what you will about TF2 because I don’t claim to be an expert in it, but seeing as how the community is so long established, there are certain moves and strategies already in place that just make it easy for teams to win on certain maps. A great example is spawn camping the base on a payload map. Effective as strategies like that may be, they’re the most mind numbing fun killers ever known in a competitive game. There’s no real counterplay to be had when you can’t even leave your base and assuming your entire team doesn’t know the exact strategy to clear your base and walk out, it simply becomes an effort in futility. At the start of my experience in the Overwatch beta, this is exactly what happened.
Despite any claims otherwise, no one can deny that Overwatch is essentially a new version of TF2, so any strategies made in TF2 such as spawn camping will be instantly prevalent in Overwatch. It got so bad after my first day playing the game that I’d considered throwing it away all together, writing it off as one more unbalanced game the developers hadn’t put much thought into. I’m so glad I got bored the next day and decided to give it another shot, because wow, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
You see, the thing that separates Overwatch from TF2 is the amount of diversity present within its character selection. As opposed to 9 classes that will always stay the same, we have a growing selection of 21 heroes to choose from, each with distinctive skills, personalities and backgrounds. Not to mention, those 21 heroes are probably one of the most racially diverse casts I’ve seen in gaming. If there is a particular character you think is overpowered (*cough* Bastion) then odds are you just haven’t found the strategy to beating it yet, or they’re going to receive a massive nerf. There are a million combinations of skills you can use to get around your problems in Overwatch, making the game environment feel much more flexible and fresh than TF2‘s stale state. Not to mention, when you do manage to make those epic plays, the game gives you a congratulatory pat on the back with a video clip of it to share with your friends. If ever you’re having doubts about your ability to win a game, you have a steady stream of kill cams to remind you how good you can be, something highly refreshing in a competitive game.
The gameplay in Overwatch has been finely tuned so well that every player can feel like a hero, and it does this so subtly you might not even notice. Everything from the graphics, to the controls and most importantly the sound give you information you can use to your advantage every game. It’s not often I get to talk about sound in my game reviews (for those of you who don’t know, I’m hearing impaired) but it’s done so well in Overwatch I can’t help but mention it. Everything from the footsteps your character makes to the abilities being used tell the player a key piece of info to the point where I’m pretty sure even a blind gamer could enjoy themselves. A great example is Pharah’s ultimate ability, wherein she launches a rocket barrage upon the battlefield. Whenever she launches this ability, you’ll hear a very clear and precise voice clip depending whether you’re on her team or the enemy. It’s so consistent and easy to relate to her skill that you know the second you hear the words “Justice rains from above!” you need to duck and cover, you can almost react on instinct to it after a few games. It’s a subtle piece of information that most gamers won’t even notice, but it’s already making you better at the game.
Last, but certainly not least, lets talk visuals. As I’ve said previously, Overwatch has probably the most diverse cast I’ve seen in a game. There are characters from every body type, every race and a decent mix of male and female characters (though we’re still waiting for some trans and intersex characters, sorry folks!). As such, you can expect a diverse selection of maps to play on, and thankfully Blizzard delivers. From the cool, western feel of Route 66 and Hollywood, to the eastern allure of Hanamura and Lijiang Tower there are so many locales to choose from and they’re all done so beautifully. They range from cold steel to eye-popping neon and give every map a unique charm that I really appreciated. That said, some people have pointed out that not everything on each map is accurate to their countries and people with lower end computers might have some slight difficulty getting the game to run on anything other than the lowest settings.
All in all, as soon as the Overwatch beta ended, I immediately bought the game. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it this much, but I really do and I’d urge anyone who is on the fence about it to give it a try. As much as it may look and feel like a TF2 clone, it is not TF2 and does not carry the same burdens that could turn you away from it and if you enjoyed TF2, there’s nothing holding you back from enjoying Overwatch.
Now, with that said and done, if you’ll excuse me, I have some plays to add to my highlights reel!