Overwatch has crosshairs in the middle of your screen and your health bar at the bottom left.
And the similarity with most other First-Person Shooters (FPS) games end there. Overwatch plays more like a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), akin to Dota 2, League of Legends and Heroes Of The Storm instead of your traditional FPS games like Counter-Strike or Battlefield. Each playable hero is unique without customising, and although some very roughly fulfill roles we’re familiar with like tanks, medics and assault, every single one of them is so much more.
This game’s hype and the fan anticipation didn’t just put it into the limelight, it ripped the spotlight away from everything else released in that month. Amidst the memes, highlight videos and online discussions, we give our own opinion on Blizzard’s newest IP.
One thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that every character gets a single weapon (two in some cases), some with different modes, and everyone has a specific set of skills. This arrangement is more MOBA than FPS with semblances to Team Fortress 2, thus resulting in very different strategies at play. Instead of relying on different weapons and grenades to take down your opponent, different characters counter each other with their natural kit. Also, the ability to change heroes on the fly means more counter-strategies and mind games.
Another thing you might find weird and perhaps off-putting if you came with an FPS mindset is the lack of recoil in most weapons. In addition, not all weapons fire bullets, meaning projectiles aren’t always travelling in straight lines or at the speed of the bullet. If you’re familiar with Quake, the aiming of the rockets, ice shards and shurikens would be a breeze but coming straight from Call Of Duty, our Editor has aiming that ain’t worth a damn.
Thus, instead of placing paramount importance on your aim, it is more important to master the talents that each hero possess. For example, Tracer’s dual pistols are only effective at short range, and without the movement abilities that she has, the talkative gal will become much less useful at taking down key backline targets.
As for the pool of playable characters available, Overwatch offers 21 very varied and diverse heroes at launch, from Australian pyromaniacs to Cyborg Ninjas. There’s more promised by Blizzard, though with no timeline for their release, a Blizzard tradition we’re used to. But we shall wait for quality because of how important balancing each hero’s power is in such a game. We waited more than a decade for Starcraft II, we can wait a few months for more heroes.
Ultimately, it was about finding the heroes that we think people want to play, the heroes that we’d want to play ourselves, the heroes that have a place in this epic world we created.
In an interview with developer Bruce Wilkie, we asked how hard it was to pick the initial 21 and he said: “There were tons of ideas. One thing about [Overwatch’s] team is that we’re very collaborative so it’s not just the design guys who came up with heroes. We held meetings where anyone could bring their hero ideas and say ‘wouldn’t it be AWESOME if we had a hero that did this.’ So there was a huge pool of ideas out there.
Ultimately, it was about finding the heroes that we think people want to play, the heroes that we’d want to play ourselves, the heroes that have a place in this epic world we created.”
As a little tidbit, Bruce also told us which hero was the most trouble to put together in terms of design. Unsurprisingly, it’s a hero that everyone new to the game had trouble with: Bastion.
“Bastion. It all comes back to Bastion. He’s one of the heroes that went through a ton of iteration on the design side. When we came out at BlizzCon 2014, Bastion was in one state and if you look at where Bastion is now, it was a long road to where Bastion is now. Maybe he’s not the hardest but he is an example of how much iteration we’ll go through for design.”
Each map is also beautifully designed with Blizzard’s trademark crispness, with each map being tied to a specific game mode. Hanamura will always be an Assault game mode , and Route 66 will always be an Escort game mode. Customisation might be added later (and we hope this is added to spice things up), but the added benefit of this rigidity is that each map is designed to fulfill the game mode’s fullest potential. Hanamura’s numerous entrances and exits provide many different choke-points and areas to cover, resulting in more varied offense and defense. Route 66’s winding route and checkpoints give the defense plenty of time to cover key areas and prevent the attacking team from advancing. All in all, the decision to tie each map to a game mode creates a good fit.
However, the game is surprisingly slim for its package. Many other similar MOBA-style games are not only free, but contain a wealth of replayability, achieved by combining tons of heroes and purchasable items in the course of a match that lead to limitless combinations. And for FPS games, the customisation of individual characters based on your loadouts and the general high octane adrenaline thrill of the game keep players invested. Overwatch is a bit thin on the ground now with little of the above mentioned goodies except for incredibly addictive gameplay. However, Blizzard has already promised multiple new heroes, and they will be free! Of course, this will eventually help, but this is definitely a problem at launch.
We’d also like to commend Overwatch’s performance and stability on the first day of launch. There’s been a worrying number of brand new game which had online servers decimated by all players logging in at the same time, resulting in looooong angry internet discussions and videos. Blizzard isn’t a stranger to this with the infamous Diablo 3 “Error 3006” which prevented players from connecting to the servers at all. At least The Division let you play for 5 minutes before disconnecting you and scrubbing off all progress, though we’re really not sure if that is a whole lot better. Overwatch is a different beast though. Connection was smooth, players didn’t suffer from atrocious ping and matchmaking was blissfully fast even with 6-man parties. And everyone could connect to the servers on the first day. Bruce simply smiled and assured us that “a lot of work went into that. Our server programmers are simply top-notch, I can’t say enough good things about them.”
As mentioned, Overwatch’s performance is also pretty impressive. Despite running on a new and yet unnamed engine, the game runs smoothly on a wide range of PC specs: our friends stuck in the previous decade with their old laptops could still play. However, we admit that we’re not so sure about the performance on the XBOX and the Playstation but we’ve not seen many complaints. And it all worked thanks to Blizzard’s team overcoming quite a few challenges. Developer Bruce Wilkie said, “Overwatch is the first title that Blizzard has launched simultaneously on consoles and PC. And there’s a ton of work in that. Not just the coding effort but just the logistics of working with Sony and Microsoft and trying to make sure everything came together properly. It was the biggest challenge we had [with the new engine].”
If we had to pick another criticism, it would be lack of meaningful accomplishment or progress in Overwatch. We’re Asian and we’re used to working to get to that next goal, hence we’re ultra-competitive in MOBAs. Overwatch doesn’t offer much in the way of unlockables. There are accomplishments to achieve and cosmetic skins to obtain for the heroes but past that, there is only a level and an experience bar for every player. But it is nitpicking at this point as the strength of Overwatch’s core gameplay still holds strong.
Overall, the game is an extremely well done hybrid of the MOBA and FPS genre, probably the two most popular genres of online games right now. It is no wonder that the Open Beta attracted 9.7 million players. If you’ve never liked shooter games because you were terrible at shooting like me, give Overwatch a try! There are even some heroes that can excel even without firing a single shot, like Mercy and Lúcio. If you think MOBAs have extremely high skill floors and requires insane memorisation of abilities, Overwatch provides a streamlined MOBA experience in first-person perspective, rare for the genre. You even get to experience a true MOBA experience by raging at teammates incompetency or stubbornness. Safe to say, we’ll be playing Overwatch for quite a bit.
DANAMIC.ORG SCORE: 4.5/5