Version played – Xbox One
My participation in the Overwatch beta really was from lack of anything better to do. I was waiting for Doom to release; after I completed King’s Fall on Hard Mode I’ve had little reason to go back to Destiny; and, in general, I’ve been more bored with my Xbox One than I’ve expected to be.
Overwatch changed that.
I should mention at the outset that I’ve largely avoided team based shooters over the years because the idea of PvP has never been very appealing to me. Destiny got its hooks in because there was a great deal of teamwork involved in both Strikes and Raids, which are PvE not PvP, and the feeling of being part of a team and being able to contribute was very satisfying. Overwatch managed to scratch that same itch.
The roster’s great
I tried out most of the heroes during the open beta and I’m enormously impressed with how unique each one feels. Tracer’s squishy but incredibly fast; there were times when I was so busy just running around the map that I would randomly forget to shoot things. Pharah’s jetpack and Widowmaker’s grapple led me to explore the verticality of maps more than I did with other classes. And Reinhardt felt ridiculously powerful – stomping through the map, screen shaking, throwing my shield up to keep fire off of allies.
It’s testament to the amount of work that Blizzard’s put into the roster that each character felt different and that I was able to find something to enjoy in each class. I’m someone who typically picks a favourite and then sticks with it that was an interesting experience – in Destiny, for example, I haven’t levelled my alts past 10 because, for the bulk of the content (outside of the Raids) it doesn’t make much difference whether I play as a Warlock, Titan, or Hunter. But in Overwatch, I found myself experimenting, even switching heroes mid-match to see if I could bring something more useful to the team with a different hero.
Supports are awesome, by the way
What I loved most about the roster was how incredibly useful and dynamic supports were. Support is my preferred role by a mile, so having so many different playstyles to choose from left me spoiled for choice – Symmetra can set up teleports; Mercy can heal or boost an ally’s damage; Lucio can provide allies with a speed or regeneration buff; and Zenyatta can heal allies and debuff opponents.
By giving supports so many different ways to be useful in a fight, I found myself slipping very comfortably into the back line, keeping my team alive, while they went about their business of blowing stuff up.
Getting back into fights is a problem, though
While I was in the middle of a fight, things were absolutely great. Fast, frantic, completely chaotic. But upon dying, unless I was playing as Tracer, Soldier 76, or Reinhardt, I found that getting back to a fight was taking me much too long. I don’t know if it’s an issue with the size of the maps or simply with heroes’ movement speeds but Mercy, for example, was agonisingly slow.
Granted, with her Guardian Angel ability, she can leap to an ally within her line of sight but, to do that, you need someone within your line of sight. Without that, when I was playing as Mercy, I found that by the time I ran from the spawn point to the centre of the map, most if not all of my team was dead. I think most heroes need the ability to sprint, at the very least, much like Soldier 76, just to make it easier to get back into action.
There’s a decent selection of maps, but not enough modes
Futuristic urban map, desert map, Japanese-themed map, map with snow on it – all of the staples of FPS map design are here just as you’d expect. They varied in size and in complexity; I found some easier to learn than others but that could simply be factor of my time with the game. My favourite was probably Hollywood, which has players running through sets, shooting each other and chasing down objectives.
My problem, however, is with the number of modes that the game has to offer. I was hoping for something as imaginative and interesting as Heroes of the Storm’s map objectives, but what’s actually available is only attack/defend an objective, escort/stop a payload, and control points. I think Blizzard can do much more with game modes that what they currently have available, and I hope it’s something that’s addressed in the future.
And that’s it, really
There are heroes, there are maps, there are basic objectives. That’s all there is to Overwatch. That’s not to say it’s light on content because, with only these three elements on offer, I still put a very respectable number of hours into the game without once getting bored. It works. It’s fun to play, it’s easy to get into, and there seems to be something for newcomers to the hero shooter class of FPSes as well as veterans of games like Team Fortress 2.
But I would also like to see a single-player campaign. There’s a fair bit of lore backing Overwatch up; the animated shorts are proof enough of that. But that lore’s notably absent from the game and, in a Blizzard game, I miss that greatly. These characters are so interesting that I find myself wanting to learn more about them and, right now, within the game itself, there doesn’t seem to be a way to do that.
Is it worth the price?
I think it is. Especially because, while I started the Overwatch beta on the day it launched, I’m only able to write about it now, after it ended. I was having so much fun just playing the game. Every time I said to myself, “Okay, NOW I’ll write about Overwatch” another voice said, “But wouldn’t you rather be playing Overwatch instead?”
And that’s because Overwatch meets the standard that Blizzard has set for all its games – it’s an incredibly polished experience, has a great deal of character, and has tons of detail that show how much care and attention went into building the experience that we, the players, get to enjoy.
But while I think Overwatch justifies the price – I’ll be buying it; now that the open beta’s ended, I miss Mercy already – I think it’s more a foundation for an extraordinary game rather than extraordinary as it currently is. It’s longevity will come from how well Blizzard builds on this foundation.