Blizzard has a long history of making great games. From its Warcraft series which includes Real Time Strategy titles and the world’s most popular MMORPG to the Diablo series which practically defined the top/down RPG adventure for years after each title's launch. Many have tried and failed to replicate their level of success in certain areas so it was a bit of a surprise to everyone when Blizzard cancelled its second MMORPG Titan and announced Overwatch, a multiplayer "arcade style" First Person Shooter for not only PC but Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. What was Blizzard doing making a First Person Shooter? Would it be as good as other titles in the genre (We're looking at YOU - Call of Duty and Halo) or would it be another desperate attempt by Blizzard to regain and hold onto the fan base that, for years, clung to them as if they could do no wrong? Let's find out together.
Overwatch could very well become one of the greatest phenomena of this generation. Even before its launch, it had a massive following and fandom. Being Blizzards first new IP in 18 years probably didn’t hurt that fact, but this is a game that, despite being a brand new property, feels like we’ve known it forever.
Let me get this out of the way right now; Overwatch is FUN. It's fast paced, it's well balanced, and its characters are memorable and each one is enjoyable. It does a great many things well. It combines the best elements of Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Titanfall, and Quake into one massive experience.
At first glance, Overwatch seems incredibly simple. Two teams of six players each fight for control and momentum in various maps and game modes. After playing for a while however, you discover that the game has many complex layers hidden beneath the simple presentation.
At launch, Overwatch has 12 maps set across four game modes. All of which involve variations of Payload or Domination. 21 heroes (with more on the way) are split into four major roles – Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support- and they all play differently, each boasting a unique ability or weapon, two skill abilities, and an ultimate ability that charges up over time.
What I’ve grown to love about Overwatch is how varied each character feels and how much fun I’ve had with every single one. In class based games, (Battlefield, Call of Duty, even the recent Halo games) I’ve found the role I liked and stuck to it like super glue. Overwatch dared me to try new things and step out of my comfort zone and I liked it. Hell, I LOVED it. I can’t possibly have a favorite character.
For example, at first glance Bastion seems overpowered, as he can transform into a turret that will literally mow down everyone in his path. Once you realize however, that he is easily countered with a well-played Tracer or Genji (both mobile players who can get behind the turret set up pretty quickly) you begin to peel back those layers and start to have a better understanding of the game mechanics. 50+ Hours in, I’m still finding out new things I didn’t know a character could do, or ways to counter different characters. Its addicting. Its Blizzard design at its finest.
Unlike other FPS games of late, there are no ability changing character customization options in Overwatch. The only real customization options are cosmetic and come in the form of character skins, sprays, voice lines, and emotes. These are unlocked via Loot Boxes that can either be purchased for a set fee or can be unlocked by playing the game. It’s a refreshing change of pace for the genre that has seemingly become about who can level up the fastest to gain the better perks and abilities, recently released DOOM aside.
The game beams with story and lore, yet almost none of it is presented in game. There is the opening cutscene, but it almost feels out of place unless you read the Wiki’s or have watched the previously released character cinematics. It’s an odd choice for Blizzard, who usually rely on story to push their titles and it did leave me wondering why they didn’t bother including that in the game. Having so many great characters and personas and not highlighting them just seems like a missed opportunity.
Overwatch looks and sounds amazing. The highly stylized graphics were definitely the right choice for the title and on every setting, it’s a delight to witness. It’s obvious that Blizzard spent a lot of time on the sound design of the game as well. No two characters’ sound alike and along with all of the voice lines and emotes, there was clearly a vast amount of time spent on the various sounds character make, their dialogue, and the overall effects happening around you. The in game music is amazing, and I’m hoping to get my hands on a soundtrack soon to dig into it more. It swells as tensions rise and dips lower as you wait to attack. It’s all timed very well.