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Overwatch Review // Blizzard Branches Out

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Jun
02

Very few developers can generate the sort of buzz that lights the world on fire. In a world where we are overwhelmed with entertainment options, letting people know about your game is difficult enough, much less getting them excited for it. One developer that seems to be the constant exception is Blizzard Entertainment. Every game they promote seems to catch on like wildfire. Blizzard has a pedigree of continuously releasing amazing titles, from World of Warcraft to Starcraft to Hearthstone. Blizzard games always have a tremendous amount of love, care, and polish. They all have that magical Blizzard touch that pushes them above all other games in their respective genres. As expected, Overwatch is no exception.

Narrative

Like most Blizzard games, Overwatch has a surprisingly deep and comprehensive lore. The Overwatch program was started as a way to combat the Omnic Crisis, started by Omniums that developed God Programs that infected the machine race known as the Omnic. These programs forced the once peaceful race to rebel and begin an uprising. Overwatch was started by the UN and consisted of several of the best soldiers and engineers in the world. After the Omnic Crisis, Overwatch continued as a strike team made up of even more of the best soldiers, scientists, and engineers, which focused on destroying terrorist organizations and assassin groups.

Each character has a unique backstory and even more interesting personality. Many of the heroes have history with each other, either through the Overwatch program, Talon mercenary crew, or Shimada Assassin group. Many of them have conversations that reflect these relationships, and others develop relationships in battle, like Tracer and Lucio discussing racing to the objective. The characters’ vibrant personalities shine throughout each map as they all talk and interact with each other.

Discovering the lore behind the game and characters is half of the fun, but you have to go to a third party source to discover it all. Blizzard put all of the character bios, shorts, and comics on their website, but they aren’t included in the game itself. While the lore is intriguing and characters are fun, many people will never see it because it’s not included. It would be really easy to include this stuff in the game, whether it just be in options or maybe in loading screens. Overwatch does the same thing that Destiny did with its lore and it bothered me then, so it would be hypocritical to not call out Overwatch for doing the same thing. It’s an interesting lore that I’m interested in exploring further; I just wish it was more easily accessible.

Interactivity

Overwatch gameplay

Overwatch is considered part of the emerging Hero Shooter genre. It’s an FPS featuring 21 unique characters with all different skill sets. Battles take place in 6v6 arena style matches on 12 different maps. Overwatch is certainly an objective oriented game, more so than a deathmatch style game. You must work with your teammates to get objectives completed. It was vital that Overwatch function well as a shooter, and it does so brilliantly. The mechanics feel tight and rewarding and every shot or hammer swing or shuriken feels rewarding.

Matches can get incredibly tense, especially when overtime comes into play. If time runs out on an objective, but you’re still pushing to capture it or move the payload overtime comes in, and as long as someone is on the payload/ point you continue the game. This has made for some insane comebacks and triumphant moments that truly define Overwatch.

Every hero has a very distinct playstyle, and one of the greatest strengths of Overwatch is that every style is viable. My strongest characters are Reinhardt, Lucio, Reaper, and Torbjorn, but my friend runs with a completely different crew and he does just as well if not better than me. Every character has strengths and weaknesses that make them completely viable for any map or objective.

Team Balance is absolutely vital. There are 4 classes: assault, defense, tank, and support; each class has a specific function and each character in each class functions as a counter to other characters. After every death you can change your character to any other character, meaning you can play to counter the other team. Knowing who counters who and adjusting your team accordingly is absolutely necessary.

Overwatch has drawn plenty of comparisons to MOBAs and while this is mostly unfounded, big team oriented plays are the highlights of Overwatch, much like MOBAs. Having your team's Mercy revive the whole team to capture the point, a Reinhardt knock down the whole enemy team to have Reaper follow up with a death blossom, or having Hanzo's Dragons tear through a team trying to capture a point are all incredibly exciting moments that will have you hyped up for hours. It's so satisfying to coordinate with your team and absolutely demolish the enemy with a great attack.

Blizzard will definitely be working on balancing for a long time to make sure no one is overpowered, but the game is already pretty well balanced considering there are 21 characters. Some characters, namely Bastion, Mei, and Torbjorn, seem to be a little more effective than the average character, but even they have several counters if you know how to use them. It is worth mentioning that there are some very slight balancing issues though, but nothing that fundamentally breaks the game.

Overwatch is blast to play at all times, but the game really shines when you play with friends and can coordinate your attacks. You can balance your team accordingly, call out enemy positions and really dominate the opponent. Running with a full team of six is one of the best experiences I've had in gaming, even when we were losing.

Presentation

Dorado

Overwatch employs a cel-shaded art style with bright colors and detailed environments. Overwatch takes place on Earth in a distant future. You go to several places that you may recognize, while also visiting new maps created just for the world of Overwatch. Deserts, cities, island towns, Japanese temples, and so many more areas all become your battlegrounds. Each one is filled with incredible detail, from the patterns on the walls to the posters littering the building. Each map is also filled with more funny Easter eggs than you can count and plenty world building elements. These maps are also very well designed to have pathways that are more accessible by certain characters; meaning you must learn the maps in and out to get an advantage.

The characters are also all brilliantly designed. You have a variety of characters, ranging from huge and strong to small and agile. Each character has a very distinct look and feel. You have the hip hop star Lucio, the armored tank Reinhardt, the cyborg looking samurai Genji, and the blue skinned sniper Widowmaker just to name a few.

The soundtrack, while not really spectacular, fits the mood and always compliments the game well. The voice work is also pretty solid; Tracer’s voice is a particular standout since it captures her vibrant personality.

Innovation

play of the gmae

While definitely not the first game to do something like this (Team Fortress 2 and Battleborn for example), Blizzard adds that special Blizzard touch to make it unique.  It's a zany game filled with crazy moments and exciting action that really stands above other similar games.

One thing Blizzard does differently from these other games is the Play of the Game, On Fire, and Card mechanics. These systems serve to highlight the best players of the game and give them special recognition among their own team and the enemy team. These features are really exciting and you feel awesome when you get them. The whole team watching your best play or getting half of the people in the game to vote for your performance in the game is fantastic.

Value

overwatch-heroes

Overwatch is sparse on game modes at launch, but that lets the core gameplay hook shine in the main 6v6 mode. The 4 game types are diverse enough that you can play them over and over without the game getting old. The arcade mode also offers a weekly challenge that puts a spin on the classic formula. The starting arcade challenge gives everyone double health and faster ability recharge.

There is no single player campaign, but that works to the games advantage. The lore is better told through exploring comics and shorts. I feel like a campaign wouldn’t have quite the impact that people would want, so Blizzard focused on making the core gameplay as strong as it could.

Overwatch is also stacked with collectibles, ranging from new skins for heroes to various spray paints you can put on the walls during game. These are earned through loot boxes you can purchase or acquire upon leveling up. Achievements are earned for collecting a lot of these and some sprays are even unlocked from achievements. Every character has some specific achievements as well as general achievements you can earn.

With 21 Heroes, 12 maps, competitive play coming soon, and arcade mode shuffling every week, you should always have something to do. I’ve already put in 24 hours and I’ve barely touched half of the heroes. Trying to get good with everyone and make your stats the best they can be can be one hell of a time investment.

 

Overwatch is the very definition of a GAME. Its pure fun and excitement all the time. Yes, the lore is hidden away on the website, yes, the balance could be slightly tweaked, yes, the game modes are a little limited, and while those are all issues, I can't put the game down. Every game plays out differently since every player and character has a different style of play. The game is absolutely infectious and I can't wait to get back to it.  

Score: 9/10

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