Review: Overwatch

Watching a game of Overwatch on youtube, you’d be excused for thinking that this maelstrom of chaos and vivid imagery would be accessible. “It looks so hardcore with all the players moving so quickly, there is no way I can learn all this!”. However, the true beauty of this 6v6 objective-based shooter lies behind its intelligent design, as the game is very accessible to newcomers while keeping a high enough skill ceiling for veterans to really sink their teeth into.

Unless you’ve been living in North Korea for the past two years, you’ve surely heard about this game. The numerous closed betas and the aggressive advertising, not to mention the gorgeous ‘shorts’ on youtube that give insight into the game’s carefully crafted lore, have been all in your face for a while now. Although there isn’t a single player story in this game, these videos have made me wish that there was indeed a single player campaign simply because the Blizzard team has created such an interesting world and showcased the history of these characters through short videos. Immediately upon launching the game through the battle.net launcher you’re met with a plethora of colours which serve to showcase the diversity of this game. Whether it be the grizzled sharpshooter McCree, or everyone’s most hated robot, Bastion, each character is very diverse, both in artstyle and playstyle. Moreover, the twelve beautifully crafted maps are all equally varied, with each map in a different country and all maps having multiple routes to get to an objective.

bastion-screenshot-004
Poor Bastion can never seem to get ‘Play of the Game’.

The matches themselves are a blast to play through, and this is where the men are separated from the boys; the women from the girls. The matches feature two teams of six duking it out against each other, one of them on the defense and the other, offense. Both teams switch after the game is over. Matches can last from anywhere between five to twenty minutes depending on the skill-set of each team. Two very well constructed attacks and you can finish off the capture maps fairly quickly, slicing through the defensive team like a knife through butter – but if the defensive team is good, you better make yourself real comfortable in that seat, ’cause it’s gonna be a long siege. Aside from the regular ‘capture’ game mode, there is also a ‘payload’ game mode, taken from Team Fortress 2, where you need to escort a cart to its destination. Sometimes the matches can be mixtures of both game modes. Currently there are only normal games and ‘Brawls’, which are similar to Hearthstone’s Tavern brawl, with ‘wacky’ rules every week. The ranked game mode for this game will be released within the next month.

The matches all start off with the attacking team confined to a single room, while the defending team gets a minute to catch their breath and prepare their team composition and strategy. This makes the start very frantic, almost like landing on the beaches of Normandy (maybe not almost, but still), with the attacking team immediately facing an onslaught of gunfire and explosions. However, once the attacking team is able to break through that initial skirmish, the game revolves around working together to beat back the enemy team from the contested objective. This is where Overwatch can shine. The player who can 360 no-scope the enemies as Widowmaker is just as useful as the Reinhardt who knows how to use his shield and charge to break through the attackers. Every team member is valuable for winning, something that can get frustrating if players aren’t cooperative or try to go as a lone wolf, but the game really excels when the entire team cooperates and every single team member plays a key role in overpowering the opponents. Constant communication and cooperation is essential for winning in this game. Bastion causing you trouble? Draw his fire away while you tell your Genji to sneak around and kill him. The gameplay is smooth and the shooting is responsive. This all culminates in excellent gameplay that is fast and satisfying.

mccree-screenshot-001
It’s Shanghai Noon.

But this blog’s owner would probably demote me to ‘Junior’ reviewer (NOTE: you already are Junior reviewer. -f) if I failed to mention the plethora of heroes and their diverse skillset in this review. This is probably the most appealing part of the game, as mentioned earlier, as the heroes all play different roles and have different counters and, as a result, you may find yourself switching heroes multiple times during a single match. The trouble starts when your enemies start realizing the true synergy of some combinations. Bastion + Reinhardt on top of the payload? Oh boy that payload just became a huge pain in the ass. As a result, you may need to switch to a more long range class in order to deal with this new threat. There are multiple counters to each character, yes, even Bastion, and as a result the composition of every single match is always evolving according to how the enemy team lines up. This creates an urgency on learning how to play each of Overwatch’s 21 different heroes, but luckily the abilities are clearly visible with a shortcut (F1) and the in game practice range is brilliant for honing your skills.

The game does feature ‘loot boxes’ that you receive after leveling up that can feature many different goodies such as ‘sprays’, ‘voice lines’ or ‘skins’, among other things. These have three different levels of rarity, from rare (blue), to epic (purple) and finally, legendary (yellow), with a not-too-shabby drop-rate. One nitpick I do have is that there could be greater variety in some of the character skins (e.g. Mei has some terrible rare and epic skins, which are essentially different colours of the same skin), but I guess Blizzard will solve this problem by adding more skins in future updates.

Bjorn
No do not change your name to ‘battlebjorn’. That’s just silly.

Overall, although frustrating if you’re caught in a team that can’t raid a pantry to save its life, Overwatch is an excellent game that combines teamwork with finesse in an artistic and vivid blend that beautifully gives that quick fix of adrenaline but also caters to the hardcore gamers who want to ‘git gud’ in this game. It might not have a whole list of different game modes to play, but what it has, it does brilliantly. A must buy if you want to be disappointed by your team mates time after time.

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