So OverWatch has been out for a week now, and after loving the Beta, does the full release live up to the hype?
Before moving to MMOs, I was originally an FPS player online. I played Duke Nukem 3D, Quake 2, Counter Strike, Unreal Tournaments of many varieties etc.
My main love of all time in online FPSs Quake 3, and I played it at all levels, including international online tournaments, organising and running entire leagues for Rocket Arena 3 and so on.
Then, shortly after I eventually quit playing Q3, Valve software released Team Fortress 2. TF2 for some, is the most direct ancestor for OverWatch, and in many ways they are right. However where TF2 has a very long list of differing game modes (King of the Hill, CTF, Arena, Team DM and so on), OverWatch really only has 2: Quick Play (basically LFG, either solo or as a group), and Arcade.
Quick Play is a quick queue system that pits you in and against teams of roughly similar skill levels. You can either queue solo, or if you’re grouped with up to 5 other friends you can queue up as a group.
Arcade mode is similar to the Tavern Brawl in Hearthstone. Different modifiers are applied to everyone playing that week. For example, this week?
- All players have 200% Health.
- Ultimates charge 150% quicker.
- Abilities come off cooldown 75% faster.
- Maps are limited to: Dorado, Hollywood, King’s Row, Numbani, Route 66 & Watchpoint: Gibraltar.
It’s a fun twist on the more vanilla Quick Play mode, and keeps the game both interesting and varied. Even though the base game is very fun in and of itself.
The roster consists of 21 “Heroes”, all of which are very varied in terms of aesthetics, skillset and movement.
From the nimble Tracer, who has become the face of the game, to the lithe assassin Widowmaker. From the eco-warrior Mei (Mei is BAE, Mei is life!), to the crazy Aussie Junkrat and his collection of explosives, to the Hardcore German tank that is Reinhardt, to the cybernetic monk of Zenyatta.
The roster is incredibly varied, and players will find themselves gravitating to a handful of favourites, depending on the situation.
Character switching is not only encouraged during a match, it’s both expected and necessary. Having trouble with a certain opposition character consistently laying waste to your team?
Well you’re in luck, because each character has a hard counter to them, characters that they’re either vulnerable to in terms of mechanics (Junkrat and his bouncing bombs or Tracer and her blink ability vs Bastion’s stationary OP Turret form for example), or they just can’t play well against (Symmetra’s & Mei’s short range weapons or Reinhardt’s slow movement speed vs Widowmaker’s Sniper Rifle).
The sound design in OverWatch is more important than you realise. You will hear opposition players footsteps and weapon’s fire more prominently than those of your team mates.
Audio queues are also essential when it comes to avoiding enemy Ultimates. Each character’s Ultimate is accompanied by an audio line:
- McCree: It’s High Noon… (Headshots for everyone!)
- Reaper: DIE! DIE! DIE! (Super Saiyan Ultra-Mega Death Blossom!)
- Junkrat: FIRE IN THE HOLE! (Most terrifying rolling tyre ever!)
- Widowmaker: No-one hides from my sight (Team-wide wall hacks!)
So you know if you hear McCree telling you the time, and you don’t have a McCree on your team, feel free to lose your head over it, because you probably will.
Probably. That is unless you can counter it – yes, each ultimate can generally be countered fairly easily.
If you’re playing as Mei, you can counter quite a lot of the area effect ultimates very easily.
Oh, it’s High Noon again is it McCree? Here, have an ice-wall in your face thus blocking your line of sight to everyone on your screen!
Junkrat chasing you with his Tire of Death? Ice-block!
Ultimates like Widowmaker’s wall-hack-like Recon Visor can’t really be countered, but it’s not something that can damage anyone, players still need to make the effort to reach the enemy and engage.
The character and environmental art in OverWatch is just plainly gorgeous. From the cartoonish design of the characters and their many, many skins, to the varied aesthetic beauty of each of the game’s 12 maps.
The overall design hangs together brilliantly. It’s bright, bold and unlike so many online shooters these days, colourful and cleanly realised.
The design of the characters themselves heralds a cast that is very diverse on grounds of race and gender.
The females in the game aren’t overtly sexualised (aside from Widowmaker, but that’s sort of her visual MO), with none of the female characters wearing anything remotely resembling armour-kinis or indeed slutmogs, which are so popular in WoW.
And the racial diversity in the game is refreshing to see as well, with the cast seemingly picked from each of the major nations & continents around the world.
From the short & stout Swedish Torbjorn, to the lithe French Assassin Widowmaker, to the well built and very beautiful Russian Zarya, to the Brazilian healer Lucio, right through to the Asian quartet of characters in Genji, Hanzo, D.Va and Mei.
All of the characters in the game are thoroughly likeable, well realised and none of them are ridiculous cringe-inducing caricatures of their race or region.
The gameplay in OverWatch, as mentioned above, takes place in one of two game modes: Quick Play or Brawl (Or Arcade as it’s known now on Live).
Gameplay consists of several types of maps. Either payload based maps where you need to take control of a point on the map to get a payload moving, or simply straight up area capture objectives.
The variety comes in the strategic interplay of opposing characters and team make-ups. As mentioned earlier, each character has other characters that can counter their abilities, and character swapping is both encouraged and expected in order to achieve the objective.
Games themselves can range from free for all carnage to very tight, chess-like tense affairs, where even the slightest wrong move can mean losing.
The characters’ abilities themselves layer on another level of complexity and enjoyment, and again players will find themselves gravitating to a handful of favourites that they find enjoyable and fun to play.
For me? That tends to be:
- Soldier 76
Generally in that order. Mei is for me the most fun character. In the right hands she can be completely OP. Her main ability is her cryo-gun, that she can use to slow and temporarily freeze her foes. When they’re frozen solid for a second, she can then use her gun’s secondary fire to shoot an icicle and finish off the opponent.
Headshots in OverWatch always deal critical/double damage. So when Mei finds her enemy frozen, a quick right-click to their head and good night Vienna!
Unless it’s a tank, as another variance on the character roster are their base health and armour levels.
Tracer has the smallest health-pool in the game at a measly 150 HPs, but she can quickly regain any recently lost health by rewinding back to where her health and location were 3 seconds ago.
Reinhardt on the other hand has 500 HPs, but also 500 Armour points, and a shield that has 2000 HPs! Roadhog, another tank, has 600 HPs, more than Reinhardt, but no armour. He does however have a 300hp heal he can use on an 8 second cooldown.
The average health pool is around 200 without armour though.
In general though, before playing it I had an idea in my head about how the game was going to play. I was used to the Kill:Death ratio of other on-line shooters, so when I began playing in Beta, I was initially disappointed by the apparently lacking scoreboard in OverWatch.
However, after this, I began to get a clearer picture of the vision that Blizzard have for the game. Individual players are only important as what they can contribute to the overall team effort.
Sure, there’s the Play of the Game mechanic after each fight, but that’s purely as a reward to highlight good play.
Unless you’re Bastion. Just hold down fire, spray bullets & win.
Overall though, I’m glad Blizzard went this route, because the game-play is just so much better for that decision.
The music in the game is as varied as the roster and maps. Each map has its own musical motif, from the light Greek music of Ilios, to the Japanese themed Hanamura motif.
I’d encourage you to either turn the volume down of the music though for game-play reasons, just a tad, so you can hear the enemy’s movements that much better.
And of course there’s the OverWatch title theme that I love to bits.
Sadly the soundtrack is only available with the frankly grossly over-priced £100 Collector’s Edition. Neither the standard edition nor the Origins Edition, regardless of physical or digital, come with the music included seperately.
This is a major let-down, and continues Blizzard’s previous lack of soundtracks in Digital CE’s for World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. Come on Blizzard, it’s not that hard to supply an included zip file with the soundtracks as MP3s, so why not do it?
In order to get the soundtrack, I’d have to pay an extra £55 over and above the £45 cost of the Origins Edition to pick up the aforementioned overpriced £100 physical CE.
Happily though, this is the only complaint I have about the game, as I’m neither surprised, nor really disappointed by the next feature:
Loot Boxes & Micro-transactions
Loot Boxes are awarded to players each time they level up in the game. Loot boxes contain any and all of the cosmetic items you can use to customise your characters:
- Victory Poses
- Voice Lines
- Highlight Intros
- Player Icons
Each character has a base version of each of the first 6 items above, and further customisation is achieved through unlocking further options by use of currency.
Now currency is another thing that drops from Loot Boxes, and is a method of, over time, guaranteeing that you can unlock that evasive skin or Intro etc that you’ve been dying to get your hands on.
So, Micro-transactions then?
When the game went live, players were given an option in-game to buy varying quantities of Loot Boxes directly, without earning them through levelling up. In the UK, those prices are:
- 2 Boxes: £1.59 (80p per box)
- 5: £3.99 (80p)
- 11: £7.99 (72p)
- 24: £15.99 (66p)
- 50: £31.99 (64p)
So as you can see, buying the bigger bundles ultimately is better value per box.
Again, these purchased boxes contain exactly the same sort of items you get from the level-up boxes.
Given that all of the items are cosmetic, and in light of the fact that Blizzard have stated any further map or characters added to the game will be given away free?
Honestly, these don’t really bother me that much.
Duplicate items reward you with a small chunk of currency to put towards that favourite rainy-day item.
As for me, I bought 5 boxes for £4 during the week, and I was lucky enough to get one of Mei’s Legendary skins, her Fire-fighter skin, which given that it’s a legendary, would normally cost 1000 currency points:
There are three different editions of the game on offer.
- Standard Edition: £29.99
- Origins Edition: £44.99
- Physical Collector’s Edition: £99.99
The Origins Edition comes with 5 Skins that can’t be bought in-game, and extras for other Blizzard games, like a baby Winston battle pet for WoW players, banners and icons for StarCraft players and so on.
The Physical CE comes with the above, the soundtrack as mentioned previously, and a statue of Soldier: 76.
Personally I would’ve thought Tracer or Winston would’ve made a more obvious choice for the statue, but they decided to go with 76 instead.
I think it’s very clear that I absolutely adore this game, for all of the above reasons.
I love the characters, the music, the art style, the abilities, the game-play and the cosmetic variety on offer to players.
If you’ve never picked up an on-line shooter before? If you’ve ever felt too intimidated by the on-line keyboard warriors shouting down their mics calling everyone around them scrubs and noobs? If you’ve ever been turned off by the pure kill:death ratio focus of other on-line shooters, or prefer playing healer and support style roles?
I’d thoroughly recommend you give OverWatch a go. It’s fun, the focus is on team-play and supporting your team-mates and winning the objective based game-play as a team.
Individual skill, or lack thereof, is of less importance, thus allowing less skilled players an easy inroad to enjoy the game.