PTR Hunter Preview: The Survival Hunter

PTR Hunter Preview: The Survival Hunter

Having previously had a look at the Beast Master Hunter spec, followed by the Marksmanship Hunter, we now get around to the spec that’s seen the most change of all: the Survival Hunter spec.

Survival for the longest time has been the red-headed stepchild of the Hunter specs. Never quite up there in terms of popularity or DPS, but it still had its fans, and they were loyal fans as well. So it was quite a niche spec. However Blizzard with the coming of Legion, have seen fit to make wholesale and sweeping changes to the spec, and is the first spec in WoW’s history (correct me if I’m wrong) to change roles. Previously a ranged DPS spec it has now become a melee DPS spec.

Continue reading →

Posted by Sar in News, 4 comments
That’s my secret, I’m always angry…

That’s my secret, I’m always angry…

 

Angry.

Really, properly, angry.

A white-hot, incandescent, rage-fuelled, burning, seething, roiling, pure, barely restrained anger.

That’s how I’ve felt since the result of the EU Referendum was announced in the early hours of Friday morning, when the UK had, incomprehensibly, voted by a slim margin to leave the EU.

My last post about this before the referendum was largely an on the fence one, but as you have probably guessed I went with my head rather than my heart, and made the sensible, logical choice to remain a member of the EU.

It seems however, that slightly too many people within the UK, particularly in Little England, actually fell for the jingoistic, xenophobic, misplaced patriotism espoused by the Leave campaign in the run up to the vote. Now of course begins Project Backpeddle, as the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Daniel Hannan start telling us that in reality: Continue reading →

Posted by Sar in News, Opinion, Politics, 1 comment
PTR Hunter Preview: The Marksmanship Hunter

PTR Hunter Preview: The Marksmanship Hunter

So after finding out BM was in a kind of a weird place, where it was decent enough to play, but not brilliant, and discovering the reason why my Arcane & Multi-Shots weren’t showing up on PTR (more on that particular disaster towards the end of this article), I’ve decided to move the MM preview up on the schedule ahead of the Survival preview. Continue reading →

Posted by Sar in Gaming, Guides, Hunter Stuff, Marksmanship, News, World of Warcraft, 3 comments
Brexit: Thoughts from someone on the fence…

Brexit: Thoughts from someone on the fence…

Not exactly our typical sort of programming, but then again there’s a reason why I renamed from Sargaming.net to SarCrux.com 😉


So the EU Referendum in the UK is merely days away, and as someone who is pretty firmly-ish on the fence I’ve been doing my best over the past few weeks to make my mind up on the issue.

I am leaning towards a Remain vote at this moment in time, but I do have some serious misgivings both ways.

I had a good discussion with @BenTinyShaw on Twitter today about the pros and cons. He’s pro-leave, but not given to the usual histrionics and nay-saying that seems to mar both sides of the campaign lately.

The leave campaign largely seems to be strongly flavoured by racist and xenophobic lot, a la the BNP, UKIP, EDL, Britain First, Rupert Murdoch’s plethora of rags such as The Sun, and in Northern Ireland politics the DUP. All of the above I abhor with a zealous fervour. That’s why it was good to have that discussion today on Twitter with Ben, because there was none of that. Respect.

Admittedly the Remain camp’s campaign has been nothing short of farcical, with ever-increasingly silly claims about what would happen if we left the EU: “Brexit will drive down wages!” “Brexit will drive up prices!” “Brexit will cause massive job losses and unemployment!”

I await someone seriously claiming Brexit would give us all cancer, blot out the sun or eat our babies!


Staying

The Arguments For

So my main concern about leaving the EU is this. The SNP in Scotland at the last election absolutely decimated Labour’s voter base. As a result Labour’s share of the overall vote dropped to a point where it may potentially never recover enough for them to win another election. Certainly for this generation at the very least.

That means that the UK will for a good long while at the very least, be for all intents a One Party State, and that One Party is the Conservatives. This is the same Tory party that loves Zero-hours contracts, wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, had to be forced to bring in legislation on maximum working hours, maternity pay, paid annual leave and other various workers’ rights.

If we were to leave the EU, the Tories would have unfettered ability to repeal all of the above legislation, all of which was ushered in by the EU and has improved the lives of working people right across the UK no end. In other words we’d all be back to doffing our flat caps to our Guv’nors again and offering to polish their shoes.

Fuck that.

If we’re going to be a Tory-run country for a length of time, I’d hate for them to run the UK without governance from the EU.

It’s this that is my biggest concern, and the main reason I’m leaning towards a Remain vote.

Also consider the fact that Austerity+ would potentially be the de facto economic status for the UK should the Tories remain in power for the foreseeable future, especially outside of any fiscal oversight from the EU. Not something the EU would have a direct say in, but I’d hate to think how hard the Tories would turn the screw should they be allowed…

And Against

At the moment with people free to move about the EU at will and work wherever they like, more people move into the UK to work than leave. This increase in net population levels surely has to place increasing strain on our public services, particularly the NHS and benefits systems? The NHS is already at breaking point, thanks to the Tories (again) doing their best to drive it into the ground in an effort to privatise it and have the UK running with a medical system akin to that in the US. And we all know how broken the financing of the medical system is in the US, being as it is an arms race between the insurance companies and the medical industry in ever-burgeoning costs.

$24,000 for an X-Ray? Pull the other one GOP, it’s $6,000 cheaper.


Leaving

The Argument For

If we did leave, concerns above aside, we would have full control of our borders & immigration policies.

We’d also have full electoral accountability, given that the leadership of the EU itself is unelected and unaccountable for its decisions. We also wouldn’t be subject to some of the dafter laws, such as no straight bananas. A law which is responsible for so much food wastage across the continent that if donated, would probably end the famine situation in Africa.

And again, against

If we did leave, export tariffs into the EU would come into effect, a zone which accounts for 44% of our exports.


Our single biggest trading partner is actually the US, taking about double that of our second largest export market, Germany. And, despite this, given how much we export to the EU I’m skeptical about how hard they’d hit the UK with import/export tariffs if we did leave.

But I really fear for the future of workers’ rights, the NHS and general wages if we left the EU.


So, like you’ve seen, there are plenty of arguments on both sides. But for me, it’s basically like trying to decide between which bucket full of shit you’ll be prepared to eat if forced. Lumpy or runny?

The process of me sitting writing this hasn’t really helped me all that much, but I hope it’s helped you if you’re still fence-sitting!

Posted by Sar in News, Opinion, Politics, 0 comments
PTR Hunter Preview: The Beast Master

PTR Hunter Preview: The Beast Master

So the PTR now features the Legion pre-expansion patch, which brings with it all the new systems and class changes ahead of the expansion’s launch itself.

So given how badly I’ve wanted to get onto the Legion Beta, I was very eager to get on the PTR and test out the changes to Hunters, especially given that this expansion sees Hunters receiving more wholesale changes than any other class has ever received in the game.

So for this first post I’m going to take a look at my old favourite, the BM Hunter.

Continue reading →

Posted by Sar in Beast Mastery, Hunter Stuff, World of Warcraft, 5 comments
OverWatch: Why your fave hero may not be your best hero!

OverWatch: Why your fave hero may not be your best hero!

So given the new website theme, you can probably guess that I’m still playing a lot of Blizzard’s new FPS.

With 21 Heroes it’ll obviously take a while to get to grips with them all, and give them all a fair shake.

So far, there’s only a couple of characters I haven’t really found a love for: Zarya, Winston, Symmetra and until last night D.Va, who I hadn’t really played much of at all (less than 2 mins).

So last night, having previously gotten the Carbon Fiber skin in my loot box bonanza, I decided to give her a go and see what she was like.

In short, turns out I’m pretty damned handy with her!

Ck89yisWgAArYO-

Easily the largest number of eliminations with any character in a single game (to the tune of at least double), and what’s more she is absolutely lethal outside of her Mech! A true glass-cannon as a workmate said to me this morning.

I was able to take down Winstons at full health who had Symmetra’s shields on them, despite only having 150-ish hit points. Her pistol does massive damage, and I actually got the POTG in the header while outside of her mech.

So the moral of this short OverWatch tale?

Always be willing to try out those heroes you’ve not touched yet, and never assume you’re a better X player than you potentially could be at Y.

Posted by Sar in Gaming, Overwatch, 0 comments
New Website Theme

New Website Theme

So I made a change to the theme for the website, and this one’s a hell of a lot better for those of you reading on a mobile browser.

However, the site itself should work fine and dandy, and look a bit better even on a desktop browser.

There’s still a few wee niggles to sort out:

  • I want randomised headers, but the theme doesn’t support them natively, requiring a cludged code fix (TBA).
  • There are some minor CSS issues with posts on the front page vs single post pages (next few days).
  • I want to create some more headers, but need time to do that (within the next week).

So that will all be sorted over the next few days, but hopefully you’ll find it a bit of a better reading experience, regardless of which type of device you’re reading this on!

Posted by Sar in News, Opinion, Website, 2 comments
Buying Loot Boxes in OverWatch?

Buying Loot Boxes in OverWatch?

Or, what are the odds, eh?


So last night I bought a stack of loot boxes in OverWatch. I bought the pack of 24 for £15.99, so hardly breaking the bank.

So for those of you wondering what the odds are of you getting one of the sweeter skins in the game, IE the Legendary ones?

Well, I got 2 legendary drops. One was a skin:

ScreenShot_16-06-12_02-26-53-000

 

And the other was a massive dose of currency. In all I got 1335 currency, both directly from currency drops, and from the small amounts you get when you get an item you’ve already got.

 

And as you get more stuff, the chances of you getting a duplicate are obviously a lot higher than they would’ve been otherwise, so sadly as you get more unlocks the loot boxes themselves become lesser in value, as you’ll likely only get small amounts of “commiseration currency” instead of anything you really want.

 

So I had bought Reinhardt’s White & Gold skin with the currency I’d had yesterday morning:

ScreenShot_16-06-12_12-51-00-000

 

But after getting the needed currency last night I splurged on his Stonehardt skin:

ScreenShot_16-06-12_03-06-42-000

 

As well as Widow’s Patina/gold skin:

ScreenShot_16-06-12_03-06-48-000

 

Reinhardt is a character I play a decent amount of, mainly only when I need to, as going by my stats I play more Widowmaker, Hanzo and Mei than anything else…

played

 

So more Reinhardt needed then 😉

 

So why did I buy a legendary skin for a character who is #8 on my most played list?

 

Simply because it’s an awesome skin, and I can see myself playing more of the ageing German tank as time goes by.

 

The other option was the Comtesse or Huntress skin for Widow:

ScreenShot_16-06-12_12-47-32-000

ScreenShot_16-06-12_12-48-34-000

 

So they’ll be next on the list…

 

I got quite a few epic drops, such as Junkrat’s prisoner skin, the Carbon Fiber skin for D.Va, the Superior highlight intro for Hanzo, so all stuff I would use anyway.

 

Common drops were player icons, tonnes of sprays, and a few 75 value skins, such as Symmetra’s Technomancer skin.

 

I’ll probably buy some more boxes next month after I get paid again, but atm I’m quite happy with what I got.

 

But again, per above, the longer you go, and the more boxes you get, either purchased or earnt, the less value future boxes intrinsically have.

 

I’m well aware of the gambling-based psychology behind why Blizzard have done loot boxes like this, in that they give you a chance at the items you want rather than running through the list of everything you haven’t got without duplication.

 

It’s much the same psychology behind their loot drops in WoW, the “one more go” feeling that keeps you playing probably longer than you would’ve done otherwise, just in case…

 

So yeah, lots and lots of sprays, lots of dupes, decent amount of currency, some epics and a couple of legendary drops.

 

For £15.99, to support the game further, and the knowledge that new maps and heroes will always be free?

 

I’m happy.

Posted by Sar in Gaming, Overwatch, 0 comments
The Warcraft Movie Review!

The Warcraft Movie Review!

This article was under a review embargo until Mon 30th at 12pm, but that appears to have been lifted, so without further ado…


Introduction

The (World of) Warcraft movie has lingered in development hell for nearly as long as there’s been a World of Warcraft. It has been in a seemingly perpetual state of development for exactly 10 years now, since May 2006, and has had various writers, directors and approaches considered and rejected over the course of its history.

However with Duncan Jones, director of the superb Moon signing on to direct, things began to look up…

Currently on Metacritic, the Warcraft movie is polling terribly, with an average score of 37. Professional critics appear to hate the film, yet anyone who’s actually seen the film that is a fan, or not, has enjoyed it. In fact that last review link is from Mark Kermode, a well respected film reviewer in the UK, and HE liked it, despite never playing the game and approaching it as a completely blank slate experience.

In fact it’s currently sitting with an average score of 8.2 on IMDB!

So what gives? What side of the fence did I fall on?

Well, let’s dig into it in a bit more detail first…


The Story

The film is set during the events of the First War, when the Orcs first poured through the Dark Portal and attacked Azeroth, bent on claiming this lush new world as their own. This came about as their own world, Draenor, was dying and wouldn’t sustain life for very much longer.

The film opens on modern day Azeroth, with an Alliance Soldier facing off against a modern day Orc Warrior, standing astride his firmly planted Horde Banner, and the voice of Lothar begins narrating, stating that the war between the Horde and the Alliance wasn’t always so.

We are then taken back 30 years or so to the main events of the film.

Led by the noble Durotan, he and his wife Draka are our main “Horde” PoV characters for the film. We open up with them, seeing a quiet moment demonstrating their relationship together. It’s a warm, loving, jovial relationship the two of these characters share, and it’s utterly charming and believable.

Durotan leads his clan alongside other clan leaders, like Rend Blackhand, Grommash Hellscream and others, following under the guidance of the Warlock Gul’dan. Gul’dan has promised them a new world, a world ripe for the taking as its denizens are weak and easily broken.

The story then takes off, and tells, what to old school Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans players, will be a very familiar tale.

The film switches between the viewpoints of the Horde characters, primarily Durotan and Draka, with those of the Alliance characters, primarily in this case Anduin Lothar and the mage Khadgar.


The World

The world of both Azeroth, and fleetingly Draenor, are excellently realised. Even though the world in the film is much much bigger than what we see in-game (obviously the in-game world is much compressed for game-play reasons), regular WoW players will see much that they recognise and can delight in.

I spent most of my time in awe over how well presented the landscapes were, and instantly recognised many many locations, not just the main city of Stormwind.

We visit many locations in the movie:

  • Draenor
  • The Black Morass
  • Dalaran
  • Deadwind Pass
  • Karazhan
  • Stormwind
  • The Barrens
  • Ironforge
  • Elwynn Forest
  • Edit: Forgot to include Westfall, which appears briefly!

So many visual treats for WoW players to gorge their eyes on, and so satisfying to see them up on the big screen, painted with millions of dollars as the brush.


The CGI & SFX

This was a worry for me beforehand, as bad CGI can break an otherwise great film.

However for me this turned out to be a significant plus point of the film. The Orcs are all 100% CG, and they are so damned gorgeous in their detail. Small things like darting eyes, pores, hair, grime, sweat; it’s just all so fecking beautiful. I saw the film in 3D, and 3D normally takes away some of the HD details, so I’ll be seeing it again in 2D next weekend, but the CG throughout the film, not just the orcs, was absolutely top notch. As you’d expect with the royalty that is Industrial Light & Magic at the helm.

But the thing for me that stood out in this department?

The visual representation of the use of magic. It’s stunningly beautiful. Seriously gorgeous, I fell in love with it. I wish our spells in-game looked even half this good.


The Acting

The acting in the film ranged from the excellent (Khadgar & Taria), to the simply passable (King Llane Wrynn).

Now normally I quite like Dominic Cooper, here King Llane. I enjoyed his portrayal of Howard Stark in the 2 seasons of Agent Carter (now sadly cancelled!), but here he largely failed to bring any real sense of authority or gravitas to the role of the King. He seemed to squeak his way through most scenes, and any time Travis Fimmel appeared on screen, he was blown away.

Speaking of Lothar? He was great, and Travis Fimmel did a sterling job. He showed Lothar to be a completely badass mofo, and a warrior that even the orcs feared to take on.

Ruth Negga, some iffy accent issues aside (starts off as cut-glass English RP, then slips into her natural Irish brogue by film’s end), she did an excellent job as Lady Taria, wife of the king and mother of Varian Wrynn.

Medivh, played by Ben Foster, sadly fell into the slightly iffy camp for me. He, for some reason, seemed to be playing Medivh with a somewhat Cowboy-southern drawl at times. Half the time I expected him to tell the orcs it was High Noon…

The standout for me though? Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar. He portrays a young Khadgar, before he’s aged artificially, and he really did a fantastic job IMO.

There were some great buddy-cop moments between him and Travis Fimmel’s Lothar that I really loved, and you can tell the two of them enjoyed working together. He brought more gravitas and worth to his role as a disgraced Kirin Tor initiate than Dominic Cooper did to his as King Llane. Superb work.

And lastly for the in-camera actors, Paula Patton did a great job as the Orc/Draenei warrior Garona.

The MoCap and voice work by the orc actors shouldn’t be dismissed either.

Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is believable, grounded and he portrays the young Frostwolf clan leader as both a likeable person, and a respected warrior.

Draka was in the movie only fleetingly, in a few short scenes throughout, but what was there, saw Anna Galvin acquit herself with much aplomb.

Rob Kazinzky as Orgrim also did a fantastic job. The lucky bastard that he is, (as he’s a current WoW player) he gets to act in his dream job, bringing such an iconic character as the original wielder of the Doomhammer to life. Both him and Durotan share a deep friendship, and that comes across on screen with ease.

Clancy Brown and Daniel Wu as Blackhand and Gul’dan respectively each did a great job as well. Imbuing their characters with a menace and threat that came across even through the MoCap.


Music

The music was absolutely bloody superb throughout, but what do you expect when you hire the guy, Ramin Djawadi, that wrote the music for Game of Thrones?

In fact, you can listen to the entire soundtrack here for a limited time on SoundCloud for yourself. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I’m writing this! Loved it!

What didn’t work…

There were some elements for me that didn’t quite work. Be warned though:

Spoilers abound within!

[su_spoiler title=”Spoilers for Warcraft: The Beginning!”]

Ok, so Draka and Durotan are the main Horde PoV characters.

Draka gives birth to Go’El (Thrall) at the very beginning of the movie, and in fact she goes into labour during the portal loading screen for want of a better term. She gives birth immediately on the other side, but the child is still-born.

Gul’dan, perhaps to prove a point, drains the life force of a nearby deer and invests that life force into the infant’s lifeless body, thus infusing him with fel and turning him into the future green jebus we all know and hate(ish). So, what? Thrall’s a fel-orc now?

However, as long-term fans know, both Draka and Durotan die not long after entering Azeroth, and this was my biggest complaint about the entire film.

Draka dies a quiet, noble death, protecting her baby by the riverside, from Gul’dan’s betrayal when he wipes out the Frostwolves.

Durotan however? He died in a rather cheap, off-handed, dismissive manner and was left for dead with barely a second thought. This irked me more than anything after coming out of the theatre. In fact Lothar’s very incidental, bit-part, son died with more importance and gravitas than our main Horde PoV character did.

Durotan’s needless (IMO) death should have had more importance placed on it, or left for a more appropriate point in the film, but to me it was treated like the death of a random orc or alliance guard: “Yeah he’s dead, right let’s move on and ignore his existence”.

Very disappointing, and leaves one major question: With both Horde lead characters dead, in the event of a possible sequel, who will act as the eyes of the audience on the red side of the conflict? Garona? Orgrim?

The pacing seems a bit rushed at times as well, jumping from scene to scene seemingly in a hurry to get through the story before closing time.

Medivh, as per the game, betrays the Alliance, and is revealed to be the one who beckoned Gul’dan and the Orcs into Azeroth. He claimed that he was corrupted by “The Fel”, but before the orcs came through, there was no Fel Magic on Azeroth.

We, as players, know he was born already possessed by Sargeras, and know that’s why he summoned the orcs, but general audiences won’t have a clue, and may be utterly confused.

So we, as an audience, are meant to believe he summoned Gul’dan to Azeroth, by himself, without prior knowledge of the existence of Orcs or Draenor, and furthermore retained no memory of it, as he stated after his betrayal was revealed? Hmmmm.

The romance between Garona and Lothar was completely unnecessary and went nowhere.

Speaking of Garona, she was shown to be a proper “good guy” throughout the film, and whilst she does kill Llane as per the lore, it’s not because of any mind control by Gul’dan. Llane sacrifices himself for the sake of a future peace, and asks Garona to kill him and become a hero in the orc’s eyes.

[/su_spoiler]

Plus, not really a spoiler, but where the hell are the Gnomes? Yet again, Gnomes get the shaft when it comes to CG or cinematic treatment. Seriously bummed about this, because we visit Ironforge towards the start of the film, yet there were none present here, nor at any of the Alliance chamber meetings?

Wasn’t really expecting this, but there were no dragons or drakes in the film either. Maybe in the sequel we’ll get to see Alexstrasza!

Also, only one demon in the entire film, but on the plus side, it looked friggin’ awesome (no, not the golem/infernal from the trailer)…

Plus: Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) and Lothar are meant to be brother and sister? Wot? One is black, with an irish/english accent, the other is a blonde aussie with what appears to be his accent from Vikings.

Yeah, ok…

One big disappointment? No Legion advertisement ahead of the film starting? Really? REALLY? You would think Blizzard would stipulate some sort of advert for WoW to be played with the pre-movie trailers. I found it astonishing that such an opportunity would be missed.

However I was at a press screening hosted by Universal, and they had all their own films trailed before the movie, so this may change upon general release.

Here’s hoping…

Short Highlights

MURLOCS! GRRLLLGGRRRGGLLLRRR!

Moroes before he went all Raid Boss!

Lothar’s gryphon? As much of a badass as Lothar himself. Seriously cool.

Polymorph! Yes, Khadgar polymorphs an NPC 😛

Garona mentions hearing Gul’dan’s master having a voice of “Fire and ash”. Kil’jaeden’s been busy…

The humour throughout the film is used appropriately and well. Some laugh out loud moments.

The fight between Lothar and his opponent right at the end of the film just shows what a badass he is.

The ferocious orc roar that ends the film 😀

PS: There are no mid or post credits sequences, trust me I waited. So once the orc roars it’s ferocious widdle roar, feel free to leave the cinema. Although if you’re a WoW player and a fan of the music? Wait for the scrolling credits….


Overall

I can guess why some critics are hating on this title, because it’s based on a video game property. Video game to movie adaptations in the past have all been notorious for how bad they’ve been:

  • Mario Bros
  • Street Fighter
  • Mortal Kombat
  • etc etc

But what all those source games had in common was one thing: They were all light to non-existent on storyline.

The one thing Warcraft, as a franchise, has in absolute bucket-loads?

Storyline.

In fact, there was slightly too much storyline presented here, leading to the slightly spotty pacing throughout. But overall I think Duncan Jones and the Cast and Crew have done a thoroughly excellent job.

Seriously, the small niggles aside, this was a great film and I enjoyed it immensely. Especially as a WoW player. But I enjoyed it as a fantasy film lover first, and as a spectacle for the WoW player in me secondarily.

I’ll definitely be going to see it again when it opens this coming week in the UK, because I want to support this effort as much as possible, because we all want to see a sequel, or perhaps trilogy or more come out of this initial foray into the cinematic world of Azeroth.

One of my favourite films of the year so far.

Posted by Sar in Movies, Movies, Reviews, World of Warcraft, 0 comments
OverWatch: The Review

OverWatch: The Review

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.


Character Roster

roster

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).


Sound Design

ScreenShot_16-05-09_20-30-58-000The 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.


Art

ScreenShot_16-05-03_20-17-16-000The 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.


Gameplay

ScreenShot_16-05-10_00-37-24-000The 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:

  • Mei
  • Junkrat
  • Widowmaker
  • Soldier 76
  • Torbjorn
  • Lucio
  • Tracer

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.

Pfft.

Overall though, I’m glad Blizzard went this route, because the game-play is just so much better for that decision.


Music

ScreenShot_16-05-10_17-37-54-000The 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

CjLiz_NWEAAVF8nLoot 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:

  • Skins
  • Emotes
  • Victory Poses
  • Voice Lines
  • Sprays
  • 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:


Pricing

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.


Final Thoughts

ScreenShot_16-05-10_17-54-42-000I 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.

Posted by Sar in Games, Gaming, News, Overwatch, Reviews, 0 comments