The time has come. After roughly two years since we laid eyes on the first teaser during Blizzcon, Overwatch finally hit the market. Blizzard is not exactly a company one would associate with first-person shooters, but that is about to change. Overwatch can supposedly be described as the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Titan, the original last big title Blizzard worked on, which sadly got cancelled eventually. Despite that, they don’t seem to have feared any cost or effort to make this burning rebirth as flashy as possible.
Overwatch is a character-based arena shooter which will, and with good reasons, remind many of the Team Fortress series. The game features 21 heroes to choose from and three maps for each of the four game modes: Assault, Control, Escort and Hybrid. Which map a player gets assigned is chosen at random, since there is only one matchmaking queue for regular matches available. Rather than having a team deathmatch splatter fest, every map is objective-based and encourages teamwork to reach a common goal. The similarities to Team Fortress are undeniable, yet Overwatch also differs a lot. 6v6 is the preferred and only setup games take place in. Blizzard declared it as the ‘sweet spot’, where every player feels important without clogging up the maps. Admittedly 16v16 would sounds interesting, but I can see where they’re coming from. Like Hearthstone, Overwatch features weekly brawls with ridiculous rule sets to knock yourself out with. The latest brawl, ARCADE, doubled the player’s health and lowered their cooldowns, for example, making for much more explosive and tense fire fights.
Today we’re all heroes
The heart and soul of Overwatch are obviously the characters – 21 is quite a roster to start out with and every hero feels unique in terms of design and gameplay. Some are more cliché than others, but that doesn’t make them any less likeable. The different interactions between characters or comments on the surroundings add a certain charm to everyone. Each hero has three to four skills, including an ultimate at their disposal, and Blizzard did a good job finding fitting skills for every character. Mercy, for example, being the literal guardian angel has the ability to float, while Soldier 76 can simply sprint. They fall into four categories: offense, defense, tank and support which are self-explanatory. Despite using this categorization, no hero is locked into their role and many offensive characters can successfully defend a point and vice versa. It will take a while to memorize every hero’s playstyle and their skills, let alone master them. I wouldn’t call it a steep learning curve, but certain heroes are surely not the kind to pick up and play.
A story served separately
Story and gameplay are handled disjointed, as they were in games like Team Fortress 2. The story of Overwatch is told by short movies, comics and other forms of media like ‘news reports’. It felt weird having all this lore build around the game, yet no single-player campaign with players, only seeing these characters slug it out on various maps. After the first season of animated movies aired, I can understand why Blizzard approached story and lore this way. While the game in itself is finished, with the exception of upcoming heroes, the story is not and it will slowly expand to keep the players interested over time without having to rush everything into the launch version. However, I can also see the drawbacks of this method and why people might not like it. As a former TF2 addict I’m kind of accustomed to it rather than bothered. The animated shorts sure have a ‘Meet the’ vibe to it, with amazing production value.
Blinding cheeks and laughing robots
Visually, Blizzard went with a cartoony look rather than the grim style of their other titles like Diablo or Starcraft. The first trailer of Overwatch was very reminiscent of a familiar animation studio and so does pretty much everything in-game. Characters, locations and effects are so colorfully designed, so much so that my eyes hurt the first time I’ve entered the game. Fortunately, you can tone it down a bit in the PC verison, especially with how shiny default Widowmaker’s rear is. Not that I complain, but I can see why so much inappropriate content of certain characters existed even before the game launched. The soundtrack Overwatch presents is, as expected from Blizzard, top notch. Every map has its own score that fits the location perfectly and in the final moments before the conclusion of a match, the music kicks it up again, emulating the feeling of the last drop of a rollercoaster ride. However, the ‘Play of the game’ theme and faces of certain heroes that get this honor disproportionately often will haunt my sleep.
Every creation demands a sacrifice
The immense hype surrounding Overwatch might be intimidating, but is more than justified. It’s been a while since I touched a Blizzard title that was not about cards, but with Overwatch, they have delivered something new and exciting that is here to stay. I will always be amazed how much their titles can suck you in and make you crave for more, so if they manage to offer players more now and then, I see no problem with mentioning their new creation in the same breath with their older ones. You can be sad that Titan was shut down, but be glad Overwatch was birthed from its remains.
Things we liked:
- Great overall presentation
- Big and diverse character roster
- Entertaining and addicting gameplay
- Quality over quantity approach
Things we didn’t like:
- Only one regular matchmaking queue
- Goodbye Titan
This review was written using a self-provided PC copy of the game. What do you think about this supposed phoenix that rose from a broken project? What’s your favorite character to play? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!