Beta Perspective: I Can’t Heap Enough Praise On Overwatch

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I don’t think a lot of people had much faith in Overwatch when we first heard of it, after all consider the circumstances. Blizzard just got done telling us that their MMO Titan was being canned because it wasn’t fun, but that the remains of the title would be stitched together in a Frankenstein’s monster-like fashion to create a new game. It makes you wonder what exactly Titan was, and why it sucked.

Functionally, Overwatch is what would happen if Team Fortress 2 and a MOBA made love and had a child. It is a 6v6 first person shooter with a massive cast of unique characters on numerous themed maps over several game modes. Rather than Team Fortress 2’s nine classes, Overwatch currently provides 21, split into four groups (offense, defense, tank, and support).

A Team Fortress 2 player would find themselves much at home in Overwatch. You have Pharah as the soldier with her rocket launcher and rocket jump ability, Torbjorn as the engineer capable of building and upgrading an automatic turret, Widowmaker as the sniper, Mercy as the medic with her medigun, D.Va as the heavy, Tracer as the scout, Junkrat as the demoman, and probably Winston as the pyro. There isn’t really an equivalent of the spy, the TF2 character that can disguise and go invisible.

Even Call of Duty fans have a dedicated character in Soldier 76, a hero who carries an automatic rifle that alt-fires rockets.

Even within each category, the characters vary pretty wildly and have a number of uses. In support, for instance, Mercy isn’t just a follow-and-heal character. While useless in combat, her staff can heal and it can also boost damage, while her ultimate ability can be used to resurrect characters on the spot. Lucio, on the other hand, is capable of using his offensive weapon to damage enemies or to knock them around. His Crossfade ability can regenerate health or amplify movement speed. Symmetry has a weapon that builds damage the longer it connects, while her sentry turret slows enemy movement.

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But it still doesn’t reduce the versatility of characters. Even non-support characters have healing powers that vary from simply boosting oneself to providing area of effect healing and shield. They give every character the potential to just massacre the enemy team, regardless of their type. Roadhog, for instance, already being a tank with ridiculous defense and health, can bring enemies in close and then utilize an ability to heal himself. Widowmaker, with her sniper rifle and ability to scale to higher places, can be absolutely devastating in the hands of a sharpshooter.

The increase in characters allows for some devastating combinations. If you’ve looked up videos on Overwatch, you’ve probably seen the combo where Bastion (a giant robot) transforms into his stationary turret mode on the Payload objective and just mows down people while Reinhardt (a tank character) protects him with his shield.

There are three game modes planned for launch as well as a hybrid mode. Escort has one team escorting a payload while the other team runs down the clock. Assault has an attacking team trying to capture control points while the defending team tries to run down the clock. Control has both teams fight over control of capture points which control adds to a meter which, when full, ends the round. Hybrid starts out as assault and eventually becomes escort.

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More updates are planned after launch, obviously, including new heroes and new maps, as well as new game modes. If there’s one thing you can expect from Blizzard, it is that the Overwatch that exists a couple of years from now will be massive in comparison to what we get at launch.

The only real downside of the beta so far is the prevalence of matchmaking throwing you into a guaranteed loss about twenty seconds before the match ends. It’s an inevitability in any game that has matchmaking, and Blizzard has alleviated the frustration by making it so you do not gain a loss if you backfill a match, however you can score a win if your team is victorious. It’s relatively simple functions like these that Blizzard is known to put in their games to make them a bit more fair.

It is a testament to these games when you can do poorly without going full tilt, even though the nature of the game demands a balanced team and I’ve had a few moments of shouting obscenities at my computer because my team was attacking on an escort map and my team just would not stop camping in their own spawn area or those public games when your team throws the game away because three members just wanted to be snipers. The game gives suggestions based on your team, but it doesn’t force you to pick a balanced list of characters so if you have a team of tanks and the enemy team is balanced, you’re screwed.

I see massive eSports potential from Overwatch, just from the litany of gifs showing up online. There are already tournaments planned, and hopefully Blizzard adds spectating tools in the same with Valve has with Counter Strike: GO, Team Fortress 2, and Dota 2. I can’t wait for the full launch of Overwatch. If you haven’t gotten into the game yet, the beta was extended until May 10th mid-afternoon EST. Even if you can only get a few games in, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s been a long time since I’ve come out of a game this positive.

The game will also make a killing out of the loot system. Basically you have an overall level that is functionally meaningless, but every time you level up from experience gained in each round you get a loot box that is full of random skins, victory poses, sprays, etc. When the game goes live, you’ll be able to buy them with credits as well. Longer play sessions can lead to better experience gains, since you get a boost from staying in a match through successive rounds. You’ll also apparently be able to toss away the stuff you don’t want for credits to eventually earn the stuff you do want.

I never tell my audience outright to spend money on a game just because I told you I liked it, so I really recommend getting into the beta while it is still live.

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