The next great class-based shooter is here.
Overwatch on PC
There was a time when the Blizzard name was synonymous with polish. It may have taken Blizzard a long time to finish anything, but there was widely believed comfort that anything that got released with the Blizzard name on it was going to be great.
Over the last five years or so with the cancellation of Project Titan, Diablo III’s tumultuous launch, and StarCraft II’s slow decline, it was starting to look like that old Blizzard polish was fading. Review spoiler alert: It’s not. Overwatch is amazing.
Overwatch is a return to form for Blizzard, a new IP that’s sure to be a pillar for the famed company for years to come alongside the other well-known Blizzard classics. It has the chops to not only be a game for the masses and stick around like Team Fortress 2 has, but it also could shape up to be a popular esport as well.
Starting with aesthetics, Overwatch went for a cartoonish art style that probably won’t blow anyone away, but should hold up well for a long time. Every stage and character has its own distinct, over-exaggerated style. Nothing meshes together or is unmemorable. You’ll know exactly who every character is and what they can do within just a few sessions of playing.
Speaking of Overwatch’s characters, all of them, depending on your taste, is a blast to play. Whether you want to be offensive, a tank, or some kind of support character, there’s something for everyone. Not only that, there’s variations even within those archetypes. For example, there’s not just one sniper character. You could play as Hanzo or Blackwidow. Each of them are designed to be snipers but both have different skill sets. More characters means more ways to play and thanks to that, players have the opportunity to really fine tune their experience.
While there are plenty of characters, Blizzard could stand to add a few new maps and game modes sooner rather than later. Quality is certainly better than quantity, but it won’t take long before you’ve seen every combination the game has to offer. However, there is at least a weekly modified mode called Arcade which changes things up by adding new rules such as double health and/or faster ultimate regeneration. It doesn’t completely make up for the lack of maps and game types (at least at launch), but it’s something different from the main game at least.
Overwatch does its best to encourage party balance, so it’s best practice to get good at using a few characters, even if you have a favorite. While picking characters, if you have too many snipers or not enough tanks for example, the game will let your party know in order to try and persuade someone to switch. It’s a welcomed feature.
I myself favored Widowmaker, Mei, Tracer, and D.Va. As Widowmaker I can use a grappling hook to find that perfect sniping perch overlooking an important area and pick enemies off. If my team needs a meat shield, I bring out D.Va and plant myself over an objective in order to draw the attention away from my comrades. Sometimes my team needed a little utility and that’s when I would use Mei. With her ice blaster, I can create giant walls of ice to create choke points and harass enemies with her freezing abilities. Or other times, I just wanted to be a nuisance and that’s when I’d bring out Tracer. Reminiscent of the Scout from Team Fortress 2, Tracer is perfect for hit and run tactics as she can quickly get in and out of combat with her time-altering abilities.
Because of the number of character choices, it’s natural to think that there could be some balance issues. There are some, and there probably won’t ever be complete perfect balance. Vanilla Team Fortress 2 was the gold standard, but that game only has nine characters, Overwatch has 21. Still, Overwatch isn’t StarCraft, a chess-like game that relies on total balance for the game to work. Because of the size of the teams, the character’s strengths and weaknesses are more or less a wash, provided your team is somewhat balanced among the character classes. In addition, most maps are wide open with lots of space to maneuver, so you don’t get funneled into death over and over (provided you’re using your head). Many characters also have some kind of unique movement ability to get out of potential trouble. Also, there are plenty of objectives beyond just killing people to keep threats occupied.
So yes, Bastion might be really annoying right now to some, and yes Blizzard might decide to nerf him one day in the near future (or maybe not, who knows), but the balance issues are far from game-breaking. Plus, even if you’re not that good at Overwatch, it’s still just silly fun to play. Gameplay is fast-paced and you’ll have near constant access to at least some of your abilities besides your ultimate. Even when you die, it won’t be long before you’re right back in the thick of things, hopefully pulling off something awesome such as fanning a revolver John Marston style as McCree.
Beyond being enjoyable in-game, Overwatch manages to have big picture appeal as well, which should keep it popular for quite some time. Players can work towards unlocking cosmetic skins and voice packs, as is customary – and enjoyed – in many games nowadays. Ranked competitive play and seasons should keep hardcore fans with a thirst to improve their standing occupied as well when they arrive sometime next month. Also, I’m sure Blizzard would love to see Overwatch blossom into a popular esport. It’s certainly entertaining to watch and if it does take off, it would make investing time into Overwatch’s community more worthwhile for some.
Looking even further out, it’s worth noting that all Overwatch updates (including new maps and characters) will be free. If nothing else, Blizzard supports their games for the long run. Hell, even Diablo II still gets patches over fifteen years since its release. Just keep in mind there is no single player mode to be found here. So if you’re not enthralled by its competitive modes, you may be out of luck.
As long as Overwatch at least resembles a type of game that that you enjoy, there’s so many reasons to feel confident stepping into its world. It’s wacky, pretty, incredibly fun, and should be supported well by Blizzard for years to come. At launch, there’s already so many things going so right, and Blizzard will only add to it.
Just as Team Fortress 2 burst onto the scene and captivated so many with its charm, and accessible gameplay, Overwatch is poised to do the same with its sharp gameplay and likable characters. There’s little doubt that the next great class-based shooter has arrived.
Score: 5/5 – Exemplary