The arrival of Overwatch has caused many to reevaluate their perception of online, team-based shooters. Since the conception of online shooters, the death match game-type has been a staple in the genre. Sure, the objective-based game-types are fun and make use of Overwatch’s mechanics, but some players can’t help but ask, “Does Overwatch actually need a deathmatch mode?”
Let’s make one thing clear – Overwatch does not need a deathmatch mode. But it could be fun. Just not a traditional one, at least.
The problem with traditional deathmatch (or team deathmatch) in Overwatch is that it contradicts the nature of the game. At its core, Overwatch is a game about teamwork. Players select a character that suits the framework of the team to best accomplish the goal (ideally). That goal ranges from anything to Attack and Defend to King of the Hill.
Deathmatch, on the other hand, has one simple goal – get more kills than the other competing bodies in the match, whether it be a team or slew of individuals. This is perfectly fine as an objective, and teams can still unite together and play off one another’s skills to complete the objective at hand. But unlike Attack and Defend or King of the Hill, a deathmatch-style mode puts the nature of the game at contention with itself.
See, the defining characteristic of Overwatch is its colorful roster of playable heroes, each with a unique play style all their own. A kill-based game mode would obviously encourage players to select heroes who are more inclined to both deal more damage and take more damage, effectively eliminating the need for defense and support characters. With half the roster gone, what’s left? A shooter that’s suddenly lost the thing that set it apart from the rest.
Understandably, some players would find a way to make support and defense work, and it might even make the game-type far more strategic than this article gives it credit. But the inclination is offense. Deathmatch sets players’ expectations from the get-go. Choosing anything but a damage-dealer or tank would seem detrimental to team success, and judging by Blizzard’s delightful method of informing teams they lack certain roles before a match starts, they don’t want you to feel like you’re shooting yourself in the foot before the match even starts.
There is another option – Arcade Mode. Unlike traditional Quick Play, Arcade Mode is controlled pandemonium. The weekly rotation of game types would help keep Deathmatch feeling fresh and exciting, and allow Blizzard to add their own twist to the classic game mode. As mentioned earlier, limiting the the roster would single-handedly remove the most interesting aspect of the game, but strategic limitations to the roster would make Deathmatch more interesting. At the same time, it would encourage players to actively experiment with team combinations they may not have attempted or given a chance.
For example, introduce a speed-based deathmatch that limits the character roster to Tracer and Lucio. Sure, it severely limits the characters the players have access to, but it also highlights a fun combination they might not have played with beforehand. By limiting the roster, not only do you encourage them to branch out from their Reinhardt-main, you also level the playing field by giving everyone else the same characters while keeping in-tune with the chaotic nature of Arcade Mode.
There are other meaningful pairings that would help make a fun Death Match, but you get the point. Traditional deathmatch would feel tacked on and lifeless – something Blizzard would never allow. And for that, it is all the better.