It’s award season here at Twinfinite! All week long, our editors and writers will be nominating games that stood out enough in 2016 to be a Game of the Year candidate. And later this week, we’ll reveal our winner! Today, senior writer Collin MacGregor tells us why Overwatch is worthy of being Twinfinite’s 2016 Game of the Year.
If there’s any title that has made itself known in a hurry this year it’s Blizzard’s hit FPS game Overwatch. Released back in May after a long development cycle, it took the world by storm instantly. The rapid rise to stardom was thanks to its inherently fun mix of gameplay, character designs, and gorgeous artwork that helped it stand out.
Overwatch’s claim to fame is that it has polished class-based shooting down to a science. Its colorful cast of ever-expanding characters offer their own styles of play while serving as fantastic devices to the game’s narrative. The lack of a campaign can be a major deterrent for prospective players, but what information we do have about its lore and story is cleverly explored through dialogue sequences, visual representations, and stunning digital shorts.
Currently, there are only three primary modes to choose from in Overwatch, yet this is supplemented by the dozens of wacky arcade modes and well-balanced, instantly recognizable maps, each holding their own personalities and strengths. Unlike some other shooters where the world is second to everything else, Blizzard’s emphasis on crisp visuals, hidden details, and well-crafted layouts gives every square inch a loving touch.
Matches are fast and furious, with players making liberal use of the game’s recognizable abilities and ultimates. This creates some truly compelling and often funny moments, such as being knocked off a cliff by Lucio’s sound blast alt attack, or snatching an enemy up with Roadhog’s hook. All of the chaos centers around a central objective that helps reinforce the concept of working together. Overwatch lacks a Deathmatch mode, which is rather uncommon in the FPS genre. It’s a design choice that clearly emphasizes the importance of winning as a team and completing objectives over personal achievement, which is a refreshing touch.
Gameplay is incredibly refined, with every character serving a unique role, and rosters presenting a range of abilities that can create some incredible plays and combinations. This is enhanced by the variety of playstyles that embrace an “easy to play, hard to master” design philosophy, which allows Overwatch to be both highly accessible and challenging at the same time. Characters all have their own strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited or worked around if a player is skilled enough, which allows Overwatch to have a high skill ceiling that pros and other highly skilled players can take advantage of.
Yet, one of the most important parts of Overwatch’s success lies in its community. Since its announcement and release, the massive amount of fan-made content is staggering, ranging the gambit from cosplays, to art, to animated shorts. While the cultural significance of a title doesn’t always reflect the actual quality of the game, Overwatch’s clean design and inflow of content will live on well past this year.
In addition, Overwatch’s competitive scene has gotten real big, real fast. In less than a year, Blizzard’s title not only cultivated its own competitive scene, but also managed to get a televised championship on TBS. Its growth among professional teams and spectators is a testament to the game’s intelligent balance and competitive nature. All of this culminated in the Overwatch World Cup at BlizzCon 2016, a celebration of the title’s success and the community around it.
In the end, what separates Overwatch from any other game this year is the massive social impact it has seen in such a short period of time. While games like DOOM and Uncharted have always had a large fanbase, Overwatch’s has grown at an insane rate, accomplishing a feat that takes some franchises decades to cultivate. Overwatch has become a milestone for the multiplayer genre and a staple of the industry.
If we’re going to crown something as our Game of the Year, it should be a title that not only is mechanically sound but acts as a representative of this year’s gaming scene. Overwatch is both of these, and I have little doubt its presence will linger for years to come.