Blizzard’s multiplayer hero-shooter Overwatch was the winner of over 100 game of the year awards in 2016. So what makes this multi-console game so excellent and why should you consider joining its ranks of players?
To start with Overwatch is deceptively simple. It lacks a set story, but this is easily covered by the media tie-in content. This content consists of free-to-read comics and free-to-view animated shorts.
This content turns a lack of story into one of Overwatch’s strengths, and leaves this reviewer hopeful for a tv series.
Story content, or lore, is also delivered through in-game references. Some characters deliver pieces of dialogue to one another. Other characters deliver dialogue that reflects upon the particular level. For example the Cowboy McCree comments upon the quality of the dining in Route 66.
These comics, and the accompanying animations, provide details about a future version of Earth. A science fiction version of Earth, in which talking Gorillas and wraith-super-soldiers are commonplace. In this future, humanity had created sentient robotic organisms called Omnics. Unfortunately, there was an event known as the Omnic Crisis which resulted in Omnics taking over the world. An international strikeforce – Overwatch – battled against the Omnics and resulted in peace.
Following on from this, Overwatch disbanded due to media allegations and treachery from within its ranks. Therefore, the world in which the player picks up their controller (or keyboard and mouse) is completely altered. This is a world in which Overwatch is slowly reforming, and where terrorist groups (Talon) threaten them. It is also a world of bounty hunters and lone soldiers, full of lore and mystery. But it is the gameplay which creates the best experience.
Similarly to Injustice 2, which we reviewed previously, Overwatch revolves around selecting a particular character from a roster. The mode that a gamer chooses to play will affect these character selections. Then the selection of map also affects the character choice – where players must select characters to balance their team.
There are four map types for Overwatch. Assault, Escort, Hybrid Assault/Escort, and Control. Assault maps focus on one team attempting to capture two points while the other team defends the assault. Escort maps focus on leading a payload through a series of checkpoints to an end goal, with one team defending the progress of this payload. Hybrid maps focus on one team attempting to capture a single point and then lead a payload to the map’s end. Finally, Control maps focus on teams fighting to remain in possession of a control point for the longest duration.
Aside from Control maps, teams are assigned to ‘Attack’ or ‘Defence.’ Therefore teams must meet particular objectives in order to claim victory. For Quickplay modes, teams play either Attack or Defence and failure to attack or defend leads to defeat. With Competitive mode, teams play both Attack and Defence to determine a winner. Completing the most objectives in Attack, therefore leads to victory. As a side note, Arcade modes allow for fun variation in gameplay with a rotating roster of game types.
For each game, the play determined the ‘Play of the Game’ receives a special replay. This adds to the charm of the design of Overwatch as a hero shooter. And these factors make Overwatch easy to play on a ‘level and gameplay design’ basis, but how do the characters stack up?
Currently, there 25 characters on the Overwatch roster. Each character fits into one of four classes: Attack, Defence, Tank, Support. Attack characters are mobile characters capable of dealing high levels of damage. Defence characters are strong at controlling closed-off spaces and keeping enemies at bay. Tank characters can absorb a lot more damage and are capable of clearing enemies out of areas. Support characters are mostly healers, capable of helping assist their team members.
Each hero has a strength and weakness against other heroes. For example Bastion has a weakness against more mobile characters such as Genji. Other heroes are necessities for particular maps and for newcomers to the game the learning-curve is much simpler than the complexities of this game suggest.
Characters have standard weapon attacks (guns, bows, lasers etc.). Aside from this they typically have two to three other special attacks. For example Junkrat has concussion mines and traps as his special attacks. While D.VA now has flight, shields, guns and microrockets. The game mechanics are incredibly well-balanced in Overwatch, while the developers are constantly tweaking and updating characters. This ensures that team strategies are fair across the board and that Overwatch is constantly fresh and inovative.
Currently this reviewer has racked up over 100 hours of gametime for Overwatch in the past year. It is remarkably easy to pick-up and play for ten to fifteen minutes, but deviously complicated to master. For anyone looking for a new game to play and who has not yet picked up Overwatch, consider diving into the colourful characters and mayhem of an Overwatch game. It may lack the plot of a typical game, but this is more than made-up for with constant updates and patches from developers. It is well worth it.