On the surface Overwatch is Blizzard’s latest IP, a Team Fortress 2 style first person shooter set in Modern Fantasy times. But the character, diversity, and strength of its design elevates it beyond just being more of the same.
The game is a 6v6 shooter with 12 maps and 4 different modes available: Escort, Assault, Control, and Hybrid (a combination of Assault and Escort). With 21 different characters, Overwatch is built around teamwork. While every hero has an entirely unique primary attack, secondary attack, and special ability, they also have potentially game-swaying ultimate abilities that charge over time. Players pick their initial hero at the start of each round. But at anytime when you are in the base (or dead), you can swap to another hero. The fast, counter-based gameplay leads to no two rounds being the same.
Similar to their other recent releases, Blizzard plans on balancing Overwatch throughout the life of the game. Although the title is quite different from the way it played in Early Beta, most of the balance changes have been for the better.
Still, Overwatch is far from balanced, but that doesn’t take away the fun of the game, the wide differences between the characters more often the point. On any winning team you’ll typically find a Reinhardt, Mei, or Bastion. Although Bastion isn’t ‘over powered’ as many of the fan base will scream, the hero can be difficult to counter for most. Bastion is one of the defense heroes in Overwatch, and can configure himself between Recon or Sentry modes. Recon mode is mobile, allowing Bastion to change positions. Equipped with a submachine gun when he’s in recon mode, he’s an auto attack force to be reckoned with. When Bastion swaps into Sentry mode however, it’s time for you to find a place to hide. His Sentry mode transforms him into a stationary turret, turning him into a powerhouse. Bastion is great for surprising people around corners, or holding points on defense.
Although there are several heroes that can counter Bastion in Sentry mode, most people prefer to run directly into his field of view and die countless times. I believe that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, fits well for most players trying to counter Bastion. That being said, I have seen some excellent players counter Bastion with ease. Just… don’t keep running into his turrets.
Reinhardt, on the other hand, is a hero that has yet to be tamed by the development staff. Reinhardt’s abilities and large health pool give him the ability to last in combat for a large period of time. His main weapon, Rocket Hammer, is meant for up close and personal combat damage, and even has a knockback effect. Although the weapon certainly doesn’t have the range that others do, Reinhardt is meant to be at the front of combat. His second ability, and perhaps his most powerful, is Barrier Field. This ability allows him to create a shield in front of him, serving as a blockade for him and anyone behind him. Players (both foe and friendly) can run through the shield, but often times players “turtle up” behind Reinhardt to create a hard-to-counter scenario. Pair those up with his Charge, Fire Strike, and ultimate ability Earthshatter, and you have a hero who can control where he wants to fight.
You’ll have to power through Reinhardt’s 2,000 barrier health before getting to him and his allies behind him. And after that they all have their own personal health bars. Reinhardt himself has 500 health. Although the character has several counters (Pharah, McCree, Symmetra, and Reaper) none are as straight forward as you would hope.
While Pharah can fight in the sky(and therefore shoot her rockets behind his shield), McCree has to get behind Reinhardt to use a flash bang and bring down his shield. Symmetra is, as most of the characters, about proper positioning. Far from a frontline fighter, she places down small turrets and can even place a teleporter for her team. A great support hero, she’s also possibly one of the hardest to play in the game.
Reaper on the other hand works as the most straight forward counter to Reinhardt. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Because of his twin shotguns, Reaper’s damage is much higher then other characters. He provides an excellent way of bursting down any enemy tank hero, but with Reinhardt’s team turtling behind him, Reaper will fall pretty quickly unless he has backup.
Thankfully Reinhardt’s Barrier Field lacks the ability to charge enemy hero’s ultimates, so while powering through his shield you are wasting precious time that could be used killing other heroes and getting your ultimate ability ready.
Although Overwatch does have heroes that are easier to use and yet prove to be very powerful, the addition of harder to play heroes makes the game more complex and rewarding. Winston, one of the other tanks in the game, already has a reputation as a bad hero. The science loving ape is a bit more difficult to play then someone like Reinhardt, but is a killer combo along with the lumbering, shotgun-weilding Roadhog. Winston relies on using his Barrier Projector, putting up a stationary bubble, and then playing both inside and out of it. The Barrier Projector has 600 health, and reflects most weapons – Winston gun being one of the exceptions.
Due to his versatile play, Winston is not often picked. The character can be a counter for Bastion, and is great for taking out the games main sniper, Widowmaker.
Overwatch’s maps all seem to feature at least one choke point. If the defending team can lock down on the small area, it often means defeat for the attacking team – and vice versa. As easy as it is to complain that these exist in every map, the necessary points help the flow of the game. Rather then an all out brawl in open terrain, players are encouraged to use their surroundings and actively switch heroes based on the situation.
Overwatch’s hero swap is seamless, and the menu even gives you advice on what your team needs. Although this shouldn’t always be listened to, it’s helpful to note that your team lacks a Support or Tank hero. The maps in Overwatch are not imbalanced, but several have “tricks” that you’ll learn as you play. What hero is good on what map, and what heroes will lead to a crushing defeat for your team are just the beginning. Most heroes are versatile enough to adapt to any map, but others will excel far beyond that initial adaptability.
The music, sound, and voice work in Overwatch are incredibly fitting, with western gunslinger McCree’s “High Noon!” callout already becoming a meme before the game even releases. Aside from McCree’s all-to-well-known calling card, audio cues are important to listen to and can mean life or death in some situations. Both Reaper (Die, die, die!) and Pharah’s (Justice rains from above!) ultimate abilities are area based, but if you hear them fast enough you can get out of the way.
Pharah is often in the sky when attacking, so moving into a building to avoid her ultimate, a rain of missiles will keep you safe. Reaper, on the other hand, spins in a circle and shoots his dual shotguns. Using terrain every bit of the terrain to your advantage is key.
The soundtrack, to my knowledge, doesn’t exceed 1 hour. Although that offers for a lot of repetitive background noise, the constant swapping of maps helps to control the temptation to mute it after a few hours of playing. The only area that I’ve wanted to turn off my sound was when waiting for a game in the menus, as the main title loops.
Overwatch’s main story is more out of the way than most Blizzard games, taking place in web comics, animated shorts, and hidden easter eggs within the game instead of in any singleplayer campaign. Even though it’s hidden, each character has an immersive and unique backstory that adds to the lore. It’s certainly worth looking into if you are a fan of Overwatch by any means, as each character has a new meaning once you know why they joined or rebelled against Overwatch.
If you’d like to purchase skins or other items for your favourite characters(including voice lines), Blizzard has that option open to players. For those with a bit more patience, each time you level up you get a “Loot Box” that can unlock any of the items. With enough time you’ll have everything unlocked in the game for free.
Despite the flaws, Overwatch is a must pick up for any FPS or Blizzard fan. The charming imbalance found within Overwatch is classic Blizzard, and it’s doubtful that it’ll ever be truly balanced. But then again, what game has ever been actually balanced? With that in mind, It’s exciting to see the future potential that the game holds, and I’m hopeful that each addition of a new hero will be rightfully placed in the game(no micro-transactions, please) and fit in well with the current aesthetic.