I know this is WAY late, and the majority of the gaming community has already heard the pro’s and con’s of Blizzards new first-person-shooter. However, I was not one of the chosen that got to Alpha/Closed Beta test it, so my impressions come on the eve of its launch. While I could leave it up to other more gaming heavy sites to do this work for me, I’d much rather put down in my own words what I think of this game for the readers of Anime Arcade. I am by no means an expert in the genre of FPS (the last one I can remember playing regularly was Modern Warfare 2), so this will mostly be a look at the aesthetics, story, and mechanics of the game. Now that I’ve disclaimed away all the FPS fan boys, please enjoy my filthy-casual review of…
Overwatch is Blizzard’s newest game, and their first venture into the realm of First Person Shooters. While many have already gotten to play this exciting new title already, many of us who pre-ordered it months ago have finally had the opportunity to test the game. After about two days of playing Overwatch around my school work, I’m willing to say that this game was more than worth the wait. While it doesn’t revolutionize a lot of the FPS genre, the areas it does innovate on feel fresh and fun to new and old players of the genre. There are points of weakness in the game as well, but they don’t detract too much from the enjoyment you get overall.
Blizzard knocked it out of the park in the visuals department with Overwatch. Their signature cartoonish characters stand out in a genre that is overrun by the faceless protagonist characters of modern shooters. When you come into the game you are able to choose your character, bringing you face to face with the person you’ll embody and giving you a little hint of their personality. The shooting and ability animations are different from character-to-character given them an added feeling of uniqueness. There are also “tags” (a spray paint insignia) that you can set for each character, giving them added personality and giving you the ability to style on your enemies.
One area where character visuals fall short is in the movement animations. When moving in one direction and looking in another the character’s bodies take extreme turns. This makes certain character look odd, but honestly it a very minor problem considering the freedom of movement the game provides. Still, it’s a little disconcerting when your allies start looking like something out of the exorcist.
Background art for Overwatch is outstanding (when you get a chance to look at it). These locations really set the mood of the matches, and bring you into the (very colorful) world of Overwatch. The best part of the settings (for me) is that most of them are real(ish) areas in the world like Hollywood, Japan, and Russia. It adds to the immersion of the game when you’re escorting a car through Hollywood, or defending an ancient Japanese temple. The fact that much of the environments are destructible really adds to the enjoyment and interactivity as well.
Overwatch basically breaks into attack and defend modes between two teams of six. These can range from attack/defend a point, to escort/stop a convoy. There really isn’t a whole lot of difference in game modes, and the modes themselves are pretty random. While you’d think this would get old the amount of character and strategies really takes your mind off the repetitive game modes, and the random order of matches keeps you on your toes. That being said, I can see this game developing a meta in the near future with certain heroes becoming almost obsolete on certain maps.
Speaking of the characters, this cast is broken up into roles they can fill on the team. These roles include:
Offensive characters in this game are just what you’d expect from a team based game. They have high damage, low heath, and mobility to to help in high pressure situations. These characters are at once the most rewarding and most punishable in the entire game, as the high damage low heath combo can lead to some close encounters with other players. Your accuracy and ability to work under pressure will make or break you in these situations. Overall the Offense tree is full of the flashy characters that usually make the highlight reel. Not really my thing, but to each their own I suppose. (Tracer = Best Offense)
Still offensive but with more utility in their abilities, the defensive heroes are the help you never knew you needed. Whether it’s an ultimate that gives you vision of all the enemies, the ability to create a wall of ice, or simple create a turret (on two characters… kinda) the defense tree has you covered. The damage in this branch varies from character-to-character, but the main point for most of them is the utility they offer. Choice of defense hero has a major strategic impact on the map you play on. Choose wisely grasshopper. (Mei = Best Defense)
Big, bulky, hard to kill. Tanks are the same from game-to-game, but in Overwatch these massive characters have a lot more kill potential. Their high HP is mitigated by their low mobility, but when combined with the other classes their lack of movement speed is negligible. These characters are a key to any team composition as they protect their teammates while tying up their enemies. The tank characters vary in usefulness from objective-to-objective, but overall whoever you choose the strategy is similar. Stand in front of your squishy friends, and punish any enemy squishies for poor positioning. (D.Va = Best Tank/Hero/Girl)
This is the make or break class of the game. While the objective of each game boils down to either offense or defense, the ability to stay in the fight is what wins teams the match. Support characters fill those needs with healing, shields, and other buffs/debuffs that can protract or curtail team fights as needed. Whether it’s as big as a mass resurrection, or as simple as a team teleporter the support heroes ultimate abilities can completely change the tide of a battle. Deciding when and where to use these abilities is the challenge of playing a support hero. With all this riding on their shoulders it is no wonder that very few people want to play this class. (Lucio = Best Support)
In terms of character mechanics, every character plays differently. I can’t emphasize this enough, as most shooters I’ve every played featured faceless characters who’s only mechanical changes came when they changed guns. You only get one gun per character in this game, but this lends itself to the character’s personality. Each gun fires at a different rate, with varying types of ammo, and the effect of the ammo is also varying. For example Mei’s ice gun can freeze an enemy in place with it’s first firing mode, and once her enemy is a popsicle she can use the second fire mode (icicle shot) to score an easy head-shot.
Character abilities give the gameplay added depth, and helps you in selecting a character for the given map. Character have on average 2 skills to help them in the fight, with each skill having a cool-down period after use. Knowing the cool-down timers on abilities is key to effective team fighting, and I can’t tell you how many times I died while mashing the button for an ability that wasn’t up yet. The ultimate ability doesn’t have a cool-down, but instead that ability builds up based on how active you are in the fight. Healing, blocking/giving damage, attacking/defending an objective all build up your ultimate ability, so it pays to play your part in the game. I found I liked this as it rewards players that participate, thought it did feel like some ultimates built up faster than others.
This is possibly the weakest area of the game, but then such is the case in most multiplayer games. The game opens with a character (Winston) giving a vague monologue the world in which the game inhabits. Apparently Overwatch was a collection of heroes akin to the Avengers/Justice League, and this group (like the Watchmen) was ousted by the citizen population for their destructive methods of saving them. Winston then claims that the world still needs Overwatch, and then you launch into the game where you accomplish saving humanity by… fighting each other? Like I said, not the strongest story in the gaming industry. However, there are a series of comic that give you tiny glimpses into the Overwatch lore. If you like good comic art, and game lore then I encourage you to check them out.
TL;DR: Overwatch is a fun new take on the arena shooter genre. The characters have more personality than characters of other shooters, and their classes and abilities lend themselves well to those varying personalities. The visuals are spectacular (except in character movement), and the attack animations are unique to each character. While the story is confusing, the game is overall a huge win for Blizzard.
Recommended Players: The game is rated “Teen”, so I’d say stick with that. It’s not too suggestive for kids in my opinion, but if you’re going to let them play an online game like this then monitor them and teach them what is proper behavior online. I don’t mean to be an arm-chair-parental-adviser, but I hate having to mute your kid because they decided that my game was the proper venue for practicing their swear word vocabulary.
Overwatch dominates the genre, and pulls itself through with 4.5/5 HP!