Blizzard’s foray in the class-based shooter realm finally arrived to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Does Overwatch live up to the hype and overcome a perceived lack of content? Absolutely, and the future appears bright for the developer’s first new IP in years.
Overwatch (website) unabashedly wears its influences on its sleeves from Team Fortress 2 to Counter-Strike to the MOBA genre. This gives the game a life of its own when combined with a colorful cast of characters filled with their own distinct personalities despite the lack of any single-player content.
The six versus six multiplayer only shooter comes with all characters unlocked and available to play from the beginning. This is a refreshing turn from other shooters that make unlockable weapon and character grinds an integral part of the experience.
12 maps are featured at launch along with the game modes Assault, Payload, and Control. All are objective based and will require some form of teamwork to win a match. Additionally, some maps are only available for certain game modes. For example, Hanamura is only available for Assault.
It is Overwatch’s diverse group of characters that make the game shine, though. Blizzard has crafted each to stand on their own even within the same role class thanks to their weapons, abilities, and ultras. There is no mistaking one from the other thanks to supremely intelligent design from player silhouettes to character voices and sounds.
Additionally, the characters require different levels of skill to master, much like a MOBA game. This rewards discovery and mastery in Overwatch in ways many other shooters never attempt. It also gives the game a different form of depth from simply throwing out a dozen different gametypes with only one or two being played by 90 percent of the community.
This is Overwatch Gameplay Video
If there is one downside to the 21 characters available at launch it is how Blizzard will handle the balance between them. Subtle changes were introduced between beta and launch which seemingly reduced the effectiveness of certain characters. How the developers manage to keep characters balanced and interesting through future updates and added content will be interesting to watch.
The good news is Blizzard promised all future content for Overwatch will be free. Additional modes have been confirmed, starting with a ranked Competitive Mode. Many more will be seen via the Weekly Brawls playlist, which serves as a testbed for possible future game types.
Interestingly, Blizzard has introduced microtransactions in possibly the most benign way possible. Cosmetic items such as spray tags, voice lines, and character skins can be rewarded via loot boxes purchased for a couple of dollars or earned in game.
Loot boxes full of cosmetics are the only option available with all the characters, weapons, maps, and game modes unlocked by default and it turns out to be quite insubstantial. They are relatively easy to earn and, since there is no game affecting items in them, the desire to purchase them is currently effectively nil. This will be one area to keep an eye on for future developments.
In terms of matchmaking, Overwatch handled launch fairly well. I can count the number of times that a matchmaking lobby dropped to start anew on one hand. The game will also drop players into a “Skirmish” mode for lobbies that take too long to form. This is more of a team deathmatch style experience with no score keeping to keep players entertained and engaged while waiting for a match to start.
The lobby “Skirmish” works when the wait is only a couple of minutes. It eats itself though, when the wait extends to several minutes as I experienced once.
The Verdict On Overwatch
Overwatch has been polished to a high sheen by Blizzard. There are a handful of nits to pick, as mentioned above, but everything comes together in an extraordinary fashion when it could have just as easily been a mess of half-baked ideas.