Overwatch is fantastic

Posted by kdow on Jul 15, 2016 12:01:01 PM


Over the last year or so, Blizzard has teased Overwatch as a heralded new era in team-based FPS arena mayhem. TF2 without hats, they promised. Sure, there’ll be an entry fee, but they won’t charge for anything outside of that. And true to their word, we have Overwatch.

Yes, Overwatch has an entry fee equivalent to any other full price title. But it doesn’t lean into gimmicks to generate revenue: like hats, for example.

I was a huge Team Fortress 2 fan when it was released. In fact, when it was in closed beta I had a key and played it daily while working in Activision’s QA department, where I was mainly testing COD4. That’s how much I loved it!

But TF2 has been swamped with bizarre complexity. There’s a lot of noise on-screen. It’s hard to tell what’s going on. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell what the objective is, or where it is as they introduce so much flair. There are things exploding everywhere, noise all over the place and visual obscenities that are more offensively loud then they are useful. All because that’s the business model. Valve wants people to open crates with loot or earn loot drops to make money for TF2. The result is a varied, wide and insane compendium of stuff for people to use in-game.

Overwatch is not that. It’s simple. Each hero character has abilities unique to them, just like TF2. But each hero is decorated only mildly, and only through levelling-up. And those decorations are just aesthetic. It’s not like TF2 where different players playing the same role have completely unique weapons too.

Blizzard plans to roll out new heroes (one was announced last week) to help balance the game, or to add more complexity where needed as the competitive scene flourishes. We’re in the very early days of the competitive scene, with Blizzard only recently adding competitive online play to the title with a ranked mode. So lots more is to come.

Competitive

Speaking of competitive modes: it’s very likely that Blizzard will pour resources in there. Back in the day when eSports was burgeoning in the modern era, before we had Twitch or similar ways to consume eSports properly, Blizzard dominated the scene with StarCraft.

As StarCraft II slows down in terms of growth with no future expansions planned, Blizzard is putting it’s mighty resources behind Overwatch. And they’re going to go after the competitive scene in a big way. It’s a nice blend between the colourful & tactful gameplay in StarCraft versus the brash & very highly twitch-skill based gameplay in Counter-Strike.

I think Overwatch will appeal to both audiences as it has notches from both worlds blended in. It has the twitchy skill-based shock-and-awe of Counter-Strike to a small degree, with the balance & nuance of team composition from StarCraft or DOTA.


Solo queue

For those unaware of the term solo queue: this refers to the idea that you play alone, working on your skills & rank in online games against people you don’t know. It’s how the majority of players will experience Overwatch. It’s how I’ve exclusively played it.

But the solo queue in TF2 is a mess. The community is big and most of them have paid nothing to get into the community, so that comes with the sad reality of unhelpful asshole buffoonery in games. There’s a lot of trolling in TF2. And a lot of foul-mouthed 13 year olds hopped up on Coca-Cola in their mothers’ basements.

I’m sure there’s an element of that in Overwatch, but Blizzard will avoid some of it by having an entry fee of €40. All new content will be free thereafter, but avoiding the freemium users will be super helpful to maintain some sort of community spirit.

But that spirit is always maintained in Blizzard titles in the competitive queue anyway, so for more seasoned players that will always be an option.

Is it good though?

Yes. Without getting into a full review, this game is fantastic. I love playing it the same way I loved playing TF2 before it became a retail component for digital hats.

The maps are well thought-out, the modes are familiar (they’re basically the same as what you can get in TF2) and little things like the sound design or visual flares are world class. It’s an all-round top dog game. And right now, frankly, it’s the best arena shooter there is on the market (though I’m hoping good things come of Unreal Tournament).

If you enjoyed the pure experience of TF2 and like working in a team like you should in Counter-Strike, get Overwatch. Learning each hero and trying to figure out the best place to use a hero in a specific team composition, map and game mode is great fun. The journey is as good as the destination in this instance.