Overwatch: my thoughts

So Overwatch is the new big game from Blizzard the first title they've produced that wasn't a wow or starcraft spin off for some huge number of years, too busy counting their piles of money I guess.

It's terrific fun.

I suppose I should qualify that a bit :)

It's foundation or DNA if you will is essentially old school PC shooters the game play is very reminiscent of things like U2k4 or Team fortress 2 and the like fairly simple play styles things like capture a control point hold it against an enemy force or the flip side defend that point, sometimes it's a single point sometimes it's multiple, and they also have an escort type of game where you have to hold and escort some sort of vehicle through a series of checkpoints while the other team tries to stop you and push the thing back.

So far so normal but where it differs from the old school games is in terms of it's wide cast of playable characters. It has on the surface four different main classes which are Offence, Defense, Tank, and Support with 21 characters spread across those categories not quite evenly. But the characters in those fairly broad areas often play wildly differently.

For instance two of my favorites from offence are Tracer and Pharah.

Tracer (and if you've seen any of the marketing blurb for the game you'll have seen her she's the spiky haired woman with the yellow ski mask thing) is a highly maneuverable but fragile character with time control abilities. Her abilities are blink that teleports her short distances and a time rewind that allows you to reset you health to a point earlier in time, her ultimate (special ability that is charged through getting enemy kills or objectives etc) is a sticky pulse bomb she can throw that does massive damage but it has a small range so you need to use it with some precision. She's all about out maneuvering and dodging out of fire bothering enemies taking kills of opportunity then getting out or rewinding to get her health back she has twin blaster pistols that do relatively high damage.

Pharah is a rocket launcher wielding jetpack using attacker with a sort of Egyptian theme and she is about getting high getting above the enemy and raining down death from above. Her abilities are a jet pack that launches her high and then a passive that allows her to jet slowly along for a bit to allow her to move from point to point high in the air. Her secondary is a concussion bomb that will knock enemies about or can be used on herself to get out of trouble. Her ultimate is a rocket barrage which fires massive amounts of rockets doing huge damage but once initiated you are stuck in place making you an easy target if you fuck up.

Two characters in the same category but quite different play styles it's a pattern that goes through the 21 choices and some characters are great for certain situations and not so good in others. For instance Torbjörn is a defense character his primary ability is to lay down a static turret. That thing is awesome in defense type situations where you have to hold a fixed point but not so good if you have to be mobile.

One great thing is you are not locked to the chosen character you can switch almost at any point. You need to go to a spawn point but then you are free to switch to any of the other characters and there is no restriction on multiples of the same character. I found this useful on escort maps or if the tide turns. You can be holding a static point with someone like Torbjörn or Bastion but if they overcome the defense and start the escort section switching to a more mobile character like D.Va or Roadhog. Or if the makeup of the opposing team means certain characters would be more effective you can change over to them or if the team needs more support you can go Mercy or Lucio or one of the others.

The support classes are also interesting a character like Mercy while she does have the option of an attack it's rubbish so you play support healing and buffing people and the game will credit that as much as combat it actively encourages a mix of play styles.

In the run up to release it was compared to Gearbox's Battleborn which has a similar style multiple characters combat and such. Having played both I liked Overwatch much more than Battleborn. The game play in battleborn is perhaps more complex than the fairly straightforward play styles of Overwatch but it is just not as much fun. You are more collecting characters in that you start with only a few in your roster and the game is about picking up more and leveling them pokemon style. When playing you get to pick one and that's fixed for the game and if someone picks your favorite before you then you are out of luck. It also has a lot more messing about it presses it's story on you having lots of dialogue and sections in the game when you do select story missions you get 3 random choices and then have to vote for which one you want if you are wanting a new one you might not get the option or it might not get voted on.

Overwatch is more streamlined you load it up you hit the play you are in and playing as soon as it finds a match and maps though varied in visual style and layout don't have much differences beyond the few different play types. It has a story line (and there are some fun little movies blizzard have made in the pixar style with pretty high production value giving hints about the characters and the backstory) but it never forces it on you if you don't care about the back story of Winston the genetically engineered super intelligent Ape from the moon who wields a tesla cannon you just want to have him electrocute and smash people that's fine.

Overwatch came out of the remnants of Project Titan blizzard failed next gen MMO that supposedly didn't work because it wasn't fun so Overwatch had the mantra that everything should be fun. I think it mostly achieves this goal it streamlines things and if a match is going poorly it doesn't drag it out you fail it rounds things up and you are on to the next game quickly.

Battleborn had a load of stuff about leveling each of it's many characters through play time on each and then has a commander level which is overall. Overwatch has a overall level and then unlocks for each character that are mostly different skins or cosmetic stuff it's mostly irrelevant to play.

It does compile stats on each character and general play and at the end of any game you get a list of various things like how many kills how many deaths and more esoteric things specific to certain characters like damage reflected for Zarya or amount of health healed for Mercy etc.

It also has the Play of the game sequence. The game will pick a certain play that stood out (usually involving some massive numbers of deaths or some such) and play it back highlighting that player. It's algorithm is a bit hit and miss and I've seen it pick out some where not much happens. I've gotten a few in my playtime usually where I was really lucky with an ultimate and caught 5 or 6 (games are 6 per side) in one lucky strike with rocket barrage or D.va's self destruct.

I've been playing it since the weekend and having a lot of fun with it still learning the game but really enjoying it. I like the multiple characters with the different play styles and the ability to switch mid game is great. I can be having a hard time with one character and getting killed over and over then I can just switch to someone else and try again. The graphics are bright and colorful the art style is playful somewhat pixar ish every character is visually distinct and different you can easily tell at a glance who is who.

I'd say it could be a good lack of weekend game but it's still new and I doubt it will be on sale for quite a while and I know people don't want to pay full whack


I have been hearing good things aobut overwatch; I would be willing to give it a go.

Bigger Rob's picture

I'd like to play but can't afford the 45 quid just now.

brainwipe's picture

£30 gets you the standard edition, so in a way you are saving £15 really.

Bigger Rob's picture

This is exactly the same financial logic I used a couple of weeks ago to justify buying servo-powered gearing for my road bike. It makes perfect sense.

I'm undecided on Overwatch...I never really got on with Team Fortress, and I haven't played fast-paced games for a while now. I am enjoying Hitman though... (and having just watched Eurogamer suck at playing it, I'm motivated to go back and give it another go tonight with the new mission set in Marrakech).

Does Overwatch have bots/single player? It's a feature that would definitely appeal to me...

babychaos's picture

LOL! 30 is doable. I am selling some stuff, so I should be able to afford it then. It does indeed look like a laugh - even if I don't play faced paced either anymore.

brainwipe's picture

It doesn't really have single player as such there is a practice target arena but that's mostly just to try out the characters get used to their tricks without doing it live. There is a human players vs AI enemies mode you can play which I was for a while by mistake congratulating myself on always winning not realizing I'd picked basically training wheels mode

Evilmatt's picture

brings this comic to mind https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/10/04

although at least my team was humans :S

Hitman is a lot of fun it's essentially a 3rd person puzzle game with murder not tried out marrakech yet looking forward to giving it a go

Evilmatt's picture

I can't say that I got on with TF either I'm not quite sure what makes overwatch different perhaps the ability to swap out characters so you're never stuck playing one way if things are going badly and just a much broader range of characters.

I was playing a bit of support trying out Lucio last night who is a sort of healer/buff character who also does damage and couldn't hit anything with him for some reason so I switched to reaper a close in damage dealer with shotguns and was having a much better time. There have been several games like that were I bounce around from character to character before settling sometimes that helps sometimes not so much but it makes if feel more fresh and the game is structured not to drag out losing games.

There is also a greater sense of maneuverability in some of the characters they can teleport or grapple hook or just fly up to interesting paths and places on the map and it's designed with that in mind.

Evilmatt's picture