Author’s Note: Today’s post is #400!
I love video games, but it’s rare for me to play them right when they are first released. Normally it takes me a somewhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing to a game. I’ve got a considerable backlog of games that I’ve been meaning to play and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to start chipping away at the list. With that in mind, I’ve created a series of posts called Late to the Party, wherein I discuss the games that came out in the preceding years that I’m finally getting around to experiencing. Today’s entry in the series is Overwatch.
From the moment of its reveal trailer almost a year ago, Overwatch has been a sensation in the video games world. In May of this year Overwatch was released, and it has remained a popular game since then, with enough buzz surrounding it to get me interesting in seeing what all the hype was about. Despite the fact that Overwatch is a multiplayer-only game and I’m normally not one for multiplayer, I was curious enough to give the game a try and I spent a few days messing around with it before sending it back to Gamefly. I didn’t play enough Overwatch to write a longer game commentary on it, and given my general aversion for multiplayer I don’t think I’d have enough insight to do so anyway, so this writing piece will be slightly shorter than some of the other Late to the Party entries. Before getting started, let me state that I didn’t play with any friends and I didn’t use a microphone, so any voices you hear in the videos embedded in this post are not mine. Also, you might notice that all the video clips in this post are from matches that my team won. That’s not because I’m good at the game, (watching any of them should quickly dispel that notion) but I felt these clips best showcased what Overwatch matches are like.
First multiplayer match (and getting destroyed)
In Overwatch, two teams of six players face off in objective-based game modes. Each player can choose a character from a roster of 22 heroes, (as of the time of the publishing of this post) with each hero falling into one of four broad character categories: offense, defense, tank, and support. These classes each have a particular role they excel in, and the characters within that class themselves have unique strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Players have the option to change characters each time they die, and rounds normally last anywhere from about five to fifteen minutes, depending on how evenly matched the teams are. At the end of each game experience points are gained that increase your player level and earn you things like Loot Boxes, which supply cosmetic upgrades to individual characters.
Practicing with bots and Play of the Game (not my voice on the mic)
Everything in Overwatch revolves around its cast of characters, all of whom have been very thoughtfully crafted. Though you can find a few similarities between some characters, there are no clones and even characters within the same class can play quite differently from each other. For example, both Mercy and Zenyatta are support characters that can heal allies, but there the similarities end. Mercy can do more healing than Zenyatta, but Zenyatta can heal at longer ranges, and while Mercy buffs allied characters, Zenyatta debuffs enemies (there are even more differences between them than that, but I’m not doing any full character breakdowns in this post). These small but important differences between characters in the same class, as well as the big differences between characters in different classes, means you have a character available to you for just about any way you want to play the game and any situation you find yourself in. Balancing between characters is also handled very well. Every character has other characters that it has an advantage over, as well as other characters that have an advantage over it. I gave every character at least a brief try during my time with Overwatch, and while you can make arguments for certain characters being a bit better than others, none of the characters struck me as being overpowered. Because there’s no character that dominates in every circumstance, when you start a match in Overwatch you’ll need to put some thought into your character selection. Before a match starts you and your team will pick your characters, and it’s usually best to go with a character that compliments the strengths of the rest of the team and/or minimizes their weaknesses. You’re not locked into this initial choice, however, and every time you die in a match you have the option to respawn as a different character, thus letting you adjust to the current situation of the match. Interestingly there are also no restrictions on who you choose, and you can have multiple people (even on both teams) playing as the same character. Most of the time this isn’t a good idea as it creates a detrimentally unbalanced team, and Overwatch will inform you if your team is overabundant or lacking in particular areas, but then again maybe you’re not wanting to be serious and just having some fun with the game’s stylish characters. Speaking of which, I have to give a special commendation to Overwatch’s character design, in both how the characters look, and the personality behind them. There’s an undeniable cool factor to the characters that have been created for Overwatch, and I can understand why this game has become so popular with cosplayers.
Trying out Zenyatta
I played Overwatch over the course of several days, putting in about seven or eight hours of actual matches against both other players and AI opponents, and another hour or two of looking through the Hero Gallery and other game features. With my experience playing games like Battlefield and Call of Duty, I had a general idea of the basics of how to play a game like Overwatch, but there were number of unique quirks to Overwatch that I had to get used to, such as almost none of the characters having ADS or sprint functionality. Also, the more I played Overwatch, the more I realized that even though it’s a first-person shooter, a better comparison for it would be something like League of Legends, rather than a traditional first-person shooter. The characters in Overwatch are more than just soldiers with differing loadouts—they each have unique stats, abilities, playstyles, and character models that substantially affect how the game plays out. Teamwork between players is mandatory, as all game modes are objective-based and there are no modes like team deathmatch that encourage players to go lone wolf. I did appreciate that Overwatch comes with the option to play against bots of varying difficulty, as it gave me a chance to test out characters without having to worry about dying all the time. That said, hard difficulty against bots is a genuine challenge, although much of the difficulty seems to be that enemy characters do more damage than normal and have absurdly good aim, and it can be annoying in how the AI enemies only use a small selection of the character roster. When playing against other humans, I found Overwatch to do a decent job of matching me with and against other players who were somewhat close to my skill level, but not always. Sometimes my team would annihilate the other team, and sometimes they would annihilate us. With regards to other players, I can’t say too much since I didn’t talk to anyone, but other than the occasional annoying kid or foul-mouthed adult with a microphone, I normally had no issues. The one place where I did get a bit frustrated was that often no one else was willing to play as a support character, so I frequently was compelled to take that role even if I was hoping to use a different class. Zenyatta may have been my favorite character, but I don’t want to play as him or another support character every single match. Ending on a positive note—perhaps fittingly—I really liked how each match ends with a play of the game, wherein one player’s actions get highlighted for all to see. Since I’m not very good at Overwatch I only got it about three times, but it’s a genuine thrill when you do get it.
Ana the health sniper
My time with Overwatch didn’t last long, but having dabbled in it I think I’m now much better informed about the game and can better understand conversations about it. As a multiplayer-only game, Overwatch isn’t the sort of thing I normally gravitate towards, and I likely won’t come back to it, though not because of any lack of quality. Despite the fact that I’m not well versed in multiplayer games, I know a good game when I play one, and Overwatch is definitely a good game. If I had a crew of friends who were also playing Overwatch I could see myself playing it more, as games like Overwatch are at their best when you’re rolling with a group of people you know, which helps you have a fun time regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. However, none of my friends play Overwatch, so I’m afraid my time with the game is over. Should I ever come back though, a second writing piece on Overwatch might be in order.