I really thought that writing a review for Overwatch would be difficult after playing it for so long. I first got my hands on the beta back in November, and I was worried that by now that new game euphoria would have dissipated. It turns out I am still playing and finding those “ah ha!” gameplay moments, cheering after beating a rather skilled team of players. It still shines and feels fresh.
So you mean it is just like the beta?
In a way, yes. The graphics, the netcode, the characters are all there, more or less surviving the various betas in one piece (sorry Bastion, I will always remember your shield). The fun gameplay that existed then is still here. But a lot has changed. Adding a whole new glut of players into the mix has already shifted the meta. Games with dual supports or dual tanks are already a common sight, while tanks like Zarya, who was almost absent in the beta, are now taking centre stage. It is fun to watch strategies emerge and new playstyles forming around certain hero pairings.
Fun at a pace
I have noticed in my conversations with people that there are a few people worried about the game having longevity due to the number of modes and maps. I get it, not everyone will get the game and the particular recipe it has. The hero shooter, this new genre that takes much of its DNA from the MOBA, is for the most part going to be played by MOBA fans, people who have invested thousands of hours into games with a single map. It isn’t the map that keeps you coming back for more. It is the gameplay. Fun to use guns, likable characters, fast-paced action with clever team compositions to use or overcome, the joy exists in the details. Seeing the enemy break through your defense with a clever strategy and then trying to copy that in a later game makes for memorable moments. Spending 5 minutes (an eternity in Overwatch, where a long game is over in 10 minutes) with both teams at 99% in king of the hill mode, with the overtime meter jumping between teams, makes for a great tale of big ultimates saving the day. An almost lost match turns around with one Reinhardt ultimate catching four players, killing all of them, only to have Mercy swoop in and revive all four on the point. Mercy dies as her revive goes off, then Reinhardt bites the dust. That was enough time for the rest of Reinhardt’s team to get back to the point, with no Mercy to support the enemy team, the back and forth finally broke. It was amazing. Both teams were typing “wow” and “great round” to each other. These are the moments that Overwatch makes possible, that has you queue for another game.
Favour the shooter
After playing so many games where having being thousands of kilometres away from the servers has meant playing on the back foot, playing a game that takes what happens to my bullets on my screen into account is really refreshing. Those one-on-one sniper duels that ended too often with your death and the enemy hobbling away with a sliver of life when you saw your bullets hit are gone. Now they end with you both dying. It might sound weird, but it is much better to know you took your killer down with you than to watch them shrug your damage off and carry on playing. The reason for this is that the game’s code favours the shooter, meaning it registers what happened on the client side and sends that to the server. Instead of worrying about leading for lag and bullet velocity, you only need to worry about bullet travel time now. It isn’t perfect for South African players, as sometimes you won’t even see a person pop their head round a corner to fire at you, but on their screen, they did just that. Disadvantage aside, it does mean that pretty much the entire roster of characters is feasible for selection, without a few being too hard to play with permanent lag to overcome.
This might be multiplayer only, but those characters
I can’t think of any time I have been so invested in a multiplayer only game’s characters. Even if you overlook the bevy of cinematics and comics that Blizzard has created outside of the game, the barks of the characters in game, their reactions to one another pre-match and when killing each other, just makes their personalities shine. There isn’t a single character I don’t want to know more about, who I don’t enjoy spending time with to find out where they come from and their alliances and rivalries. I keep going back for just one more game, slinking off for a “coffee break” when I can. With such fast-paced games, getting a quick fix is amazing and it is much easier to say “this will take 10 minutes” instead of a MOBA taking 40 minutes or longer. You will play for just as long, but knowing you have a safe exit point should the need arise means I am more likely to click that play button when I only have a few minutes to spare.
Nothing more amazing could have come from the stillborn remains of Titan. Overwatch has something magical weaved through it that will make you come back for more, even after a serious loss. Part of that magic is fun, the other is the crazy speed. A one-sided stomp will take just over 2 minutes. When last did you get a beating in a game and ask for more? I can’t wait to try pull off some of the character pairings I have seen this week. Actually I think it is time for some coffee. I need a loot box.