Hands-on with Blizzard’s Overwatch

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So what could rampaging genius space apes, spunky British teleporters, and Japanese archer ninjas possibly have in common? Well, aside from sounding like the cosplay show floor of Anime Expo, these vibrant characters are all part of Blizzard’s newly announced IP – Overwatch. If you’ve been a fan of Team Fortress, Left for Dead, or other fantasy team shooters, then get ready for a whole new revolution.

Overwatch can be best categorized as a casual, objective-based team shooter. After my first match (which quickly turned into 20), it became apparent how this game will appeal to Blizzard’s current massive audience, while bringing in fans of this popular genre. To put it simply, Overwatch appeals to gamers from all walks of life. This is in part due to the rich character design of Overwatch, which we’ll get to shortly. First, let’s take a look at the story behind this wacky futuristic IP.

Story

Overwatch is set roughly 60 years into the earth’s future. After a conflict broke out with the Omnitrix (a race of intelligent robots), Overwatch was founded. Instead of sending armies to fight this robotic threat, a team of talented assassins, scientists, adventurers, and other oddities was created and ordered to obliterate the mechanical menace.

One thing to note is Blizzard’s new direction for storytelling with Overwatch. Instead of creating lore within the game and following a narrative, Chris Metzen explained that this tale will instead be told outside of inherent gameplay. It was also mentioned that they would love to continue with media such as cinematic animation resembling what we saw at BlizzCon.

Characters and Concept

Here’s where we begin to see this concept of Hero-based storytelling coming together. Overwatch stresses individual involvement, meaning they want players and fans to become attached not to the main story, but to heroes that appeal to them directly. This will, of course, require rich lore behind each of these champions. These 12 were revealed thus far.

Overwatch Poster

Each character has roughly three or four abilities. Usually, one will be some sort of mobility boost for offense, a positioning ability for defense, a shielding mechanism for tanks, and healing for supports. Each character also has a “super” or “ultimate” ability, which in most matches can quickly change the tide of battle. I was most surprised to see how significant the support supers were to quick victory, while still being quite easy to use.

I have a close friend who’s been un-interested in gaming over the past 3 years I’ve known her. It’s fascinating to see how quickly she became enthralled with Overwatch. I’ve spent the past few days scratching my head over why she would be so excited for this title while completely ignoring other recent major releases such as Destiny or Watchdogs. This is where I realized the brilliance of Blizzard’s character design. Here’s the hero she’s been the most interested in.

I’ve now fully realized that Blizzard has effectively created an FPS which can be played at different skill levels, while still having a positive impact on your experience with Overwatch matches. Mercy, the character shown above, is primarily a healer support-type character. Note, Overwatch doesn’t have classes, but roles. In these roles, they have characters with different skill caps. Mercy is one of those characters where rather than depending on how well you aim and how quick your mechanics are, benefits most from communication and timing. I find this a brilliant move on Blizzard’s part, and attribute it to years of experience with healing-support type classes in MMOs.

Gameplay

If you’ve played and enjoyed Team Fortress 2, you’ll instantly fall in love with Overwatch. While TF2 is class based, Overwatch makes use of its rich characters to help teams create intricate strategies and kooky gimmicks. Something to note is that multiple players on the same team can play as the same Hero. While this isn’t the most effective strategy, it does show that Blizzard just wants you to have fun, rather than stress over quickly locking down that hero you “Pwn faces” with.

Standard to the FPS genre, you’ll run around, die, and respawn. Matches include 6 players on each side to keep a balance between group steamrolling and individual importance. Another comparison to TF2 would be that players are free to change heroes upon death, opening up rush-attack strategies with interesting results. One such match involved three of us switching to Reinhardt, a tank role character with large shields and a massive health pool, to slowly lead a charge for our damage-dealers in the back through difficult choke-points. These quick strategies can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Unlike the instant-spawn deaths of COD, Overwatch has significantly higher “Up-time.” This means that players won’t have to worry too much about being sniped at respawn points or becoming a hindrance to their teams by “feeding.”

While the game is still in Alpha, I’ve noticed the detail the developers put into character balance. With such a rich future ahead of it, Overwatch’s main objective gameplay will depend entirely on how well these characters can interact and work together in unison for match goals. We saw 1.5 different modes in the demo, which were basically “Take and hold point A, then point B” or “Take and hold point A, then escort this thing to point B.” Hopefully, we see CTF soon, as it seems to be ideal with this game’s rich movement mechanics. Also, nerf turrets please, the target acquisition time is way too low.

Final Reaction

Finally seeing a new Blizzard IP after 17 years has the masses excited, yet skeptical. Is this project “Titan,” or an entirely new substance? Overwatch has been described by Chris Metzen to be a part of the overly ambitious project known originally as “Titan.”

Our best guess is as good as yours, but seeing as how rich, detailed, and graphically amazing this game is, it wouldn’t surprise me if the game used assets and an engine close to what may have been the original project. Either we’ll see this game grow to become one of the most popular casual team-based games on PC, or an e-sports behemoth, both of which sound appealing.

The game is good. Not Blizzard’s best, but still damn good. I won’t say that it’s absolutely unique or brings new elements to the genre, but Blizzard has efficiently combined the best elements of MOBA character-based interaction with quality FPS gameplay into a fantasy world that attracts people to its story like never before. I just want to pwn scrubs with huge ghost dragon arrows again. Hanzo 4 life.

DESIGNED BY: Blizzard Entertainment
GENRE: 6v6 Team-Based Shooter
PLATFORMS: TBD
RELEASE DATE: Beta 2015
SIGN UP FOR BETA AT: www.PlayOverwatch.com

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Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian
Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian 397 posts

Adam "kharakov" Kharat is part nerd, part geek, and full awesome. With deadly writing skills and the sleeping habits of a jackrabbit, late night gaming sessions are all but mandatory.