Overwatch: A Review
A Hero’s Playground
Greetings! I’m Nolan, aka Totaltoad, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be writing this review. I’ve had a tough few weeks, and have fallen really behind on writing. I became more and more drained from work and down on myself, but during the couple of hours of free-time every night, my spirits began to slowly rise as I sat memorized by Blizzard Entertainment’s wonderful FPS delight: Overwatch. The smile I wore weeks earlier during my battle through hell in DOOM, has made a comeback and may possibly be a few inches bigger this time around. Overwatch has provided a worthy playground for my inner hero and hopefully soon it grows into an amusement park. Sadly the introduction video below seems to be the only in-game video that provides information on Overwatch’s blockbusting story line, but it drew me in so well I grew goosebumps:
While waiting for the core game to finish downloading/installing, Overwatch recommended I complete the tutorial and practice range training sessions. Go for it! Players are forced to use Soldier: 76 during the main tutorial, but the Practice Range allows switching between all 21 Overwatch heroes. Here players who are nervous about trying out new characters against actual online opponents, can instead practice on a bunch of laughable robots set on tracks as if on a Disneyland ride.
The Practice Vs. AI option is incredibly useful, as it matchmakes players with actual people to practice fighting with a team. This may not initially seem that important, but Overwatch differs from other games as it encourages changing characters multiple times mid-match to better deal with new objectives, environments, and enemies. So I can imagine this mode will be used often in team preparation for ranked competitive play to test out new attack formations, team builds, and defense strategies.
Overwatch doesn’t offer much in the way of game modes, but makes it up in offering a wide variety of characters. Gameplay dramatically changes depending entirely on which character you choose. Characters are loosely put into one of four Hero Roles: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Just because a character is labeled as support doesn’t mean they can’t dish out a significant amount of pain. In fact most characters have multifaceted abilities that can be used in some surprising ways. Abilities are restricted by cool down timers to help balance characters.
In order to really understand what I’m getting at I’d like to share an example in each Hero Role, but first lets go over a few basic controls. Movement and aiming are controlled in true FPS form with the right and left sticks; giving the right stick a click will result in a melee attack, but I rarely used it. Holding down the Square button at a respawn point will allow you to switch between characters, pressing Circle allows your character to crouch, and pressing Triangle activate ultimate abilities. Now X does act as a jump button, but this can vary a little in certain characters: Genji can double-jump and Pharah can throttle hers like a jet pack. Pressing left on the d-pad will display the abilities for the currently selected character and holding down will display in-game interactions such as emotes.
Lets start with Offense: GENJI
Genji is hands down my favorite offensive character; he performs quick movements and deals a lot of damage near or far. Hold R2 to throw 3 Shurikens with sniper-like accuracy or hold L2 to fan the same Shurikens out in an arc to handle a close group. Pressing L1, Genji’s sword is used to perform his Swift Strike attack: slash forward through your enemies in a quick dash for a significant amount of damage. That same blade, pressing R1, can be used to deflect incoming enemy fire back at themselves (example in the video above). Genji’s ultimate ability called Dragonblade, unsheathes a more powerful sword that shreds nearby enemies apart. Combining abilities adds new levels of gameplay to Genji as well: use Reflect to protect allies while escorting the payload, or alternate double-jump with Swift Strike to reach new heights to sneak up behind unsuspecting foes.
Don’t let Mei’s cute appearance deceive you, she is definitely not looking to cuddle and any attempt to Eskimo kiss her may result in more than just a cold shoulder. I’ll admit, when I saw Mei as a selection, I told myself “No way i’m playing as the ice girl,” but after a few round fighting against people using Mei I had a change of heart. No joke, SHE KICKS ASS! Check out portions of my Arcade no death round above.
Hold down R2 and a stream of ice sprays out of Mei’s Endothermic Blaster that after applied long enough freezes enemies, leaving them temporary defenseless. Once frozen aim at a foe’s head and squeeze L2 to shoot a deadly icicle almost ensuring a kill. Further disrupt your opponents plans by creating Ice Walls to block their path with R1. The same wall can be used to lift yourself and allies alike to higher paths, usually restricted to certain players. Getting low on health is no issue for Mei either as pressing L1 Cryo-freezes Mei in a giant icicle that overtime restores almost all her health. Her ultimate ability is accurately name Blizzard: Mei throws her little robot buddy out and the result is an ice torrent that damages and freezes all enemies within range.
Some of my favorite characters fall under the Tank section, with my third favorite overall being Reinhardt. Reinhardt is a fanatic of the heroes of old, champions of valor who risked all to save to innocent, and it translates clearly into the way he conducts battle. Swing the mighty Rocket Hammer with R2 to stun and confused foes, then press R1 to launch a fierce tear in the air called Fire Strike to finish them off. Cut the gap between opponents by activating the rocket set into your back with L1 to Charge into groups of enemies in hopes of pinning and killing one against a wall. You can see a not-so-sucessful execution of Charge in my video above. Reinhardt is also one of the most useful defensive characters when using L2 to activate his Barrier Field. The Barrier Field can absorb a ton of fire, making it a must have when escorting the payload through well defended areas. Lastly Reinhardt ultimate ability, Earthshatter, smashes his hammer so hard on the ground that the ground cracks and splits before him, tripping and stunning all foes in its path.
Our last example comes from the Support section. These characters are used to not only keep other players alive, and also to help make killing enemies easier. To demonstrate this I believe there is no better example than Mercy. Using her Caducues Staff, Mercy can hold R2 to attach a healing tether to an ally or hold R1 to attach a tether that amplifies ally damage. If said ally starts to travel outside of tether range, Mercy can fly towards the tethered ally using Guardian Angel by pressing L1. This may seem like a problem when tethered to flying allies, but holding L2 to use Angelic Descent makes Mercy fall incredibly slow and when teamed with Guardian Angel you’ll soon feel like gum stuck to their shoe. If indeed you become cornered by enemies, tapping right on the d-pad will switch your staff to the Caduceus Blaster. This little blaster won’t bunch holes in any buildings, but it will still get the job down when needed. The true beauty in using Mercy comes with her ultimate ability called Resurrect. As you may have guessed it, Resurrect revives all dead allies within proximity and can easily be used to capture an objective and turn the tide of battle.
In all the time providing character examples, I failed to really explain how multiplayer works in Overwatch. I was instantly surprised by the simplicity of Overwatch’s play lobby, and a little confused on how to select certain game types. Well, you really can’t select specific game types. Players are given the four options above: Quick Play, Play Vs. AI, Custom Game, and the Weekly Brawl.
Quick play attempts to match players against groups of like levels and pits them in one of three objective based game modes called Assault, Escort, or Control. In both Assault and Escort, teams will take turn attacking or defending objectives. Assault tasks the attacking team to gain possession of a specific spot near the center of the map. To do so players will have to occupy and stay within a defined zone until the meter is filled and occupation gained. If any enemies steps within the zone, the meter is paused and will decrease if allies vacate the zone while enemies are within it. After successfully gaining the first zone, a second zone is appears on the map closer to the enemy spawn. The round is complete once the second zone has been successfully seized or if time runs out.
In Escort, your team will also start out with hopes of capturing a specific zone on the map, but within this zone sits the payload. Remaining long enough in this zone, secures the payload and begins transport. You and your team will have to stay close to the payload into order to get it to move towards the destination. Venturing too far away, or allowing an enemy near will halt the payloads progress. In fact, leave the payload alone for or too long and the enemy may start pushing the payload back to the closest gained checkpoint. There really isn’t any reason not to stay near the payload as it provides a small amount of health regeneration for the attacking team.
The last regular game type is called Control and is super straight forward. Simply battle to gain control of one spot of the map long enough to win the round. This is a neutral control point, so there are no attacking or defending sides, and a team will have to win 2 rounds to win a match. Something I found to be rather unique with Control maps was that each round takes place on a different area of the same map. There may only be two different areas, but still the change of scenery is a welcome change to an industry standard.
Overwatch provides multiplayer variety in the form of a weekly brawls. Even though we’ve only seen two weekly brawl variants, I’m pumped to see what else they throw our way. The first weekly brawl to be introduced was titled Arcade and rightfully gave players the opportunity to try supercharged versions of each character. To me Arcade mode was a way of enticing players try out all the characters and to help less skillful players survive with 200% health, quicker ultimate gains, and faster ability cool down buffers.
This week’s brawls is hilariously named “Super Shimada Bros” and forces players to choose between Genji and Hanzo, with additional buffs to ability cool downs. This brawl is significant to Overwatch’s background story as Genji was born into the Shimada Family, a centuries old criminal ninja clan, and is the younger brother to Hanzo. After their father’s death, the two brothers argued over Genji’s own role in the clan. The argument soon turned into a bloody battle that left Genji dismembered and near death. Through the help of Overwatch scientist Dr. Angela Ziegler, aka Mercy, Genji is saved and transformed into a cyborg. Who will you choose in this week’s soap opera if a match up?
Post-match Overwatch is something all multiplayer FPS developer should take notes on. Not entirely dissimilar from other multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Overwatch elects and showcases a Player of the Game after a match has ended, but instead of simply showcasing the last kill of a round, Overwatch will select a highlight from gameplay and display the moment in all it’s splendor. My love for post-game Overwatch continues with the ability to vote for other player’s accomplishments in the round review screen. Players on both team are presented with up to five different statistics related to the performance of top players from both teams and can vote on the feat. Receiving 5 votes will cause your feat to become EPIC, and 10 makes it LEGENDARY! I’m not sure whether or not extra experience is gained from receiving an accommodation, but either way it feeds my ego.
It is imperative I point out that you do not level up individual characters in Overwatch. There is no new abilities to unlock or weapons to modify. Instead for each new level players receive a loot box. Loot boxes unlock new skins, emotes, voice lines, highlight intros, victory poses, character sprays, player icons, and the occasional coin purse of in-game currency. Right off the main menu is the Hero Gallery; here players can view, buy (using the money received from random loot boxes) and equip character customizations.
The color of each customization represents the rarity of the item: green = common, blue = rare, purple = epic, and orange = legendary. I’ve just recently reached level 20 and was lucky enough to receive around four epic skins, and three legendaries skins! All three of my legendary skins, like the Slipstream skin for Tracer shown at the start of the review, were skins not available for purchase through the hero gallery. This makes me want to read my Where’s Waldo book and wonder just how many different customizable items are hidden in Overwatch. Players can purchase loot boxes through microtransactions, but there is a relatively low drop rate for legendaries and you can actually receive the same item multiple times, with the option to return said items for in-game currency.
I thought maps set place in Hollywood CA, Dorado Mexico, Nepal, or King’s Row England sound a little too down to earth for Overwatch’s over the top characters, but I was way off. Maps are lush with color, flooded with texture, soaked in game-relevant history, and boiled in creativity; pair that with an amazingly empowering soundtrack that leaves you feeling like a superhero and WHAM you’ve got a winner. Wandering aloof of battle, players may discover easter eggs from Blizzard’s previous ventures, but there is something even better to discover: a rich connection to Overwatch lore and characters.
Battling on the Hanamura map, players are fighting in the home city of Hanzo and Genji, and may even be forced into a death match in the very room the two brothers wage their epic battle years prior. Every map seems to be tied to Overwatch lore in past or present, and there is more to come. As time goes by Blizzard is releasing FREE updates for Overwatch that will include new characters and maps. I have to give a thumbs up to Blizzard for not adopting the season pass format so many other franchises have murdered. There are still microtransactions… true, but there is a big difference between forcing players to buy more gameplay content or giving them buy-able character advancements, then just giving players character customizables that can still be acquired without money.
Overwatch released with swords honed, ready to slash the multiplayer opposition. Future releases offer continued enjoyment and possibly the growth I desire, while current models are filled stunning movement and gameplay mechanics. For the first time the lack of currently released story elements excites me; it adds a tantalizing mystery to the plot. I’ve already spent more time speculating on the Overwatch universe than any other game. This could be a side effect of playing too much Dark Souls 3, but unlike Dark Souls 3, who doesn’t provide concise answers to questions of lore, Overwatch will periodically release new videos to fill in gaps in story. Overwatch breaths and bleeds battle contention to the point we know this game was made for and by FPS fans. For this and everything above, I will stand a hero by Overwatch’s side till it disappears into video game history.
Thank you for reading. Nolan — Totaltoad
Overwatch gets a 9/10 (Superb)
Thank you to Zack Hage and Blizzard Entertainment for supplying me with the code and giving me this chance to share my opinion with everyone. Check out my random video game videos on YouTube. For more reviews and features like this one, please check out The Cube on Medium.com, or our twitter account @TheCubeMedium