Despite dedicating a huge portion of my life to games and the industry, it’s rare that I get “excited” about a title. I’m forever fascinated and curious about everything that is happening in the world, but perhaps the years in the industry has taken the edge off of being able to be a ‘fan’ of all but a few titles out there. It happens a couple times a year, but it’s even less often that I really buy into a game when I really didn’t expect to be swept up in its grip. It’s rare, but beautiful when it happens.
Overwatch is one such game. Over the 20 hours or so that I’ve been playing the title, its proven itself to be one of the most effortlessly joyous and inventive titles I’ve played in a long time.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Overwatch so good as a starting point, because it feels like such a tightly wound package. Everything here jives together in such a beautifully masterful way that so few games do. But, if we are to start somewhere, let’s start you with the ‘what’.
Overwatch is, when boiled down, a multiplayer character based shooter. Its multiplayer only, pitting two teams of six off against each other in objective based games. Characters are based in four groups, Tank, Attack, Defense and Support and there are 21 heroes to choose from. Teamwork and composition is absolutely imperative, as to lock down or keep objectives moving you will need a balanced team across all the divisions. That balanced team and how it works together is what every team will live or die on, and if you have a team of six players trying to all play characters focused on getting kills, you will definitely be shut down in no time. This makes Overwatch unique, at least in the massive AAA multiplayer shooter genre. Teamwork is often important in games like Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield, but those also have a fair amount of ‘lone wolfing’. You don’t have to be aware of what everyone on a team is doing to succeed. Overwatch will chew up and spit out those players if they aren’t supported. For a game this size, that just feels so incredibly refreshing.
If you are one of those players, or indeed, even if you are never a multiplayer shooter player, Overwatch is designed from the ground up to be incredibly accessible to just about anyone. No matter skill level, there is always a character for you in every situation. If you are one of those run and gun players, Solider 76 will be your guy to start off with. If you want to be useful while you are defending, turret up as Bastion. Prefer sniping? Widowmaker. If you really as good at patting you head and rubbing your tummy, why not try the healer and damage dealer Zenyatta. Perhaps what gives Overwatch its excellency is just how wonderfully fun it is to play as any of them. Every character has their set ability moves, meaning everyone will have their purpose, and contribute something towards an objective. It really is a delightful cast of characters, and what makes all of them standout is just how fun each and everyone of them is to play.
For me, what really gives Blizzard’s newest IP since 1998 a real sheen of quality is just how well everything in the title works together. The balancing of 21 characters who all act both independently and as part of a tight knit whole is no easy task, but Blizzard have made it so no one character feels too overpowered, or can’t be countered by another hero. Having it so players can switch out at any time during a match too means that games often have an ebb and flow that is ever evolving. It gives each match a flowing narrative, giving you multiple mini-objectives, like take out the Bastion that is ripping apart everyone, on top of the bigger objective on the map. It all works so beautifully together, and I’ve not once been bored with my time in the game. It really is a credit to what Blizzard have made here, and helps give the game its complete feel.
This is all punctuated by just how good this game looks. And I mean it. It’s utterly gorgeous. The Disney Animation Studio like sheen to the title is unique and pulled off which such cohesiveness, it gives the title a beautiful sense of grace. The character designs are well thought out, and very pleasant to look at. This only supported by the incredible environment work done on the game, which takes the player globetrotting in locations that were designed as gorgeous eye-candy, on top of clever tactical excursions. What is also really cool about the game is how it tries to sell the ‘lore’ of the game. If you spend even a few seconds exploring a detail in a starting area, you will being to see scraps that are trying to tell you about this world. This meta-narrative is also helped by cool bits of character interactions that occur during matches. Just as an example, I found out that Mercy probably had some role to play in ‘creating’ Reaper out of a man. It’s these kinds of delightful touches that just invite a player into this world and the game in such a welcome way.
Now, this all isn’t to say that the game is perfect. Aspects of the title are most certainly going to grate certain players. Obviously, if you don’t like multiplayer games at all, this is going to rub you the wrong way. It’s all online, and there is no substantial way to play on your own. Also, going hand in hand with that, if you can’t get a group of six buddies together and go in with all random players, that team composition is at the mercy of everyone’s willingness to play their role. Sometimes you will just have three or four players playing attackers on a defense map. That is frustrating reality of the game, even though the game does give you tips on what you are missing.
It’s also worth noting that as of right now, you only really have one option for play. You just hop into Quick Play and there are a handful of modes and maps to run through. As I have said previously, I’ve never been bored once, thanks to my ever changing role each map, but if you require variety at all times, this could irk you. (Worth noting is more content is coming free to the game in the future).
That all said, I’ve not been this high on a video game in quite some time. Overwatch is an exemplary title, and one that I wager will be with us for a very long time. It excels at so much, in ways few games do, creating a beautiful DNA that feels tightly woven, inviting and masterfully designed. It’s been an absolute joy for the time I’ve spent with it, and I fully expect to spend a great deal more with it. Overwatch is a triumph on just about every level, and well worth your time if you even have a passing interest in multiplayer titles. The team dynamic, character design, balancing and visual flair make this a true knockout from Blizzard, which is not something I expected before playing the title.
Simply put, it’s one of the most astonishing online first person shooters I’ve ever played. It’s a pure joy.
Buy it if: You have any interest in shooters, or simply put, want to have a gleeful time playing an online game.
Avoid it if: You feel there isn’t enough value in a multiplayer only game.
[Disclosure: I was playing a PC version of the game that came as part of the Collectors Edition given to me by Blizzard. Thus far, the actual game is the only thing I’ve interacted with in it, but thought I’d disclose for transparency’s sake]