Overwatch. An organisation created to combat the threat of robots turned rogue. The Overwatch initiative was created to combat the threat of the Omnics (robots created by humanity that rebelled and fought against them) by employing special individuals with heroic traits. After an explosion at their headquarters and the public outcry that followed, the Overwatch program was shut down and any activities associated with it became punishable by law. After certain high profile attacks and a second crisis with Omnics in Russia (those evil robots are really tenacious!) Overwatch reforms in secret and begins to combat these threats.
Overwatch is the latest title added to Blizzard Entertainment’s roster of games and like most of the games they have produced it has taken the world by storm. The game was officially released in May of 2016, since then it has won 5 Golden Joystick awards including best multiplayer, best original game and PC game of the year. On top of that it was and still is one of the best selling games globally with a massive fan base and a large number of concurrent players across all platforms.
Despite its incredible popularity and my initial interest in the game during development, I wrote it off. It seemed to have fairly generic game modes and typical run and gun gameplay which made it seem like it was just a Team Fortress 2 clone with a £30 price tag. This is an assumption that a fair few people I know shared. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the games, especially in the game modes that are available: Payload, Attack/Defense, Domination, these are all classic game modes in Team Fortress 2 and a lot of other games of this genre. Whenever I was asked about Overwatch my reply was always “It’s Team Fortress 2 without the hats”.
Oh how wrong I was.
At the time of writing this the free weekend has finished, my wallet is £60 lighter after buying a copy for both me and my fiancé and I am patiently waiting for my turn to play again. I figured that I would try the game during the free weekend to see what all the hype was about and I have to say it is one of the better decisions I have made when it comes to gaming. The gameplay is somewhat similar to Team Fortress 2, each character has abilities they can use and different things they excel at. Anyone who has played Team Fortress 2 will also recognise the game modes. There are influences from other types of games too that really bring the game into its own class, the only comparison I can think of is that Overwatch is the illicit love child of Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends. The core gameplay and basic abilities draw many similarities with Team Fortress 2 whilst the addition of ultimate abilities and the sheer depth of the games mechanics and strategies is something that would be at home in any of the top rated MOBA games. This mix of easy to learn and hard to master gameplay is potent to say the least, just when you think you are doing well someone will use a certain combination of abilities that will catch you out and make you think “okay, how do I do that!?”.
One of the big problems with attempting to review the game is just how much there is of it. It is both a pleasure and a nightmare to write about. On the one hand you have the basic game itself, which, in its own right is fantastic. Then you have the truly in depth gameplay found in the ranked competitive modes where your team composition and knowledge of maps and mechanics is what really sets players apart. It’s so easy to miss certain parts or to get bogged down trying to explain one specific element of the game. That’s all before you invest yourself in the game’s lore. There are stories for every character in the game as well as for every location and the overall global state of the gameworld. These are easily found on the internet in the form of animated shorts on Youtube and in the short descriptors and stories on the Overwatch website and in-game. Not only does the lore help to build up an appreciation of the game world and create an emotional link to the heroes and villains, it also provides a source for almost easter eggs. The events shown in the animated shorts directly affect the maps the game is played on. During the game you can see evidence of the shorts having taken place such as certain windows being broken, artefacts left behind and other initially innocuous elements.
Evidence of a fight left over from one of the animated shorts.
It’s very hard for me to tell you everything that the game has to offer because it has something for everyone. If you value story and lore then the supplementary material that Blizzard provides is excellent, it outshines every game of this type and stands on par with games that focus on storytelling for their appeal. The action is fast paced and enjoyable at all levels with plenty of room for progression and creativity. The ranked system is just as fast paced with each season lasting only 3 months before resetting meaning you can see the fruits of your labours faster than most competitive games. There are also a ton of achievements, easter eggs and references for those who love to find them.
In the end, Overwatch not only lives up to the hype that it has generated, it exceeds it. The blending of fast paced run’n’gun action with the tactical depth and competitive gameplay of a MOBA creates a uniquely addictive game where lightning reflexes and strategic acumen are equally as important as one another. Overwatch is much more than it seems on the surface so if, like me, you misjudged it then I highly suggest you give it a try. At the time of writing this the free weekend has just ended but I’m certain that there will be another one if you want to wait until then. If you decide to shell out some money on the game then you’re in for a surprise, the basic edition of the game is just £30 compared to most games which have a price tag a lot higher, on top of that you have the option of upgrading to the origins edition and grab yourself some sweet loot both in Overwatch (special skins for certain heroes) as well as other blizzard games (World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm).
When it comes to the game I have only got one regret:
I just wish I had bought it sooner!