BlizzCon: Overwatch First Impression

Winston_Overwatch_007Many a people felt that BlizzCon 2014 was going to be boring. The reveal of Blizzard Entertainment’s first original intellectual property in 17 years (that dates back to StarCraft), put the kibosh to any such talk. If you’re just catching up to what this whole Overwatch thing is about then be sure to check out our Top 10 Burning Overwatch Questions before moving on to gameplay discussion.

Spawning from the ashes of Project Titan, a mammoth project that was to be a successor to the throne long held by World of Warcraft, Overwatch is a first-person team-based shooter set in a futuristic Earth. Sixty years from now the world had been ravaged by evil robots. Saved by the Overwatch, an institution of powerful beings from all over that was formed to combat the devastating invasion, the planet returned to prosperity. The once heroic institution of Overwatch fell into futility. Like nuclear weapons after the Cold War the heroes of yesteryear were no longer needed. Five years before the start of the game these powerful beings, be they human, dwarf, robot or animal, struck out on their own.

Chris Metzen admitted that Overwatch currently doesn’t have a massive backstory despite its Project Titan history. The creator of Blizzard worlds put the onus on Jeff Kaplan, game director of Overwatch, to foster such interest and flesh it out. There’s plenty of meat on that bone thanks to deep character introductions of this fresh science fiction world. Character lore is all well and good, but Overwatch currently lacks a driving antagonists. The evil robot swarm has been dealt with. Now conflict rises due to the heroes working as mercenaries, pitting them against each other for nothing other than money (and pride). Not exactly the story arch we’re used to from Blizzard these days.

Unlike its hardcore brethren in the military shooter subgenre, Overwatch is being tailored to be more accessible, less scary to players. A dozen of characters have been revealed of which only a few feature true twitch gaming requirements. Twitch gaming being headshots, faster strafing and pixel-perfect interpretations of the maps. The current roster lends itself to any playstyle spread across four distinct roles; support, offense, defense and tank. If you’ve played World of Warcraft you’ll find a comfortable character quickly, from the melee tanking of Reinhardt to healing of Mercy. Death, a defining factor in all shooters, still exists but isn’t as quick or soul crushing in Overwatch. It’ll happen with less frequency and often less of a penalty than other games in the genre.

My first play session forced me into the unfamiliar role of a tank. Selecting Reinhardt for his impressive shield, I trounced through the brightly lit and corridor filled Temple of Anubis towards the objective. Flighty characters ran circles around me unless I caught them in a charge, pinning them to the wall often for a kill. In between charge attempts I pushed forward backed by allies firing through my shield swinging my hammer when an opponent was silly enough to step near. Once on the defensive I switch to Torbjörn hoping to construct a defensible killzone around our objective. Swapping between building and defending I held back the first wave before getting picked off by Widowmaker from god knows where. Our base quickly fell to the ensuing push. I played three of the four roles, including as both available tanks, as I tripped through the line. No matter the role or character the game was simple to grasp. Launch abilities with left and right mouse button, shift or E. Perform adequately to unlock your ultimate ability (Q key). Character concepts were easy to grasp based upon their role. Yet everything felt unique. Reinhardt played completely differently than Winson even though they both filled the classic tank role. Mercy and Zenyatta support teammates in completely different ways.

These unique designs within the same class will lend themselves to game modes and map selection. Widowmaker, a sniping specialist, may not be the best choice in a Payload map that sees the battle constantly pushed forward tearing her from sniping locales repeatedly. Tighter maps lend themselves to heavy hitters or those that can take the damage. Tracer, constrained by structures around her, sees her blinking ability reduced in its utility. The team-based shooter only has three maps built as objective-based and a payload pusher to date, but you can see how details will dramatically alter the effectiveness of your chosen hero, team synergy and overall strategy.

Overwatch is indeed the original Team Fortress 2 on crack wrapped in a Pixar skin. It’s already a fully playable team-based shooter where death is an encumbrance not a game changer. There’s much left for Blizzard to discuss, from the very important business model to the amount of heroes and game modes at launch, before we get our mitts on the beta in 2015. We’ll see you there and don’t forget to check out for all the details (and register for beta down the road).

1 Comment

  1. It’s what separates them from the rest of
    the gaming pack. Local Game – Stop locations in the San Diego area
    are listed below. The game, set to go into closed beta
    in 2015, is already playable and voiced; the 25,000 people at Blizzcon will have a chance
    to try it for themselves this weekend.

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