Overwatch’s release is less than a week away. The epic first-person shooter from Blizzard Entertainment has received rave reviews from players that have participated in the betas. Some might argue it is one of the most anticipated games ever to be released, and certainly is a contender for game of the year. It has its share of competition in the genre, but in true Blizzard fashion it sets itself apart. Here are just a few of the reasons players should give it a try if they haven’t already made up their minds.
If the introduction of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has shown anything, it’s that Blizzard maintains its dedication to introducing games to the masses, even those that have never stepped foot inside a particular genre. With Hearthstone, they created a game that was simple to comprehend on a very enjoyable level while adding components that only the savviest competitor would understand.
Overwatch is no different in this regard. Even players who are entirely unfamiliar with first-person shooters can run through the very easy tutorial in a matter of minutes and then step onto the field of battle. Sure, everyone starts with Soldier: 76 for the tutorial, but their Practice Range mode allows players to swap to heroes they’ve never used before. On top of that, fighting against the AI in matches can help hone skills without the frustrating result of a skilled Widowmaker player picking them off repeatedly with headshots.
Another point of simplicity? The ability trees are streamlined so as not to mire folks down. Instead, players will be using their primary fire for the most part, coupled with a smattering of movement and/or support abilities; and when the time is right, unleash their Ultimate. There’s also no ammo gathering, removing the worry of running out of bullets. This gives players time to do what they really want: hunt the competition and mow them down.
Make no mistake, though: Blizzard doesn’t sacrifice competitiveness for simplicity. Sure, beginning players can use heroes like Winston to get a feel for battle since he doesn’t require pinpoint accuracy – but mashing buttons isn’t going to secure a win with any character. Some, like Widowmaker, require patience, knowing where to set up a shot, and a steady aim. Strategy comes into play with many of them, like placing Torbjörn’s or Symmetra’s turrets, or using Mei’s Ice Wall to block enemies or raise allies.
While learning how to use any hero’s basic abilities is important, knowing when to use their Ultimate is even more so. These recharge over time, so players can’t just use them to their heart’s content whenever they’re available. Want to make McCree eat his hat? Waste his Deadeye when only one enemy is in the room. Want to deal maximum damage to the enemy? Make sure as many of the opposing varmints are in sight and then unload. There’s a reason he’s got BAMF stamped on his belt buckle and, no, it has nothing to do with the X-Men’s Nightcrawler.
Cast of Heroes
If you’ve been paying attention this far, you’ve probably noticed that the heroes already mentioned are decidedly different from one another. There’s an enormous cast of over 20 heroes thus far, with more likely on the horizon. With such a large ensemble, players might worry that some of them are just too alike, but that just isn’t the case, even when comparing within roles.
Take tanks, for example. Want to be entirely mobile with the ability to spew streams of hot lead? D.Va’s for you. How about if you want to yank fleeing enemies into your team’s grasp while laying down area of effect damage? Roadhog. What if neither of those suits your flavor, and you just want someone to charge into the thick of things, swinging what amounts to a metal club while wielding a shield? Oh, yeah, they’ve got Reinhardt.
As if that wasn’t enough, another feature of the game that plays into simplicity, competitiveness, and the character-heavy cast: the ability to switch to another hero if a team finds itself coming up short in a particular role. Players just travel to their team’s starting area to do it. Need someone to step up and play support? You or a teammate can switch to Mercy on the fly.
Speaking of the enormous cast – while Overwatch itself isn’t free, any content added to the game will be. This includes maps, new game modes, and new heroes. So don’t expect to shell out money for the initial purchase and then be suckered into buying an expansion every year at the same or even half the price.
Looking at the polish of each character and the pure beauty of each map, it does beg the question of how Blizzard plans to support the game. Development ain’t cheap. That’s where Loot Boxes come in, for those wanting to forgo waiting to accumulate credits or levels in the game. These boxes come in four different qualities and offer ways of setting characters apart, including skins, voice lines, emotes, intro reels, and sprays (a way to tag the environment while dodging bullets).
It hasn’t been said enough, but Overwatch is beautiful. Each character has its own unique personality, and this is only enhanced when additional voice lines and emotes are unlocked. The feel of the heroes is cartoonish, but not overly so, and have more in common with a Pixar production in terms of quality. Their Animated Shorts, as well as their initial trailer, highlight all of this perfectly.
On top of such a high polish to their heroes, each map is fully realized. While most are of moderate size to promote quick matches, Blizzard uses the space to its maximum potential, creating high perches, open lanes, and twisting alleys that suit each type of character and play style. A map like Hanamura, sprinkled with falling cherry blossoms, is almost idyllic if not for the flashes of gunfire and hectic sprinting of players; and with the mountainous Nepal players can almost see their breath while they’re hunched over their screen, the snow is so vivid. Add in Blizzard’s trademark Easter eggs subtly placed within each map, and the experience is truly enjoyable.