(Played On XBox One)
If Pixar made an objective-based multiplayer shooter, it might look something like Blizzard’s frantic Overwatch, and this is a very good thing. From its cartoonish 3-D animation to the vibrant design of 21 different characters, Blizzard has struck gold in a game that manages to be both approachable and deep.
What makes Overwatch such a hit is that I consistently found myself curiously attached to a cast of characters that all feel unique in both gameplay and personality. Whether it’s a characters snappy one-liner, fantastic costume design, or multitude of game balancing special skills; I constantly wanted to know more about the interesting avatar over which I was taking control.
Of course, great characters wouldn’t make up for a game that had subpar mechanics. Luckily, in addition to its plethora of style, gameplay is consistently fun and fascinating. As noted in a recent IGN video, Blizzard does a fantastic job at making some of the little things feel special, if not downright magical at times.
Characters are divided into different classes: Offense (powerful with limited health), Defense (more health, less power, and the ability to control surface area), Tank (bullies that can eat up a lot of damage) and Support (weak characters that can heal or provide buffs for the team).
If any of this seems complicated, it’s because it can be, but Blizzard wants the ride to be enjoyable. As a result, characters are assigned degrees of difficulty and more or less have one attribute or skill that allows for a gamer to feel productive in any match. You’ll gradually try new things, and just when you think you’ve mastered one character, you’ll discover a brand new strategy; easy to play, hard to master!
Where Overwatch falters is in some of the ways it also succeeds. For example, sometimes you’ll wish one character had one extra skill or more health. You’ll master the easy stuff and quickly become frustrated as you move towards breaking the game wide open. Yet, without such balance, there wouldn’t be sufficient reason to explore the nuance of each class and character.
The maps can also be problematic. They’re beautiful and creative, but too often seem to bottleneck, creating tense moments that are satisfying until you go on a losing streak. There’s also a limited number of them—considerably less than your typical modern multiplayer game. Furthermore, game types are limited.
Whereas many modern multiplayer shooters have grown to have a bevy of different modes that are playable, you’ll essentially spend your time capturing objectives or escorting a vehicle from point A to point B. The second mode, being a tug of war of sorts as you try to march across the entire map. It gets repetitive, but the leveling system and loot rewards whisper for you to play one more match.
Play well and play often and you’ll be rewarded with random loot as you “level up.” It’s nothing novel, but it’s still fun given how many different costumes, emotes, and other items you’ll unlock. Items can be as simple as a “spray” you can place on maps walls, an animation used when you’re the player of the game, or a pose for when you’ve won a match. It’s more or less an ego jerk, but a tried and trusted one that works because of the variety of unlocks.
The future for Blizzard’s new IP would appear to be paved in gold.
Even with some of its slight faults that take getting used to compared to other multiplayer offerings, Blizzard has released an incredible product that is well thought out and near flawless in execution. The fact that everything has worked at launch—something that should be expected but that has become a rarity of late from other game studios—is a testament to what kind of experience you are in for if you pick up Overwatch.