Anyone who has been following me on Twitter for the past couple of weeks will have no doubt seen that I was religiously watching the Overwatch World Cup recently. Both the group stages and the finals were fascinating to watch, and my conversion into someone who now apparently watches eSports (which I’ll get into in next weeks podcast).
Since it’s release in May, Overwatch has captured my attention and not let it go. It’s been a long time since I’ve stuck with a game for so long. In fact, I’d probably have to go back to Halo: Reach or maybe even World of Warcraft to find a game that I played as much as I play Overwatch.
There’s a reason I gave the game a 10/10 when it came time to review it.
It’s not because it makes an incredibly entertaining eSport that Overwatch has endured with me (and with a lot of people, judging from the 20 million players it’s managed to capture in 6 months). Although it’s a very entertaining eSport. Like, seriously.
One thing Overwatch got criticised for at launch was a lack of content. The game launched with just a handful of maps and game modes. The main tag that the game faced was one of repetition – that because it had so few options for play it would eventually become boring, as players quickly burned through the 12 maps and 4 game modes wouldn’t be enough, despite Blizzard promising free future content.
Six months and 70+ hours later and Overwatch still hasn’t gotten repetitive. If the game had, I’d have been the first to say so. Annoying repetition is one of my pet hates in video games, and I haven’t been shy about calling out games for giving players essentially nothing to do.
As I said in my review six months ago, it’s the game’s roster that negates the perceived lack of content:
“This variety in the different characters more than makes up for the lack of variety in Overwatch’s game modes and maps. There are three game modes spread across twelve maps (which is probably about right for a game like this at launch). This could very easily have made the game feel same-y after a few hours, but because of the variety of characters you’ll both play as and run into, Overwatch somehow feels continuously fresh. You’ll constantly come up against teams made up of different combinations of characters, and you’ll probably need to adapt on the fly.”
Heroes are split into four classes – Offence, Defence, Tank and Support. These roles are a little misleading, as the characters themselves can be roughly split into DPS, Control, Tank and Healing. Reaper, for example, is classed as an Offence hero but performs just as well (maybe even better) on defence when opponents are forced to come towards him.
The sheer variety of team compositions that you’ll play with and against will have you forgetting that you’re playing your 100th game on King’s Row, or your 300th Control match. Any two games feel incredibly different depending on the makeup of your opposition’s team and how you set yourself up to counter it.
The ultimate testament to this is the fact that I am still learning new characters to play. When I started out with the game I learned the ropes via a combination of D.Va and Soldier 76 – two heroes that are fairly easy to play. I branched out into healing after realising that not many people in PUG’s wanted to do that, and ended up specialising in that for a long while, mashing together a combination of all 4 healing heroes.
The characters I play now are completely different from the ones I played in the beginning, which is again a testament to the variety and longevity of this game. I’m still learning the ropes of new characters. The game is still fresh because I’m figuring out new heroes, as well as new ways to use old heroes that I’m familiar with.
It helps that each character plays very differently from the others, even ones in the same class:
“Reinhardt uses a shield to protect himself and his teammates from damage, Roadhog makes use of a chain to pull enemies towards him and blast them with a shotgun, D.Va provides continuous fire from her mech that doesn’t need to reload.”
Another aspect of Overwatch that has helped its popularity and longevity is its level design. I didn’t really touch massively on this in my initial review, as it’s something that I’ve only really begun to appreciate recently, both with the release of Eichenwalde a few months ago and seeing how professional players approach the games.
Overwatch’s various levels are incredibly well designed for a fantastic competitive multiplayer experience. There’s no overriding strategy involved in any match on any map. Defenders don’t have an ultimate position to defend from, attackers don’t have a specifically advantageous route they can take. There are natural choke points and flanking routes in the game, but I’m finding new ways to approach objectives constantly.
The last part of what makes Overwatch such an appealing game that has, and will continue to have, real staying power is the way it promotes teamwork. While this mostly comes into play in competitive mode, as quick play tends to see crazy team compositions (and it can be a struggle to get six players who all move in the same direction at times), teamwork is king in Overwatch.
Again, from my review:
“There is no leaderboard, no visible kill/death ratio. You can see your own stats as you play, and after a match has concluded, but you can’t see anyone else’s. There’ll be no-one shouting at you (or aggressively typing at you) for “letting the team” down because you didn’t get enough kills, or died too much. In fact, Overwatch goes out of its way to promote positivity.”
Overwatch isn’t about maximising your K/D ratio. It’s about winning, of course (it’s a competitive multiplayer game after all), but you don’t need to be a guy with God-like twitch aiming skills to contribute.
Overwatch has been compared to MOBA’s a lot, but it brings some MMO sensibilities to the first-person shooter as well – everyone has a role to play, and that role doesn’t have to revolve around being a skilled FPS player. You can go all in on being a healer and keeping the rest of your team alive.
Not only will Overwatch allow it, but it positively encourages it. Healers are constantly highlighted post-game for great contributions to team health. It’s not just kill streaks and kills that are highlighted, it’s anything and everything noteworthy – whether it’s Reinhardt’s damage blocked, Zarya’s barriers, Mei’s freezing skills and so much more.
Above all the level design and character variety, that’s Overwatch’s greatest trick, and one that will see it played for years to come – it’s one of the most inclusive first-person shooters in existence.