Overwatch Beta Impressions [Review]Sat 14th May 2016 - 10:38pm Overwatch
The world of Overwatch – despite being occupied purely by people, robots and celestial beings hell-bent on killing each other – is a wonderful place. Full of colour and jam-packed with character in every sense of the word, this new take on the multiplayer shooter has the potential to completely reinvigorate the genre.
The characters are an important part of Overwatch and Blizzard’s shooter has a lot of them. 21 to start, with the promise of more to come following launch. And it is in this motley crew that Blizzard has done some truly amazing work.
The 21 characters are split into four classes – defence, offence, support and tank – but even within the four main subcategories, everyone is unique. It’s not a case of “should I go with offence or tank”. You have to consider exactly which character you’re going to choose, as they all offer something which could help or hinder your chances of victory, depending on the circumstances.
Within the Defence category, for instance, I know that Henzo’s lethal archery can not only help defend an objective, but also push targets back from a near-offensive standpoint. His weakness comes in close-range combat, as the time between arrows is long and if you don’t get a one-hit kill, you’re dead.
Meanwhile, Bastion is great for the early-game as you can set him up as a turret and get the jump on any who dare cross your line of sight, getting plenty of early-round kills. The trick for him is to not get caught unawares while in sentry mode (Bastion has two modes, one as a mobile walker and the other a powerful chaingun-possessing-sentry), as you’re vulnerable to ambush from sniping positions.
Each character has something to offer, and the benefit of this is that you’re never inclined to become too attached to a single hero. The inclination in games with expansive rosters is to pick a favourite and stick with them, but with everyone offering such unique benefits and shortcomings, you’re more than inclined to switch out if the strategy isn’t working.
It helps that each is easily recognisable, too. It won’t be long before you’ll know names and faces from memory thanks to some fantastic character models. Continuing the trend of taking inspiration from the MOBA genre – a genre which Blizzard is pretty good at – everyone has something to make them endearing and iconic.
This also helps in battle. Knowing whether it’s Reaper or Roadhog approaching you with bad intentions will impact how you deal with the situation. Depending on who you are, you’ll know whether to fight or flee the battle. It’ll also be dependent on how many buddies you have around you to help out, and again which characters they’ve opted for.
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Overwatch does a good job of encouraging teamwork both in its game modes and also through subtle UI hints. At the character select screen, the game will tell you which character types your squad is lacking. Sometimes you’ll receive not-so-subtle hints, with the game overtly guiding you towards having certain heroes in the particular game mode. As the defending team, a hint came up stating “no builder”, telling us we need Torbjorn and his ability to build turrets to ambush attackers.
There are only two game modes in Overwatch, both playable in the beta. There isn’t a team deathmatch, but the two objective-based games on offer provide for equally-thrilling action and just as many kills. One requires you to move a payload (a floating car) from point-A-to-B or prevent the other team from doing so. The other game mode is similar to Hardpoint, where you must take control and defend objectives to score points.
The locales in Overwatch are as vibrant as the characters that occupy them. From the beautiful cherry blossoms that fill the Japanese map of Hanamura to the cocoa-brown mountains of Route 66 situated in what looks to be the heart of the Grand Canyon. Every place has something that makes it different from the others, but they all have a carefully designed structure.
Every map is laid out so that there’s plenty of different spaces to wage war. Small cramped indoor areas for skirmishes between the likes of Tracer and Genji make way for the higher landing points with long lines of sight, where Widowmaker gets her kills. Every single map is carefully laid out so that no matter where the objective is, there’s plenty of action going on all around.
At the close of a match you’ll see how well you performed. Everything from kills, deaths, damage dealt/taken to more character-specific traits like ‘hook percentage’ for Roadhog. All of this is then added towards XP towards your level, the reward of which for improving is loot boxes. The boxes include things like spray emblems for each character (which you can stick on the wall at the press of up on the D-Pad to leave you mark), new victory poses, dialogue and more.
Instead of a season pass, or asking fans to pay for new characters and map packs, Blizzard is hoping you’ll be more inclined to spend less money on smaller items like these loot boxes. All post-release characters and maps will be free, a trend that many games are taking and hopefully continues across the board. Whether or not the new nickle-and-dime approach to microtransactions helps fill the developer coffers as much as a £40 season pass or not remains to be seen, but it’s good to know communities are becoming less segregated thanks to gated content.
The biggest compliment you can pay Overwatch is that from a gameplay perspective everything works. You may not know why everything works as well as it does, thanks to all the behind-the-scenes jiggery-pokery that Blizzard has put in, but it all just clicks. There is no sense of imbalance or unfairness, unlike times in other multiplayer shooters where you often curse a ‘spawn kill’ or ‘bullet sponge’, here there is clear rhyme and reason for everything.
The lack of a team deathmatch is great, because this isn’t about choosing a character and trying to kill as many of the other players as possible. This is about getting the right combination of heroes together to all sing from the same hymn sheet and complete an objective.
While this is only a beta, the game is just three weeks from launch, meaning this gives us a pretty good insight into what we can expect on May 24. And from the looks of things, we’re in for a treat.
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