Overwatch is a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter, created and developed by Blizzard Entertainment. Released on May 24th, 2016, it is available for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Set in the distant future, the game’s backstory revolves around the elite task force that the game is named after. Following a crisis stopped by the task force, their influence waned and eventually Overwatch was disbanded. Unlike many other games, the lore, background, and history of the world and characters is available through the official website of the game (including art and references), as well as fan-powered sites. However, knowing the lore is not required to play and enjoy the game.
New players start with a short tutorial to learn the controls, after which five modes are available: Quick Play, to play against other players in your skill range; Play vs AI, to play against computer-controlled characters; Competitive, available to players over level 25 to earn a global rank; Custom, which allows players to create their own experience (without leveling up their character), and the Weekly Brawl, which changes from week to week (unless specific to an event).
Unlike many games on the market, Overwatch has no level cap, assuring players always have something to aim for as they play. Every time a player levels up, they receive a “loot box,” which contains four randomly generated items that change the game cosmetically. These can be character skins, highlight intros, victory poses, emotes and voice lines, spray tags, or in-game currency. Players can also earn rewards through achievements, which can be unlocked by using characters’ abilities. An example of this could be killing four opposing players with an ultimate attack. Achieving this unlocks sprays that cannot be obtained by other means, and can only be rewarded in Quick Play or Competitive.
The controls are very straightforward, with players limited to moving, looking around, using abilities/shooting, jumping, and crouching. Since the characters have set abilities, everything boils down to the player’s skill.
Overwatch makes all 22 current characters available from the beginning, allowing teams of characters whose backgrounds normally wouldn’t allow for such interactions. Each hero is diverse, both in terms of gameplay and characterization. Players can choose from four different classes: offense, defense, tank, or support. How the character is played, and what they can do, will differ depending on what class they fall under. Characterization varies among all the heroes; fifteen ethnicities have been represented in the game so far, with Blizzard searching for matching voice actors.
There are 13 different maps to battle on, split into four game modes. Assault is where one side fights to gain control of a point that the other side is defending, Escort is where one team attempts to move a “payload” to the end of the route while the other tries to stop them, Hybrid is a combination of both Assault and Escort, and lastly Control, where both teams fight for control over one neutral point.
Despite its multiple modes, endless playability, and diverse cast, Overwatch has its drawbacks. It lacks cross-compatibility; someone playing on the PlayStation 4 console cannot play with a PC or Xbox One user and vice-versa. This runs the risk of players seeing someone they’ve already played against. Another technical issue is cross-server interruptions, where slowdowns can be caused by a player outside of North America trying to play on the North American server.
A second drawback comes from the characters, who despite being diverse remain very static once you learn how each plays. Blizzard has planned to fix this by releasing new characters for the game. When this happens, players only need to update their game to get the new characters.
I found the maps to be repetitive over time, with only 13 to choose from. The balance to this is in the maps themselves. Each of the different levels are large and widespread, allowing for exploration, and the chance to find a different route that a player had perhaps never found before.
Another small drawback exists for those who love to fully complete games. One skin, “Noire” for character Widowmaker, was only available to players who pre-ordered the game. This meant that newcomers or players who couldn’t pre-order were unable to collect every item for Widowmaker. As well, five other characters have special skins that are only available to players who bought the special edition of the game (although players are able to upgrade their version if they wish).
Blizzard keeps their player base interested with different events throughout the year, such as the 2016 Rio Games event which included character-specific items limited to that event's run. A similar one was organized for the Halloween season called “Overwatch Halloween Terror.”
Overall, I found Overwatch to be a well-balanced game. It can be easily picked up by players who enjoy first-person shooters, and those who don’t enjoy going up against human players will still have a great experience playing.
Catherine Arbour is a Professional Writing student with a background in animation and a bias towards fantasy. She frequents as many conventions as she can, mostly in the Ottawa area. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing video games, reading, or knitting as part of the Spiritual Centre’s Knit ‘n’ Knatter.