Overwatch has been released and tests Blizzard’s ability to be successful in a brand new genre. Here’s our review to see if they succeeded.
Blizzard is an interesting studio/publisher. If you disregard addons, they hardly ever release any games, yet they’re massively successful with a few key franchises. Warcraft turned its RTS roots into the most successful MMO in the entire western world, and Diablo and Starcraft are still household names in their respective genres as well. Blizzard hasn’t tackled the first person shooter genre yet though, and that’s what they’re doing with Overwatch.
This made Overwatch an eagerly anticipated game for two main reasons. There is Blizzard’s track record and commitment to quality on the one hand, but there is also some doubt because this is a genre that’s vastly different from what they’re done before. Thankfully, those doubts can now be cast aside – Overwatch is another winner from the Blizzard stables.
The game is out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PCs – we tackled the latter version for this review. In Overwatch, Blizzard cleverly combines bits and pieces from other games to create something special – carefully crafting an experience that works and isn’t just a disjointed collection of gameplay fragments. Fans of games like Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike or even MOBA titles like Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm will find familiar elements here.
There is one constant throughout the entire experience, and that’s the fact that Overwatch is completely multi-player focused. There is no single player campaign, and solo/lone ranger type of gameplay is rarely appreciated (or even successful). This is, in essence, a six on six team-based shooter – although it does feature a couple of different game modes. There’s Assault, Control and Payload – and it’s easy enough to guess what each one is about. In addition, Blizzard will be releasing free content upgrades that will unlock extra game modes as well.
The actual gameplay is fairly ‘by the book’, in that nothing will seem too original or will play unlike anything you’ve already played before. Yet, Overwatch succeeds because it manages to only take the best bits and then add a layer of character of its own. This is mainly done through the use of a large roster of heroes you get to choose from, as well the character development that comes with them.
Characters are unique to begin with, but where Overwatch really sets itself apart from other shooters is the fact that sticking with a character brings rewards with it – much like it would in an RPG or MOBA game. Once you’re into your second or third hour with a character, you’ll get better at performing those skills that are unique to the character. In addition, you’ll also get a better feel for how these skills fit in with the needs of the team, resulting in an experience that becomes increasingly tactical the more you play.
There’s a microtransaction system in place as well, which mainly serves to gain faster access to things like wardrobe changes – nothing we’ve ever cared too deeply about. What we do care about in a game like this is the online experience and how smoothly it runs. For now, it’s excellent – Blizzard’s battle.net platform provides a smooth experience and if the wait for a match is too long then you’ll be thrown into a skirmish mode to kill some time while you wait.
Overwatch is incredibly fun to play, and a wonderful online multiplayer shooter. Our only concern is whether or not it will stand the test of time, especially when it comes to matchmaking. While playing you get a genuine feeling of growth in terms of your ability and character development, no matter how experienced you are with similar shooters. This is great for players who start playing now, but as the player base matures this might make the learning curve a little steep for newcomers. It’s Blizzard’s job to make sure that this doesn’t happen, either through tweaks in the matchmaking process or by adding new gameplay modes. If their track record is anything to go by, they’ll probably do both.