Overwatch open beta has been extended

Thoughts on the Recent Overwatch Open Beta

Although the Overwatch open beta was extended by a day, I think I speak for many people when I say it was still too short of a period and that we all wanted to keep playing the game. However, the release is barely two weeks away and Blizzard has a lot to prove with this game.

If you are still in the dark about what Overwatch is, it is a fast-paced, team-based shooter with an emphasis on its heroes. It aims to combine the  Team Fortress teamwork with the original Unreal Tournament’s speed, while using a hero system similar to that of most MOBAs. But, as you will discover by reading on, the open beta gave us access to a game we have seen many times before.

Overwatch openbeta

Objectives instead of kills

While the beta was very limited when it came to the content, it did give us a great deal of insight on how the game was played and what the focus of the gameplay was. It is all about working together towards the team objective – not playing together guarantees a loss.

Blizzard did the same with Heroes of the Storm, which took the MOBA genre in a direction that was a bit different: heroes leveled up as a team and all game modes where built on the idea of truly playing together. Overwatch seems to be aiming to do something similar on the FPS scene, where most new games are usually all about getting the highest score and the longest kill streak.

The Overwatch beta did reveal how important teamwork will probably be in the final version of the game, as even the scoreboard is made to reflect the effort of the group playing as a team towards the set objectives.

Overwatch openbeta

Very fast pace

Overwatch is a very fast-paced game, which turned out to have both positive and negative effects on the time I spent in the open beta. Having invested many years of gaming into Unreal tournament and Quake, I always welcome shooters that are trying to bring back that pace. And while Overwatch seems to succeed at this judging by the maps we got to try out in the open beta, they also seem to miss certain aspects of it.

A fast-paced game doesn’t need short matches, even if you want a quick fix, you still want to have a small chance of catching up if you are losing, and that is something that really lacked for me in the Overwatch open beta. The matches where often over before they had even begun.

While this might be the result of bad teamwork on the part of opponents, it occurred almost every time – which has me worried for the final product. If a match always clocks in under 5 minutes, then it is barely a match at all. My hope is that the full release will have some sort of “best of” scenario making a whole match last longer but with short bursts.

Overwatch openbeta

Accessible yet messy

Overwatch is an extremely accessible game, almost more so than other Blizzard titles. Generally speaking, releasing deep and yet accessible games is one of Blizzard’s niches in the gaming industry, but they really did an excellent work with Overwatch.

With training and matches against AI opponents, it is very easy to get to know the characters’ different playstyles and what their skills can do. This makes the transition to the matches with real players a lot easier. But – and yes, there is a “but” here – the number of characters and how very different they are from one another can be overwhelming for a new player. I would think a lot of players like myself just want a quick fix sometimes, and not spending hours in a tutorial, which is something that really hampered my experience with the game.

Overwatch is also kind of messy when it comes to the UI during a match. Fast-paced shooters always have an extremely simple UI with nothing else than your health and crosshair for aiming, which is a reason why they work so well. But in this hero shooter based on using skills while keeping a good aim, the UI did feel in the way many times. Hopefully this is something that can be customized after the full release.

Overwatch openbeta

Polished to the highest degree

Another aspect that always seems to be the case with Blizzard’s games is how polished they are. The open beta of Overwatch was by far the smoothest running beta I have ever encountered and I have a hard time imagining the full release to be anything different from it. The various maps we got to try out where also extremely polished in terms of both the visuals and of fit with the gameplay.

Everything about Overwatch just felt right during the beta, including a pretty good balance between the heroes, which might have come as a surprise given the vast differences between them.

Overwatch openbeta

A skeptical outlook

In spite of having followed Overwatch since the first rumors, I was late jumping on the hype train, and in fact I still haven’t actually made that jump.

It is really nice to see Blizzard stepping out of their comfort zone and creating something completely different from what they have made before. It is also nice to see a FPS that seems to bring back both the team aspect and the fast-paced gameplay.

But Blizzard seems to be missing something of what made those elements great in other games, and seeing how 2016 might be the year of fast-paced arena shooters, I have a hard time seeing how Overwatch will continue to stand out. There is really nothing new to be found here.

Overwatch openbeta

Pre-launch conclusion

We are less than two weeks away from the official release of Overwatch, after which you will have our full review of the game. So far, the Overwatch open beta has once again proven that Blizzard is doing something right. A lot of their fans, both new and old, have joined in the open beta to play Overwatch, and everyone seemed to enjoy the game.

For myself, I found it almost a little too similar to other games, and as a new player I noticed that the matches were sometimes over before they even started. It is very true that this was by far the most polished beta version of any FPS I have had the chance to try to this date. But I remain skeptical in how enjoyable the game will be in the long run, and how it will hold up against competitors. Time will tell, after the official launch.

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About Karl de Mare