With Blizzard recently confirming 10 million players for Overwatch, after an equally popular open beta, and a period of great fan hype, this newly launched IP can safely be considered a big success. This new team FPS is fun, so much fun in fact that many can’t seem to stop playing as they explore the deeper end of Overwatch, which reveals itself to players after the initial learning curve is over. It is fair to say that Blizzard has done it once again; the team has brought a polished package to an established genre and made everything just a bit more entertaining and accessible to a wider player base. But let’s take it one step at a time in this in-depth Overwatch review!
Thoughts on Overwatch
After 66 levels and counting, I have had plenty of time to analyze the special ingredient of Overwatch and that ingredient comes down to the number 21. The 21 initial heroes of this shooter lie at the core of its addictive genius and seemingly endless match variety. As you go along learning and mastering every individual hero’s primary and secondary uses, as well as their special strengths and weaknesses, it’s easy to become connected to each one. With nearly countless possible team combinations, better or worse suited per game mode, multiple maps and also the opponent’s choices, Overwatch opens up a bottomless pit of gameplay strategy that makes hero swapping mid-fight a logical next step once you feel more comfortable with basic control schemes.
For newcomers to team shooters and FPS in general, Overwatch offers a fully guided and comfortable newbie experience. All 21 heroes can be tested in practice ranges or tried out in AI matches on easy, medium and hard difficulty settings. Fighting against AI still grants players a reduced amount of experience towards overall level progression, which is rather generous considering this is a PvP title. Basic controls and key mapping are laid out in an intuitive and similar way for every hero that makes progressing through the roster an increasingly fast and fun undertaking.
Another forte of Overwatch is its frantic, fast-paced matches that tend to go back and forth more often than ending in static position combat. While defense games can get more difficult once your opponent chooses to stack turrets around bottle necks, team communication is king. There’s no constellation in Overwatch that cannot be countered by a flexible group of people working together. The constant turning of the tides makes for some of this game’s best and most hilarious moments. Thanks to Overwatch’s rating system at the end of every match, individual performances and best plays get rewarded in a variety of ways which should further encourage players to swap heroes and roles more often.
Matchmaking is currently one of Overwatch’s biggest concerns; with competitive ranked play still in the works, players can either choose to engage in custom games or the quick play option, which randomly assembles teams depending on unreliable variables like experience level and number of players from pre-made groups. As discussed in many hot forum topics, these random groups frequently get reshuffled for a more even spread between good/winning and bad/losing players after a few rounds, which is perpetuating a win/loss-ratio of roughly 50% for everyone engaging in pickup play. Depending on your personal viewpoint, the severity of this issue scales.
Another popular gripe with the game is loot distribution that doesn’t reflect individual player performance or preferences at all, due to the random nature of the loot box system. As someone with poor loot luck in the games I’m playing, I feel slightly put off by Blizzard’s choice to introduce a lottery based reward system for Overwatch, given that this is a premium title and not free-to-play like Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm.
With its fast paced action and quick to grasp pickup play, Overwatch invites lovers of a good brawl, as well as combat strategists, to a mixture of tavern brawl and base capture that never gets too predictable. Thanks to an intuitive and simple control scheme, in addition to smooth and responsive gameplay no matter the character or weapon is currently in use, the game should win over genre veterans and newcomers alike while developing its full potential and complexity along the way. With a large number of team composition, map and game mode combinations with mostly balanced hero counters and ultimates, Overwatch should keep PvP fans engaged for a very long time.
While not a novel title in a long history of FPS and team shooter games, Overwatch ups the polish, initial fun and accessibility factors in expected Blizzard fashion. While its package isn’t quite complete in terms of the currently missing ranked play and it could certainly also do with additional maps and game modes, Overwatch has managed to recruit a wider demographic to FPS games by lowering the initial learning curve and rewarding individual playstyles and performances in new and innovative ways. Quick play and weekly brawls alike should appeal to both the casual and more hardcore players for this reason.
Blizzard also managed to create 21 distinct and interesting heroes hailing from different parts of the world, which have already attracted their individual fan followings and are reminiscent of the classic console beat’em up era.
A genre notoriously known for spawning hostile environments, Blizzard managed Overwatch’s audience by removing some of the traditionally most intimidating aspects of competitive games, such as listed rankings and open match statistics at the end of each round. With up to four players being rewarded for a variety of possible contributions and an additional anonymous upvoting system, team and match chat rarely gets overly toxic in Overwatch. Furthermore, channels as well as the matchmaking system can be moderated by the individual player via the mute and avoid player functions.
As was to be expected from a Blizzard title that had much to prove, Overwatch excels in presentation with its overall production value, hero and map design. The beautiful, sharp and colorful graphics are accompanied by a heroic soundtrack composed by Derek Duke, Neal Acree, Sam Cardon and Cris Velasco. This is one great looking shooter with hot cosmetics and some fun hero dialogues added in the mix while keeping things real on the side of system requirements!
Value for Money 9/10
With 39.99 USD for the standard digital version on PC, Overwatch is worth every penny considering its great production value, long-term gameplay fun and additional free future content updates that we know are already on the horizon. At 59.99 USD Overwatch is significantly more expensive for console players but still constitutes a must-have for anyone into team FPS and PvP.
Overall Score 9/10
From the ashes of Titan, Blizzard has managed a stellar comeback with Overwatch and successfully forayed into yet another genre with their characteristically high standards for polish, package and accessibility. Overwatch is both fun in its simplicity and complex in its combinations, which should appeal to FPS veterans and newcomers alike. With much more in store for this title in terms of heroes, map and mode updates, additional cosmetics, progression features and ranked play being added this summer, there can be no doubt about the game’s longevity. If you’ve ever contemplated an FPS career, Overwatch may be your best opportunity at discovering this genre while staying clear of its more daunting aspects!
+ Polished and balanced gameplay
+ Playstyle and role variety
+ Wide accessibility
+ High production value
+ Free future updates
– No ranked play as of now
– Random reward system