Overwatch Open Beta Impressions!

by on May 9, 2016

 

                Blizzard’s
plan to expand on IPs and genres started with Hearthstone, their first free to
play game, which had an incredible success and it continued with Heroes of the
Storm. After decades of hardcore multiplayer games, Blizzard’s focus has
shifted and is now taking ideas from different genres adapting them for a more
casual play style in order to attract more players. These games are also filled
with well known and popular characters from all Blizzard’s lore, scoring a big
plus with their fans.
                Overwatch
is a continuation of that plan but with the twist of being a new IP that has no
connection to any of the games or genres Blizzard released up to this point.
Overwatch is a mash of traditional fast paced FPS with the silly team based
style of Team Fortress and Super MNC built on the 50 million dollars skeleton
of the cancelled MMO known as Titan.
                The
interesting thing about Overwatch is its comical style with a rather juvenile
vibe for a story that is centered on war. Using colorful cartoonish graphics,
oddball heroes with amusing personalities and requiring no knowledge of
Blizzard’s past titles, it’s quite clear that the target audience isn’t the veteran
gamer which the studio has already won with their pre-2010 releases. Overwatch
seems to be a game dedicated to attract a younger audience into Blizzard’s already
huge fanbase (and cult). The younger players didn’t have that much contact with
legendary titles like Warcraft 2 & 3, Starcraft 1 & Brood Wars or the
better days of World of Warcraft. These games have brought Blizzard an
eternally grateful community which has been able to overlook missteps like
Diablo 3. But there is a huge and ever-growing market out there and here is a
game with the target to bring new fans, while keeping the old ones entertained.
Someone was really mad at Hearthstone!
                Despite
being risen from the ashes of Titan, it’s hard to imagine that the secretive
MMO project looked anything like this. Overwatch is a team based arena shooter
with a few elements borrowed from MOBAs. The game has 6v6 matches centered on
four core game modes: Escort, Assault, Hybrid and Control. Escort is Blizzard’s
version of Team Fortress 2 Payload mode, with the attacking team attempting to
push a payload on the clock through several checkpoints to reach the last one.
Assault resembles the Rush mode from the Battlefield series with the attacking
team having to capture objective points in a set order. Hybrid comes as a mix
of the two above mentioned modes. Last but not least, in Control mode the two
teams fight to control a single objective point for a set amount of time in a
BO3 rounds system. The four game modes combined with a decent number of maps
add a fair amount of gameplay variety.
                Speaking
about maps, each map has a cool unique artistic style and takes the players
into a futuristic journey on several locations all over the globe. Players will
get to visit Japan, Mexico, Egypt and even make a short detour to the movies
capital, Hollywood. As a visual entertainment value, the maps are great, but
despite having multiple pathways and a lot of verticality to be suited with the
heroes mechanics, the map design isn’t the best. It all starts with some
horrible chock points which tend to hinder the attackers’ job while making the
defender’s easier. It doesn’t help that the defenders have time to prepare and
install defenses right at the spawning location of the attackers, leading to
some pretty ugly base rape scenarios that clearly only one side enjoys. The
last factor that plays into this are the heroes which aren’t as balanced as
they should be and the map design helps some in the detriment of others.
Colorful Unreal Tournament
Them chock points!
                The
biggest selling point for Overwatch should be its hero roster. The heroes are
split into four groups as Blizzard loves roles (remember the holy trinity?!):
Offense, Defense, Support and Tank. Each group comes with a bunch of heroes
with quirky personalities and a unique set of skills. The Offense heroes have a
small health pool but are extremely mobile and excel at dealing a high amount
of damage. The Defense heroes are static as their specialty is to lockdown
areas and protect objectives. The Support group is specialized on keeping the
team alive and providing powerful buffs which can make the difference during heated
battles.  The Tanks are the toughest and
the largest heroes in the game, they are usually capable of crowd controlling
and come with abilities designed to protect their teammates. Each role is
important but the unique thing about Overwatch heroes is that they can be swapped
after each death, allowing the players to readjust to the situation on the
battlefield and not being stuck on playing the same hero for the whole match.
Take your pick!
                The
design of the heroes is good and the current roster of 21 helps maintaining the
heroes fresh and unique as abilities don’t repeat which is a common problem
with MOBAs. The heroes are equipped with one weapon (some have two) with an
infinite ammo supply and have a range of abilities based on that weapon, their
characteristics and role. Each hero has access to a powerful ability which
charges over time, process that can be sped up through efficient fighting. This
ability plays the role of a MOBA ultimate and in some cases if used properly it
can wipe the enemy team.
                The heroes manage to greatly
increase the fun factor with their goofy looks and funny banter while providing
engaging gameplay in a progressive learning curve. The skill cap of each hero varies,
being rated by the developers as easy-medium-hard, and by doing so is keeping
the game accessible for casual players while still having something to offer to
the hardcore gamers.
The angel of Mercy!
                I have
to admit that I had fun playing with some of the heroes in the game. Pharah and her
awesome rocket launcher took me back the memory lane to my days of Quake 3 and
Unreal Tournament. But even if the heroes have unique abilities and styles,
after playing for some time it feels like Overwatch is lacking something. Its FPS
roots start to dry out sooner than expected and the hybrid gameplay didn’t
manage to keep me as interested as I was in the first days of the Beta. I found
myself craving for an additional weapon for each hero and those who would turn
to this game for its shooter elements will find the lack of weapon’s variety
disappointing. Another problem that comes up as more time is spent in the game
is the balance. The rock paper scissors balance system works only partially. There
are some overpowered heroes which tend to wreck havoc on the battlefield being
helped not only by their powerful abilities, but by the map design as well
(Bastion is a good example). I even spotted some netcode issues and after my
experience with Rainbow Six Siege I became rather sensitive to this problem.
                As an
online game focused on PvP, I’m aware that a perfect balance won’t happen right
away and I’m confident that Blizzard will take notes from the players’
complaints and the OBT statistics. So I won’t rush to judge Overwatch based on
something that will be in a continuous change over the game’s lifespan
(hopefully a change for the better). But I feel the game is lacking in features
that could impress. There is a visible mix of good and bad things when it comes
to the gameplay, things of whose weight might depend on each player’s expectations
from this hybrid shooter.
A sacrifice for the greater good!
I clearly picked the wrong target.
                Blizzard’s
games always shine on production value and Overwatch is no exception. There is
a ton of attention to details. From the smallest objects you will find on the
map, which serve both as amusement and immersion factors, to the number of
destructible objects, the game oozes Blizzard’s style.
The feng shui was wrong.
                On the
graphics it’s always the same story with Blizzard’s games hitting home with the
artistic style, but greatly lacking in fidelity. Overwatch falls in the same
pile with all the Blizzard games to date. Its cartoonish graphics are visually
pleasing and fit the thematic of the game perfectly, but their technical display
is outdated. The texture quality is really upsetting using a low resolution
even on the hero’s weapons, which are the closest thing you get to see, and the
same story goes for every other graphical effect.
                There
is a fear of crossing the line towards better graphical fidelity with Blizzard
and I don’t understand why. The common excuse that these games are designed to
work on lower rigs doesn’t really cut it as this is PC gaming and the video
settings can always be adjusted to be suited for each computer specifications.
I find it disappointing that once again an attractive artistic style isn’t
properly supported by up to date graphics.
Why do I feel like I’m in 2007?!
                On the
other hand, the sound design is excellent with unique sounds for each of the
hero’s weapons and abilities. The voice acting piles up on that outlining each
hero personality and adding to the comical style of the game through funny
voices and playful banters. The music is up there with the sound design with
unique songs for each map and heroic scores to keep you plugged.
This is just for epeen, don’t add me!
Loot!!!
                All in
all, I had a good time playing Overwatch during its Open Beta Test. I wasn’t
expecting much from the game, but I went in with an open mind and it surprised
me a little in a positive way. The Team Fortress 2 and Super MNC influences are
suiting for the FPS and MOBA hybrid gameplay and there are many good elements
that make it enjoyable. But I haven’t felt the hook and I wonder for how long
the game can keep other players entertained. There is a progressive system that
surely helps, awarding players with skins, voices and other cosmetics which can
be used to customize the heroes. And while disabled for the OBT, the final game
will come with a Ranked system to give the competitive players something to
strive for. Yet, it doesn’t seem like Overwatch has that incentive to play
until you go crazy like the dangerously addictive MOBAs or the competitive
online shooters.
                Maybe
I’m wrong, but knowing the game’s problems, Overwatch needs time to grow, and
taking into consideration the steep price and its competitors, I wonder if the
game will receive that time from the players.

 

Nodrim

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