I’ve been massively intrigued by Overwatch ever since I saw the first trailer looping round on my local GAME shop’s TV screen. If there’s not one thing I adore more than good writing and pretty character design, it’s gorgeous animation. It’s not often you get a game that looks like it took a wrong turn on the way to the set of the nearest Pixar movie, and I was thrilled to get to play it for a couple of hours at one of Blizzard’s preview events. What’s more, I’m happy to report that Overwatch has the potential to be much, much more than just a pretty face.
They kicked off the afternoon by showing us this short film, which let me revel in that wonderful animation for six woefully short minutes. The thing that makes Overwatch stand out, to me, is the attention given to designs and the worldbuilding. This universe, from the get go, is presented as something interesting and unique, and they’re slowly drip feeding more and more colour into it as they go. Androids, interspecies couples – hell, even interspecies politicians – as well as setting up a compelling villain, and yet it still manages to show enough without giving away the entire plot.
It would be nice to see short films for all of the game’s playable characters, although with twenty one of them, it may be a bit of a stretch. However, we were told that Blizzard are planning a bunch more shorts, comics, and even novels, so we may get further glimpses into Overwatch’s universe, which is excellent news. It’s getting rarer and rarer for games to pay attention to stuff like plot and character as well as gameplay, and Overwatch looks to be a refreshing change.
My one concern is the voice acting. Tracer and Widowmaker’s accents, in particular, sound pretty forced and over the top. While I get the idea that they’re supposed to be somewhat of cartoonish stereotypes, I wonder how quickly the novelty of that will wear off. As much as I like their designs and what I’ve seen of their personalities, bad voice acting can very quickly kill a game for me – but I’ll have to wait and see for that one.
The actual gameplay itself is an interesting deviation from the usual class set-up as there are no classes – it all depends on what character you play. If you so desire, you can have a six-man team made up entirely of healers, or five healers and one tank, and if that doesn’t work, you can switch characters at any time during the match. You’ve got four types of character starting with Offence, which, like Tracer, are for quickly zipping around the map and dealing damage. Then you’ve got Defence characters, like Widowmaker, your main damage dealers via the Tanks (Reinhart), and your Support class (Mercy) who are your healers.
Interestingly, you aren’t just pigeon holed into one mode of play, even with these categories; Defence characters will have both attacks and shields, and Support characters are perfectly capable of dealing damage as well. You’re never going to be hanging around on the sidelines, waiting for someone’s health to drop because you’re a support character, for example, and it’s a great way to mix the player roster up a bit and encourage people to try new things.
I tried a mix of all four character types, and found I had the best luck with Reaper and Mei in terms of staying alive – Reaper did a lot of damage very quickly, and Mei has an ultra helpful ice wall that shoots up around you and regenerates HP. Each character has their own set of moves, and one special ultimate attack, which will vary in usefulness depending on your situation, and it’s a lot of fun testing each one out. That being said, I feel there’s a steep learning curve for newbies who aren’t necessarily familiar with this kind of multiplayer. I died – a lot – and I reckon I could build skill with a lot of time and practice, though I wouldn’t call this a bad thing.
To test said skills, there are three different type of match using all of your team and are objective based: Assault, where each team has a position to hold, Escort, which is stopping the other team taking your payload, and Control, where you fight for a point on the map, and the first team to win three matches will win. I have to say, I’m curious as to how they’ll interweave the plot with this type of set up.
Each game mode is different from the next, and importantly, it’s a lot of fun. The goals don’t feel repetitive, and each one brings something new to the table in terms of gameplay. Sometimes you’ll have to stick close to the payload, other times you’ll want to stay high up in the environment to snipe your target, and with the steep learning curve and multitude of abilities, you’ll be playing for a long time. It might also create some friendly rivalries, considering it displays all your stats at the end of a match.
Overwatch’s beta kicks off in early May. If you preordered or bought the game, you’ll get into the early access portion from May 3, but the rest of us will have to wait until May 5. You get to play until May 9, and I highly suggest you do. Overwatch is a lot of fun, and if it can live up to the promises it’s been making, it might just make history.