Haven Review: Overwatch

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Not since the early days of Team Fortress 2 (TF2) have I been as enamored with a multiplayer experience as I have with Overwatch. There are definitely similarities between the two, and honestly these are what interested me in the latter to begin with. But once in the game, there are many nuances that have surprised me, to the point where I’ve fallen in love with Overwatch for a variety of reasons. However, the game is definitely not without it’s faults.

Another entry in the Hero-shooter genre, Overwatch pits a cast of eclectic characters against one another in team-on-team combat. The entirety of the gameplay happens over the course of 15-minute matches. Yet the game is packed with amazing design, wildly diverse settings and…if you know where to look…tons of interesting lore. The maps are scattered with informational tidbits. Since you’ll mostly be basting hunks of scrap metal at the opponent, it’s very likely you’ll miss them (and Blizzard seems to not care). This only adds to the charm of the game. If you’d like to hunt down these bits of info, go ahead, although your team might not be so interested in you doing that. If you want to just partake in the combat, there’s no need to know the minutia of the lore. But Blizzard, as they always seem to do with their games, has taken the time to put it there. All of these things come together to form a world that seems to have been inhabited. You’ll find tea still sitting out, or a magazine that was abandoned hastily when the fighting started.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-26-58-49

The fighting revolves around teams of six heroes duking it out over capture points and payloads. Each player chooses a hero, and while there are some helpful guidelines that pop up during selection, the game doesn’t limit how many of each hero your team can select. I love the freedom of creativity that happens when opposing a team comprised of 6 “Reinhardt” characters, a tank with a large shield and hammer. I was particularly drawn to “Roadhog”, a character with a big ol’ hook that can grab people and reel them in, only to be finished off with a devastating shotgun blast to the face. Most of the other characters I tried were fun to play, as well. There wasn’t a character in all 21 that I hated.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-43-30-05 Each one is interesting to learn and wildly different from each other. That’s not saying I was good at all of them; in fact the opposite. I’m fairly poor with most. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t end up laughing and rolling around as I got the shit beat outa me for utterly fucking up the play style of a particular hero. Therein lies the joy of Overwatch! The colors and designs, the silliness of the heroes, the wide variety of projectiles being fired all over the place, all come together to bring such joy to my heart that even when I’m doing my absolute worst I’m still having fun. It seems like the game even rewards you for just having fun and trying your best.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-33-58-46

The most experience you get at the end of a match comes from just sticking around for the whole thing. If you played at all then you’ll get a bunch of experience and level up. Other factors are also involved. If you finish in the top three of your team, or in the top 50% of a category (damage done, time spent on an objective, etc.) you’ll get a little more XP. If you participated on the winning team, then you’ll also get a nice chunk. However, the only thing you get from leveling up is cosmetic, in the form of skins, victory poses and sprays. With sprays you can choose a mark and then leave it anywhere you’d like on the map. It’s pointless but wickedly fun. You’ll sometimes get into spray wars with others who are trying to find and cover up sprays they left while they do the same to you!

Overwatch does have a couple of problems that are present. For the most part, they are easy to ignore, but they’re still there. The first is that the game contains micro-transactions. If you like, you can spend about one dollar (USD) for a loot crate (which gets cheaper the more you buy). This is the same reward you get for leveling. Again, crates only contain cosmetic items. It’s not invasive; there aren’t ads for them all over them game. They don’t boost your ability to play the game, but they are still there. In this $40 game title there are still micro-transactions, and it makes me a little sick to think about. But what else can we expect from Blizzard? They sure do love their money. The other problem (which is less of a major issue and more of an annoyance) is with some character balancing. Right now turrets are a huge deal in the game. They have the ability to wipe out a team without much effort. The worst of this phenomenon is from “Bastion”, a robot who can transform into a powerful turret whenever he wants. He can also self-heal. I’m not saying Bastion needs to be nerfed, or that nobody should play him. It’s just that when Blizzard‘s motto behind Overwatch is that everything should be fun, it’s not that fun getting mowed down from 100% health to zero in less than a second. Bad Bastion players are easy to deal with, and certain heroes do it a lot better. But Bastion is easy to get good at and even a novice player can still get the “Play-of-the-Game” fairly easily. Without a dedicated anti-turret class (like there is in TF2), it can definitely get a little overwhelming. We’ll see as time goes on how everyone deals with this. Whether Blizzard introduces an “Anti-Bastion” class, or players simply find good strategies against him, I definitely believe that the game already has ways to deal with it, and it’ll just take some time to find the right combinations.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-30-58-45

Overwatch let’s you be so creative; it doesn’t try to narrow down anyone’s play style. If you want to try and pull off a crazy thing that just occurred to you, go ahead. I think a factor that really adds to this creativity is the map layouts. There are so many back alleys and rooftops to access. It’s crazy trying to find all the different directions you can go, and figuring out which characters can fit to what spots. Certain heroes like “Widowmaker” (a sniper) and “Genji” (a ninja), can traverse the map differently than others. With things like grappling hooks and wall climbing, they can get onto rooftops that no one else can. However I’ve seen all sorts of characters come up with inventive ways to get to those positions. Once they do, the enemy isn’t expecting it so they’re able to get the drop on ’em. Overwatch does very little to hinder you. It gives you a set of tools and lets you go crazy. While other games are trying desperately to rein in players and limit them, it’s absolutely a pleasure to see a game that doesn’t. This title has done so much to capture my heart and give me a new FPS to obsess over(watch).

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-Jordan Kamm-