You Should Be Playing: Overwatch

After being told to be a good boy and wait even longer after Blizzard seemingly forgot about me whilst sending out invites for the last closed beta, I finally got my hands on Overwatch. And it is awesome.

If you've been living under a rock recently, or just recovering after Dark Souls 3, let me fill you in on Blizzard’s next gold mine. Overwatch is a six-on-six, team-based competitive shooter with fast-paced gameplay encouraged by continuous character switching and some good old fashioned, high-octane cart pushing. It’s kind of like Team Fortress 2, but don’t let anyone hear you say that in public or you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered.

At its release, there are currently twenty-one playable Heroes in Overwatch, but there is much speculation about Blizzard developing more heroes to add. Each hero comes equipped with their own unique set of weaponry. The majority of the heroes have one basic attack, a melee attack, two abilities, and one ultimate ability. There are a few exceptions to this list, but for now I’ll stick to the majority. Like in most MOBAs, each ability has its own cool-down after being used and cannot be used again until the cool-down has dissipated. Now, unlike most MOBAs, the hero’s ultimate ability is ready from the get-go, but must be charged to 100% before it can be used.

A hero’s ultimate ability is charged through a number of ways; dealing damage to enemy heroes, healing up your teammates, or blocking enemy damage. The amount of charge gained through dealing damage appears to vary between the different characters I have played so far, making it a challenge for some, whereas others with a less powerful ultimate ability will build up their charge in a matter of seconds if given the chance.

This giant pool of playable characters is divided into four separate groups: defence, offence, support, and tank.

Defence heroes excel in defending objectives from an enemy team, locking down areas, and dealing massive amounts of damage from the back-lines. Don’t underestimate these heroes as they have the power to wipe the floor with your team and potentially change the flow of the game with one good ultimate.

Offensive heroes are capable of dealing large amounts of damage very quickly, harassing the enemy team with their high mobility, and contesting objectives. These heroes are fast and deadly, and will do massive amounts of damage to you and your friends if they remain unchecked.

Support heroes are key members of any team, aiding them through a constant stream of healing, or enhancing their team’s abilities, and even de-buffing an enemy team to make them weaker. Support heroes are the squishiest of the bunch and only truly excel when they are with a teammate, as their lack of damage-dealing abilities make them poor duellers.

Tanks are the bullet-sponges of the team and live to be a pain in your ass. With multiple abilities to keep you away from their team, a good tank will hold your attention long enough to let their teammates pick you off. Though these heroes are labelled as tanks don’t underestimate the amount of havoc they can cause you if they get behind your team.

It would be easy to think that with these labels define the characters indefinitely, but this is not the case. I have seen several tanks demolish an entire enemy team on their own, and have been at the receiving end of a squishy offensive hero holding an objective for a whole minute by themselves. The labels serve to break the impressive character pool down into four manageable bites, but in-game the only things which holds back any of the characters from going on a wild killing spree are the players who control them.

As I mentioned previously, players are able to switch characters at will during the match but only in the spawn area. This freedom of choice allows for more intense matches with hardly any downtime and no two games being the same. This constant character switching is crucial to a team who wants to win, and constantly adapting your play style depending on what the enemy team have up their sleeves, and also what your teammates have chosen, makes for exhilarating matches.

The game isn't without its faults, though. After playing for a good while with my friends, there were a few similar complaints from them. For a start, the time it takes to get from your spawn and back into the action feels far longer than it should. Of course, this is an inescapable feature of objective-based games; giving the enemy team a chance to press your team back and capitalise on your death. This doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially if you happen to be playing one of the slower characters in the game.

Another complaint I've seen floating around the internet is the end-of-game commendation system. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it selects a statistic from the four ‘best’ players in the game and allows other players to commend them for their efforts. Sounds good, right? But I've noticed that this positive reinforcement tends to lead to people only playing one hero, which is a bad thing. It’s okay to want to main a support hero, as every team needs one, but if you’re playing on a map which isn't suited to your hero’s abilities you’re going to do poorly unless you switch it up. It may be scary looking at the ever-growing list of heroes, but practice some new character’s in the VS A.I. game mode. This game truly shines when you have all twenty-one heroes under your belt.

Besides that, I feel Overwatch is in the running to be my favourite competitive shooter, and maybe even favourite game of the year. There’s so much this game has going for it, and the potential for a competitive scene is very high; the gameplay is fast and creates the need for team coordination through suspense-filled matches. Let’s just hope Blizzard is merciful and won’t charge us £10.99 for a decent character skin this time (looking at you, Space Lord Leoric).

Overwatch is due for release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on May 25th. Current prices are £29.99 for the standard edition, or £44.99 for the Origins edition; which includes four hero skins for Overwatch, and several other in-game items for all Blizzard games including Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone.

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