BY Liam Ho

Overwatch. A game that took the entertainment market by storm during its release in 2016. A game that won multiple game of the year awards and proceeded to stomp the rest of the competition.

Developed by industry veteran Blizzard Entertainment as an entry into the team based hero shooter market (think games like Team Fortress 2 and Battleborn), Overwatch promoted a variety of characters, maps and game-modes to keep players continually playing. Now, the game continues to thrive on a strong community with slow, small content updates being brought out every so often via seasonal events and other patches.

Overwatch's two premier game modes are similar to each other. Both Quickplay and Competitive modes have the same maps with the same objectives, with each team having the option to choose 6 heroes in combination from the total roster of 29 heroes. The heroes are split into three categories: tanks, damage and supports. These roles are the basis of Overwatch’s gameplay and forms how people talk about the game and different combinations of heroes. The most common of which is the 2-2-2 strategy, which is short form for 2 tanks, 2 damage and 2 supports. Maps come in three forms: control, push the payload and a hybrid mode of the two. Control maps revolve around an objective in the centre, which teams compete to take control of and hold it until they reach 100%. Push the payload maps are based upon moving the payload from the start to the finish of a map. Attacking players must stand nearby the payload to progress it while defenders must repel the attackers.

Each character in Overwatch has up to 5 unique abilities that differ for each character. The highlight is a character’s ultimate ability, a devastating attack that when used perfectly can eliminate an entire enemy team in quick succession. Examples of these ultimate abilities include Genji’s Dragonblade (pictured here), in which he unsheathes his sword swapping him from ranged to melee to execute him enemies. Another iconic ultimate is the cowboy McCree’s Deadeye, which causes McCree to channel for a brief period before eliminating any areas in his line of sight. While all of these ultimates are unique to each character, teamwork is highly beneficial with a lot of tank ultimates being able to set up a damage ultimate. Russian Strongwoman Zarya is able to fire her Graviton Surge to lock enemies in place, while Hanzo, an archer, can call upon the power of the dragon, and fire a powerful spirit dragon to rip through them. Combining ultimates and executing ultimates well is some of the most satisfying gameplay you will experience in Overwatch.

After the honeymoon phase of its release Overwatch had a rough time with producing new content for its players. Blizzard’s reputation meant that new content had to be on par with the original Overwatch in order to satisfy player expectations, which resulted in slow deliveries with certain heroes being teased for a while before actually being revealed and released (e.g. the release for Sombra). The game brought in a few seasonal events such as Chinese New Year, Halloween and Christmas, as well as introducing more narrative events such as the Overwatch Archives and the Anniversary event.

Overwatch brought in a fresh taste to a genre that hadn’t been innovated on since Team Fortress 2 with the introduction of outlandish but likeable characters. An example of this is Roadhog (pictured here), a ruthless killer with a well-earned reputation hailing from the Australian outback wasteland, carrying with him a shotgun-like firearm that propels scrap into the direction of his enemies. Known as a tank hero, he’s able to withstand heavy fire from other heroes by using his “take a breather” ability, in which he inhales from his canister to restore health.

Overwatch has continued to innovate from their original designs of heroes, bringing and linking in characters to strengthen its lore such as Ana, the mother of Pharah, and Brigitte, the daughter of Torbjörn. With the introduction of new characters/heroes Blizzard has been blurring the line between the defined roles of tank, damage and support with characters such as Baptiste and Brigitte.

I began playing Overwatch slightly after the release of Ana, and continually played it for a good couple of years before stopping and returning to it occasionally for events and other content releases. The game was magnificent from the start. It felt like a fresh new take on a shooter that hadn’t been done in a while. It had likeable and interesting characters, a fresh coat of paint with Blizzard’s premium aesthetic, and a gameplay loop that could be played for hours on end. Quickplay was an enjoyable experience that didn’t need to be taken too seriously, and people were fishing to get their ‘play of the game’, a play that is featured to all players at the end of each match.

Overwatch also had a couple of fun side modes such as Arcade, where the traditional rules of Overwatch were bent so players could experience the game at its fullest. This included game modes like No Limits where players could stack the same heroes over and over again to test out wild compositions against one another. Blizzard continued to iterate on these game modes, eventually adding in things such as Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Ultimate Mayhem and Low Gravity. While these game modes were not available all the time, they were only really fun in small bursts due to their unbalanced nature. They were interesting for a while, but now Overwatch requires players to play the Arcade in order to gain loot boxes for cosmetics, it felt kind of drab replaying the same game modes over and over. It was supposed to be “fun” rather than a chore.

Though releasing new content happened quite slowly, Blizzard was really able to ramp up the excitement for each new event as it came through. The limited time events had really great quality in terms of content, each seasonal event releasing a new sort of game mode using Overwatch’s features/mechanics based upon the season. In the Summer Olympic Games event we received Lucio-Ball, a fan-favourite mode where all players are Lucio, and use his knock-back ability to propel the soccer ball into the enemy teams goal. Aside from the new mode, they also release skins for heroes based upon the season, which are only obtainable through the loot box from that event.

However, Blizzard has recently stated that Overwatch will not receive any new forms of seasonal updates, and instead will repeat the same ones over each year. This means that there’s less content to experience for a player who had already participated in the events last year, and is something you’ll have to put up with if you see yourself playing for a long time.

Similarly, Blizzard doesn’t frequently change and balance heroes, meaning that certain heroes can be way more powerful than others. This can render them practically useless for a very long time, and if that hero happens to be your main you won’t be very pleased. This also results in relatively stale team compositions.

Overwatch is a really great title that stands as one of the best hero shooters to date. It’s perfectly catered towards both a hardcore and casual market. Having Quickplay and Competitive game modes means that players can mess around in casual or take time to learn the games deep mechanics in order to test their skill in ranked. It’s suitable for uni students who don’t have heaps of time in between assignments and exams but still would like to grab their video game fix. It also works for hardcore gamers who’d like to focus and improve on their skills, as it has an e-sport scene supported by Blizzard. However, Overwatch does have a few problems, namely the lack of content throughout the year and slow balance updates resulting in the game feeling stagnant at times. That being said, if played casually Overwatch can be a great experience to play both alone or with friends.

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