I hadn’t planned on playing Overwatch. Lately with work, and working on other aspects of the website, I didn’t think I would have time to have any meaningful playtime. I tend to be a gamer that needs a few hours at a time to play a game in order to feel like I have made any progress. But I saw some articles online describing it as a casual game. This intrigued me, and seeing this enough times on the internet changed my stance, so I decided to give Overwatch a shot. Besides, I fooled myself, I can use it for additional content for the site? Right? Right…?
Overwatch seems to have flown under the radar, at least for a lot of gamers that I know. For example, at my work, we have a few people who are pretty hardcore gamers. They play games like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Skyrim, and Uncharted 4. But when I asked them if they planned to pick up Overwatch one of them said, “Isn’t that a MOBA?” The other confessed he really didn’t know what Overwatch was about, but thought it might be a shooter.
Overwatch is in fact a shooter, but there is a lot more to it, and also at the same time, a lot less to it than a normal shooter. Let’s start with the game’s characters.
Playable Characters in Overwatch
Overwatch has 21 characters you can choose to play. This seems like a lot, and in fact it is. It is actually a little overwhelming at first. There are 21 different playstyles, and when first hopping into the game, I didn’t know how to decide whom to play! On top of that, the characters are broken into 4 groups—offensive characters, defensive characters, tanks, and support characters. These 4 groups—or classes—are meant to have the characters of those classes fill specific needs for the team you are playing on. Support characters provide shields or heal, for example. Tanks, meanwhile, are meant to provide protection for the group, drawing fire and using their abilities to help reduce damage.
As for the characters themselves, it is as if Blizzard pulled characters from various other games or movies, some from their own, and some from other places. For example, McCree is a gun slinging, futuristic cowboy that seems straight out of Red Dead Redemption or any Western movie, and brought 250 years now the future. D.va feels like she was taken out of some sort of Japanese anime show. Roadhog feels like a character pulled from Warcraft, namely the Abominations. I could go on, but you get the point.
Abilities in Overwatch
In Overwatch, each character really only has 3 to 4 abilities that they have. There is no unlocking of abilities; everyone gets every ability right from the start. On Xbox One, where I am playing it, those abilities are assigned to “RB”, “LB” and “Y”, with the occasional use of “LT” if the characters have an additional ability.
Each set of abilities is unique to each character, so until a character is played for a bit, it takes some time to get used to the new abilities. There does seem to be some sort of pattern to the button assignment though—“RB” tends to be movement related abilities, “RB” is some sort of secondary attack generally”, “Y” is the characters “Ultimate” (a very powerful ability which takes time to charge), and “LT” tends to somehow work with the primary weapons. On McCree, for example, it causes him to hammer shot his six-shooter, unloading all six rounds in a very short amount of time.
Game Modes of Overwatch
As for actual gameplay in Overwatch, it plays similar to many other shooters. There are “Escort” missions, which have one team protecting something that is moving through a map while the other team tries to stop you. It is similar to “King of the Hill” in that you need to have sufficient players trying to move the “payload” forward, and opposing players need to have enough players present to stop it from moving.
Then there is “Assault.” This has one team defending targets on the map, while the other team tries to capture them. It again is very “King of the Hill”-ish, in that the attacking team needs the majority in the objective areas in order to capture the base.
There are also combinations of Assault and Escort, where both missions have to be completed within the same game.
There is also “Control.” This is basically straight up King of the Hill, where both teams try to control a single point.
First Couple Games of Overwatch
Overwatch launched worldwide on May 24th. This was actually pretty awesome for US players, as it meant that it would be coming out Monday evening, at 4:00pm. So I picked up the game at Target (which came with a nifty collector pin), and when I got home from work, I put the disc in the Xbox One, to get it updating. I decided to do my 3-mile run, and by the time I got done with that, I was ready to get gaming.
Training for Overwatch
I decided to do the tutorial first, just to get my bearings for the game. The tutorial has you play Soldier-76, one of the 21 characters in the game. He feels like a standard FPS character–nothing out of the ordinary really. The tutorial has you do some pretty basic movements, learning abilities and shooting. It all felt pretty familiar. The way the game plays feels similar to Star Wars: Battlefront, in that abilities are on a timer, and there really isn’t ammunition in the game—abilities are just on a timer.
After completing the basic tutorial, I hopped into the “Target Range”, just to have a little more free-form practice. The Target Range is basically a small map with A.I. robots that populate the map, providing target practice. After a bit of shooting these guys, I decided it was time to hop in the game.
My First Foray in Overwatch Multiplayer
At this point I had only played with Soldier 76 in the tutorial areas, and didn’t feel particularly impressed with him. But I didn’t have any training in any other characters, so I figured I would be lazy and play a healing class. I decided to play Mercy. She is a girl in an angelic-looking uniform, and she is from Switzerland. But most importantly to me, she seemed fairly straightforward to play.
Mercy has a staff has her primary weapon. “RT” on the Xbox One controller shoots out a healing beam to friendly players you are targeting, while “RB” shoots out a damage-increasing beam. “LB” allows Mercy to fly towards the targeted ally player. If Mercy decides she wants to fire some shots, she can pull out a side arm, and use a pistol that provides moderate damage shots.
I had trepidation about hopping into a multiplayer game without any sort of trial run playing Mercy, but figured I would give it a shot. I hopped in and healing turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Health is easily seen floating above allies’ heads, and even through walls, Mercy can see outlines of allies, with allies displaying as green for full health, yellow for injured, and players very low have a red “critical” sign on them, meaning they are on the brink of death.
After a few minutes I realized that the mechanics of healing were easy for Overwatch, but executing was where the skill came in. After getting used to playing Mercy for a couple matches, I began to do fairly well with healing, bounding around the map with her “Guardian Angel ability” to other allies and trying keep everyone healed up, while at the same time trying to find locations on the map where I can remain out of sight of the enemy. Mercy only has 200 HP, and really has no escape mechanism than hoping to fly to another ally, to get away from the enemy.
I went into playing Overwatch with the intention of playing Mercy for a few matches, and then switch to another character. I was having such a blast healing though, I just spent the 2 hours I had Monday night playing healer. It was pretty awesome at the end of the match when I would appear as one of the 4 highlighted players due to how well I was healing. This was particularly satisfying because I come from an MMORPG background, and healers tend to be under appreciated. What was even more satisfying playing Mercy was her Ultimate ability. It allows her to resurrect downed teammates in a 15 ft radius. This can really change the tide of a battle, as there would be times when 2 or 3 teammates were down fighting for a control point, only to have them pop back up to get back into the fight. I am sure the opposing team was irritated to see these refreshed fighters, but it was very satisfying for me.
When I finished playing for the night, I reflected on Overwatch, and my feelings on it. I certainly knew I was having a lot of fun. What was odd is what the game felt like. It certainly felt like playing a FPS, but at the same time it felt different. Then I realized that it also felt like a blend of other games—specifically Blizzard games, which I guess would make sense. It felt a lot like playing “Battlegrounds” in World of Warcraft, and it also felt like playing Heroes of the Storm, but from a first person perspective. I had a lot of fun, and was excited to play the next day.
Day Two of Overwatch
The second day of Overwatch I fell back into playing Mercy again, since it was so much fun before. Part of the reason I played Mercy so much the first night is that no one seemed to be picking support classes, so it made sense. I was having fun, and the team needed it.
Today though, people began picking Support Classes much more, so I figured to help the team out, I should branch out. The problem was I hadn’t really done any practice with any of the other characters yet.
My first character that I tried out was the futuristic cowboy, McCree. He seemed interesting, and had certainly been killed by him a few times as I was playing Mercy. He turned out to be a little difficult for me to play. Using his six-shooter was pretty difficult. I learned pretty quickly that he is not a ranged fighter. Sure, he has a gun, but it is hard to make shots from too far of a distance, with his pistol. He also has a stun grenade, but that takes some really fast reflexes to use well. I also never quite got used to his roll abilities. It not only allows him to roll quickly in whatever direction you are facing, but he also reloads his pistol at the same time. For me though, hitting the reload is such secondary nature, that I never really took advantage of it.
Another difficulty I found with McCree was trying to use his Ultimate. On paper, it seems awesome. He essentially draws his pistol, and eliminates players selected with it. The problem is it takes a while to charge up, and leaves McCree vulnerable while doing so. I found myself dying more than actually getting shots off.
After getting a little frustrated with McCree I switched over to Reinhardt. I figured I would try out a tank class. In MMORPGs, I tend to play either tanks or DPS. Why not see how it goes here?, I figured. Reinhardt’s abilities seem pretty nice. He has a shield he puts up that can absorb up to 2,000 damage, and it slowly recharges when not in use. It can stop most projectiles, but doesn’t help with melee attacks. He also has a ranged “grenade”-like ability, where he launches a firing projectile that can hit multiple enemies. His movement ability is a charge that if it hits an enemy player, it will pin then, causing them to be stuck. It also does significant damage. Oddly, he has no primary range attack. He is a melee-focused character, having a hammer that he swings around.
He was a character I thought I could get used to pretty quickly, but he turned out to be tougher than I thought. I realized I need to work on timing my charges better in order to close gaps with enemy players, while not getting too far ahead of my teammates—otherwise I would be left alone, and down in seconds. I also need to learn when to use Reinhardt’s shield ability most effectively. I kept forgetting that it does not stop an enemy Reinhardt’s melee attack or charge—which I encountered a lot more than I would have liked. Even though I didn’t feel particularly successful playing Reinhardt, he did seem like a character I could get better with if I had some more practice.
Wrapping Up First Thoughts on Overwatch
I had a blast the first night I played Overwatch. Sure, I died some, but it was a lot of fun flying around the map, using Mercy’s staff to bring people back from the brink of death, and using her resurrection ability to change the tide of a fight. While healing doesn’t seem to ever make the end replay “Play of the game”, I think the game does a good job of appreciating healers with the end of the match often highlighting healers.
My second night was admittedly not quite as fun. This could be because I was still getting used to playing new characters and have to figure out which character fights my play style the best. I am mediocre when it comes to FPS games, but if I can find the right niche for myself, I tend to be able to hold my own, and that might be what I am still working on doing.
I hope to get back into it a few more times this week, and try out a few more characters, and see how it goes. The environment is a lot of fun, and quite different than most shooters. It has a light-hearted feel to it, despite it being a game where two factions are murdering each other. I also enjoyed the fact that there are no abilities to unlock. It can be frustrating playing games like Call of Duty where I have to get to level 15 before I can use a specific weapon that I want. The only unlocks for this game are various model skins for the different playable characters, different voice chat options, victory poses, or sprays which can be sprayed like Counterstrike has done for years. This cosmetic only approach to unlocks makes it easy for new players to get up and running quickly in Overwatch.
I am still wondering if this game is targeted to “causal gamers” though. Sure, there is no grind—the only thing you unlock in the game are additional “skins” for your character, or other cosmetic items, but with all of the different character options, I feel like it would take a very long time for a casual gamer to really get some meaningful skills in this game. Given how there were a few matches where teams felt very one-sided, I think that there is certainly going to be a hard-core audience for this game, and it is already developing.
I plan to stick with it for a while, and see where it goes. Right now I have had the most fun playing a healer and I have a feeling that comes from playing MMORPGs off and on for the past nearly 20 years (20 years?! I feel so old!). Learning to avoid damage in raid environments in MMORPGs makes playing a healer much more straightforward for me—staying out of enemy fire feels pretty similar to that.
If you are a fan of MMORPGs or FPSs, I think it is worth a try though. But if you need to have a grind like Call of Duty, where you unlock weapons and abilities, Overwatch does not have that.
So what do you think about Overwatch? Have you tried it out yet? If not, do you think it is something you would be interested in? Do you have any questions for me? Let me know in the comments below!