In the past few years we’ve seen online only games hit the market, rack up big sales, and then under-deliver when it comes to long-term satisfaction. For studios, it’s a tricky nail to hit because you can throw out as many cosmetic updates and map packs as you want, but when the community falls off then so does the value proposition.
Blizzard is a company that is known for nurturing their online experiences for decades and with Overwatch they strive to be the one company that can make a multiplayer only FPS experience last for years to come. But the fact still remains that if consumers don’t see any single-player mode then they’ll question why they should pay full price for a game that may fall off in activity within weeks.
The question then becomes “Does Overwatch deserve my money?” To answer that question, you need to understand what it is about a game that satisfies you. I personally haven’t had this much fun playing a competitive online FPS in a long-time, and that alone is refreshing enough to warrant a purchase.
Most of this is attributed to the fact that Overwatch forces you to understand its mechanics to get a competitive edge in the game. If you’re the type of gamer that likes to go off and do your own thing in online games, then Overwatch won’t be for you. In this game, every person in the team matters. If you try to skip the three training modes the first time you play the game it will urge you to complete them so that you understand the strengths and weaknesses attributed to each character.
If you never played the Overwatch beta then you definitely shouldn’t jump straight into a match and expect to have a fun experience because Blizzard has tailored each individual character from top to bottom to the extent that no two characters feel the same to control. Every character has a unique set of abilities activated by different buttons. Some skills may be movement based like Tracer’s fast forward, some may be defense based like Zarya’s barrier, and some may give tactical offense like Torbjorn’s turrets.
There are 21 characters at present, and each of them are sorted by class. The four classes are Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. All character types in a team must work together in sync to gain an advantage in the match. To help you understand the importance of roles, Blizzard has even included tip bars that pop up on the hero select screen to show where the team is weak. For instance, if everyone goes for offense and defense characters, then it will let you know that the team is lacking Tank and Support roles. Not only does this help you to understand where your team is weak, but it entices you to keep things fresh by selecting characters you may not have otherwise. I’ve developed a new-found love for a few characters simply from the need to balance the team.
Not only do some characters work exceptionally well together, but there are also heroes particularly vulnerable to certain other characters. What makes this game so fun is figuring out what works and what doesn’t — and it all comes from experience. Sure you could look up strategies online, but there’s nothing more fun than interacting with your team to form strategies on the fly. If you’re getting slaughtered in a match then you have the option to respawn as a different hero and change your play.
Some may be infuriated by the excessive use of the character, Bastion, whose ability to switch from a recon machine gun unit to a sentry mini-gun makes him slightly overpowered. Because players know this, it’s not rare to find a team with multiple Bastion’s, making objectives like taking over an enemy checkpoint an absolute nightmare. Still, Bastion is not invulnerable, and a good strategy can still take them out if your team synergy is high. But again, if community is determined to exploit what they know works, sooner or later things may get boring. Hence why so much of this game’s future depends on the people that play.
The biggest concern with Overwatch is its content. As with most online only first-person shooters, there’s not much variety in match types. In fact, if you compare Overwatch with others, it probably has less match types than other online only shooters. Here, it’s the maps that determine the game mode, with some of them forcing you to attack or defend checkpoints and some making you either escort or attack a payload intended to reach a delivery point. There are a few other modes, but they ultimately follow the same attack and defend formula. There’s also a Weekly Brawl mode to mix things up. The Weekly Brawl mode is the same game types but with insane boosters applied; such as 200% health, and faster cool-downs for special moves.
To make the gorgeous character designs even more exciting, you can unlock new costumes, emotes, voice lines, victory poses, and sprays for your favorite characters. These unlocks are awarded to you in Loot Boxes, which you receive by levelling up. The downside is that you’ll likely be waiting a long time to unlock the most desirable skins, as the Loot Boxes are completely randomized and more often than not you’ll get things you don’t really want. Blizzard wants to ensure that you spend many hours in the game before you reap all rewards.
Alternately you can purchase Loot Boxes directly from Blizzard, but after paying full price, this is something that probably seems ridiculous.
On the surface it would appear that content is lacking with so few game modes, but I never felt cheated as the matches are so fun to participate in. It’s a tightly concentrated experience that is propped up by its magnificent art style and character designs. The visual quality leaves much to be desired when it comes to future content. As you play, you’ll find yourself longing for more, and it will entice you to keep checking in on the experience.
What’s a real shame is that there are no cutscenes or short movies to unlock based on the different heroes. As you play, you’ll develop an interest in the heroes and want to learn more about their origins. Blizzard has created some Overwatch videos for promotional purposes, but it would have made sense to include a large selection of them in the game to satisfy our character obsessions.
It’s a shame that the console version of Overwatch doesn’t come with the option to buy the core game without the special skins like on the PC. If console owners were presented with the $40 option then I’d encourage them all to hop on Overwatch without hesitation. However, at $60 a gamer must consider their needs more closely.
For me, Overwatch is worth the money based on my level of satisfaction. I’ve been longing to get into a team based shooter as balanced as this for a long time, and the alluring art style is an extra pull to get you hooked in this universe. Even if the price may seem like it exceeds the level of content currently in the game, Blizzard’s track record is proven, and personally I feel happy to buy into the future of Overwatch. With eSports taking off in a big way, I can see Overwatch tournaments becoming prevalent for years to come, and that’s why I believe this game has a big future ahead.
If you pass on Overwatch now because of the price, then don’t hesitate to pick it up later when it is more fairly priced, because this is one of the best representatives of team based objective gameplay in years.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Overwatch for the PC provided by Blizzard.