Hey there, I’m Cr4sh! I’m a console gamer, I love anything pink, I’m woefully short and am here to talk to you about Overwatch!
Having already become somewhat of a household name since it’s launch on May 24th, I’d be surprised if you weren’t swept up or at least aware of the craze that’s hit next gen consoles hard. So what is it? It’s a first person shooter multiplayer game some people are likening to a moba that has been compared in play style to TF2 and Unreal Tournament. Sound simple enough? That’s because it actually is a very simple game. With limited game modes, no campaign and it’s cartoonish display it is easy to see why so many people have been off put by the idea of a child friendly shooter. I myself very nearly chose Battleborne in place of Overwatch (partially because it offers a campaign, and I’m not much of an online gamer but mainly because of 2k/gearbox who are also renowned for the borderlands series, one of my favorite games) – however I was talked into giving it a go when my game share buddy bought the game and needed someone to group up with.
I was hesitant to begin with. I played the tutorial (basic button layout and controls). I played against bots (introduction to playing against people at a difficulty I was comfortable with as let’s face it, online gaming is pretty fast paced and it’s hard to be thrown in the deep end with characters you know nothing about). I played a couple of different characters, felt pretty meh about the whole experience, but everyone was friendly and before long I found a group. I dropped into quick play with a bunch of strangers… and the game opened up before me. I fell in love. It was awkward at first, learning the ropes a little shakily from not understanding counters against characters whose skills we barely knew to not understanding good team composition and the importance of grouping. All of a sudden I found myself exploring the button wheel, letting people know my ult was building, asking to group up or be healed. When people wouldn’t switch I found myself filling gaps or becoming a tank to hold my team together. It was fast paced. It was colourful, and interesting and ultimately fun. When I was first presented with just three game modes (quickplay, custom and VS AI) I sneered at it’s lack of diversity. When facing the same bots on repeat it had felt monotonous and easy. But playing against teams breathed life and character into the game for me. I was suddenly taught just how much of a threat each character could be as I watched and learned through other players. How they moved, when they timed their abilities. The vastness of play hit me hard, and that’s when the maps began to open up aswell, and everything suddenly got bigger and more intense.
Every character has their own abilities, their own ultimate, health/shield/armour combos, hit boxes, footsteps and jump. Every single character I have since seen somewhat mastered, the plays artful and constantly pushing me to learn a counter, to improve, to rethink my strategy. I have clocked over 200 hours across my ps4 and xbone since the game dropped, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface with the majority of characters. Not only does every character deal damage differently, the arch and distance of their weapon plays a role, their effect on team composition can be a strength or weakness to your own team and play, the paths they can take due to movement abilities and limitations completely alters how you can move around and access different areas of the map opening up routes to allow you to flank, push or surprise rush the enemies. This in depth gameplay was a far cry from what I was expecting, but that isn’t all.
This could merely be personal experience, heck maybe I’m even just lucky… But another reason I fell in love with the game was the community. I understand it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to be social (believe me, it’s not usually mine) but this is a game where being a team player really pays off. To be successful you really need to understand the characters and how they play, group together so as not to kill feed but not so much to allow an ult to come in and wipe the team. Every character has a role, from tanking damage to dealing damage or offering support through heals or a well placed teleporter to get you back into the action quicker, and understanding that role and sticking to it is essential. For example what good is a healer who never heals the team, or a tank who is off flanking when the squishes need a protector? This isn’t a game that is all about the glory or frags, it’s about joining together to fill these roles and appreciating the effort and skill of each individual. Sure, you may be the gold medal holder for eliminations, but 50 elims won’t guarantee you a win if there isn’t a tank on the payload or point, and maybe you wouldn’t have been quite so successful without that damage/health buff from the healer who often is an easy target for enemy assaults. Because of this social element many groups on social media have popped up, and I’m a member of a particularly lovely one where I have come into contact with so many people I’m massively grateful for meeting, and many people I’ve spoken to report similar. This human element to a game centered around teamwork really seems to be bringing people together on an intimate level to have fun. It’s not often a game has such an emotional impact on such a huge scale, with many of the groups I’m part of being thousands strong. I’m never alone when I play, and that in itself is a really powerful feeling. (maybe a little sad – but hey, I don’t get out much)
Gameplay aside, I soon found myself craving a little more info on the characters I had started to fall in love with. Interestingly, each character has a huge list of interactions, emotions, voice lines and random conversations in spawn or when encountering certain situations with other characters that offer little clues/insights here and there to relationships and histories. A lot of them raised questions or sowed the seeds of theories for me, and the more I played the more I learned. Blizzard haven’t provided a campaign to enlighten us, but it is easy to find some answers with the animated shorts and mini comics all freely available online. There is also a confirmed graphic novel on the way, and they have answered questions in panels and done numerous talks and interviews, even providing some finer details through forums (according to Blizzard employee Jeff Kaplan, Junkrat’s small canteen on his belt is filled with Milk Tea with Boba, half sweet!) This allows the players to choose how indepth they want to go with the characters, and with the roster currently being 22 heroes strong with more confirmed on the way it’s an exciting prospect for anyone wanting more. There is a huge volume and opportunity for content and speculation alike, and amongst many of the fans it’s more than welcome. Not only that, but the fanart and theories popping up all over the internet have been beautiful and inspirational. I personally fell head over heels for the beautiful little drawing a child offered up of her own hero which was redrawn as concept art by one of Blizzard’s artists leading to a series of fanart of her created character ‘Birst’. What a beautiful thing the community did for this child. One thing that can be said without doubt is that the series is inspiring, with artists, writers, sculpters and costume/prop designers all releasing endless streams of projects, products music and memes inspired by Overwatch. (one particularly powerful piece for me being ‘Overfeels’ – motivational lines taken from in game overlaid with music from Undertale creating a powerful song that has lent me strength in my ongoing battle with depression on numerous occasions)
Overwatch of course has it’s downsides. It’s particularly rage enducing at times, yet I can’t bring myself to walk away. There is just too much joy in it, and too much fun to be had. It really is a game with something in it for everyone. There is a hero to suit all play styles, players of all skill levels, and a wonderful community backing it.
Join me next time, when I’ll talk about an introduction for first time players, the nearing end of the competitive season and a breakdown of character classes. Enjoy playing!