Blizzard’s ‘Overwatch’ outdoes itself

By Kevin Shaw
Staff Writer

I did not know what to expect when I first jumped into Blizzard’s newest game “Overwatch.” Blizzard has proven itself a tried-and-true game development company by creating classics such as “World of Warcraft” (WoW), “StarCraft” and “Diablo.” All three game series have been objectively popular — WoW had an unmatched 5.5 million subscribers as of Nov. 2015, according to Polygon.

It was safe to say the Blizzard game designers were doing something right, however, I still had my reservations. All of these games were role playing or strategy games, meanwhile, “Overwatch” would be Blizzard’s first time developing a first-person-shooter (FPS), a vastly different genre. Nonetheless, I took the risk and bought the game anyway and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites.

“Overwatch” is an objective-based team game — similar to “League of Legends” — set as a cartoon FPS like “Team Fortress 2.” You’re on a team of six heroes and villains chosen from 22 playable characters. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, which allows them all to be countered one way or another by an experienced player.

Overwatch offers a diverse group of characters/ (YouTube.com)
‘Overwatch’ offers a diverse group of characters. (YouTube.com)

Your team, balanced between offensive damage dealers, damage absorbers (referred to as “tanks”) and healers to support the team, must join together to complete your objective. Naturally, the enemy team will try its best to stop you.

The various objectives include moving a payload across the map, holding a capture point against the enemy team and taking checkpoints from the enemy team. These game types were played across the 14 maps currently included with the game.

With a price tag of only $40 for PC players, compared to the usual $60 for Triple-A games, “Overwatch” was headed in the right direction out of the gate. Plus, with switching characters to counter others being such an integral part of the game, every single character was unlocked to play as soon as you bought the game. In games like “League of Legends,” characters must be unlocked with in-game currency acquired by winning games — or bought using real money, which isn’t very fun.

I didn’t really think it could get much better than that. Then Blizzard announced that every single character and map released after launch would be free, as well. Other companies should take notes because the launch of “Overwatch” is how you launch a game.

“Overwatch” is not without its downsides, though. The game could really have more content for the price because playing the same maps repeatedly can get a bit monotonous. Then, there have been the cheaters using auto-aim mods and wall hacking to reveal the location of enemies, which ruins matches for everyone.

The biggest problem, however, was the release of competitive play, since there were serious balancing issues. Players were forced into games against others with much higher skill levels than themselves, and some characters were heavily favored, while some weren’t being played at all.

These problems no longer worry me, though. Blizzard has been very actively looking for new ways to fix the game. The competitive play will feature changes next season and Blizzard has released several patches since the launch, giving certain characters more or less health, raising or lowering the damage of others, etc.

Blizzard has also been continuing its efforts to improve everyday matchmaking, giving out permanent hardware bans to cheaters. A regular ban will ban your account from playing, while banning hardware prevents the components in your computer from playing the game. With the latter ban, cheaters can’t even buy a new copy of the game.

Overall, I have been very happy with “Overwatch” and Blizzard. It has been a fun game to play with friends or by myself, and definitely worth the price tag.