The Overwatch open beta ends today. Here are some final impressions heading into the launch on May 24, 2016.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s debut first-person shooter, where two six-player squads face off in various online game modes. Set on a futuristic earth, the game’s visual design is stunning, bright, and spunky, with a clean, unobtrusive hud and great combat animations.
Something I love is that you get immediate access to the full roster of 21 heroes, each with a unique personality and creative skill set that makes all of them fun to play. With launch day only a couple weeks away, the beta presents a slick, well-polished game that exhibits (so far) only minor bugs and features all of the content that will go live on May 24th. That includes 21 characters, 12 maps and 4 game modes: Assault (capture points), Escort (payload), Hybrid and Control. The game is exhilaratingly fun, with quick combat and awesome skills, but still remains a tactical game where both team composition and coordination play an important role in securing victory.
The open beta was my first real taste of Overwatch and I definitely dig its vibrant style and quick gameplay. You can switch heroes mid-match, which gives players the ability to reevaluate their strategy on-the-fly or compensate for potential lack of cohesion in the team (which is bound to happen). Though the game gives you hints if your team is missing a support hero or lacks good damage output, those are by no means requirements. You can switch characters to counter your enemy, patch a hole in your team comp, or simply mix things up if things aren’t going well. This flexibility injects both strategy and creative randomness into each match, as an entire team of Reapers could go on an all-out damage blitz to clear the field before reverting back to a more balanced configuration.
With access to a varied roster of heroes and each player fulfilling a different role, you are sure to find a character that suits your play style. As usual, the offensive classes are the most popular, with tanks and support following up. Support often gets snubbed by players in objective-based multiplayers, mainly because they opt for more damage output. I love playing support, but I definitely had lots of matches where I chose a support hero simply because no one else would. I really hope the game comes out with more characters for this class. Currently only 4 out of 21 heroes are support class, with two heroes (Lucio and Mercy) emerging as the strong recurring choices.
Something I did notice is that the game doesn’t have a radar or map navigation. This might be an interesting feature to add, but I don’t think the game suffers much without it. It just takes a bit of getting used to and puts a bit more emphasis on team communication, though not everyone enjoys being on comms (myself included). What I would rather see is some way to quickly ping my location (or my enemy’s). That would ease some of the difficulties I encountered when trying to coordinate with my team, but since it was an open beta, I’m sure many players were just experimenting with the characters without too much thought for strategy.
I really liked the post-match ‘play of the game’, which highlights a single encounter where a player wrecked with a kill-streak or saved the team with a clutch heal (though it does seem to overwhelmingly prioritize kill-streaks). You feel pretty awesome when you get it, let’s be honest. You also give mvp points to four players on the enemy or ally team, selected based on their performance in game. These points don’t seem to do anything yet, but it lets you show your appreciation to your team (and your supports) and it might amount to something later on. Matches net you XP and a loot crate will drop when you hit your next level (Note that any progress you made in the open beta will not be carried over to launch). These contain purely cosmetic items like skins and icons, which don’t affect your performance, so this doesn’t appear to support a pay-to-win model.
The game encourages team play and deliberately omits any scoreboards to remove the focus on KDRs, so it remains to be seen if this game will get a large competitive following. I prefer highlighting good in-game performance across all classes than showing a KDR scoreboard because it incentivizes players to experiment with other classes and allows them to focus on fulfilling objectives as a team, rather than killing as many enemy players as possible.
Competitive Play was included in the closed beta, but was dropped for the open beta and launch as they work on addressing feedback from the community. Another thing you won’t be seeing on launch day is a single-player campaign mode, but if you crave some extra story you can check out Blizzard’s companion digital comic!
Overwatch has a huge community following and Jeff Kaplan, a Blizzard game director, said to keep an eye out for lots of post-launch content and features this summer, so I think this game is poised to be a huge success.
Overwatch will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on May 24, 2016.