The Hype Train – Overwatch

The Hype Train – Overwatch

The world could always use more Blizzard games, and in the case of Overwatch (the company’s first new IP in 17 years), the case couldn’t be truer.

I have been a huge fan of anything that Blizz has made since the days of Warcraft III and Diablo II (that was really where it all started for me), and I have fallen in love with the lore of the universes of the titles ever since. On the face of it, it may seem as though the company doesn’t actually have all that many games on the market, but they really don’t need them. A Blizzard title is always designed for the long haul and have some of the best post-game support I have ever seen.

Blizzard are their own entity, with pretty much free rein to do whatever they want, however (and whenever) they want. So when they announced Overwatch back at Blizzcon in 2014, it was a pretty huge moment for all fans. At this conference it was announced that the long-gestating MMO Titan was sadly no more. To Blizzard’s credit they had boldly decided to cancel the game despite it being quite advanced in its production cycle, simply because it didn’t meet the quality they had always strived to showcase. But it wasn’t all bad news. From the ashes of Titan came a brand new IP that shifted away from anything they had done before. Overwatch, it turned out, would be Blizzard’s first foray into the wild west of the FPS genre. With director Jeff Kaplan shifting gears from the fallen Titan and World of Warcraft, it was exciting to imagine what he and the team could bring to the table. While the team have an obvious flair for development, they were nonetheless operating in a previously unexplored genre for them. Could they pull it off? Fortunately, from what I’ve played of the beta so far, the answer is a resounding yes.

Have Mercy on us

Finally getting to play the beta on PS4 has gotten me more excited than almost any other game in recent memory. Being hooked would be an understatement. I feel more invested than I did when I started WoW for the first time. The gameplay is like a hybrid of old team-based arena shooters with the tactical yet accessible depth of MOBAs (although Overwatch is certainly anything but a MOBA, contrary to what some people believe). It is its own thing, a new take on the FPS genre with gameplay elements and a style that we haven’t really seen before. Its closest relative is probably the class-based shooter Team Fortress 2 (also awesome), but it’s still very distinct from that influential title. Lots of little nods and references to other franchises pop up here and there (like Portal and even Mortal Kombat), and I applaud Blizzard for being so passionate about sharing the love they have for other properties. In particular, it is easy to tell the entire Overwatch team is hugely passionate about the arena shooters of yore (Team Fortress, Doom, and the TDM mods for Quake & Half Life), and they are also very public about the love they have for these games. Overwatch plays like a love letter to those awesome games we grew up playing. The game has taken elements of what made those titles so great and created something completely original, and arguably better.

Cheers luv! the cosplay is here!

I have spent about twenty hours with the beta so far learning the characters and the intricacies of the maps. The more familiar I become with the game, the more I appreciate how synergy between teammates plays a huge role in tackling objectives. The fact that frags (called Eliminations) are more or less shared by all assisting players is one huge factor that demonstrates just how much Blizz want to emphasise teamwork over K/D ratio. It seems a conscious decision has been made to steer the title away from the toxicity of the uber-competitive online adversarial scene (looking at you LoL), while still maintaining a product that has nuance and depth for those that want to rise in the ranks.

Overwatch is solely multiplayer, but Blizz are creating a huge world of lore around the world and characters through a series of external media-like short films and digital comics. Fans are flocking to these new characters in huge ways. I absolutely love the direction and cannot wait to invest myself more in just what is going on with the whole conflict between good vs evil here in the universe Blizzard have created.

Although I will lose all my hard earned progress when I start from scratch once the game releases May 24, I couldn’t care less. To be so endlessly invested in a beta and to have the drive to try and learn and dissect every morsel of information is a first for me. It is very much a testament to Blizz reeling me in once again with another polished experience, with no sign of letting go.

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Although he has been gaming since the Sega Mega Drive launched in 1990, he still sucks at most games. When not being trash he watches French horror films, drinks herbal tea and secretly loves the music of Taylor Swift.