Overwatch is very much a multiplayer game bereft of a complete story. Instead the loose narrative unfolds in cutscenes, in-game banter betweem characters and unlockable content, like character skins and other cosmetics. Some skins allude to past iterations of characters such as Reaper’s pre-death outfit and look. How he died or why he has risen from the dead is yet to be revealed. Blizzard has also released several promotional cinematic trailers to flesh out the history for several playable characters, but not all…yet. Check YouTube for those. More of the story will unfold as new characters, cutscenes and unlockable content are added over time.
Nice man bun eh?
What we do know of the lore, is that Overwatch
was an organization of highly skilled and enhanced soldiers. Several of the current playable characters were part of the initial roster. The group was created to combat the every growing Omnic threat. Omnics are highly advanced AI robots that had self-replicated an army to overthrow humans. Overwatch succeeds in their efforts to thawrt this skynet
apocalypse and peace is restored. However, internal strife within the group and global politics ultimately lead to the disbanding of Overwatch. That is, until now when “heroes are needed once more.”
Lots of ways to be a hero...
Oh and there are quite a few heroes to choose from--21 in all. These are broken up into 4 distinct classes, which include Offense for dealing heavy damage, Defense for locking down check points with traps and turrets. Tank classes offer diversionary measures and damage resistance and finally Support characters dispense healing, armor and damage buffs to teammates. After selecting a hero, you can use between Matchmaking versus AI, Custom Matches or the game's weekly events, which are more game matches with rotating stipulations.
Matches are played across the game’s 12 maps and include 4 different game modes. Assault is similar to Rush in the Battlefield
series where the attacking team must seize two points in succession, while the defending team is tasked with stopping them. Escort functions as you may imagine. Attackers escort a vehicle along a fixed course while defenders attempt to stop them. The vehicle only moves forward if the attacking team is in close proximity. Otherwise it will begin to reverse. This mode is time-based where more time is added as attackers reach each checkpoint. In Assault/Escort, the attacking team has to capture a payload and escort it out while the defenders try to resist the attackers. Lastly, Control is played over 3-rounds. Each side must capture and hold a shared point on the map until a meter reaches 100%. These game modes, of course, are not original by any stretch of the imagination and we would love to see more included soon.
In Overwatch each hero wields a unique set of abilities including one additional ultimate ability. These are best saved and timed strategically to turn the tide of battle. Ultimate abilities--such as the character Mercy’s “Resurrect,” which will revive all dead allies within the area of effect, or D.Va’s Self-Destruct that can obliterate all within range--can easily shift the course of a match in seconds and should be used carefully due to the prolonged cool-downs between uses.
General weapon firing, recoil and movement mechanics will feel very familiar to first-person shooter fans. Yet for curious newcomers, Blizzard has included a full tutorial for movement and gameplay. Plus the game is very comprehensive and liberally doles out information in both the Hero Gallery as well as flashing onscreen tips upon respawns regarding better ways to play and tactics to counter the abilities from specific classes and heroes who just vanquished you. Get sniped long-range by Widowmaker and you'll likely receive a tip about avoiding open areas exposed to multiple vantage points.
Overwatch also features a very tight rock/paper/scissor dynamic to the heroes’ strengths and weaknesses. Most abilities can be countered in some way. Although some counters may require the presence of a teammate, it cannot be overstated that this is a heavily team-oriented game. No one player will rule the day without supporting or receiving support from teammates. Learning which characters complement each other more is one of the deeper aspects of strategy and skill. Moreover, the unique leveling system keeps the combat, between such a wide variety of characters and ability types, surprisingly well-balanced. That’s no easy task when archers and rollerbladers can face off against mechs, giant armored knights and other madcap mismatches.
But there are no weapon unlocks or power modifications to give you an edge. In Overwatch, leveling is all about grinding for cosmetic items. Players will discover there is no leveling for weapons, gear, more power or anything that might change the initial mechanics of the game, which is refreshing. It keeps things balanced for newbies and highly skill-based for veteran players as well. It also leaves the existing content package feeling a bit light for the $40 purchase price on PC. Support and content updates will be crucial for long-term success, which Blizzard seems to understand.
We are family.
Alternatively, one of the most inviting aspects is the gameplay variety. The wild diversity of character types makes way for an equally diverse set of gameplay tactics and mechanics for players to master. Characters with more mobility can take advantage of a map’s vertical layout that will lead to previously unseen locations depending which hero you played previously. Some characters can fly short distances, some can leap to great heights, some have vertical boosters, some can parkour or wall-run, while some have to scale walls and so on.