What I’m Playing: Overwatch

Image: Wikimedia Commons; Blizzard EntertainmentImage: Wikimedia Commons; Blizzard Entertainment

Boasting over 100 Game of the Year awards on their website, Blizzard’s Overwatch has been the hot new game since it came out in May 2016. Despite its sterling reputation – and having been made to watch numerous game trailers in the company of overzealous players – I hadn’t ventured into the game until recently, when Blizzard hosted a free weekend from September 22nd-25th and thus I was told that I had no excuse not to play.

With a few hours logged now, I can definitely say that the hype for this game is not undeserved. To start with, it is a fantastic game just to look at, with clean and varied character design. If base designs aren’t enough to feast on, loot boxes earned by levelling up reward design variants for all characters – and there is a good selection to choose from. When it comes to characters, which range from tanks to lightweight healers, each character has their own special powers that make their gameplay a little bit different. Each character has their own distinctive personality, with a huge variety of strengths, weaknesses and difficulty levels.

Each character has their own distinctive personality, with a huge variety of strengths, weaknesses and difficulty levels.

During matches, one of the most useful features is upon death (which, for me, is fairly regular): the ability to swap characters. Is your character not working for you, or for the current tactics of the team? No problem! You can change to another in the spawn room.

While choosing characters, the game suggests team balancing, though it doesn’t enforce it; there’s the gentle suggestion that playing without any defensive characters may not be the best idea, but hey, if you want to do it, you can go for it! This gives the game a certain flexibility that I haven’t come across in similar games and makes the gameplay a lot more dynamic. There’s no settling into a comfortable rut, as the opposition could change characters and tactics at any moment.

While choosing characters, the game suggests team balancing, though it doesn’t enforce it; there’s the gentle suggestion that playing without any defensive characters may not be the best idea.

Matches can be played on over 15 different maps, so you’re not stuck in the same arena game after game. I did find that the maps could be a little difficult to navigate at first, with true-to-life dead ends, twisting corridors and places where it is easy to leap into empty space if you have little prior knowledge of the arena.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, as a new player it can be easy to get lost and miss half the action while you’re off running around trying to work out how to reach your teammates, but the scenery is varied enough to be enjoyable throughout, which is a perk when you’re making your way back to the rest of the team after another wipe-out!

Overwatch boasts impressive sound design, with audio points such as threat indicators being prioritised over the background noise and music when important, and letting a player know when they’re about to enter a firefight (or just outright die from being shot behind). Its quick matches mean you can play for ten minutes – a great study break, maybe? – or for a whole evening as you choose.

Overwatch boasts impressive sound design, with audio points such as threat indicators being prioritised over the background noise and music when important.

In-game graffiti sprays and dances add a ridiculous aspect to the game, and general hilarity ensues between kills or capturing objectives. With the ability to set up games with a group of known friends, or to jump into the ‘quick play’ or ‘competitive’ options that pairs you with players of similar ability, there is something for everyone.

I’m a very casual gamer, but Overwatch has captured my interest enough to continue after the free weekend. Amazing gameplay, excellent characterisation, and well deserving of the glowing reviews!

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