Heroes assemble! The call sent out across the entirety of the gaming world by Blizzard Entertainment May last year. Since then, Overwatch exploded with all the similar success Team Fortress 2 experienced before it, drawing in fans from all over through the allure of competitive matches and the range of characters available. Which then begs the question of why anyone would resist this wave of momentum and popularity? Why would anyone avoid playing this game? Well, in my case, it was simply out of spite of that popularity; it’s the same reason I never watched Avengers until last year, pure stubbornness in the face of popularity and general agreement of how incredible something was. However, when a free trial ran from 22nd of September to the 26th I had a copy bought by the 24th. Why? Because as always in these situations, the thing you avoid for whatever reason turns out to be entertaining as all hell. This is an endorsement for a game which doesn’t need endorsing, by a stubborn person who didn’t know what he was missing, for the people who still don’t know what they’re missing.
My major concern on approaching Overwatch was its association to the MOBA genre. Titles like League of Legends and SMITE have largely formed my perception of MOBAs, from the skill required to play, to the, shall we say, verbose members of their communities. Add the frequent mentioning of ranked matches, and I firmly believed Overwatch to be a game beyond my level as a player not interested in competitive gameplay. This level of wrong cannot be quantified as the game smoothly introduces you to the gameplay with the character Soldier:76, whose abilities and weaponry are most similar to the conventional first person shooter game, then transitioning from the tutorial into matches with AI opponents to test what you’ve learned. With this as a solid foundation to explore from, you can use training mode to try out each character, learn their various abilities and find a nice selection who you feel comfortable with for online play. The game ensures you as the player don’t feel out of your depth, allowing you a chance to learn how to play the game, unlike pushy childhood friends who would force you to play the game they had already mastered, using you as a glorified punching bag.
On the subject of characters, another huge positive to Overwatch is its colourful cast, each with memorable distinct personalities and abilities. This design and style served as the most powerful attraction to me as each time I saw the characters there was a twinge of regret in me for never playing. It says something when a company making a game which can basically be summed up as ‘kill the other team’ takes such care and effort in making every option feel unique in some way. They didn’t need to write a lore to the world, and yet if you go online you can find hours of reading and watching material from comics to animated shorts to immerse yourself in a story which frankly has no bearing on the gameplay itself.
I could go into detail on the lore, but to avoid making my editor cry it can be summed up thusly: a global robot uprising gets stopped by quirky anime-esque heroes who are forced into hiding by public outrage, but now return to action to protect the greater good! My only criticism is more of an unfulfilled wish – that being for a TV series or feature film in this setting with these characters. Fortunately, the must-watch character shorts provide some relief here.
The game itself can be split between a variety of modes revolving around escorting/stopping a payload, capturing/defending locations, or simply trying to eliminate the opposing team. You might think this feels a bit limited compared to other games with their ever-expanding list of match types, but the feel and polish of Overwatch makes each round feel fun and exciting, with small things like the ‘play of the game’ end screen providing extra incentive to show your skill as a player. Additionally, every unlockable is cosmetic, meaning there is no unfairness between new and experienced players, or those who choose to use microtransactions.
Simply put, Overwatch is a phenomenal game. Whether you want to master a new competitive challenge with your friends, explore an engaging narrative, or just play a few casual matches without fear of a toxic community, Overwatch can cater for you. If you’re already a player you know this is true, but if (like I did) you have your doubts, you should pick it up as soon as you can. Whether you’re a PC, PlayStation or Xbox player, just remember one thing: The world needs heroes.