When a project fails, you gather up the scraps and see if you can’t extract the good pieces. And if there’s a big enough pile of quality ideas when you’re done, you try to reshape them into something new. That’s what Blizzard did after their World of Warcraft-like title Titan fell flat. The team thought they’d try to make another giant open-world MMO but instead, they found that a “smaller, self-contained” game actually made more sense and thus, the hectic free-for-all that is Overwatch was born. Inspired by the likes of Hearthstone and with a newfound desire to craft a fast-paced, surprisingly in-depth multiplayer shooter with plenty of pizzazz and personality, Blizzard stumbled upon another winning formula.
Well, we all hope it’s a winning formula. Overwatch certainly adopts the very popular trend of online multiplayer action games, and might remind you of Gearbox Software’s Battleborn in terms of both gameplay and its colorful, engaging mien. Now, the 7-year toil that used to be Titan did yield plenty of ideas for the new project, so it’s not like they started entirely from scratch with those aforementioned ideas. Rather, they did a lot of shaping and tweaking and this includes the setting: Overwatch takes place in an alternate fictional reality of Earth. Our world faces a global crisis, as the United Nations peace force has been disbanded and chaos reigns. Some people believe they need to restore the UN force while others believe the new world is all about chaotic opportunistic craziness.
When you start your quest, you’ll notice that there are lots of heroes from which to choose. Not only will there be a minimum of 14 characters at launch but they will be extremely distinct, featuring their very own skills, abilities and traits. Each of the heroes falls into one of four categories: Offensive fighters with high speed and attack but low defense, defensive-minded characters designed to form choke points for foes, support characters that provide buffs and debuffs for their allies and enemies, and tank characters that have a ton of armor and hit points. Players will be able to switch between characters after their chosen hero bites the dust, which should create a very interesting style of gameplay. Much like with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, one of the biggest allures will be the variety and inherent uniqueness of each character.
In squad-based combat, teams square off in 6-on-6 matches and there will be three primary game modes: There’s Point Capture, which features an attacking and defending team; the attackers must try to secure two specific points on the map. Then there’s Escort, where the attacking team must escort a valuable payload to a delivery location without losing the cargo. Lastly, we have Control, where each squad tires to capture and maintain a control point until their “capture percentage” reaches 100 percent. The latter mode only supports 3-on-3, by the way. As for maps, despite their fantastical nature, they’re actually based on real-world locations like London, Japan and Ancient Egypt. So, atmosphere will play another strong role, which should add even more personality the game.
Personality. That really is key for this title, as Blizzard really wants players to become attached to the characters and locations, which can be difficult to do in a multiplayer shooter. In order to “win over the hearts and minds of gamers,” they strove to produce a large number of heroes that don’t merely differ in terms of ability, but also in terms of demeanor and attitude. If you combine this appeal with the highly imaginative and creative environments, the player is far more likely to find a greater attachment to the experience. This is an element that often causes single-player campaigns to thrive, and given the lack of a cohesive story and character development, it’s tough to elicit any real attachment emotion in a multiplayer-oriented shooter. But it’s hardly impossible and Blizzard is up to the challenge.
The bottom line is that they want to make a game that everyone loves, and that will have an extremely long tail. It may not go for a decade like WoW but if it’s popular, you can bet on the developer continuing to support the game for a very long time. The best part is that with each new hero and location comes more variety and more overall attraction, so every expansion really should make the experience significantly better. Overwatch is scheduled to launch for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on May 24 and if all goes well, this could be your go-to game for the upcoming summer drought. Not much is on the horizon for the June-August months, so you’ll need something that keeps you coming back for more!
3/24/2016 Ben Dutka