Preview: Overwatch Beta Impressions

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Blizzard did something interesting with Overwatch by releasing the entire game as a beta for free. The currently run open beta is basically the entire game, minus a competitive game mode that unlocks later. The game has been in this state for a while now via closed tests as well. The truth is I’m glad Blizzard did this because we can see the true glory of the game, but at the same time it left me wondering.

I’ll dive into the mechanics in a bit, because it’s seriously amazing, but one thing that concerns me with the game is the lack of content for $60. If you are on PC you luck out and can pick up Overwatch for $40, or buy a $60 version that includes some random bonus skins. Console players on the other hand don’t have that option. PS4 and Xbox One buyers have to spend $60 regardless and to me that’s too much. Much like I suggested with Battleborn, there doesn’t seem to be enough content to warrant that type of money. There isn’t a single player portion of the game, there are only 4 game modes, and map selection is very limited to say the least.

That being said everything we have is truly amazing. The level detail, the unique characters, the visuals, all of it is beautifully crafted and well done. Each map has a country flag and theme behind it that is featured all throughout the design. Even intro theme music may change based on the location of the upcoming map. You start out waiting in a HQ area (if you are on defense) and there are plenty of things to mess around with. I often find myself exploring and doing something random, instead of standing in an empty room waiting for the door to open. The bad news is that if you spend just a few hours in the game the maps begin to repeat rather quickly, again not something I expect when paying for an online only game.

Each map is designed like an arena, but it comes in pieces. Most of the game modes include objectives, but these objectives are just where the arena is taking place. This is where all the other players will be, it is where the mayhem will be. The cool thing about it is that in most center locations there are multiple ways into it, and these options may open up with certain characters. So you can enter the “arena” in new ways and create new strategies. The more a team wins the further the objective will move along, and new areas will create new stress points and require new ways to defend. My only issue with this is that some maps seem to hit hiccups of strangle points. For example during escort missions the attacking team might escort the cargo to a bad spot and all the defending team has to do is spam bigger enemies, or throw down a teleporter, and there isn’t much you can do to bypass it.

This comes down to team play though. Any group of strangers will struggle against a team that is more organized, and there isn’t a “mercenary” option included so we kind of just have to deal with it. Another problem I have is that the game sets itself up like a MOBA, without actually being one. This means that the defending team actually has a full minute to “set up” their defenses along the map, but there isn’t anything to really set up. So instead the game is basically allowing the defending team to find the offensive teams spawn and begin camping the area. A few big tank characters and a healer will create a very frustrating beginning to the match for the offensive team. The game almost forces you to get on a mic and tell your teammates to do something correctly. “Stop running into the zone alone!” for example.

overwatch heroes

Talking about the characters.

Overwatch includes a wide assortment of characters and each one is very unique in many regards. The characters come in 4 different groups which include assault, defensive, support, and builders. The cool thing is that every character within each group has a different approach to their role. For example some assault characters can also be team members by healing or providing assistance to the entire team, while others depend heavily on support characters for assistance. One character might teleport everywhere, the other is slower but can absorb more damage. Even the angle of view might change based on a character including a shorter character looking up to see, or a bigger character having a hovering top view.

It is very interesting to see how well all the characters blend together without becoming bland. They all have similar moves, but they do them in unique ways. The game also balances most of the characters really well, but there are a few characters that really need tweaking. Tracer for example is extremely hard to compete with when a person knows how to properly utilize her. She can avoid many attacks and become extremely OP against heavier assault characters. This is so true that even Blizzard acknowledged it. Bastion also can crawl into spaces and become a huge problem for the entire game with little to no skill involved.

A secondary issue with characters seems to be the fact that there is no limit on each character. A typical “MOBA” will limit each character to 1 per team, however Overwatch will let the entire team be one character if they choose. This creates some interesting scenarios and can become quite bothersome in some situations. I truly think there should be a limit of at least 2 per team.

Thankfully No Slow Progression System

The game doesn’t shove a long winded progression system down your throat which is good, and bad. I personally love it because you can pick any character you want, get comfortable with them, and have all their moves at your fingertips. Instead you unlock certain perks for them and level up that way, but right from the get-go you can feel like a pro. Each character also has a star system in the top right telling you how hard or easy that character is, so you can adjust accordingly. However you don’t start off with bare bones of nothing, and you immediately get thrown on even playing ground with everyone else. Personally it is one thing I hate about leveling up with games because new players get stuck with crap weapons, and hardcore players have all the best stuff.

On the flip side there isn’t a huge purpose to leveling up since Blizzard removed competitive play. Competitive play normally unlocks at level 25 and some cool new perks kick in, but this was disabled as Blizzard had to rework a few things. It’ll be back, but by removing it you realize just how little purpose there is to leveling. This also made the “left penalty” less harsh as many players didn’t even notice it. For those that don’t know, the “leaving early penalty” is a penalty for quitting games repeatedly. According to their system you get docked skill points until you complete entire matches long enough to remove it.

Overall I absolutely loved the gameplay of Overwatch and the game is seriously hard to put down. My only downfall is the lack of content and I hope that in the final release there are updates or something more provided to warrant the purchase. I wouldn’t mind watching their character videos or some movie put together that tells me a bit more about the story. I don’t really need a half assed single player to satisfy this need either.