From the creators of World of Warcraft, a game responsible for destroying relationships and social lives around the globe while single-handedly increasing teenage abstinence, comes Blizzard’s latest class A drug: Overwatch. Rising from the ashes of their previously scrapped MMORPG, Project: Titan (R.I.P), Blizzard’s upcoming first-person shooter pits teams of six against each other in what can only be described as a colosseum of colourful chaos. Players can choose from a variety of wild, wacky and questionably politically incorrect characters, ranging from the Zarya, a Russian goliath who’s one protein shake away from a heart palpitation, to Lúcio, a Brazilian DJ who literally makes his enemies dance themselves to death.
Despite their comically stereotypical design, the game’s characters are its greatest strength, with each one having a real sense of identity, charm and charisma, thanks to the game’s outstanding writing and art style. When looking beyond the superficial, every hero’s abilities reflect the flavour of their personality and are, most importantly, damn fun to use, offering the player so many ways to kill their opponent, Blizzard’s development team must be on a watch list somewhere. Whether you want to summon a dragon, rain death from the sky or spin around like a Beyblade annihilating everything within sight, there’s a character for every kind of sadist.
Character design is one factor, but a game can only be as good as its gameplay. When loading into a match, you first notice that Overwatch exudes polish. The combat is slick and intuitive, exemplifying Blizzard’s design philosophy of ‘simple to learn and hard to master’. It successfully strides this fine line, newcomers are able to easily pick up and play the game, while veterans are hooked by its hidden depth. In contrast to other multiplayer games such as League of Legends, which is notorious for making new players cry themselves to sleep. This is partly because of the design of its two game modes; ‘Payload’ and ‘Point Capture’. Both of these are dynamic, with objectives that are multilayered rather than static, offering the player strategic diversity. In Payload especially, whether you are sieging or defending, every game offers a unique experience depending on each teams’ strategy and characters. This is nuanced by the aesthetics of the game’s maps, which feature locations ranging from London to Hollywood. Each map creates a vibrant backdrop which is not only pleasing to the eye, but works to help the player; every building and landmark is designed to sign post, indicating objectives.
However, as it stands, these two game modes are currently the only ones available and while they are excellent, the games replay value may be a point of concern. Playing Overwatch in its current state is like going to a hip San Francisco restaurant: while the dish looks and tastes heavenly, you can’t help but say, ‘I wish I went to Pizza Hut’, after finishing it in three bites. Moreover, in terms of innovation, the game does very little to differentiate itself from other multiplayer games, particularly in comparing it with Steam’s Team Fortress 2, in which its combat, class system and game modes are strikingly similar. Indeed, upon stripping off its glossy paint coat, the game appears to have the originality of middle aged Mum on Facebook, posting Minions memes to their cringing children. Nevertheless, this isn’t really surprising and nor is it a problem. Blizzard’s games don’t just copy other titles, they develop and reinvent them; creating some of the most polished and enjoyable gaming experiences to date. Hearthstone is a ‘filthy’ casual’s Magic the Gathering, Heroes of the Storm is a simplified DotA and even its pride and glory, World of Warcraft, is a vastly improved version of Everquest. As much as I love all of these games, there isn’t an original bone to be found in the bodies occupying Blizzard HQ.
Therefore, it remains to be seen if Overwatch will join the other cash cows at Blizzard’s virtual farm yard, but despite its current shortage of content and its equally lacking degree of innovation, the game’s captivating aesthetics, visceral combat and exceptional character design, makes it an excellent purchase for players of all skill levels, with its official release in 2016.