Seems that everybody’s been talking about Overwatch since it came out or at least everybody that could drag themselves away from Overwatch to talk about it. Many have been wondering if Overwatch is worth buying or not. I myself can’t go five minutes without my friends calling for me to join them on the superhero battlefield, and it’s not hard to see why.
Overwatch is well-designed. There’s not really another way of putting it, because although Overwatch is missing some stuff I’d have liked (such as a campaign or a few more game modes), the basic moment-to-moment gameplay really knows what it’s doing. I’m reminded of Valve’s older odyssey of online mayhem, Team Fortress 2. For as that modern classic steps back into the wings after many years of success, it feels as though Overwatch has taken centre stage and is singing its little heart out, even as Battleborn watches with folded arms and narrow eyes from behind the curtain.
One of the things that I think has been very overlooked is that Overwatch accomplished something that Team Fortress 2 also managed to do, yet Battleborn did not: it was fundamentally charming. Overwatch is earnest, a little goofy, and even though it’s more focused on Pixar-style warmth than TF2’s slightly darker character humour, it still has that cheesy, superhero appeal. Rather than try to force how awesome it is down your throat, Overwatch instead constructs a cast of instantly-comprehensible characters brimming with charisma, and they hook us from the start. In Roadhog’s case, I mean it literally.
Overwatch’s Playable Characters
And speaking of characters, there’s twenty-one of them to go around, and that is VERY important. Each one plays drastically different from the last one, ranging from melee-focused tanks, to acrobatic snipers, to wall-running healers, and even one girl who can just turn into a block of ice if things get too rough and wait out the fight.
Why is this so necessary? Well, if Overwatch lacked content and had even half that amount of classes it would’ve been dead in the water. The trick here is that by the time you’ve properly explored all the options open to you, the first characters you played feel fresh again. And apparently there are more masked mooks to play as on the way, which should inject fresh life into Overwatch if it ever feels like its losing flavour.
Mind you, I think Overwatch could afford to have a little more depth. You can’t customise characters except in terms of basic appearance and a few other baubles, but nothing that affects gameplay, and I would think it interesting if you could alter characters just a little bit, such as swapping out weapons for slightly different ones. For example, taking away Widowmaker’s stock sniper rifle and getting one that does more damage but charges up slower, that sort of thing.
Then again, Overwatch might not need that kind of detail, because I just realised what it reminds me of primarily: Rocket League. Sporty, bite-sized gameplay that is best experienced with friends, and tries to keep the pace up accordingly by not bogging the player down with all sorts of rules and regulations. Enter the main menu, hit two buttons, and you are thrown into matchmaking without much warning.
And my advice is not to think too hard about what you’re doing because it’s more fun that way. Overwatch works out a lot of the tactics for you, usually by flat-out telling the players what kind of characters your team could use, but there’s not really any major consequences to winning and there’s more joy to be had in just going crazy with your favourite character, or even orchestrating some silly line-up with your team. I’m thinking back to a time I was part of a group, and as six Tracers we burst out to attack the enemy, flickering around in that annoying way and generally frustrating everybody that wasn’t one of us.
Price and Microtransactions
Of course, there are some eyebrow-raising bits to Overwatch, and not eyebrow-raising in delight. I don’t see why a game that costs $40 USD minimum (and is a little content lacking, as mentioned earlier) is happy to have a whole micro-transaction system backing it up. Admittedly, there’s nothing in the buyable loot boxes you can’t potentially get in-game with a hell of a lot of time and effort, but it’s hard to see Blizzard selling bundles of skins, emotes and various other trinkets, some of which cost more than Overwatch itself, and not feel a sense of disapproval, especially considering there’s no other game rewards and the vast majority of loot boxes only cough up boring sprays or character voice lines. Hope you don’t have your eye on a specific legendary skin, because you’ll be waiting for it until Half-Life 3.
It’s such a shame that Overwatch’s entire levelling system has been hit with sticks until it complies with this business model because it’s a legitimate problem that prevented a fun game from being something phenomenal.
Is Overwatch Worth Buying?
Should you buy Overwatch? Whilst I am going to finish by recommending Overwatch as worth buying, I’m not going to recommend the more expensive version, which is basically Overwatch as normal, plus a bunch of additional extras for other Blizzard games that I don’t play which kick up the retail price by about $20 USD. Don’t try and fool me, Blizzard. This is like glueing a packet of animal stickers to a DVD box-set and adding the value of a large meal onto the price tag as a result. I pray to God that not many people fall for that nonsense, but frankly I’m not hopeful. He hasn’t answered my prayers about Scarlett Johansson either.
But on the whole, all this back-and-forth does end up weighing in Overwatch’s favour. Rather than trying to reinvent the formula of team-based carnage, Overwatch prefers to refine it, putting in all the effort it can muster until the proof is on the screen. Overwatch has got a nice graphical style, a sense of enthusiastic charm, a surprisingly good Avengers-style soundtrack, highly diverse gameplay and a combat system that manages to be both accessible and nuanced. Anybody who wants to kill time by blowing up people online couldn’t do much better – and yes, that’s a good thing. So whilst not perfect, Overwatch has turned out to be worthy of applause – even considering Tracer’s appalling accent. Perhaps the next update will replace her guns with a basket of greasy fish and chips, which she will rapidly throw at the enemy to increase their cholesterol and finish them off. Cor’ blimey, guv’ner.