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Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch was unveiled in BlizzCon 2014, and immediately became the talk of the gaming world. When it was introduced, it was already fully playable, though many changes have been implemented since. There were high expectations from this game, having risen from the ashes of Blizzard’s abandoned Titan project.
Overwatch is a class-based multiplayer first-person shooter. It was in closed beta for a while – followed closely by an open beta – before it was finally released to the general public on May 24th, 2016, as a physical and digital version. As of right now (June 2016), the game has over 10 million active users, who are kicking one another’s ass in a variety of maps and game configurations.
The premise, as told by the boys at Blizzard, is that of a war-torn Earth which is in desperate need of saving. The original Overwatch group was created at the request of the United Nations, in order to quell the uprising of the omnics – a race of robots – against their human creators. Overwatch was comprised of “scientists, soldiers, adventurers, and oddities”, who dealt with the human-omnic conflict, and brought victory to the human race which was on the brink of destruction.
Overwatch ended the omnic crises, but this time of peace between the races did not last for more than a generation. Now, tensions are rising once again all over the globe, and players are being called upon to reform the Overwatch organization.
I Need A Hero – Overwatch’s 21 Heroes
There are 21 heroes to choose from, and they are split into 4 separate classes: offense, defense, tank, and support. Each hero has different abilities, unique attributes, and a specific type of gameplay. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each character – as well as possessing an in-depth knowledge of the map in question – is key in implementing the best tactical and strategical maneuvers, as individual players and as a team.
Probably the most popular and widely-played class of the four. An offense hero will usually be equipped with high-damage-inflicting weapons, mobility, and maneuverability.
Genji – a highly agile and mobile character, which makes him a difficult target to pin down.
Pharah – has limited flight capabilities, which makes her perfect for open-air battles, and for slaying unsuspecting enemies from above.
Reaper – a skilled assassin which moves like a shadow, and is able to get up-close and personal with his would-be victims.
Soldier: 76 – true to his name, this hero is a model soldier with sprinting attacks and healing capabilities.
Tracer – zooming in and out of battle, she is a time-traveling, pistol-carrying, hit-and-run executioner.
The main goal of defense heroes is to secure a perimeter, guard specific areas, or form a choke point. They could be equipped with long-range weapons or possess turret-building abilities. Defense heroes can be vital, and in most maps they are downright essential.
Hanzo – his long-range bow attacks are the stuff of legends, as well as his spirit dragon’s ultimate attack.
Junkrat – a grenade-bouncing, mine-setting, steal-trap-planting demolitions expert (read: nut job), Junkrats laughter will be sounding in your ears as you explode into pieces.
Mei – the ice queen, able to shield herself – and obstruct the advancement of enemies – by using a thick wall of frozen goodness.
Torbjörn – able to armor his teammates using battlefield scrap, as well as construct turrets to repel attackers.
Widowmaker – a sniper with a grappling hook, able to quickly and efficiently dispose of anyone who enters her deadly sights.
Tanks are all about breaking up enemy lines and formations, while protecting allies with various shields. True to their name, it usually takes a lot to bring down a tank. They are a powerhouse of destruction, and are always fun to play with.
D.Va – not quite as cute as she first appears, D.Va wears a mech suit equipped with boosters and dual short-range cannons. She can play in and out of the mech, and call on it as one of two ultimate abilities.
Reinhardt – with the ability to create a powerful shield, and bludgeon enemies at close ranges with his massive hammer, this is one guy you do not want to mess with.
Roadhog – a chain hook and scrap gun make this tank unit a danger at short and medium ranges. Roadhog is a very independent hero, who doesn’t necessarily need his teammates around to inflict major damage.
Winston – a highly-mobile tank hero, Winston is able to jump across great distances in a single bound, and project a shield bubble which can sustain damage, while allowing those within it to return fire.
Zarya – one of the best tank units around, with the passive ability to convert the energy from her attackers to fuel her particle cannon. Zarya can also generate a barrier around herself and a teammate.
The objective of this class is to, well, support the rest of the team. They heal others, increase their damage power, and provide a much-needed boost to speed and survivability.
Probably the least-picked class in most battles, due to its low survival rate and relatively weak weapons. Of course, it really does depend on the map and battle in question.
Lúcio – with the ability to heal and boost the speed of his teammates through music, Lúcio is definitely something else. He can also generate protective shields for nearby allies as an ultimate ability.
Mercy – an angel of mercy, indeed, with an impressive wingspan, and the ability to increase teammates’ damage power, and heal where they hurt. As Mercy herself says: heroes never die.
Symmetra – a key support hero, which possess the ability to construct teleporter pads, and position turrets which blast into particles.
Zenyatta – Zenyatta has the ability to be especially offensive, by using his orbs of harmony. His temporary transcendent state provides him with the ability to heal himself and nearby friendly units, while staying immune to all damage.
Overview Game Modes And Maps
Three standalone modes – and one hybrid mode – exist within the world of Overwatch. These are:
Assault – a time-based mode, in which teams must defend or attack in order to reach their objective of capturing or securing points across the map.
Escort – another time-based mode, in which a payload is escorted to a delivery point by one team, while the opposing team attempts to stop their progress.
Hybrid – a mode in which there is an ‘assault then escort’ situation, combining the two modes into one match. Probably my personal favorite of the modes.
Control – a ‘best of three’ type mode, where teams battle over control of various areas of the map. Each new round features different map locations to fight over, and the first to reach 100% control wins the round.
12 different maps are currently available in the world of Overwatch, with more being developed even as these lines are being written. In a recent video upload from the 17th of June, game director Jeff Kaplan stated that new maps (and possibly new heroes) are planning to make an appearance sometime during the summer of 2016. For now, there are 4 different game modes, with 3 corresponding maps for each mode, plus 1 extra map which is used as a practice range in Training Mode.
Temple of Anubis – located in Egypt, the temple is situated at the base of a pyramid, where artificial intelligence experiments had been carried out.
Volskaya Industries – located in Russia, it is an industrial zone where war machines were manufactured during the omnic crisis.
Dorado – located in Mexico, Dorado is a city powered by huge glowing temples. The map is of a street in downtown Dorado.
Route 66 – located in the United States, it is a piece of history. A desert road full of gas stations, shops, and empty cafés.
Watchpoint: Gibraltar – located at the Rock of Gibraltar, the watchpoint is a research facility located within an old Overwatch outpost.
Hollywood – located in the United States, it starts off at Hollywood Blvd., then passes through different movie sets.
King’s Row – located in England, it is a map which takes you through winding “narrow streets of cobbled stone” at night.
Numbani – located in West Africa, this is a downtown type of terrain, which features sleek city streets, skyscrapers, and many buildings.
Lijiang Tower – located in China, it is a bustling metropolis, with gardens, shops, and restaurants.
Nepal – located in – you guessed it! – Nepal, this map takes you through a monastery situated high atop the Nepalese Himalayas.
What Makes Overview So Unique?
On the surface, it may seem like this game is similar to other team-based multiplayer first-person shooters, such as Team Fortress 2. Now, there are certain elements which are common to these games, to be sure. However, there are some crucial differences between this game and others, which make Overwatch stand out and shine.
Ultimate Abilities – available for use only when a hero’s Ultimate Meter has been completely filled up, this feature is a strategic goldmine. When to use, how to use, which to use. Because every hero has a different Ultimate Ability, and because the Meter is filled in different ways, you can never tell when and where it is going to go down.
Non-Changeable Weapons – once you choose a hero, that hero’s weapons are yours for the long haul. Though there are primary and secondary weapons available to certain heroes, there is no option of changing to entirely different weapons. This levels the playing field, and forces the players to rely on their skill and experience with that particular hero’s weapons and abilities.
Pick Up and Play – like that 90’s Roxette album title “Don’t Bore Us, Get to The Chorus!”, this game doesn’t jerk you around with unnecessary info or complicated moves to learn. It really is simple, and I mean that in the best possible way. The KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle prevails, and makes this game that much more fun to play.
Graphics and Visuals – I love the graphics on this game. They are beautiful, sleek, eye-catching, and altogether captivating. Unlike so many other games out there, which are trying to be as realistic as possible, Overwatch goes completely the other way, and immerses you in a fantastic world set in actual locations around the globe. The unrealistic, almost cartoon-like, graphics are precisely what ensure that people will still be playing this game 5, 10, and 20 years from now – if not longer – and have just as much fun then as they are having now, at its release.
Free Updates – this is a critical point, in my opinion. Many similar games tend to split the community of players, by offering map packs, characters, and other downloadable content which is available only to those who are willing to invest the money and purchase them. Blizzard, on the other hand, stated that all future updates to Overwatch will remain 100% free, with the exception of cosmetic rewards, which will be available for purchase. Which brings us to…
Cosmetic Rewards – Overwatch, as is, is a great game. Part of what makes it so much fun to play, is that no extra items or elements are necessary in order to enjoy this game to its fullest potential. However, in order to make it even more fun – and to give players a variety of long-term goals to reach – players can gain experience points, and subsequently be rewarded for their time and effort. These rewards come in the shape of loot boxes, which contain items that change heroes’ appearance, sound, and other non-essential features.
Other points which are worth mentioning:
Competitive Mode (Upcoming) – a feature which is still in the works, and which will undoubtedly open up a whole new world to those who are already playing Overwatch, as well as new players. The specific details of competitive play mode are not yet known, but you can count on Blizzard to execute it flawlessly, and deliver only the best. I would expect nothing less from this freakishly talented team of developers.
Editions and Prices – there are 3 editions available:
Overwatch – available as a digital download only for PC, for the price of $40. This is the base version, and it includes the aforementioned heroes, modes, and maps.
Overwatch: Origins Edition – available as a digital download or physical version for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (DVD), for the price of $60. This edition includes everything that Overwatch has, plus:
- 5 exclusive origin skins: Overgrown Bastion, Blackwatch Reyes, Slipstream Tracer, Strike-Commander Morrison, Security Chief Pharah.
- Overwatch-themed content for other Blizzard games: Diablo III (Mercy wings), StarCraft II (6 in-game portraits), World of Warcraft (Baby Winston pet), Hearthstone (card back), and a Tracer hero character for Heroes of the Storm.
Overwatch: Collector’s Edition – available as a physical release only for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (DVD), for the price of $129.99. This edition includes everything that Overwatch: Origins Edition has, plus:
- Overwatch full color art book, featuring illustrations as well as information on the various heroes, locations, and stories existing within the game.
- Bronze statue of Solider: 76, measuring 12.8” high.
- Overwatch’s official soundtrack, full of epic tunes that will get your adrenaline flowing and your game face on.
To sum up: Activision Blizzard have done it again. This game has so much potential already, and there is a lot more to look forward to, according to the developers and their director, Jeff Kaplan.
Furthermore, because all of the upcoming updates are going to be free of charge, it won’t split the Overwatch community into those who can afford them and those who cannot. Bonuses and rewards will be available for purchase, of course, but any and all items (barring the exclusive Origins skins) that exist within the world of Overwatch will also be attainable through experience points. Level up and unlock them loot boxes, people. It is the blood, sweat, and tears of you and your fellow heroes that will determine your own reward.