Overwatch Beta Impressions

DevinRogersThough I enjoy many first person shooters, as well as most of Blizzard’s franchises, Overwatch hasn’t been on my list of anticipated 2016 games. However, with Overwatch in an open beta this weekend, I decided to give it a shot.

There were two things I noticed right off the bat: Blizzard music and Blizzard polish. Though the menu theme wasn’t particularly memorable, I’m a fan of full orchestration in game soundtracks. The menu itself is very slick and just flipping through it I learned a lot about what the game had in store for me. Lots of characters. Lots of abilities. Lots of unlockables. Wow.

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After a brief mandatory tutorial (and a large secondary download/installation), I was allowed to jump into a game with other players.  Like Heroes of the Storm, you have the option to play PvP or cooperatively against bots.  The character selection screen allows you to see which characters your squadmates have selected and what functions your team lacks, which I thought was a nice touch.  “No defensive characters” or “No snipers” are some of the warnings you might see when building a team, which can help you choose which character to play as for that match.  Characters can be changed on death, so you are never locked into one build for a game.  This is great as strategies will constantly shift throughout the battle as both you and the opposing team switch things up.

When selecting a character, and even during a match, Blizzard gives you a way to review a description of your abilities.  There are a lot of characters to choose from, so having this cheat sheet available at any time makes trying out a new character less intimidating.

There’s no team deathmatch here, so dying a lot doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your team.  Instead, all matches are objective-based.  Sometimes it means a free-for-all fight for a territory (ala King of the Hill), sometimes you take turns attacking or defending an area, and other times you may be attacking/defending a payload traveling across the map.

The models and animations are stunning and the level design is top notch, as is expected from Blizzard.

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I’ve read that the Overwatch Beta will essentially be what is available at launch, with the exception of additional bug fixes.  In the three to four hours I’ve played, I can tell this game is a lot of fun.  But I also feel that despite the variety of characters and abilities, the game feels a bit shallow in content.  There is an account-wide leveling system, and each level gained grants you a loot box with random skins, voices, animations and other cosmetic items for your characters.  There doesn’t seem to be any unlocking of abilities – all characters have all abilities from the get go.

I think this will have better legs than a game like Star Wars Battlefront, but unless Blizzard heavily supports the game after launch, I could see myself growing bored quickly.  I don’t want to paint this as a bad game – if this came out when I was heavily involved with Halo I would have jumped ship immediately.  But I don’t have a group of friends that go FPSing anymore, and with family obligations my time with games is precious.  I want to play more of Overwatch, but with Uncharted 4 and No Man’s Sky on the horizon, I’m not sure a $60 purchase (for PS4, anyway) is warranted for the amount of content it contains.  The $40 PC price sounds much more reasonable, so I think I’ll wait until the console versions drop to that threshold.

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