We had a chance to try out the closed beta of Blizzard’s newest game.
When Blizzard announced Overwatch a few years back, it had that vibe of a potential Pixar-like film or series, as its featured characters has personalities. And when we played the actual game, it has that interesting vibe. Yes, it is a shooter game, but not those kind of typical online shooters that you see in most free-to-play games.
You could say it has some features found in Team Fortress 2 with modes such as Payload and Point Capture; which are the only modes available during the beta test. As for the latency, we have not experienced any delays or lags on the gameplay, everything is smooth despite the beta test is more of a stress test to check how Blizzard’s servers can handle a large chunk of players.
Playing Overwatch for the first time will send you to a tutorial mission, it’s very straightforward as it only gives you the basics on the controls, though this tutorial is optional as you can skip and head straight to the online matches. You have three options when playing; either you can play straight ahead or create your private game or practice against some A.I. for a skirmish. The Matchmaking system in the game is still in the experimental phase, as we noticed that it takes some time before the server can find you a good room that also matches with your ping just to avoid experiencing poor latency during matches. Each match does not take long as it can be over within 5-10 minutes, which makes you hungry for another game, and it keeps you engaged in the match rather than bore you from a lengthy battle as each game mode encourages teamwork rather than counting who has the highest kill count.
Another interesting feature is the rating system, at the end of each match, you can rate the entire match if you have a positive or negative experience as well as rating individual players either your teammate or opponent. Though this system has no penalty or bonus to any rated player, it seems as it’s another way of sharing your feedback on how you enjoyed playing with a particular player or you are having some bad experiences with a particular match. Since this feature is still in the experimental phase, we might expect some changes to the rating system.
As for the gameplay, we are very impressed on how diverse each characters are. There are four roles for each characters in Overwatch, there are the offensive types that can dish out damage but low on defense, the defensive roles are more on making choke points to opponents to keep them at bay, the tank role is more for the frontline and can absorb a lot of damage than the rest of the roles, and finally the support types that provide additional boost to the entire team. It’s nice to see that all 21 characters are playable in the beta test.
Even if the characters are in the same role, each of them have distinct abilities and attacks that made them unique, take for instance Tracer is more of a quick moving character despite her twin pulse pistols can deal small amount of damage, her Recall ability lets her rewinds back in time and returning some of her health and ammo where they were a few seconds ago, this can be a good strategy when taking down opponents. Widowmaker as a defensive character can eliminate targets from afar with her Widow’s Kiss sniper rifle and switches to an assault rifle when enemies get closer to her, but when things can get rough, she can zip to a higher position with her grappling hook and then leave a Venom Mine to dish out some poison damage. Mercy shows her true support role as a healer with her Caduceus Staff, she can also provide attack buff to a character and when there are times an ambush occurs, she can use her Caduceus pistol to protect herself, she can even quickly dash towards allies to provide support, and for her ultimate skill, she can resurrect nearby allies with her Angelic Descent during crucial situations. However there are still some balance issues with certain characters, but Blizzard has addressed that they will be making adjustments before it launches its retail version.
Overwatch definitely made sure that the characters’ build are more on teamwork rather than going commando, as each character’s abilities can become a lethal combo when played well and proper team coordination and ensure a quick victory. After all, this is a team-based game. You can even plan out with your teammates on what heroes to bring, as the game will provide tips at the Hero select screen right before a match where it reminds you that your team may be on a disadvantage, like if all picked offensive characters, it will remind you that your team will lack in defense and support. Though you can ignore the tips, it can still provide insights that could give your team an advantage and a well-balance line-up.
Another nice addition is the gamepad support, though not everyone will prefer to use a gamepad for first-person shooters, but it is still a nice addition as there are some who prefer to use it for their games, and you can remap the gamepad configuration.
So far the beta test only featured few game modes, but once Overwatch gets officially released, there will be more modes that will become available and probably ways to customize your favorite characters. There are no indications of any micro-transaction features in the game as Blizzard already promised that despite being a retail game, it will not feature any micro-transactions.
Seeing this becoming a retail game may make some players feel discouraged to try it, as there are many online shooters that are embracing the free-to-play business model. But after playing the game and seeing how fun the game came out to be compared to some free-to-play generic online shooters with the same game mechanics, Overwatch may probably be worth the money.
Overwatch will become available for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 21, 2016.