Monday, January 11, 2016

Overwatch Beta Impressions/Gameplay

Overwatch was running its Closed Beta test late last year and I was lucky enough to participate for a weekend. Here is a rundown of the promising features as well as a video highlighting the notable standouts:

A Hero for Anyone

There is currently a roster of twenty one different characters. That is twenty one different characters with twenty one unique play styles and twenty one unique "ultra" abilities. No matter what play style you prefer in first person shooters, you will find a Hero you love to play.

The roster is split into four distinct classes:

These are your damage absorbing, party leading, first to charge in juggernauts. They take damage and excel at doing so. Most heroes in these roles will hand out damage protective shields, yank enemies closer to your party, or knock enemies back. It is all about controlling the enemy, keeping their eyes on you, and keeping any from forcing their way around your back.

Do not think that just because you are a tank you are invincible. I found myself overwhelmed at times with little support, and those times I found my health ticking away with little thought. It takes communication and timing to make sure you keep baddies at bay without becoming a bullet sponge.

While a Tank excels at absorbing damage, sometimes you are outnumbered and need a little cover. Defense class acts as support, viewing the entire battlefield or capable of providing the protection needed to escape an otherwise dire situation.

These are often able to reach places other Heroes cannot with fast traversal or even a wall of ice to boost their jump. Traps, mines, and sentry guns are the name of the game; being the class that has your back if the enemies are rushing forward.

The most popular class, it is all about tackling each enemy head on and showing little mercy. This class is made to pack a punch and deliver as much pain as possible, using lightning fast moves to dodge and weave through enemies to a specific healer or target.

The speed and power of these units is offhanded by relatively lower health. Most can die in a few hits so if you plan to deal out damage, be ready to take some in return.

My personal favorite to play and the often overlooked, the Support role is all about keeping everyone around you alive and moving. Most are not just limited to healing, as some are able to create teleporters to get your team back in the action or even boost your movement speed.

Like the Offense class, these are not combat units and have relatively lower health. Your focus should be your teammates, but in a pinch, you can stand your ground.

While each Hero is lumped into a category, every single one is very unique in their abilities that you should not feel limited to just healing or just tanking. Mercy was primarily about using her healing gun, but Zenyatta felt more like a battle healer. Zarya was a good mid-range Tank, but Reinhardt was more melee and close ranged.

The highlight of Overwatch was experimenting and exploring each Hero in the roster to see their strengths and weaknesses. People chose favorites, but one never felt more powerful than the other.

Highlight Reel

At the end of each match, the winning team is displayed, but the most impressive kill in the match was showcased for everyone in the Play of the Game. You are put in the view of the player who ended up making the biggest scoring play, and see first hand the destruction and devastation they unleashed. It was a wonderful addition that gave credit where credit was due to the biggest play of the game, and a subtle touch to add a goal to play efficiently to get featured.

Work Together, or Fail Together

On the right hand side as you choose a Hero you will see a tip on what you could do to improve the team's balance. Perhaps you are stacking Offense or stacking Tanks, it will suggest the class that is missing until someone decides to change sides.

This is solid advice, as the most balanced teams are the ones that come out on top. Having an offense focused team (which was common) was quickly shot down as tanks and healers mowed through the multitude of snipers.

Map Diversity

The maps, though linear, offer a wide variety of platforms, side halls, and overlooks to work your way around to the objective. Moving through a map as a tank was a different experience than the assault players that would fly from rooftop to rooftop. Side halls to lay traps, overviews for snipers, and close quarter hallways for melee heroes were common; and it helped to have a terrain made for your method of play.

Objectives would also shift from simply capturing a point to escorting an objective. While the game modes are pretty straight forward, they sometimes would be forgotten as the hectic melee of enemies was entertaining on its own.

I walked away from Overwatch with a newfound admiration and excitement for the game. The potential for the game is huge and the characters are a blast to explore. Matches are fast-paced and enjoyable, and hopping in and out of them is easy which makes it simple to get hooked into that "one more match" round. The beta is temporarily shut down to analyze data, but will open again mid-January and allow more people to come into the beta as well with new features to test such as a character progression system and tweaks to hero balances.

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