Please Excuse My Oversight
Well no review of video games in 2016 would be complete without touching on Overwatch. Like them or hate them, Blizzard seem adept in grooming a loyal purchasing base that will buy into every release so that it recoups development costs and then some. Overwatch – by nearly all metrics – is a success. It makes money hand over fist. It won numerous game industry accolades. It sports an enormous player base. It is, presumably, the shot in the arm for the company that has been mired in some bad press of whatever the hell is going on with World of Warcraft nowadays. Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2, while financially great, were critically floundering.
Course, you could argue that Hearthstone was the financial and critical shot in the arm but I don’t follow Hearthstone at all. I mean, I tried it since Jeremy threw a beta invite to me. And I played it enough with its free pack until I came up against opponents which I simply could no longer beat without investing money in the game. It’s a digital collectable card game which mostly means whoever has the most disposable cash to pump into it will likely be the winner. There’s a reason I don’t play Magic (which you can dig through the archives to read) and that reason holds for why I don’t play Hearthstone.
Now, if you’ve been following the blog, Overwatch not getting my Game of the Year will come as no surprise. I’ve gone into great details about its shortcomings. But it’s been half a year and I’ve “beaten” it insofar as one can beat and endless online team-based shooter. So after half a year, where do we stand on the game?
Well, honestly, it’s still fun. And it’s still frustrating. The underlying issues are ever present. My misanthropy makes the game more of a slog when playing alone. There’s still the issue where a very small select of heroes are essentially required if you want to win matches (and often you’re hoping the enemy team is also full of selfish players that don’t want to be forced into the necessary heroes). We still have the issue of being held hostage to Blizzard’s random map choices (also rather important since as of this writing there’s a large bug that makes one hero nearly impossible to play on KOTH maps). And, of course, the window dressing of the game is still largely embarrassing. Though, I suppose Blizzard has officially made their mascot a lesbian so there’s that feather for their cap.
On the flip side, I’m still playing the game. So that’s a boon to Blizzard. It’s not the best game in its genre but it’s good enough. And more to Blizzard’s credit, they’ve been very good about supporting the game post launch. Overwatch has received two new heroes and two new maps not to mention celebrating four holiday events. The Overwatch development team stated they wanted to have “something” new released for the game every month and they’ve been pretty consistent in delivering on that goal.
Even better, the team has gone back to some original heroes and reworked their numbers and their kits. The most prominent of these changes was to a hero named Symmetra. She is basically the left over bits from Team Fortress’ Engineer character after Blizzard finished designing Torbjorn. Unfortunately for Symmetra, she was simply not good on release. I played her a bit (more than was certainly healthy) and could have written a very lengthy post covering in detail her failings. In large part, I think she was designed around her ultimate ability: the Engineer’s teleporter. Unfortunately, the way that Blizzard has implemented the teleporter has made it near universally a bum choice. So, in their rework, they gave Symmetra a choice of ultimates. She can either lay down the limited use teleporter or place a shield generator that is both more powerful than the weak personal shields she initially provided in terms of amount of health it covers and is useful in far more situations than the first point defence on hybrid maps where Symmetra had carved a very narrow niche.
And, outside of a few quality of life improvements, Symmetra was given a new ability. She can project a barrier with one thousand health that her team can hide behind. This has been a simple but fantastic ability and quite unexpected. Prior to Symmetra’s rework, Blizzard had shown no interest in actually overhauling abilities. Their usual tweaks were generally number adjustments in an attempt to push a hero into viability through sheer mathematics alone. Projected barrier not only showed that Blizzard was quite willing to simply throw out a bad idea but it ended up being a quite strong ability in its own right. Granted, projected shield is mostly great because Symmetra’s gun is a terror for the time being, but I’ve enjoyed frying witless enemies for weeks now and I hope that this continues on to the future.
The new heroes have been interesting as well. It shows an evolution in terms of Blizzard’s design capabilities. And while Sombra and Ana both come with ability kits packed with tons of utility, they’ve both also been really enjoyable to play. The earliest hero designs were a bit one note and bland so having these more unique characters in the game makes me eager to see what they’ll be trying next. And they’ve already announced that a third new hero is in the works with speculation swirling around it being a new tank. If they release a tank hero that is as enjoyable as Sombra, I’ll be over the moon (largely because no one in pubs wants to play tanks for some baffling reason).
The holiday events have been fun too. I mean, they’re mostly awful. I think only the Halloween Mann versus Machine-esque mode was worth playing. I know I only played the Mei’s Snowball Nightmare until I got my free chest and never loaded it again. But for those seeking a bit of gameplay variety it can be nice. And they released an update to allow separate queues for the Arcade modes which is some rules variations to the standard format of Overwatch’s games.
And, of course, there are the hats. Everyone wants the newest hats and some people are willing to drop way too much money on buying them. I won’t. I bought the game and absolutely refuse to spend an additional dime on it. Especially since it’s steep initial cost still hasn’t been quite met even with these additional content updates. But thankfully Blizzard has an in-game currency which can be used to buy whatever you like. And play long enough and most of your loot boxes from leveling will just be dupes that give you a slow trickle of Blizzard coins to save for these events.
Overall, Overwatch is ok. It’s fun but marred by some rather horrible design decisions. However, Blizzard is committed to supporting the scarred baby and for that I’m appreciative. I’ll probably still load it up all through 2017 since its short rounds is the perfect antidote to the scarce hours of evening play available to me. Whether I continue to play into 2018 is questionable. But there are worse things one could do in their spare time.