I’ve got a fever and the only cure...is more Overwatch.
Overwatch comes out in one week from today and there is a sense of excitement in the air from gamers who have been paying attention to the game’s development. If you are like me, you probably have been watching countless videos of YouTubers playing the closed-beta on PC all the way up until the closed-beta went down. If you were lucky enough to get in on the open-beta action, you had a chance to experience the addictive gameplay which hinged upon online, multiplayer teamwork.
I have to say that, just from what I’ve seen and heard thus far, I feel that Overwatch is going to be one of the best games, if not the best game of 2016.
Here's a few reasons why.
Blizzard’s Long-Term Commitment to Franchises
Blizzard is known for some pretty big franchises in the online gaming community, specifically for their PC games. Such games include the Diablo series, an action role-playing hack and slash dungeon crawler; the StarCraft series, a military science fiction real-time strategy; and most importantly, the World of Warcraft series, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). All of these games, for the most part, were only available to PC gamers, with the exception of Diablo III which did have a post-launch port to consoles.
The interesting thing about these games is that they have, for the most part, been around for a long time, or at least their respective franchises have. Specifically looking at World of Warcraft, that game has been around for nearly 12 years. But the game is still going strong with a faithful following of fans. That’s because they don’t follow the traditional franchise standard of releasing a sequel to the game annually, such as more popular franchises like Call of Duty where, no matter how much money they make, there is a feeling of burnout due to the over-saturation of that franchise.
This is where Blizzard succeeds, especially with World of Warcraft, because they have kept a game relevant for over a decade by including enough content to last a player several hundred hours. But players aren’t given a real chance to complete that goal because most average human beings don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to a video game and so every couple of years, whenever they feel they’ve completed a good portion of the game, another expansion is released, making the game relevant once more.
This same kind of attention, so we’re told, is going to be given to Overwatch in regards to updates, which will include new maps and characters. Jeff Kaplan, the game director of Overwatch, even stated that such content will be free. Here’s what he had to say:
When we patch a new hero in the game, we want it to be free and not as DLC.
That’s the kind of commitment to game franchises I like to see.
Characters, characters, and more characters
It’s extremely interesting to me that around the time of Overwatch’s release, there are other games looking to appeal in the same way, whether it’s creating an FPS/MOBA or by creating a game with diverse and colorful heroes. Games that have been on the radar include Battleborn, Gigantic, Paragon, and Paladins. What seems to separate Overwatch from the rest, though, is that these are not just characters that were created without a purpose –- though some might have been conceived before their backstory –- but they all have a rich, detailed backstory that really allows you to feel like you are familiar with these heroes. Right from the introduction of characters such as Winston, Tracer, Reaper, or Widowmaker, you really felt like they aren't new but had actually been around for a while.
What’s great, too, is that these characters are so diverse, not just in race or gender, but in style. There is a character in this roster to represent the preferred taste of each gamer who chooses to jump on board the Overwatch hype train.
Overwatch's lore is extending beyond video games
Have you seen any of the recent cinematics put out by Blizzard? These are some amazingly detailed pieces of work that further explore the title characters of Overwatch. As I mentioned above, the characters in Overwatch have so much story to them and Blizzard is trying to reach out to fans in so many different ways to highlight these characters and why their existence matters.
So far they’ve got four short animated videos that are free to watch on YouTube, as well as digital comic books that are free to read on their official website [www.playoverwatch.com]. They are planning more videos, more comics, and eventually a graphic novel to further get fans invested.
Here is a list of the three comics they have released thus far:
- "Train Hopper" starring McCree
- "Dragon Slayer" starring Reinhardt
- "Going Legit" starring Junkrat and Roadhog
As far as the Cinematics, if you haven't seen them yet, look no further:
- "Cinematic Trailer" featuring Winston, Tracer, Reaper, and Widowmaker
- "Recall" featuring Winston and Reaper
- "Alive" featuring Tracer, Widowmaker, and Zenyatta
- "Dragons" featuring Hanzo and Genji
I wouldn’t be opposed to Blizzard eventually putting out a direct-to-dvd animated feature film with the Overwatch brand, nor would I be entirely surprised if they so choose to if the reception of their game turns out as well, as the positive feedback on their 10-minute cinematics continues to grow.
This kind of care and attention to detail makes the game feel worth it because you know it’s not going to just get dropped in favor of something “newer” and “more exciting” in a year or so.
It is so much fun to play!
First and foremost, this game is not your typical FPS, nor is it your typical MOBA. It’s a very different style of video game which makes it a fresh breath of air once you get accustomed to it. It’s fantastic that you have four different roles to play, whether you choose to be “Attack”, “Defense”, “Tank”, or “Support” and that these aren’t just people choosing the characters that they think look the coolest, but (if they want to win) choosing characters based on how it can help benefit the team in completing an objective. Blizzard’s Chris Metzen even spoke about the deliberate effort to make Overwatch stand apart from other shooters:
We [Blizzard] have a long legacy of developing multiplayer games, and it came down to ‘is it even possible to build a shooter that doesn’t feel cynical, that doesn’t feel cruel, that doesn’t feel nasty? Can you build one that really promotes teamwork and relationship and having fun with your friends, and not getting killed with a thrown knife from halfway across the map as soon as you jump in?’
This is a huge selling point for me, having previously been caught in online games of previous Call of Duty installments and experiencing this exact example that Metzen has given us. This kind of crap doesn’t happen in Overwatch. Is there some balancing needing to be done? Yes. Are there some characters that either need to be nerfed or buffed? Yeah! But the game is still so much fun and it’s inviting for both casual and competitive players.
Overwatch will be released worldwide a week from today (May 24th, 2016) on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. I’m excited, I’ve got my copy pre-ordered and I’m stoked to jump back in and play the game once more. That one week open-beta just wasn’t enough time for me. This game has me so revved up that I’m actively seeking ways to obtain an additional PS4 so that my wife – who is an excellent Pharah – and I can play online with the rest of our friends.
What are your thoughts on Blizzard’s newest franchise game since 1998? Do you think Overwatch will be a “Game of the Year” title? Do you think that Blizzard will truly deliver the type of support for Overwatch as they have so successfully done for their other popular franchises such as World of Warcraft? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know who your favorite characters to play are (so long as it’s not Bastion).