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Overwatch: Shooting Through Blizzard's New Universe

By Garrett Fuller on November 08, 2014 | Previews | Comments

Overwatch: Shooting Through Blizzard's New Universe

So this morning after the announcement we got the chance to sit down and demo Overwatch. There were two game sessions for each run through. One was holding a defensive position and one was attacking it. The good news was the defense session had a move objective so imagine a quick flag capture and then escort quest combined. The game showed twelve playable characters today with several more in the main picture that have not yet been defined. So let’s get to how the game played.

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In the first session I played as Reaper. He is the skull-faced cloak wearing gunslinger who can wraith form and teleport. He also has a great epic ability to shoot everyone around him in a 360 whirlwind. Reaper was deemed an offense style character. There are also tanks, support, and defense. Trying it out for the first time I wanted to keep it simple. You can switch between heroes whenever you die, so you can always adjust based on what your team might need.

In the first battle we were attacking an objective and then had to escort it across the map once taken. The clock began the countdown and the doors opened to make our attack. The defending team gets extra time to set up for the assault. Quickly I tried some flanking moves with Reaper. He is a great damage dealer who moves well in the mid range of the game. I was able to kill Winston (the giant gorilla) from the side and match up against Tracer and Hanzo well. Reaper's teleport helped get him around quickly and had a long range. His wraith form circular shooting attack worked well in close quarters when getting shot or hit by multiple attackers. 

Although we lost the match it was a close call. Someone on the other team was clearly a solid FPS sniper and grabbed Widowmaker right away and was able to take a high position. It spelled pure doom for our team. She can use a grappling hook to get up high and really crushed us getting the highest score. The tanks bring a much needed defensive boost in terms of shields. If you are trying to get close to your enemy, the character Reinhardt puts up a huge shield and can charge forward getting close to dash foes quickly. This tactic can quickly be countered with flanking characters who can dish out good damage from a ranged position. Many people asked if it was a good idea to stack up on certain character types. Jeff Kaplan addressed this in the press conference that it is better to have a much more well rounded team, but they certainly expect interesting team comps to crop up.

The second fight went much worse for our team. The six of us were on defense and did really badly. I began as Reinhardt to try the tank class and protect our objective. The fight began and I did a great job using my shield and rushing into the attackers. However, with any fight, positioning is everything. Once flanked by much quicker characters like Tracer, Hanzo, or Widowmaker, Reinhardt was dropped fairly quickly. Here was where I made the mistake of switching characters. I moved over to Hanzo the Samurai style archer who had some nifty abilities. His scattershot ability was great at dishing out damage to foes around corners and from hidden locations. He was not as deadly as Widowmaker by any means, but his ultimate ability of shooting two massive dragons through the air stopped the whole game in its tracks for a second.

I jumped to Widowmaker next in the defense role to try and stop the escort from continuing through the zone, but the other team put up a killer defense of their own. I should have chosen a good location for her but the objective was already on the move.  I switched back to Reaper and finished the battle with a few kills but again our team lost.

I came away from my first session of Overwatch wanting more. Despite losing, the game really moves quickly and has a lot of ways to play with the various heroes. I only outlined a few characters in this write up, but there will be many more, and 12 are playable at BlizzCon. Even if you are not a shooter fan, I'd recommend keeping an eye on this one. Like all Blizzard games, this really seems to bring the barrier of entry down to the point where anyone can pick it up and enjoy the fights. While the class roles seemed well defined, there were a lot of different ways to play them effectively. It never felt like one class type was just "better" than the others.

What remains to be seen is the progression model, customization, narrative, and just how much more layered the game is when compared to other team-based shooters. If Blizzard applies the same long-term progression hooks that all of their games tend to have, you could wind up wasting a lot of your days in Overwatch. For now, it's fun to watch the Irvine-based team a step away from their norm and comfort zone.