Team Fortress 2 is a class based first person shooter with a cartoony cell shaded art style. Originally released in 2007, I spent well over 600 hours on the game in my teenage years, and it continues to stand the test of time with a large player base, regular updates (mostly hats) and a refreshingly unique team synergy approach to first person shooters.
Then, along came Overwatch.
Overwatch is a class based first person shooter with a cartoony cell shaded art style. I first had a chance to try it during the open beta a fortnight before it’s release, and one weekend glued to the TV intensely engrossed in the game later, I was hooked. With 21 different character classes, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities, as well as 12 maps and hundreds of cosmetic skins, there’s a lot to love about Overwatch. The least of all is the fact that Blizzard had the decency to finish the game before release, which is almost unheard of with modern AAA titles.
The aforementioned 21 classes are split into 4 categories: Offense, Defense, Tanks, and Support heroes. Each hero plays a defined role in the team, so team composition is one of the most vital things to consider if you don’t want to spend every match spawn camped into oblivion. Each hero has three abilities including an ultimate, with cooldown times that keep the game fast paced but still require deft use to be of any benefit to the team. While the game falls under the first person shooter category, being able to use your abilities effectively is arguably just as important as being able to shoot an enemy, which creates an interesting gameplay feel. Abilities are always the most effective when used with other heroes that have good synergy, and this emphasis on working together as a team is just part of the measures Blizzard has taken to try and create a decent community in the game.
While the game is strictly online multiplayer, the lore and character backstories are what really brings the game to life. The story takes place many years after a war breaks out between humans and AI robots known as Omnic, when a group of heroes known as Overwatch helped bring peace and balance between man and machine. Many years later, the world is in need of heroes again, and so former agents are called back into action as well as some fresh faced new youngsters, to… murder each other and themselves endlessly, apparently. Each of the heroes has quite a defined personality that just add that much more flavour and depth to the game.
As well as a variety of quirky characters, the game features a plethora of maps based on locations throughout the world. Each map has twists, turns, alternate pathways and sneaky shortcuts that allow for different strategies and enable players to flank and be creative with how they engage against the enemy team. There are currently four game modes, escort, which involves defending a moving payload as a control point, assault, where the attacking team must capture the defending team’s control points, hybrid, which starts as a control point that turns into a payload once captured, and control, in which both teams fight to control a central area on the map. With all of these variables no two games are the same, keeping the gameplay fresh and enjoyable.
With a game like Overwatch, it’s necessary to make sure the mechanics aren’t broken or unbalanced, and despite what parts of the online community would have you believe, it actually manages to be a pretty balanced and well rounded game. The class based style of the game means that all heroes have their strengths, but there are clear counters to each hero, which again means that a lot of the game comes down to team composition. Being able to switch heroes at will means that even if you do find yourselves at a bit of a stalemate, teams are constantly changing so everyone has to stay on their toes.
An interesting but welcome decision was the way that the game handles microtransactions. There are no paywalls or pay to win features, all heroes are available from the get go, and the only thing players can buy are lootboxes that are awarded upon leveling up anyway, which contain a random assortment of skins, voice lines, tags, and player profile pictures. Even credits are only available through lootboxes, so the kids with their parents credit cards aren’t guaranteed rare and exclusive skins unless RNGesus wills it.
Overwatch is a game that does a lot of things right, and serves as an example of the sort of practices modern developers should strive for. Constantly evolving gameplay, carefully constructed maps, humble microtransactions, and accommodating for a variety of play styles. Blizzard didn’t sacrifice quality or quantity with the content of the game, and I can easily say with confidence that it’s going down as one of my favourite games of all time.