Featured Image: Promotional Art, Overwatch. © Blizzard Entertainment.
By Cory Taggart
Blizzard Entertainment is no stranger to wildly successful games. Even those well outside the gaming scene are aware of World of Warcraft and Starcraft. However, they now have a new IP (intellectual property), one that threatens to surpass even the most popular of games: Overwatch.
Released on May 24, 2016 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PCs, no game has taken over the gaming community as quickly as Overwatch. Millions of players log on daily, with competitive tournaments spreading like wildfire. It’s also captured a sizable portion of pop culture, hosting a slew of fan art, original songs, and elaborate cosplays.
Here’s the backstory:
Set in the near future, humankind is attacked by Omnics-sentient robots initially built to serve, but soon grew tired of being treated as second-class. As the fighting surges to all-out war, the United Nations assembles a task force to combat the mechanical menace called Overwatch. Thanks to the team, the so-called “Omnic Crisis” is resolved, and the agents of Overwatch are regarded as heroes. However, internal corruption and increasing power taint the public image of Overwatch, and after multiple incidents, it is shut down.
Now, the world is in chaos again, and heroes are needed more than ever. Thus, Overwatch is reassembled, and the game begins. Although the “why” of the game is expressed through supplemental comics and animated shorts, the game itself contains no story. It’s even considered non-canonical.
Overwatch is a class-based first person shooter, only available to play in online multiplayer. It features smaller teams of six players each, with labyrinthine maps to emphasize the need for a balanced composition. Classes, or heroes, are divided into four distinct groups: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Within each group, though, are heroes that vary widely in skills. For instance, both Tracer and McCree are considered Offense heroes, but while McCree can pick foes off from a distance, Tracer is more lethal up close.
The gameplay is deceptively simple: usual FPS fare, but each hero has two unique abilities, which can be activated with the push of a button. Some characters also have passive abilities which happen automatically, like Genji and Hanzo’s wall climb or Mercy’s health regeneration. This all builds up, and leads to a hero’s Ultimate: A devastating attack or life-saving maneuver that charges over time and with damage dealt (or healing done, as a Support hero). These Ultimates can change the tide of battle almost instantly, so it’s important to understand how each one works.
Although occasionally repetitive and lacking in content, new heroes and maps are added regularly for free, and Blizzard’s latest juggernaut (Overwatch) has plenty of staying power. With a team of good friends to play with, it’s hard not to have a good time. But what ultimately (no pun intended) keeps Overwatch going is the possibilities and new features being added to an already solid base. If you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-learn but hard-to-master shooter, look no further. Now excuse me, I have to go get “Play of the Game.”