Overwatch and Learn: A Beta Preview Primer for Blizzard’s Next Big Thing
With Blizzard’s Overwatch Open Beta wrapping up, many players have gotten the chance to try the anticipated team-based shooter. There have been billions of bullets fired, thousands of objectives seized and more than a few saps knocked into the death pit in the center of the Grecian Ilios map. Between the 21 heroes, 12 maps, and four game modes that have been available, Overwatch is shaping up to be well outside Blizzard’s norm in many ways and yet wholly familiar in others.
So what are we getting come May 24 and if you haven’t played, what can you expect? According to Game Director Jeff Kaplan, the current Beta is the final build. Everything we saw is what the game is going to be on release day, with the addition of bug fixes and balancing. In consideration of this, we’ve got a comprehensive breakdown to give you a hand. From gameplay and character selection to leveling and loot, we’ll let you know everything you need to know to figure out whether Overwatch is right for you.
Overwatch is a first-person shooter and an almost entirely multiplayer-based experience centered on objectives in each game. It’s hardly about kill/death ratio. In fact, while killing other players is certainly helpful, it’s basically a side note to the main goal. The way to win is by coordinating with your team and contributing your part to seizing objectives. The four modes available in the Beta and in the game’s release are Assault, Escort, Hybrid, and Control.
Assault, Escort, and Hybrid had an attacking team seeking to hold down consecutive objectives while a defending team tries to keep them out. Control is best of three rounds where both teams fight to keep an objective secure until their control bar reaches 100%. In addition, you can train solo to learn heroes, jump into a quick match playlist vs. humans or vs. AI or start your own custom game with friends and bots. There’s also a competitive system, but it was unavailable in the Open Beta and will be added after launch.
Probably the most lauded feature of Overwatch has been the stellar array of characters providing skill sets and aesthetics to meet nearly playstyle. Each of the heroes has a category: offense, defense, tank, or support. In addition, there are unseen subcategories that make each character unique, such as building or sniping. While players will most certainly hunt for the meta-game that supplies the best winning formula, the game also tries to help. As the first picks are made, several notes will come up at Hero Selection, telling you where your team is weakest. You can change your hero before and throughout a game and teams certainly win without filling the weaknesses a roster, but the tips are cool for minding the gaps.
In order to ease you into how a hero will play, Overwatch assigns a difficulty rating to heroes. Each has a set of a basic attack or two from a main weapon, two abilities, and an ultimate. The difficulty rating is directly related to the complexity of a hero’s skillset. For instance, Soldier 76 is your standard shooter with a rifle, rockets, and sprint option. It’s pretty easy to use what 76 has to offer, so he has a one-star difficulty. Meanwhile, Genji is a hero who relies on deflecting projectiles, assassinating enemies, and effective melee to be successful. Therefore, Genji is assigned a three-star difficulty. Despite this, there are no wrong choices. The characters are well-balanced and your hero of choice will largely come down to preference and your desire to learn them.
Overwatch currently has twelve maps, split three a piece among the four modes. These maps go all over the world from the cheesiness of Hollywood movie sets to the cherry blossom gardens of Hanamura. With the wide variety of locale comes wide variety of tactical spots and scenery that makes the maps every bit as vivid and complex as the characters fighting in them. We certainly have our preferences of one or two over the others, but the same can be said for almost every feature in Overwatch depending on the player.
The basic qualities of each map are always the same. Each team has a base where they’ll begin the game, respawn if they die and can change their hero. At the start of each game, a timer allows for hero selection and preparation. Once that timer hits zero, play begins. In each of the modes, the objective is centered fairly equidistant between the teams so no team truly has an unfair advantage, but the complexity in the maps depends fully upon how you use terrain with a particular character. Hanzo and Widowmaker get the most out of a map with lots of sniper nests where Winston and Lúcio get the most from shoving players to their death in a map full of cliffs and pitfalls.
Leveling & Loot Boxes
Leveling in Overwatch is more comprehensive than getting kills and winning. There are tons of small stats that can provide a bonus to your experience. End-of-match bonuses are split between character and game achievements. Doing well in both provides medals that range from bronze to gold and give you an appropriate boost. Kill lots of enemy opponents? That’s a medal. Did you heal your allies for thousands of health? You get a medal. Were you on the objective for full-on minutes at a time? You get the idea. Just playing the game and positively contributing to your team in any way will see you getting medals left and right. Keep in mind, there’s also a Leaver’s Penalty that docks 75% of your experience in a few matches. It makes sense on some level, but the game applied it to a few of us after crashing several times, which was pretty lame.
Of course, at the end it’s all about the loot. Level up and you get a loot box that, when opened, grants four items that range from skins, emotes, highlight reel animations, and spray paints specific to characters as well as currency for buying each of those things. Much of the system seems totally luck of the draw. You might get four common items or you might be lucky enough to net an epic item. Either way, there’s a lot of cool cosmetic goodies to get and opening the loot boxes is a joy, even if the results sometimes end up less than stellar.
Overwatch is shaping up to be everything that Blizzard promised it would be. The game favors teamwork and contribution over being the best killer and it gives you a massive amount of tools to accomplish whatever playstyle you’re going for. The strategies we saw employed on each map and mode show the versatility of the game and it’s fairly obvious that players will be working out new character and map strategies for a long time. What’s more, the game works well in constant positive reward and progression. That said, there are some bugs that need definite squashing, such as game crashes and the Leaver’s Penalty bug that results. If Overwatch can overcome these issues before launch, it’s set up to offer players a hell of a good time.
Overwatch will be available for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on May 24.