The Greatest Games: Overwatch (2016)

Overwatch (2016)
Developed by Blizzard Entertainment

The danger of writing about online-only games which are constantly evolving is that the game I experienced and placed among the all-time greats might no longer exist. Blizzard are certainly capable of fumbling a good experience, and the last time I checked out Overwatch presented a much-needed balance fix which also ballooned the wait time for matches. As such, the quality varies at any given time.

But what Overwatch manages at its core is an evolution of the team-based shooter. Like Team Fortress 2, Overwatch features a large cast each filling a distinct role. Overwatch’s is much larger, with each character placed in a very specific niche – thus, there’s a bit more focus on choosing the right character for the team.

What sets Overwatch apart is its heavier focus on support and tank classes – there might be twice as many DPS classes, but its several healers certainly outpace TF2’s rather limited medic. Mercy takes on the medic’s basic function, healing allies with a continual beam while boasting key abilities to zip around the map to dive in and out of safety. But if that’s not your style, Lucio zooms around with the ability to both heal everyone in his presence and also boost their speed – all while being free to get in a few blasts himself. Ana is a healing sniper, able to heal in huge bursts from a great distance. My favorite, Moira, throws balls of energy which can offer either continual healing to teammates in range or sap health from enemies. Her playstyle forces her onto the frontlines, as her basic healing ability is directly linked to her damage output. The tanks are just as varied. Playing supporting classes in other games can sometimes feel like playing a necessary but unwanted part, but I actually find playing support in Overwatch an absolute blast.

While Team Fortress 2 eventually added various weapons for each class, I actually prefer the lack of options within each character in Overwatch. Every Soldier: 76 you face has the same capabilities, so it’s easy to look at the current teams and immediately know what you’re facing. Despite the ease of comparison, this helps differentiate these two classic games – TF2 maintains a greater focus on pure skill, while Overwatch puts an emphasis on adaptation. Overwatch feels more like a strategy-FPS hybrid than a traditional shooter. So, as someone who has never cared too much about the shooting aspect of FPS games, it should be clear why I prefer Overwatch.

Despite its ever-expanding roster, I think the true aesthetic highlight is the game’s various maps. Places like King’s Row and Eichenwalde ooze with personality. While a few assault maps are a bit too chokepoint-heavy, the rest of the maps tend to be great (especially on competitive, where you play both sides and simply have to get further than the opposing team). Even during a particularly bad round, each map takes just the right amount of time.

I’ve never been the biggest fans of multiplayer games, especially in my adult life, so it’s surprising something like Overwatch gripped me like few others. There’s simply something charming about its aesthetics and limited variety. Honestly, my main reason for avoiding multiplayer video games is how much focus the industry puts on the FPS genre – I switched to board games because they offer more variety. Overwatch is yet another shooter, but its emphasis on teamwork and strategy while offering classes which operate outside traditional FPS controls makes it infinitely more accessible.

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