I’ve been somewhat lost in Battleborn this past week and a half and it was for this reason that Overwatch couldn’t possibly have escaped my attention. With the two games being released roughly around the same time and appearing, on the surface, to be very similar, the usual banter of “which one is better” has quickly begun. So, when the Overwatch beta opened up, I figured I’d give it a crack and see what all the fuss was about. I’m happy to say that Overwatch is actually a hell of a lot of fun, it’s very fluid and matches move along relatively quickly without feeling rushed. A Battleborn killer it is not, however, and Overwatch isn’t in danger of being “overtaken” by Battleborn; the two are very different games, clearly made for different crowds. Overwatch feels like a spiritual successor to TF2, even if that wasn’t the intention, and in that sense, it passes with flying colours. Sometimes exploding or imploding colours.
Sometimes there’s an anthropomorphic pig involved. Sometimes Gorillas.
With 21 heroes, 12 maps and 4 modes, what we saw in the beta is what we’ll get, according to Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan, sans a competitive ranked mode that was removed for the beta. There’s also some mention of “a TON of post-launch features,” though details of those have yet to be revealed. I really hope those post-release features include some new game modes because right now it feels very samey after awhile. Despite there being four available, what’s there actually feels like there are two that have been “remixed” to create another two, and it feels a little lacking in this regard. Four modes are fine and dandy but there’s not a whole lot of variation right now, is what I’m saying.
Heroes fall into either the categories of Offence, Defence, Support or Tank; however, depending on your play style, these categories can sometimes be considered loose guidelines as opposed to hard and fast rules. Bastion is an AI controlled mech with a standard ability that turns him into a static, mounted Gatling gun and completely wrecks anyone who walks into his path but he’s technically a defence class character. With particular regard to Bastion, I’ve seen a lot of complaints online that he should be removed from the game for being too OP – to which I say “poo-poo, casual scrubs.” Like every other character he has flaws, one of the biggest being that he’s slow as hell and easily destroyed if left alone by his team. If you seriously can’t handle Bastion players during a limited beta then I think, perhaps, you’re going to have a bad time during the full release.
He loves nature, exploring, and just ruining your day.
On the whole, as far as character balance is concerned, I think that Blizzard has done an excellent job of creating a diverse cast of characters that aren’t particularly more or less powerful than any other. While I eventually ended up playing Bastion and Soldier 37 exclusively, I gave every one of them a decent go and each one felt unique in their own ways. That’s not to say that I liked all of them but that’s also a matter of personal preference, which one might consider to be the mark of a game that has tried, and succeeded, in catering to a large group of players. Learning the character’s abilities, how best to use them, and even specific strategies against specific characters are all part of the fun, and it’s most certainly a lot of fun.
Something that confuses me about the Overwatch beta, however, that I hope will be addressed in the full release is the narrative that’s been built around the game but seems to be ignored in the game itself. The beta starts out with an intro cinematic of Winston, the hulking, mech-suit wearing Gorilla-slash-scientist, putting out a call to the former members of Overwatch to come back to the fight. The world is in danger, he says, and it’s still being torn apart by some kind of nebulously evil force that they need to unite against. This is done by bringing together heroes, old and new, to… beat the snot out of each other and generally wreck the places where fighting goes down? There are no “fixed” teams of characters, some which are locked to one side or another, no story mode to expand on this idea, and no gameplay mode that pits players against evil AI (a la TF2’s Mann VS Machine.)
“What’s a good plate with nothing on it? ….. No, wait…”
In my humble opinion, it just seems like a lot of fluff created to try and generate some extra appeal that doesn’t have any bearing on the gameplay and does more to confuse than entertain. Given the close release times, and the lack of capitalisation in the game on this backstory, it feels like a late, forced response to Battleborn’s own story mode but without the substance to back it up. It’s disappointing, too, since some kind of series of campaign missions, fixed-team mode, or a mode in which players have to fight off waves of increasingly difficult AI enemies might have added the variety I feel is currently missing from the game. As previously mentioned, there’s still the mysterious “TON of post-launch features” to be released so we might get exactly that at some point in the future.
For the time being, however, at least from what I played of the beta, is still a lot of fun. It’s nothing excitingly new or revolutionary but certainly feels like a step up in the fast-paced PvP shooter combat-genre offered by games like TF2. Now, if only Blizzard could stop price gouging Australia, I might actually consider picking it up for myself.