Disclaimer: The following opinions are those of the author only. In this post, he complains about a title that most of the staff here adores. He might be wrong, but we tolerate him. His milkshake does bring all the boys to the yard, after all.
Blizzard is known for bringing the quality, for taking existing genres and perfecting it. It doesn’t take a genius to see that they have some fantastic designers over there who earn every penny they are paid. Every franchise is synonymous with being the best in the trade. So, when they said they were going to try their hands at the shooter, it seemed like a sure thing and now Overwatch is undeniably popular, with even Amazon running out of copies.
Now, when it was stated that it was a multiplayer only affair, I had decided to steer clear. People, for the most part, suck. I tend to grow bored or annoyed with these types of games. Still, I found myself in love with another game that might as well be sold as multiplayer only and am still putting the hours into it. Coupled with the universal hype and love that Overwatch has received from every outlet, and every person I have spoken to who has played it, it looked like I would be remiss to miss out. Getting in on the ground floor seemed like a great idea. After having put a bit of time into it, I find myself primarily grateful that I didn’t handle our review. The mediocre score I would have given it would have rendered me Internet Enemy #1.
Ignoring a required Day One patch that’s larger than the actual game, it seems best to acknowledge a major flaw right at the outset: Bastion. Yes, there are many ways to counteract this character. The most obvious being attacking from the rear. However, one cannot attack from the rear when the enemy converts into a turret, his back to a wall. In turret form, this thing can chew through a shield and tank in seconds, and take down most players before anything can be done. Should the opposing team be controlling every avenue of ingress with multiple Bastions, the situation devolves into hopelessness.
In truth, when a twenty-one character game is broken down to working to counteracting the powers of one character, that character is busted. Again, it is possible to take him down. This is understood. However, it requires more than a little luck or working with the sole purpose of gaining a few seconds of respite before the character respawns. Anyone who doubts that this character is broken only needs to witness the play of the game at the end of each match. If Bastion is on the field, it’s him. The replay is typically the winning player mowing down a couple of hapless enemies in less than a second for having the audacity to wander near the capture point.
It should be noted that it is possible to create custom matches, banning a specific character. After learning about this when trying to research online why this title has received the acclaim it has, I tried to jump back in to see if I can create a public game that anyone can join and no one plays Bastion. The servers were down.
Now, it is possible to instantly balance the game and remove these annoyances: don’t allow duplicate characters on one team in quick play. Were players forced to choose someone else, the balance and counterbalance that all of the characters bring would suddenly become pertinent. The ability of a team sectioning off and controlling the entire map with one character type is removed. Suddenly, players don’t have to choose someone for the express purpose of knocking out one type of hero, and can instead work as a team (read: what the game is supposed to be about).
Not all would be resolved with this one change, though. There still is the fact that the title is woefully light on content. With no customization, outside of cosmetics, there is no true feeling of ownership over a hero and how they play. With no perks to tweak, no loadouts to worry over, and no sense of player investment, the game lives and dies by its modes. Sadly, these are currently lacking.
Out of the gate, there are effectively only two types of gameplay modes available: attack/defend, or escort/prevent. Not exactly a deep pool to draw upon as both of these modes have already been run into the ground years ago. There are, admittedly, some slight variations. Sometimes, a point must be captured, and then a vehicle must be escorted. Otherwise, this is nothing that hasn’t been seen in Team Fortress or Call of Duty. It is personally baffling that other games recently released that offered a deeper, more varied multiplayer experience, like Star Wars: Battlefront or Rainbow Six: Seige were lambasted for being too light on content, yet this gets a pass.
This is all really unfortunate, as there is no denying that the character design is good. I want to play a game featuring Tracer, Reaper, and friends. Even Junkrat’s grenade launcher exudes artistic care. The maps are well done, too. They seem honeycombed with alternate paths that take advantage of each character’s traversal abilities. (That is, when not being riddled by a turret’s bullets.)
This is what makes Overwatch all the more frustrating to me. There is a great game ready to be born out of this mess. Blizzard tends to know what they are doing. That is why I am confused regarding how this game has achieved such universal praise, despite its shortcomings. The developer can do much, much better. In its current state, the free-to-play Gotham City Imposters offered much more in the way of depth with a similar tone and varied abilities. How Blizzard can get away with charging $40 (or $60) dollars for less than WB’s beleaguered shooter, and then riddle it with microtransactions, is beyond me.
In the end, though, I’m just jealous of the people who enjoy Overwatch. They seem to be having a great time. I like fun, and I want to have it, too. So, for people who are enjoying Overwatch, don’t stop. It’s great when people can come together over a game and have a great time. For those of you who don’t like it, rest assured that you are not alone. I’m with you, though I’m holding out hope that the game will get balanced and finished.