Overwatch is essentially the spiritual successor to the throne that Team Fortress 2 has been sitting on for almost a decade. TF2 was a game I didn't even start playing until my last year of college, around 2011 or so; it was an experience that sunk its hooks into me and never let up, leading to over 400+ hours spent with the manic class-based cartoony shooter. I loved TF2 dearly, even if time has passed and I haven't played in a year or so. How do you follow up such a massive experience that has been subsisting on stupid hat cosmetic DLC and weapon crafting forever? You don't, because it still makes money constantly for Valve. The question remained: could anyone usurp the razor-sharp quality and longevity that Valve had cultivated in their team-based FPS?
Blizzard, with their new Overwatch project, was probably one of the only companies fit to meet the challenge. There was at least precedence in multiplayer expertise with their RTS, MMO, and now MOBA genre forays--but a first person shooter would be unlike anything they had ever attempted. What a wonderful surprise it's been that Overwatch is not only a huge success, but might represent the next dose of crystalline excellence that TF2 once provided.
Although Overwatch is cut from the same cloth as TF2's objective centric matches and class-based roster, the main differences come in the form of just how that roster has been developed. As opposed to the 9 classes and the multitude of loadouts that TF2 offers, Overwatch sets everything in canonical stone--there are no customizations for weapons or abilities. Each characters brings their own unique strengths and weaknesses, though in ways that go far beyond just swapping guns. Warping, climbing, grappling, and jet-boosting offer a huge degree of verticality that isn't the norm in most games of this caliber, and as a result the maps feel that much bigger and ripe for possibilities. Although characters have been broken up into typical Offense/Defense/Support castes, everyone feels fresh and fun to toy with, no matter the match stipulation. One thing I do appreciate is how the selection screen for teams will offer suggestions, telling you if there's a gap for a Tank character or if you have too many Snipers. It's no guarantee that people will swap characters, but it's a nice piece of advice to have if you want to shore up your team vulnerabilities.
The characters themselves in Overwatch are quite fun and interesting. Blizzard did a fantastic job creating vibrant, colorful avatars with clear jobs on the field and likeable personalities. Possibly my only complaints lie within more passive roles like turretman robot or turretman builder, but both of them can be countered given the right distance or flank style. All 21 original characters not only have very easily recognized silhouettes, but also have distinct voices which warn you of incoming threats. Characters automatically commune with you when turrets are in view or when they get destroyed, as well as when their ultimate attack is at hand. Hell, even more useful are the audible lines from the enemy that serve as fair warning for a number of their attacks. It's within little things like this that Blizzard went beyond the norms of team-based shooters to provide small quality-of-life touches.
Overwatch ships out with quite a few maps, most of which have an Attack/Defend scenario, a payload guidance, or a straitlaced KOTH. There are a few maps that combine a point grab with a 2nd-phase payload, too. Although the number isn't huge, they're all unique enough to provide enough fun even when you've cycled through them more than enough times. It's true that we probably need a lot more maps, but I'm not too worried about the future; it's a Blizzard game with the promise of free maps and characters as long as the ride lasts, and with the recordbreaking launch it had, there will surely be more content on the way. As of this writing, I haven't yet tired of the stock maps the game has launched with, and still need to learn the greater intricate shortcuts each has to offer.
It's been a few months since Overwatch released, and the most impressive quality by far has been Blizzard's response to various quirks of the game. Within a small span of time, many characters have seen great improvements, nerfs, and rebalances that have made the game far better than it was at release. We've even had the chance to try a new sniper healer hybrid character, Ana--and more maps/costumes are well on the way. To tell you the truth, I'm stunned by the workrate the Overwatch developers; seldom do games get such a quick and intelligent level of support, but I suppose it shouldn't surprise me too much--this is, after all, this is the company that still patches even Diablo 2, and brought Diablo 3 back from the grave.
Blizzard has made it clear--through the gigantic marketing campaign, hard-pumped updates and patches, and consistent monthly content--that Overwatch is their golden goose fit to stay in the cradle of profit. Given how large the playerbase (and sales) have been not only on PC, but the console generation as well, I'd say it has a very long and fruitful life ahead of it. By year's end, I expect it to look even bigger and better than the time of this writing. Where others have failed, Blizzard has succeeded in their creation of the Next Big Thing. This game owns.
Amazing and topical!