When I arrived at PAX East 2016 on the first day, I had a clear idea of the first game I was going to play. It wouldn’t matter if the line were ridiculously long, this was a game that I’d been so interested in and excited for that none of that mattered. It’s been in Closed Beta for the last couple months and since its announcement in 2014, it has been one of my most anticipated games for the last two years. Though, from how popular the title was at this year’s PAX East I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who is excited about it. And while I wasn’t very good at it when I finally got to play, I’m sure as hell going to keep playing because it’s that much fun. I am of course talking about Blizzard’s newest IP: Overwatch.
If you’ve somehow missed all the hype surrounding the title, Overwatch is a multiplayer-only first-person shooter with a wide variety of characters and classes to play as. If you’re familiar with Team Fortress 2, then you’re already familiar with this type of game. But comparing Overwatch to TF2 isn’t fair to anyone, as Overwatch is more than just an FPS with a bunch of different classes. In fact, the number of characters or “Heroes” is so large that there’s a playstyle for anyone who wants to play. As I found from my experience, you won’t stick with one character and expect them to be suitable for every situation.
After waiting in line for about an hour, I was put on a team of six, given an Xbox One controller (if the only PC had been an option), and with relatively little explanation thrust right into our first match against the team on the screens opposite us. Overwatch has three different game modes. Assault, where one team must capture two control points and the other must defend it. Escort, where one team must escort a ‘payload’ through the map and the other must (surprise) defend it. And finally Control, where both teams attempt to seize full control over a single control point. We played an Escort map for our demo, each team taking a turn either attacking or defending.
In our first match, I was on the attacking team. Rather than be rational about what character would be best suited for pushing through enemy defenses, I picked the one I’d been eager to play as because I thought she looked the coolest. The character D.Va, a former pro-gamer turned mech pilot, is a formidable character when used by someone who knows how to play. When used by someone like me, however, her powerful cannons and extra armor go to waste. I realized my mistake relatively quickly and switched to Bastion, the robotic soldier that turns into a mini-gun turret for extra damage. His play style of stopping to deal lots of damage was far easier to adjust to as a first-time player. We came ridiculously close to winning our first match after making up lost ground in the first few minutes, but ultimately we weren’t able to get the payload to its final destination.
For the second match, the teams switch, and now we were on the defense. For about 30 seconds I played as D.Va to see if I’d learned anything new from our last match but realized that I wasn’t going to make any progress with her trying to defend. When I switched characters again, I realized that the game highlights weaknesses of a team’s hero selections. In summary, we had no support characters to well, support our defenses. To pick up the slack, I chose a character that was introduced along with several others when that game was first launched. On a slight tangent, If you’re looking for the “engineer” of Overwatch, then you might be surprised to learn that it has been split into two heroes. One of them is the reality bending Symmetra. With the ability to add extra shields to allies, lay down turrets for extra damage, and a gun that locks on and automatically fires to any enemy in range, I had found the character that best suited my play style. By placing turrets along the path of the payload I was able to hinder the progress of the attacking team by a decent amount. I even got several kills through a combined use of lots of lasers. And when I mean lots of lasers, I mean lots of lasers.
Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to keep them back forever, and they got the payload through. Overall they were the better team. But I will say that I was the only member of our team to be nominated for the end of the match best player award. Not bad for someone who can’t play an FPS on a console to save his life.
Even though my first experience with Overwatch is losing to a bunch of people I’ve never met, I had an absolute blast doing it. As I tweeted at Blizzard later that day, they have a great game on their hands. Now if you excuse me, I have to go preorder Overwatch so that I can get early access to the public beta. Maybe I’ll finally get a handle on how to play using D.VA…. or maybe I’ll just stick with Symmetra.