Overwatch has been out for about 48 hours now, and if it weren’t for stupid real-life obligations like work, food, and sleep, chances are I would have been playing a lot more than the paltry 5 hours I’ve sunk into the game so far. But I’m only complaining about 5 hours of playtime because I am in love with this game and can’t stop thinking about it. Probably the reason why this post even exists is that it’s another way to talk about the game. But I’m not the only one. Overwatch has been highly anticipated since it was announced back in 2014, so it’s no surprise that tons of gamers are beginning their “watch” this week. Even in playing what relatively little I have I’ve enjoyed it all immensely and want to share some first impressions of the full game with you.
Now I had played the beta before release, so I thought I would play a few practice matches against the game’s AI to make sure I knew what I was doing before heading into matches against real people. Overwatch has an extensive array of practice options so players new to the game or simply new to a particular character can hone their skills before heading out into the world. I’ll admit that I’m not great at first person shooters, so I didn’t want rush into playing against real people who most likely would be better than me. So I was surprised to find myself immediately heading into Quick Play (the principle method of entering PVP matches at launch) seconds after my first practice match was over. I’m not sure if it was because I wanted a challenge or I thought I was ready, but regardless of how good you are there’s nothing more satisfying than playing against other people in Overwatch. As I mentioned in my PAX post about the game, even if you’re not winning the game can be a ton of fun. It depends on what you make of it. Though I will say that I’ve gotten “play of the game” in several of the matches I’ve played (even once as a support character), so interpret that how you will.
But skill aside, the biggest question any Overwatch player faces when they start is who will they play as. At first glance, the number of characters available to choose from can seem incredibly daunting. And yet I’ve found through playing around with different ones that you fairly quickly find a play style or class of character that works with you. So while gaming publications and professional gamers will debate for years to come about who is the “best” character, any player who plays more than a couple of matches will figure out what works best for them.
Personally, I’ve found that I primarily play as support characters. Specifically heroes Zenyatta and Symmetra. Now some will argue that I haven’t made it easy for myself getting into Overwatch using these characters, and they’re probably right. Zenyatta, while a healer, doesn’t have the same output as principle healer characters Mercy or Lucio, instead relying on debuffing enemies and building up his super which does the bulk of the healing. Then there’s Symmetra, the character who is probably still my favorite even after release. Her specialty is using turrets and teleporters to turn the tide of battle, and it can be tricky to do that if you have no other healers on your team. But despite steeper learning curve to these characters, I’d like to think that I’m learning to use them pretty well. There’s still a lot to learn, but every match allows the player to learn more skills and what works or doesn’t work. In fact, the best part about the character pool is allowing the player to be adaptable.
In several of the matches I’ve played, particularly the escort maps, there’s often a point where a team will get stuck. The defending team just has too good defenses or the attackers just seem unstoppable. Now depending on the skill of the other team, they won’t be able to keep up, and they’ll lose the match. But, in the best games I’ve played so far, it’s risky strategies and complete change up of characters that allow for the team that’s stuck to turn the game in their favor. Recently I played a match as Symmetra in the Hollywood map as part of the defending team, and we weren’t exactly iron clad in the beginning. In fact, it looked like we were going to get steamrolled over. However, as the payload reached the end, our team decided to change our strategy that relied on my turrets and heavy use of tanks and snipers. Somehow we pulled through a victory and held the payload just before the last checkpoint for about 5 minutes. Anyone who has played Overwatch will probably tell you that is a long time in these types of matches. It’s certainly true that if we had been a better team, we would have stopped them much sooner. But the fact that the game allows for these kinds of hail mary plays makes the game incredibly fun every time you play.
That’s not to say that the game is perfect. Some initial problems I’m seeing involve the matchmaking system. While the game does a good job pairing up players who are around the same skill level, I’ve had games where someone at level 16 is on the same team as someone who’s a level 2. Not sure what the algorithm for the system is, but I don’t think that’s right. Also, you have to play matches in Overwatch continuously to rack up most of your experience points, but often players leave games which can result in other players who want to continue playing bumped from games breaking their continuous play XP bonus. However, these complaints are minor in the grand schemes of things.
There’s still so much I have to learn about playing Overwatch. I want to try every character at least once, and I certainly want to get better as Zenyatta and Symmetra. I also want to play matches with people I know to see how playing on a truly coordinated team might pan out. It might go terribly wrong, but that’s part of the fun too. We haven’t even gotten into the competitive season yet and I’m sure that’s going to add yet another layer of complexity to this easy to pick, difficult to master title. Until then I’m going to have fun opening the path with my teleporters, trying to figure out how on earth to play D.Va, and maybe even becoming semi-decent with McCree.
May my watch never end.