Overwatch is perhaps the first game in a long time to keep me playing long after it’s launch. It’s true that it’s only been over a month, but these days most games keep occupied for a week or two before I move on to the next thing. Probably helps that several of my friends are just as obsessed with it as I am and I have plenty of people to play with. In any case, the first month of Overwatch was a fantastic introduction to this new world that Blizzard has created and felt refreshing in a market where Call of Duty and Counter-Strike have dominated for so long. But, it appears that the honeymoon is over now as we enter what fans have eagerly awaited for, the first competitive gameplay season. At the end of June Blizzard officially launched Season 1 of Overwatch’s Competitive Pode. I’ve had some time to play with it, and it’s clear that it has created an interesting polarity between Overwatch’s two central game modes: Competitive Play and Quick Play.
When you start your first season, you have to play in 10 placement matches to determine what your rank is. Ranked on a scale of 1 to 100; 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest, your rank will affect who you’re matched against in Competitive Play and will go up or down depending on your performance. But rather than just discuss how Competitive Play works, I want to talk about my placement matches.
I played my first competitive match with friends, and it was clear from the moment we took our first point that this mode is very different from Quick Play. Each accomplishment earns your team a point, whether it’s securing the objective or reaching a checkpoint. If the map is a control point map, the winner is the first to win a best-of-five. Otherwise, the teams play two rounds playing once as attack and once as defense. The team with the most points wins. If the match is a tie, then it goes to sudden death, something which I have yet to experience. We won our first match pretty handily, and we were eager to take on the next challenge. The next several matches did not go well.
After losing the next few placement matches, one of my friends and I decided to switch back to Quick Play to take a break from the ass-kicking. Or should I say, getting our asses kicked? Playing Quick Play again after the fiercely competitive atmosphere of Competitive Play felt positively zen. That’s not to say the people we were playing against were pushovers; we played against some excellent players. But it’s clear that there are two very different Overwatch worlds right now. Perhaps as the season progresses, the lines will blur a bit more, but it’s clear that you have to be ready to play for keeps if you want to do well in Season 1.
In the end, I still wanted to see what my rank was so I played some more placement matches solo. To my surprise, I ended up winning all except one before getting my rank for the season. I think though that it came down to me lucking out with the matchmaking more than anything else. I’m not great at this game after all. Getting better, but still pretty terrible. I ended up getting 45, though at the time I thought lower meant higher, so I felt pretty good about myself until I learned it was the opposite. Could be worse I suppose.
Essentially Overwatch’s first season has changed the way I play. I’ll play competitive for a couple of rounds (went up to 46, now down at 44), and then head back to Quick Play when I want a breather. The nicest part of switching back to Quick Play is the ‘break’ aspect of it, so going back to Competitive feels a little more like increasing the difficulty. I should stress that I have fun playing Competitive Play, and I’ve had some incredible moments. I believe they’re fixing how the system handles players leaving a match, but there was one game where we ended up playing five against six and lost with just 20 seconds left. I even commented to my friends “You know even though this is insane right now, I’m having fun.”
I seriously doubt that I’ll be getting above rank 50 anytime soon, and I’ll probably never get a golden gun in the first season (you have to win 300 matches for that). But even with the tough competition and my mediocrity, I’m still having a blast and look forward to the rest of the season.
Also special thanks to my friends who are willing to play with me, you’re real MVPs here.