Overwatch, brought a lot to the table during its free to play beta. Gamers were able to experience a lot of the game this go around, as Blizzard gave us almost the full game to play. With 21 characters to choose from, four game modes, and a total of 12 maps, this was one impressive beta.
The game showed off impressive quality and depth, but also showed the dirty side of competitive first person shooters in this day and age. The list below is a look into the beta and what we were able to take note of from playing over the course of five days — extensively, for five days, that is; we couldn’t put it down. There’s a lot to unpack, and not all of it is good; it has both pros and cons like most games do. Here are the five best and worst things from the Overwatch beta:
1. Character Variety
The 21 character roster is impressive to say the least. Each hero is in a class and there are a lot of different classes to play including Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. The classes include several characters that are in tune with specific roles for to build a strong team in each of the different game modes. Each character plays very differently which allows for a lot of different play styles to flourish. Like many MOBAs that exist, including Blizzard’s Heroes of The Storm, we find great counter playing between heroes. For example, Hanzo is a great distance and midrange character that can pick off characters while revealing enemy locations, but if you have a tank like Winston to absorb his arrows while a fast character like Tracer closes in, he can easily be shut down. Large rosters are normal for MOBAs so bringing this aspect into Overwatch helps bring a lot of depth to the game making it more than just another multiplayer shooter. Hopefully Blizzard brings in more heroes to Overwatch in the future because that will only add more depth to an already impressive roster.
2. Roles are actually important
In most multiplayer arena games it’s important to have a well-rounded team featuring tanks, heavy offense, and attentive support. The six player teams let players mix it up between these classes, but as a whole it is important to stick with the core foundations that make up a good team. The developers at Blizzard saw what made Team Fortress 2 such a good multiplayer shooter and brought it to Overwatch with many characters that work off one another for great complimentary move sets. They improved on elements of TF2 by adding more characters and many new abilities. Each of the heroes add a different addition to the team and with quick swapping between characters during a match, a game can completely change pace with a few character adjustments. Swapping Mercy’s heavy health support for Symmetra’s teleportation and sentry abilities can make a struggling team improve if they aren’t getting to an objective quickly or defending it well enough.
3. Fluid Controls and Mechanics
One of the first aspects that are noticeable about Overwatch is how smooth the game controls. Even during chaotic battles, the game handles wonderfully. Switching between characters, dying constantly, and completely lighting up your opposition feels just right. The developers definitely took their time making sure the game feels comfortable for both newcomers and experienced players. A newcomer can use a character like D. Va and find she is the perfect fit for them as they throw their mech, destroying 4 or 5 enemies. At the same time an experienced player can use Mei’s ice wall in unique ways locking out enemy supports or closing holes against snipers. Given time, characters can be utilized in ways never before seen making them more than just situational. Also if players make use of the character swapping, they will see that the game changes from a simple shooter to something very complex and unique.
4. Quick Match Setup
The online setup and matchmaking from Battle.net is great. The options that are within the game alone are excellent, with colorblind specifications and HUD optimization. They also include an option for skirmishing while waiting for matchmaking, helping speed up the transition from menu to playing. The beta’s servers were stable with very few hiccups and issues. We found that getting into the game, playing with competent players, and completing a match was a non-issue. It was a breath of fresh air to find stability during heavy traffic times. There were some long waits for Mystery Hero matches, but regularly the game was smooth for getting in and playing. The problems arose when there was a party member with you, but with the skirmish option the problem of waiting wasn’t too bad. Few glitches were found, and as a whole every match ran very well.
5. Intuitive from the Ground up
Overwatch is simpler than it looks, with a huge roster and many different maps it’s surprisingly easy to get up and play. Someone can either play as one character exclusively or switch between any number of heroes, all the while Overwatch allows for many different kinds of play styles. Unlike traditional MOBAs, the game is optimized for a controller so the more complex plays are made from teamwork as well as trial and error, rather than the more difficult setup and approach of MOBAs. It’s important to know that this game is simple at heart. It’s easy to see the game and think it’s akin to a MOBA, but it’s more like Team Fortress 2’s gameplay, with MOBA elements. The game does not involve in match leveling or most other things that make up a MOBA, it is a multiplayer shooter first and foremost. Everything from leveling up to liking key player presence in a game is approached in a simple, streamlined fashion for casual gamers and more experienced ones to delve into.
See Also: New Overwatch Apparel by J!NX
1. Lack of Game Mode Variety
The beta showed off four different game modes, however there isn’t much of a difference between them. There is Assault, Escort, Assault/Escort hybrid, and Control. Though they are fun modes, they aren’t very unique, and each mode is slightly problematic. Escort is slightly stacked against the defending team, assault can end too quickly, and control is likely the best of the four, though decisive character choices can end that too quickly as well. As a whole, the various Overwatch game modes aren’t bad, but they tend to stay on the short side, and sometimes the maps and spawn points make the objectives more difficult than they should be. When the teams are well matched against one another, the game modes are great, but an uneven matchup can be frustrating, unless you and your team counters the opposition really well, but that is asking a lot from strangers.
Beyond these game modes there isn’t much more to the game, and that’s probably going to turn-off a lot of players. There are custom matches with bots and friends, as well as a weekly changing special match type, but that’s it. We were given Mystery Heroes as the special match type, which changed your hero after every death making the matches more sporadic and exciting, but with so many characters, it can be a little overwhelming unless you are experienced with the game. Never playing as Zenyatta, a support character, then running into the game basically blind ends that iteration of your life pretty quickly. It’s a great addition to add a new match type, but it is best for more experienced players. We will see what the game does in the future, as we hope they add new game modes including a Team Deathmatch.
I’ll also note that we would like to see ranked matchmaking when the game releases, as it was unfortunate that it wasn’t in the beta.
2. Learning Curve
Like we mentioned above, the game is simple and easy to pick-up, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge learning curve. With a massive hero roster, a player will eventually be forced to know what the other characters do, even if they don’t play as them. If you are playing as Pharah and use her ultimate in the sky expecting to destroy everyone, but not know that Roadhog can grapple her down nullifying the attack, or not knowing Mercy can revive you even after watching your own kill cam, you will have a tough time playing well.
It’s pretty important that a player takes their time figuring out what the whole roster is capable of. The game may be relatively simple to pick up, but it is definitely difficult to master. Being able to swap characters on-the-fly is important, and even for veteran shooter players, they might find it difficult to play as a support when they are used to using offensive characters. This might be seen as a plus for some because it is an element of depth that is great for a game like Overwatch, but it can be very intimidating for those when first picking up the game.
3. Teamwork is lacking
This will likely change in the future when the game is fully released, but the Overwatch beta showed us that teamwork is not very intuitive for many. One thing that is fairly common about MOBAs is that character selection is key, and players will be very vocal about who is and isn’t selected. In this beta, however there wasn’t much of that and people were going in blind constantly (at least in the PS4 version; we saw some chatter in the PC version).
There were multiple matches with duplicate characters, too many tanks, or no supports at all. Multiplayer shooters like these thrive with communities, and from the beta, we saw that the community was a little oblivious (we know — it hasn’t even released yet, and this is likely to change). Even after ranking up to higher levels, the players were better at countering opposition and filling empty roles, but mostly it was the same as low level playing. The full release will undoubtedly change this, thanks to the likelihood of more communication at a higher level of play, and this may have to do with console players playing a PC-centric game, but we will truly find out on May 24th.
4. Low Incentive
Something that is really important for multiplayer games is incentive to continue playing. However, from what we saw, Overwatch doesn’t have much to offer for players that continually play and level up. In the beta, the reward for leveling up were loot boxes that included four random customizations for the 21 heroes. The customization options include skins, animations, sprays, and more. The fact that they are random makes it a little frustrating that hours of game time is rewarded with potentially minor things you might not like or ever use; it’s likely that what you receive will be small and fairly boring, which is disappointing. Occasionally, you might unlock credits to purchase these items, but it doesn’t appear to be common.
I’ll note that the in-game store wasn’t available during the beta, which will most likely be comprised of loot boxes and credits you can purchase with actual money. When the game releases, we will see a few random folks with rare skins and emotes making continual play and leveling less important for those that put in the time.
5. Balance Issues
Multiplayer arena games always find themselves with character balance problems and at this point its come to be expected, but it’s still something that needs to be address before this game launches. Many of the characters in Overwatch are either overpowered or too weak. For example, Reinhardt’s Barrier Field ability is way too powerful making it completely frustrating, Torbjörn’s turrets can either be insane or completely useless, Tracer’s ability cooldowns are a little too quick, and Bastion, as a whole, is overpowered with a far too effective heal and an ultimate that contains multiple one shot kills. Hopefully, Blizzard realizes these issues and addresses them because these tweaks are important with a roster this large and a game with a strong focus on character counter play. Blizzard is fairly good at communicating with their audience and working with them to make their games better, so, hopefully, they will tweak the characters of Overwatch to make for a well-balanced shooter.
The Overwatch beta was an overall great experience, and even with some minor issues holding the game back, we believe Overwatch has the potential to be one of the better multiplayer experiences of 2016. We’re excited for the Overwatch release date, which is one of the points of having a beta. This seemingly simplistic game has a lot of depth and complexity beneath the surface that makes it a unique shooter in a world filled with hero-based shooters. It’s a mix of MOBA and arena shooter that is full of fun and chaos. Experienced players and newcomers to these types of games should keep this game on their radar because it is definitely worth playing, especially if the team at Blizzard continually updates the game.