Vlad

Our Overwatch Impressions

Sign in to follow this  

1 post in this topic

13265-our-overwatch-impressions.png

Here are our impressions of Overwatch and various thoughts on its direction and launch, following our chance to play it at Gamescom.

 

This year's Gamescom provided an opportunity for thousands of gamers to try their hand at Blizzard's newest game: Overwatch. This is the third such opportunity after Blizzcon 2014, where the game was first announced, and PAX East 2015.

 

We took full advantage of the situation and set out to play as much as we could during Gamescom. We did also play Overwatch at Blizzcon last year, so here are our impressions with regards to how the game feels, when it might be launched, and how its future as an eSport looks.

 

What is Overwatch?

 

For anyone who is not aware, Overwatch is Blizzard's version of a team-based First Person Shooter (FPS) game. It is played in a 6v6 format, with the two teams fighting over map objectives. Players respawn at their base a few seconds after they die, and this "deathmatch" style continues until the attacking team conquers the map objectives, or until the time runs out and the defending team wins. The game features several maps, each having either payload or point capture objectives.

 

Players can choose to play as any one of 16 currently available heroes, although more are to be expected before the game is released (we recently covered the latest content addition). Each hero has their own weapon as well as a set of unique abilities that they can use throughout the game. The heroes are categorized by roles (these being tank, offense, defense, and support), and teams are able to create a variety of different compositions.

 

If you were to ask "What game is Overwatch like?", the answer would be Team Fortress 2.

 

Extremely Polished Game

 

This is the one thing that everyone I've spoken to about Overwatch can easily agree on. The game feels about as polished and ready-to-play as it did 9 months ago at Blizzcon; and that means that it's still really very, very well polished. The same was true of Hearthstone (although some game-breaking bugs plagued that one for a long time) and Heroes of the Storm, so things are quite in-line with Blizzard's MO.

 

All the existing heroes feel very solidly put together, with their abilities synergising well to give each one of them a strong identity. Indeed, in this respect the game feels much more like an RPG or a MOBA, where the player can truly feel how they are different from everyone else on the battlefield. You are not an offensive hero, you are Reaper. You are not a support hero, you are Lúcio.

 

FtX3iuP.png

 

Lúcio heals allies around him but remains a formidable threat to enemies, although his projectiles are difficult to aim and easy to avoid.

 

The maps are likewise well polished (although only the two new maps - Numbani and Volskaya Industries - were playable at Gamescom). They feature an impressive amount of visual details to give them their own individual feel. Backstory is also provided, giving players a good idea of what the context of the battle is.

 

The maps are not there just to give players something nice to look at - they provide many opportunities for strategic choices, creative individual plays, and viciously satisfying moments. For example, it is possible to fall off the side of some of the maps, which leads to an instant death. Combine this with the fact that several heroes have the ability to knock enemies back, and you've got the potential for some outstanding kills.

 

03Q20tj.png

 

Volkskaya Industries provides many opportunities for players to be knocked off the map.

 

Unexpectedly Addictive

 

One thing that is immediately apparent when playing Overwatch (as soon as you've set up your mouse sensitivity and gotten used to the basic controls) is just how much fun the game is. It does not matter if you don't understand what all the heroes do, or even what all the map objectives are - the game will still have you cheering or kicking yourself (depending on your results) before long.

 

It is a game that is easy enough to grasp and get into, but which has great depth, allowing players to leverage their superior skill and experience (with Overwatch or shooters in general) to dominate their opponents. We can only imagine how actual teams, making use of strategies and hero synergies, will push the entertainment factor of the game even further. While its future as an eSport is uncertain (more on that below), I have no doubt that the game will be a massive hit for the "casual" gamer.

 

Beta and Launch

 

A few days ago, Overwatch appeared on players' Battle.net launcher, and while it is not yet playable, this is a good indication that Beta is not far off. A Beta in 2015 has been seen as more or less a sure thing, but this latest development sheds a bit more light on the matter.

 

If we look at Blizzard's history with their other two free-to-play titles, a trend is not immediately evident, but some predictions can be made.

 

Hearthstone was announced in March 2013, its closed Beta started in August 2013, and the game was launched in March of 2014.

 

Heroes of the Storm was announced in November 2013, its closed Beta started in January 2015, and it's launch was in June of the same year. It is worth noting that between March 2014 and January 2015, the game was in Technical Alpha, which gave a sizable number of players access to the game.

 

This means that, to date, Overwatch has had the longest period of time between its announcement and when any significant number of non-Blizzard employees were able to play the game. It seems that closed Beta can take anywhere between 5 and 9 months (and I'm sure Blizzard has no restrictions on this - they have always seemed to do things at the pace that works best for them).

 

Given all of this, and the fact that the game has been playable by Blizzard employees for 3 months, I predict closed Beta in September or October of 2015, with a launch some time in 2016 (as early as February, but possibly as late as July).

 

Overwatch as an eSport

 

In the competitive FPS genre, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is by far the biggest name at the moment. Overwatch will have to compete with CS:GO, or carve its own separate niche, if it is to be a successful eSport. Most likely, it will have to do both. We have seen that with Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard has taken the established formula and tweaked it just enough to attract players from those games, but still be in a slightly different field. So far, this does not appear to have produced the desired effect (HoTS is still a long way from being on even footing with the two MOBA giants), but a lot of time remains.

 

Therefore, it stands to reason that this is also Blizzard's logic when it comes to Overwatch. Take the established games (Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike) and tweak them just enough. It is hard to say if Overwatch is equipped for this task as it stands, but there are a few elements that can give cause for concern.

 

The most glaring potential problem I noticed is that Overwatch games can end quickly - extremely quickly - if one team is massively outplayed. Having the entire defensive team die in a battle (even if the fight was a close one) will almost guarantee that the attacking team will capture the contested objective (since respawning and running back takes quite a bit of time, and objectives do not take long to be captured). Have this happen twice in a row, and the game is over. It could all take less than 5 minutes.

 

This is probably unlikely to happen with teams of even skill (but we would have to see games between organised team to really be able to tell), although it still has a much different pace than Counter-Strike matches. Part of the appeal in spectating Counter-Strike is that, despite the individual quick and dynamic plays, the game is slow enough to allow spectators to appreciate situations, and to allow commentators to explain them.

 

Obviously, the way in which Overwatch was made available to players at Blizzcon and Gamescom is not conducive to understanding exactly how competitive mode will work, and we will see a lot more about this topic in the coming months, but I feel Counter-Strike's formula (which has been successful since 2001) is excellent, and something Blizzard will have to be very careful when innovating on.

 

Another concern is that while the 6v6 format allows for much-needed customisation and team variety in a game such as this, Counter-Strike's leaner 5v5 could make it easier for teams to form and practice routinely.

 

Conclusions

 

Among a sea of expansions and additions to their current franchises, Overwatch truly feels like a breath of fresh air from Blizzard. It feels like a project into which they are putting their heart and soul, much like they did with Hearthstone (and not as much with Heroes of the Storm). I am confident that this will reflect in the final quality of the game, and that players everywhere will love the game as much as most of those few who had a chance to play it already do.

 

Edit: Added a mention that Overwatch was also playable at PAX East (the article previously claimed it had only been playable at Blizzcon and Gamescom).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By Starym

       
      As mentioned in a December PTR update, Overwatch Heroes are getting their movement tweaked. Today, Principal Designer Geoff Goodman took to the forums to explain and illustrate these changes in detail!
      The update focuses on incline and acceleration: movement on inclines was inconsistent both in terms of direction and sped, while the acceleration aspect of the changes is related to air jumps and sharp turns. Check out the full explanation with added examples below.
      Geoff Goodman (source)
      Hi everyone,
      We wanted to take some time to explain the recent movement changes in depth (with examples). Hopefully this will help everyone better understand what changed, and what did not.
      Incline Changes:
      There were two persistent issues with movement on inclines that we wanted to clean up.
      First, while moving diagonally on inclines you would end up being slightly strafed left or right even if you were only attempting to move forward. This can be a subtle source of aiming issues for many people, and now the player will properly move forward in this situation.
      Second, movement up and down inclines had inconsistent speed as compared to the ground. Running both up and down an incline would be faster than walking on flat ground. However faster movement (e.g. McCree’s Combat Roll) would be slower when going up and down inclines. Having consistent character movement speed is important for many reasons, the biggest of which is it allows you to be able to reliably know how to aim your hitscan shots or lead your projectile fire.
      Acceleration changes:
      The characters in Overwatch have a fixed acceleration (how fast they can change their movement velocity) depending on if they are in the air or on the ground. Previously, this amount would get reduced if you were attempting to change your direction by 90 degrees or less, and was more pronounced if you were going faster than normal (e.g. Winston’s Jump Pack or Doomfist’s Rocket Punch). One of the consequences of this was that if you were in the air travelling forward and wanted to move directly right, you could reach full speed to the right faster if you accelerated backwards to a full stop and then moved to the right, as opposed to simply pressing to the right. Having to do a non-intuitive movement to reach your desired direction as fast as possible is less than ideal, so we made a change to allow you to more consistently use the air acceleration you already had to reach the direction you'd like to be moving in.
      The new acceleration can feel like momentum is no longer conserved like before, but the forward velocity is just more efficiently being converted into sideways velocity. The direction is changing faster but your overall speed isn’t being slowed down.
      Examples:
      If you're flying as Pharah, you can now just press forward and you will properly accelerate moving forward, instead of having to counter accelerate to stop sideways drift.
      If you’re leaping as Winston, you can more effectively redirect your velocity around corners. Prior to this rework it was possible to achieve similar mid-air turns by always facing your current velocity while strafing, but this was also unintuitive.
      You can now press forward and right directional inputs after a Winston leap and you will actually move some to the right, whereas previously you would have to only hold right if you wanted to get any acceleration to the right.
      It does mean getting used to the new strafing power. No longer do you have to hold strafe for a long time to get a small adjustment to your movement, you can simply short hold or tap it as needed, and pressing forward with a left or right command will do smaller adjustments than if pressing left or right alone.
      This does not substantially affect movement when trying to change movement direction by >90 degrees.
      Additionally, left and right strafing on the ground and air will be the same along with attempting to accelerate against a knockback will be the same.
      We’re keeping an eye on these changes to make sure everything is working correctly. Any feedback would be appreciated, and would be especially helpful with any screenshots or videos.
    • By Mournflakes

      The second week of Overwatch League begins tomorrow, but it's important to analyse last week's winning strategies and the strength of various compositions. We've done exactly that with a list of facts and composition points from Overwatch League Week 1.
      Only 5 Heroes Surpassed 10 Hours of Playtime in the Week 1 Matches
      Of the 26 heroes available to play in Overwatch, more than 80% saw less than 6 hours of league match time. In fact, the five most used heroes in Overwatch League’s first week accounted for 80 hours of in-game use, while the 21 other heroes combined accounted for under 40 hours of match time use. This means 5 specific heroes were played more than two times the total amount of the 21other characters in Overwatch League’s inaugural week. The top 5 are as follows:
      Mercy - 18h 50m
      D.Va - 17h 33m
      Winston - 15h 24m
      Zenyatta - 14h 55m
      Tracer - 12h 58m
      After Tracer, a major drop off of in character usage is seen. Tracer has double the match time of that of the sixth most utilized hero, Genji, who came in at 5h 37m.
      This tells us a couple of things. First, it tells us that Mercy is clearly the top priority pick, and is a non-negotiable standard for almost all compositions. Her ability to resurrect teammates mixed with her survivability cannot be passed up in professional play.
      Second, it tells us there is a strong meta composition in the pro scene. D.Va follows closely behind Mercy, with only an hour and 20 minutes short of Mercy’s usage. We then have Winston, Zenyatta, and Tracer coming after that. Most of these heroes point to one major composition, dive comp, and that is a lot of what we saw last week. However, one hero sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s Zenyatta. This leads us to our second lesson.
      Zenyatta Is the Focal Point of Successful Overwatch League Play
      Zenyatta’s placement as the fourth most used hero in Overwatch League play may come as a surprise for many players. However, the data shows that he was utilized much more than other supports (who are not Mercy). In fact, Zenyatta was used five times more than the next most used support, Lucio, who saw 2h 52m of gameplay.
      So why Zenyatta? He can’t escape dive compositions, he can’t run from flankers, and his healing output is weaker than other support heroes. However, data reveals that while Zenyatta had a negative win rate over the course of the whole week, he had the best win rate of all supports, 1.7% higher than the next support, Mercy. Data also shows that when Zenyatta was on one team, and the other team was not running a Zenyatta, his win rate increased to 53%, 9% higher than the next hero under similar “one team use” circumstances.
      How can this be considered a dive composition when Zenyatta is utilized so heavily? I would argue that while the primary composition is “dive-esque,” the necessity of Zenyatta changes that composition. Lucio would be the pick of choice in a “pure” dive comp, but Zenyatta is chosen instead. So what would I call this composition?
      “Synergy Comp”
      Why? Because each of these heroes is heavily dependant on the others to get things done. None of these heroes really makes a huge impact on their own (aside from Mercy.) However, when team members synergize, focus on single targets, and work as a unit, the composition is unstoppable. Zenyatta’s orbs prove that “Syn Comp” is here to stay unless patches change the composition dynamics mid-season. Zen’s discord orb is the one ability that makes him stand above the rest of the supports (barring Mercy,) and is key to Syn comp’s viability. Focusing targets while utilizing discord orbs is what often makes Zen the shot caller of the team. In many ways, teams who protect and function off of their Zen are the team’s who will come out with the win.
      In fact, almost every Overwatch League team composition that had more than 10 fights, and had a team fight win rate of over 50%, utilized Zenyatta in some way. This proves that a composition that utilizes Zenyatta will have the best odds of winning.
      The only outlier to this statistic is a composition of Hanzo, Widow, Roadhog, Bastion, Orisa, and Mercy, which had 20 minutes of use on the first point of Junkertown, with a 75% team fight win rate. Dallas Fuel, New York Excelsior, and Los Angeles Valiant used this composition. This composition happened to have the highest win rate of all team comps that were used for over 10 fights. Which leads us to the last point.
      Maps and Specific Checkpoints Will Determine Team Comps
      As mentioned above, a double sniper, Roadhog offtank, Orisa maintank, Bastion, and Mercy composition had the most successful team fight win rate of the week at 75% (of all compositions that fought more than 10 fights.) I believe that this composition was used on only the first point of Junkertown. With only one member of the composition (Mercy) coming from the top 5 most used characters of the hero pool, this group of heroes proves that thinking outside of the box and playing the map can have huge payoffs. Of the 24 team fights that this composition faced, it won 18 of them. This data shows that team compositions can be heavily dependent on map layouts and perform extremely well. I am excited to see what non-meta Overwatch League team compositions will be used to throw enemies off-guard and utilize the surroundings of the current objective. Adaptability is a core of Overwatch gameplay and will be the difference between champions and losers.
      Which of these statistics shocked you the most? What non-meta compositions do you think we will see in this week of Overwatch League? Respond with your thoughts below!
    • By Zadina

      The new hybrid map will be available next week.
      Blizzard World will indeed open its doors before the end of January, as Jeff Kaplan had reassured. The map will be added to live servers on January 23 in the US and January 24 in Europe.
      Placeholder for tweet 953431688477945857 Jeff has promised that the Blizzard World patch will bring collectible stuff for all heroes! Lastly, it has been hinted that balance changes may follow in the near future after Blizzard World's release. And don't forget: there's a new hero being on the works and he/she/it will apparently change the meta!
    • By Starym

       
      Jeff Kaplan tells Overwatch Central about the newest addition to the roster.
      We're getting up to the 27th Hero when the new one hits and Overwatch Central had a little chat with Game Director Jeff Kaplan on the subject. Apparently the Hero is already deep in testing and they're making additional skins for it as well, which all means they won't be changing their minds and the concept will go to PTR and then live eventually. The Hero will also change the meta according to Kaplan, which implies a significant impact and not just the "default" meta change of simply having another Hero to choose. He also mentioned that new Heroes are taking more and more time to make as players expect more and more from each of them, including custom emotes etc. In any case, the interview itself is well worth a watch as well:
    • By Mournflakes

      The first two days of Overwatch League have showcased amazing coordination, incredible individual effort, and unbelievable quick-wit. Now that teams have gotten their feet wet with the League’s protocol and tournament-style, there are no more excuses for nerves or jitters. The Overwatch League is in full swing, and today’s matches will say a lot about each team’s tenacity, skill, and heart.
      Dallas Fuel vs Los Angeles Valiant- 4:00 P.M. PST
      On Wednesday, the members of Dallas Fuel placed their hearts and souls in the match against Seoul Dynasty. Despite their efforts, Seoul came away with a victory due to a last round tie that gave the match advantage to Dynasty. Losing to technicality is never easy, and there is no doubt that Fuel fans felt for the team. Due to the competiveness of the match, Fuel members have undoubtedly been thinking about what they could have done differently to change the outcome against Dynasty. Despite the loss, Dallas members must once again put it all on the line for their matchup against Los Angeles Valiant, who swept every single round against San Francisco Shock on Wednesday. With Fuel wanting to prove that they can bounce back from a difficult first loss and Valiant trying to show why they are one of the top contenders of the league, this is a match you don’t want to miss!
      Florida Mayhem vs Boston Uprising- 6:00 P.M. PST
      The Eastern United States tilt features Florida Mayhem and Boston Uprising. Last night, both teams were able to secure one round in each of their respective matches, but the stiff competition gave them nothing more.  With a quick one day turnaround, both teams must overcome their recent defeats and bring their best to the match tonight. You can expect a fantastic game, as both teams try to prove why they are the best choice in representing the prowess of the Eastern United States.
      Shanghai Dragons vs San Francisco Shock- 8:00 P.M. PST
      San Francisco Shock ended up being the first team to lose an official Overwatch League game (and to lose a match without winning a round) Wednesday night. As the match played out, it became apparent that Shock has talent, but that it is still working on coordination and synced team play.  The same could be said for the Shanghai Dragons, who followed up Shock’s play with their own 0-4 match against the Los Angeles Gladiators. Both of these teams have yet to win an official round of Overwatch, but tonight, one of these teams will be walking away with a match. The question is— which team will it be? Watch the Friday night finale to find out.
      My personal predictions are:
      Dallas Fuel 3-2 Los Angeles Valiant
      Boston Uprising 3-1 Florida Mayhem
      San Francisco Shock 4-0 Shanghai Dragons
      What are your predictions for tonight’s matches? Put your comments below!