This World is Worth Fighting For!

It can be a challenge to review video games without a story (and thus, without an ending). You're never truly "done", and the mechanics could change at any moment, so any judgement calls you make could be irrelevant in a month. Still, I have to make the attempt, because I've been playing Overwatch for more than a month now, and it doesn't seem to be waning at all. I'm far from the only person it's hooked; currently it sits as Blizzard's best selling game ever (even topping World of Warcraft) and has something like 10 million players worldwide.

Normally, I'm on record as enjoying the more quiet, single-player, narrative-based games. What would I be doing playing a shooter with other gamers, a lot of whom are complete garbage humans?

Easy! All you have to do is make an impeccably-tailored game that excels at character design, sound design, map design, and has intuitive controls for beginners while leaving room to improve into an expert role. That's all there is to it! That's not to say the game is perfect, but a lot of its flaws aren't the designers' faults. Most of the issues result from those other gamers I just mentioned. When the entire game is based on teamwork with strangers, may of whom are basement-dwelling teenagers with inflated egos, of course some of the matches will be less than civil. Really, there's only one business practice that I've had a problem with, which I'll mention below. First, let's get to the good stuff.

I cannot overstate how cool this game's cast of characters is, and how much thought clearly went into it. You can play as any of twenty-two characters (with more in development!), and you can tell from that pic up there how diverse they are. They range not only in nationality, age, and abilities, but in temperament. Want to play as a wise, salty old woman? Meet Ana. An anarchic pyromaniac? Junkrat! A kindly Swiss doctor? Mercy! A semi-intelligent robot fascinated with birds? Bastion! Currently, my favorite character to play is Mei, a Chinese research scientist with an ice gun that excels in frustrating opponents by freezing them to the spot or walling them off from their destinations. In a lesser game, I'd figure out the three characters I enjoy playing and just focus on them. So it's an incredible feat that I've found something to enjoy about each and every one of these heroes. Sure, I don't really play as Genji or Bastion much, but there isn't one who's wholly unplayable to me, and I don't think I've ever seen that before.

Each character is adept against some of the others, and is vulnerable to some of the others. You and five other players form a team of six and either attack or defend an objective on one of thirteen current maps (again, more are in development, and each of the thirteen have multiple locales). Whoever is able to remain in control of a certain spot (or is able to escort/prevent a moving object from reaching a destination) wins, and then it's on to the next match.

It's deceptively simple, yet there are countless strategies to employ. There are also multiple game modes. You can play against AI robots. You can play a goof-around match against other people. You can design your own custom match. Or you can join the competitive ladder and work towards rewards for the best players. This is also a game that emphasizes positive teamwork; it features good plays and doesn't display your mistakes for others to see. There are built-in ways to congratulate and thank people. There really isn't much to criticize in the way of gameplay. It's all been terrific so far.

The only sticking point has been the leveling/loot system. Each hero has a bunch of cool cosmetic things to acquire, from voice lines to costumes to spray paint tags. Every time you level up, you receive a loot box with four of these items in it (or credits that can be used to purchase them). But the loot system is random, so it'll often give you the crappy little things you already own, offering a miniscule credit bump to compensate for duplicates. This is obviously a ploy to get people to spend real money on loot boxes, which I'm ashamed to admit I've done. It's irritating, but it was only a real problem during the Olympics, in which they offered games-themed items. Again, they were randomly generated, often duplicated, and you're not allowed to use in-game credits to purchase them. That means people who just want a simple costume could either spend an inordinate amount of money to get the chance to obtain it, or they can wait a year and try again. That seems overly greedy to me.

Besides that, Overwatch has been a joy to play, and has been sucking up all of my free time. Even as I type this, I wish I could go home and fire up a match, and am still thinking of ways to cajole my friends into joining up. Lines from the game have been infecting my everyday speech. Like I said at the top, though, this is a dynamic game, and they could change it whenever the whim strikes them. For now, though, it's been an extremely pleasant obsession.

Overwatch: A


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