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So What Makes Overwatch So Great?

by Daniel Tack on Mar 11, 2015 at 06:14 AM

Unless you attended Blizzcon last year, this year’s PAX East was the first time to get real hands-on with Blizzard’s upcoming 6v6 team shooter Overwatch. While there are plenty of little nuances and intricacies that separate it from obvious inspirations like Team Fortress 2, my second time playing allowed me to take a little bit of a deeper look as to why the game is so immediately charming and addicting. To put it as plainly as possible – you’re playing characters, not classes, and the game manages to be unbelievably accessible while slowly revealing high-skill cap mechanics and combos as you peel away each layer of learning.

Overwatch’s “learn how to play a character” vignettes that cover all of a character’s moves in just a few moments are all anyone needs to watch before diving in – with most characters simply having a right mouse, left mouse, shift, special attack and ultimate, the entire skillset of a character can be distilled down to the most basic of elements. This makes Overwatch intensely accessible, as players can easily understand a character in under a minute. It’s when you’re in a game, paired up with five other characters, that you can start slowly unlocking synergy puzzles, both within your own movesets and the environment and in tandem with other player’s abilities.

The two recently revealed characters make for an obvious splashy example of this: using Zarya’s Graviton Surge to suck in and lock down the enemy team as Jesse McCree unleashes the incredibly satisfying Deadeye to shoot down all opponents. These sort of team interactions are plentiful, but there is lots of room for mastery within each character’s own movesets – for example, learning how to fan the hammer of McCree’s six-shooter and then using the combat roll for a “free” reload, hopping back up into combat with a full hand cannon and another potential clip unload.

The characters in Overwatch are immaculately crafted in terms of flavor, from colorful design to voicework. Hearing Tracer’s “Cheers love, the cavalry’s here!” as she blinks around the battlefield never fails to induce a smile and when you combine it with Reaper’s bad-guy indifference and McCree’s high-noon drawl, games play out as a series of special interactive moments that feel great, even when you’re being held back by rocket barrages and sniper fire.

Defined characters and accessibility combined with the precise shooting and excellent pacing make Overwatch one of my most anticipated games in the coming years – while it’s far too early to cast any meaningful judgment on the title, everything I’ve seen and played so far indicates Blizzard has something really special here.