Blizzard has flagged for a huge number of accounts for this weekend’s Overwatch Beta Test Weekend. Luckily, I have had access to the beta for the past few weeks and I wanted to share what you can look forward to.
At first glance, Overwatch seems like a hybrid of the more recently popular MOBAs and a team-based FPSs. While the diverse kits of the various heroes certainly seem much like the skills you would find in DotA, Smite or League of Legends, the game itself feels very much like a competitive FPS. In many ways, it plays like the ever popular Team Fortress 2, but with added diversity and more fun abilities.
Like MOBAs, Overwatch heroes have ultimate abilities, which they charge by taking damage, dealing damage and helping with game objectives. For every hero I tried, these abilities felt fun and satisfying. One of my favorite characters, the newly released D.Va, jumps out of her mech and sets it to self destruct. The joy of dropping your mech in the middle of the enemy’s strong defensive position and fleeing to safety has left me cackling in glee as I rack up a satisfying multikill.
A key aspect of the game is the ability to change heroes in the middle of the match. This means there is little stress at the start of the game to find the perfect composition, though a handy built-in tip feature lets you know if your team is lacking in any department before the match starts. Most importantly, though, it allows you to be reactive to your situation and how the other team is playing. Pesky hero racking up kills? Pick a counter to them. Guarding a point in a good position? Switch to a more defensive hero and board up. Even in a match when you are getting stomped, the ability to switch heroes makes the devastation more tolerable, giving you a touch of excitement and motivation to switch heroes and try a different approach instead of simply groaning into your keyboard.
For being in a beta state, the game runs smoothly and the abilities appear to work almost flawlessly. In my countless matches, I did not run into a single bug. Unfortunately, the unfinished state of the game is shown in other ways, such as the painful tutorial, sometimes confusing ability descriptions and the balance of the game. Some characters seem like they are simply hard to balance properly to work well in both uncoordinated newbie and higher level play. Bastion, a defensive battle robot, is a key example of this flaw. He is quite easy to kill if you can get close to him, but his shield and ridiculously powerful long-ranged attacks make him ideal for posting up defensively. Without coordination he is practically impossible to take out and I have lost a number of frustrating games to two Bastions on the enemy team guarding their last defense point.
As a team-based game, communication and teamwork is often the key to winning a match. With the built-in voice chat, all you need is a mic in order to talk to your teammates. However, in my experience, many players are either quite shy or do not own a mic. Still, the matches where I have had people communicating have been the most successful and fun, so make sure you have your mic ready for this weekend!