BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch First Impressions

Overwatch Impressions:

From the moment the trailer started I knew Blizzard was going in a completely unique direction with their latest IP.  Nothing about this franchise reminds me of Blizzard’s established powerhouses.  The reveal trailer establishes the tone and emphasis of this new universe.  That emphasis is heroes.  There is an uplifting element to Overwatch that I haven’t experienced in a very long time.  The color palette and art style are vibrant, yet accessible.  The new art style immediately attached to me.  I had no need to adjust, as it felt both next-gen and like a familiar friend.  Everything in both the trailer and the actual gameplay demo looked very polished, especially for not even being a beta build.  The overall level of polish suggests that this game is much further along than I initially expected.

Speaking of the gameplay demo… I will do my best to describe my awesome experience with Overwatch.  After watching the Origins panel, I thought it must be a lot like Team Fortress.  A team-based shooter with a non-realistic art style.  Having now played the game, I would say the similarities end there.  Blizzard was very intentional to establish that this game isn’t about classes, but that Overwatch is about heroes. 

My first round started with a staging area where other Blizzcon attendees and I were trying to learn the controls and upon being fragged I discovered something amazing.  At each spawn, you currently have the choice of switching between any of the available heroes.

Blizzard stated that it is advantageous to be comfortable swapping between heroes as the situation may demand different abilities than what your previous hero had before being fragged.  While I wasn’t entirely aware of which hero was best for different situations throughout my rounds, I tried 11/12 heroes during my demo time and was amazed how unique they all felt.

Winston, the gorilla genius from the Moon, leaps around the map and has a close-radius lighting gun.  Widowmaker is a sniper with a grappling hook that she can shoot to get to the perfect spot with.  Tracer, a crowd favorite, zips through reality and can recall to the location she was at three seconds prior.  Hanzo, the archer, felt entirely unique in that his gameplay made me forget I was playing a first-person shooter.  The same could be said for Reinhardt, which made me think of a giant hammer-wielding paladin.  Shooter is a very limiting term to this game, as combat styles are varied as much as the character roster.  The health pools in the game are large and displayed.  I know how much shield Winston has and can watch it tick down.  The decision for “less lethal” combat is intentional and in my opinion it fits.  Characters not dying by the twitch of the trigger allows players to react and respond in combat, something more similar to Destiny and Halo than Call of Duty and Battlefield.  Want to try Overwatch?  The beta is set to launch 2015 and you can sign up on playoverwatch.com

Now for my favorite part of games, the lore.  The universe itself feels very alive and inviting.  There was a short trailer explaining the origins of Tracer, and Chris Metzen made it sound like the lore will be fleshed out substantially through media outside of the game itself.  While short trailers are a given, longer stories or “seasons” of videos aren’t out of the question.  My immediate though after playing the game and having seen the trailer was “why isn’t this a TV show or movie?”  With the exceedingly warm response Overwatch is receiving, I think Blizzard might be asking themselves that same question.

We plan to post a full transcript of the Overwatch Origin Panel soon. Follow us on Twitter at @blizzplanetcom for updates, and keep an eye on our BlizzCon 2014 panel transcripts archive.

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Daniel Montoya

World of Warcraft and Overwatch writer