Blizzard has been doing several beta sessions for its new team based shooter Overwatch, but this last week it launched its final beta. This was an open beta, meaning anyone with a PC, Playstation4 and Xbox1 could join at no cost and this attracted over 9 million players to try out the game and most impressions have been good.
I tried out the game on both the PS4 and on PC via Blizzard’s battle.net desktop application, however, regardless of platform the game is a blast to play and with millions of players online there is never a dull moment in matchmaking.
Overwatch, for those not in the know, is a team and class based shooter from RPG goliath and World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment. There are 21 unique characters divided into 4 classes including Attackers, Tanks, Defense and Support, but even within the same class characters are different. The Tank class as an example has D.Va, a girl inside a mech unit that can use boosters to gain altitude, has a defensive shield and automatic cannons plays different from Roadhog, a large mad-max style character with a hook to pull in enemies, a shotgun and can drink to heal himself.
Typical matchmaking in the beta was limited to friendly competition in the form of random matchmaking, though there were options to fight against the computer, custom matches with friends and random mode that I will get into later. Typical matches are 6 versus 6 matches and can range from Capture the Hill style games to Escorting the Payload from one end of the map to the other. Players can freely switch to any character during the match to help adjust to the tide of combat, the game even tries to help balance out teams by giving advice like telling players that there are not enough healers or there are too many offense characters.
Every beta has held a different special mode and in this last beta there was a new weekly brawl called Mystery Heroes. In this match style, players are given a randomly picked character at the beginning of the match and are given a new random hero whenever they respawn, keeping the match random and somewhat unpredictable. This was a great way to try out new heroes when you wouldn’t otherwise. Mystery Heroes differs from previous brawls like Girl Power that limits the roster to only women or Arcade Mode that added more health and quicker ultimate power ups.
Matches can feel quick but never short, combat is frantic, but with extremely colorful and unique designs all the characters are quickly recognizable. Overwatch does a great job at keeping players engaged even when the screen is a cacophony of colors, lights and sounds. However, there are a couple of problems with the game. The first being the glaring omission of a competitive mode, specially when it had been present in previous betas.
Another problem with Overwatch is the balancing, while the game is a lot more balanced than previous sessions, there are still some overpowered characters like the ice gun using Mei, who can slow down and freeze enemies with relative ease, Hanzo’s collision ignoring ultimate attack, and even Junkrat’s tire ultimate that can decimate enemies from a distance.
Even with those problems, Overwatch was a delight to play and with the game being free for a week, there was never any waiting when getting into matches. Bringing some friends along for the ride also helps the experience and voice chat helps to set up some pretty killer combinations such as having a shield barrier around a turret and having a healing friend nearby makes for a pretty devastating combination, on that note, the game also rewards players for healing, playing defensively and being a supporter if you’re not doing well as an offensive player.
The open is over, it closed on May 10, but the retail game launches on May 24 on PC, PS4 and Xbox 1, and retails for $59.99, with the PC version having a $39.99 edition directly from Blizzard.