I picked up Overwatch in June 2016 on a recommendation that barely sold me; but, I was looking for something new to play, it had been forever since I picked up a new game, and I felt like I’d take the gamble on something I knew little about. One year later, and I play it just as much as I did when I first brought it home.
I honestly can’t recall what made me decide to take the chance on it. I have a tenuous
relationship with the FPS genre; it started glowingly with GoldenEye, one of my most beloved and cherished gaming experiences to date. The Christmas that brought me GoldenEye might be the best one I ever had, and this is coming from someone old enough to receive Super Mario Bros. 3 for Christmas, and many great games between that and the N64 era. I could go on about GoldenEye for many paragraphs, but I’ll save that for another entry. For now, I’ll just mention that, from about 1997-2002, whenever I was around 3 other people, my first thought was always “…we could get some 4-player GoldenEye going RIGHT NOW.”
Thing evened out after that. I had fun with the Halo series, but I was never a legitimate competitor in multiplayer – I held my own, but my glory days of destroying everyone in GoldenEye were long gone. From there came the Call of Duty games, which had fun and visually impressive single player campaigns, but I usually stopped there. The frustration of being unable to compete at such a high level as most of the other players online, combined with an overall lack of personality to the experience, and not to mention the rampant toxicity, always made me quit these games once the campaign was over. I loved the survival mode couch co-op options, but that was about it.
Cut to a friend telling me about Overwatch, which sounds interesting until he tells me, “there is no single player. It’s all online.” I was incredulous. “NO single player?! That sounds like a fucking nightmare! What is this this hellish future we now live in? Why does everything have to be focused on multiplayer?! What happened to just telling a good story, delivering a fun experience for one person to enjoy without relying on the dependency of strangers online?!”
But… he was right. I was immediately hooked. There was no memorizing where to find the shotgun, or trying to give my Master Chief clone a weird shade of green to his armor so he would look a little different than everyone else. This game had characters, or more specifically, heroes; a diverse cast of distinct personalities that hailed from all over the globe, with their own backstories and relationships with one another. They all carried their own specific weapon, and abilities to go with it. Some fit the basic archetypes; Solider 76 was your Master Chief stand-in, with the ability to run and toting an assault rifle. Reaper was available for those who loved stalking their prey with a shotgun; Windowmaker and Hanzo for those prone to sniping. I immediately gravitated to Junkrat. Feeling like my days of deadeye accuracy were behind me, I didn’t need it with Junkrat – he wields a grenade launcher, and using his traps for both assault purposes as well as mobility made him feel diverse. From there I went to Roadhog, a beefy tank who could soak up damage and could provide backup fire of his own, with the ability to restore his health or pull enemies lethally close to his scrap gun. Mercy made me feel like I was truly making a difference – not a lot to offer in the ways of killcounts on the battlefield (although she does pack a reliable pistol), but playing her smart will keep your entire team soaring to victory. Even some heroes, like Winston, required zero accuracy skills – his laser gun was designed to hit anything and everything in his proximity, but his leap and shield abilities must be used tactfully in order not to meet an early death.
Strictly team-based gameplay was also a refreshing take (although, not without its share of a few gripes to come with it). Overwatch has strived for balance since its inception; sometimes, nauseatingly so. Because of this, there is no option for free-for-all deathmatches, nor really any need for it. 6-on-6, which is how every match is played save for a few novelty modes, demands team balance, and a diverse set of abilities on the team. And while some players will play strictly for themselves and not consider the team makeup (or, on the inverse, demand changes from team members and create a hostile environment), I find this negative element that goes hand-in-hand with all multiplayer games to be at its lowest in Overwatch. For the most part, I meet great people that I end up teaming up with for the evening, sharing intense, nail-biting matches and sharing praise over each other skills. It’s a feeling I never had playing online multiplayer before, and I never realized how fun it can really be.
One year in, and I’m still playing… a lot. (I’ll just say it: too much.) Why? Well, for one, Blizzard has really achieved a hell of a model in terms of doling out content to its playerbase. Everything is free after purchase (no investing in “map packs” or other DLC), and for the most part, one outstanding piece of new gameplay is released per month. These come in the form of new maps, real-time events that coincide with holidays or story lore, and even new heroes (we are so close to finally getting DOOMFIST!). Each hero packs hundreds of unlockable cosmetic items, and although some are more desirable than others (its all about the skins, no one wants new sprays), each event comes stocked with new limited-time items that can be unlocked. Of course, if you’re wiling to spend your hard earned cash to get these items sooner than the randomly-filled loot boxes will deliver, you can – but it’s not required.
At times, I’ll find myself wanting to take a break, but – what’s that? A new 4-player co-op survival mode just dropped, with new skins to earn? I gotta get in on that. I’m about to rank up in competitive mode? Maybe a few more matches. I’m a little tired of playing Pharah, maybe I need a break from this game – nevermind, I just had a killer match as Tracer, and now the game feels COMPLETELY new again.
Lastly, the backstory and lore of Overwatch has been dripping out very slowly since the game’s release, and it’s been a lot of fun. Stages contain hints you never would notice until, months later, Blizzard releases an animated short about one of the heroes and context suddenly appears. Heroes trade barbs, jokes, compliments and insults while waiting for matches to start, and in turn you’re given a peek behind the curtain. I, for one, am dying with anticipation to learn just what makes Junkrat tick, and a closer look at his bromance with Roadhog.
I’m not great at Overwatch – I usually rank Gold in competitive season, but this season, I finally achieved Platinum and I was ecstatic. I main Mercy in competitive, but enjoy almost all of the heroes to some degree. I plan on posting my thoughts and experience on the various heroes and stages in this space over time, but wanted to kick them off with a background on my unusual start with this game I adore. Thanks for reading, and if you’ve got a favorite hero (or even if you hate Overwatch), feel free to weigh in!