Early Impressions: The Overwatch Beta

Overwatch: Beta_20160503085235

Yesterday was my first hands-on with Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch, and I couldn’t have more positive things to report. The game, which arrives this month on the 24th, offers up various 6v6 PvP activities and, though they are familiar modes to anyone who engages in online multiplayer, they somehow feel fresh.

The first thing that stood out to me was the art direction. Before each match, a gorgeous image of the map location was shown. Multiple times I would exclaim (out loud) “Wow!” The rich colors and exotic locations never failed to get me excited for the next match.

Matches were quick and easy to get into. Whether I was playing against the AI for practice with new heroes (there are 21, in all), or against other players online, matchmaking was smooth. Only occasionally would I have to leave the lobby after an extended wait to try another. Matches were free of lag issues and, if I died, I knew it was through my own error as opposed to a connection issue.

The heroes are varied, and the customizations for each are deep. In my brief time with Overwatch, I was surprised at the number of ways each hero could be altered. Through loot box unlocks (which happen each time you gain a new level on your profile), you can obtain various cosmetic changes such as character skins, emotes, victory poses, voice lines, sprays (a neat image you can spray on just about any surface within a map), and highlight intros. In a loot box last night, I received some credits and I decided to unlock some sprays for the characters I’ve been using most often (Soldier: 76, Widowmaker, Bastion, and D.Va), and the art involved is fantastic. One of my favorite sprays is for Bastion (the robot), and it shows him, covered in moss with his bird on his finger. It’s a small thing, but it’s delightful. I look forward to spraying that image everywhere I can, presumably while also not getting shot in the process.

Speaking of getting shot, I found the Kill Cam after each of my deaths to be quite helpful. I hope to learn from my mistakes and take advantage of that few seconds between my death and respawn. It’s also terribly interesting to see the game from another perspective, as what may feel like a cheap death might actually have been a lucky shot for the other player.

Each character has their own static skill set, and each feels a bit different. There is no sprint option, but when playing as Soldier: 76, that is one of the perks. Having tried out most of the characters at this point, I can see that I’m far more into playing as a damage or defense based character as opposed to a healing one. I like that, from the outset, you can try out any character you wish, to see what your preferred playstyle will be. I’m looking forward to booting the beta up again today to try out those last few characters to see if I take to any of them.

Overwatch: Beta_20160503094607

Oddly enough, one of the only times I got the coveted “Play of the Game” distinction was when I was playing as Hanzo, a character I didn’t think I was doing very well as. Looking back at the achievement, I started to wonder if perhaps I should give him another try. I like that this system allows me to not only change character from match to match, but also within each match if I so choose. If the playing field has changed and it requires an alternate playstyle, I like that I have the freedom to change it up as needed.

I also like that the leveling system is across my entire profile and not for each individual character. From the outset, each character’s skills are entirely unlocked and ready to use. This makes it highly enjoyable to try each one out to see what they have to offer and how I can make use of their arsenal of talents.

Prior to the beta, I was only marginally interested in Overwatch. After playing for a solid four hours yesterday, I can honestly say I’m hooked. I can’t wait for the full retail release in just a few weeks.

Have you tried the Overwatch beta? If so, what did you think? What characters did you opt to use?

5 replies »

  1. SO HYPE that we are finally playing the same game together! I was looking forward to your eventual blog post when you tried out OW, since I had a feeling you would get hooked on it as I did. I’ve been in PC beta since day 1, and have a few hundred hours into the game by now. I’ve played every character, but gravitate toward a few preferred mains, which is Zarya / Zenyatta on offense, and Torbs / Mei / Symmetra on defense. I’ve had many a night playing with 6 of my ex-wow guildies and trashing people, and it’s just a blast.

    IMO, Blizzard nailed it with this game. Very stylized and visually engrossing, with a new universe of characters built from the ground up. I agree that for a genre as saturated as FPS, the game feels fresh. Each hero’s kit seems unique and thematically sound, and Blizzard is known for all those little details like sprays and voicelines that make things feel very distinct.

    As I got better at the game, I started to see how genius it was that you can swap heroes mid-round. Games became this chess match of adjusting to counter the team or push an objective, and then countering THEIR counter, etc etc. There was a while when my crew just rolled 6 Torbs every defense map. Unless the attackers could solve this problem by switching to multiple Pharah/Dvas/whatever, it was just a brick wall people couldn’t get through. Having the freedom to tackle obstacles like that (or place them in the way!) is something that keeps every match dynamic and exciting. I think it will have a fine future.



    • I’m not sure we will be on the same servers, so unless I suddenly get a gaming PC or you get a PS4, I, sadly, don’t think we will get to play together. :(

      I feel like your assessment is spot on, and I, too, love that you can switch out characters on the fly. That’s such a cool thing.

      I’m not sure this will usurp my Destiny “addiction” but we shall see! I definitely am looking forward to the retail release!


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