I’m little bit late jumping on the Overwatch hype-train (as I am with most things), but Blizzard have introduced a new character, so I guess it’s still relevant enough. I’ve never been much of a Blizzard fan; I play the occasional game of Hearthstone (not very well). But I’ve been hooked on their latest release for around a month now, after finally giving in and settling for buying it on console (the inferior version). It’s so easy to get swept up in the Overwatch madness; it’s a fun community to be part of, and Blizzard knows exactly how to cater to it.
If you haven’t heard of Overwatch (what’s life like under a rock?), it’s the latest online multiplayer game in the ‘character’ genre. The term ‘character genre’ usually describes a competitive team-game with mechanics based around players choosing different characters, each being defined by different stats or playstyles. Obviously, this definition can be played around with, and be applied to a variety of game formats, such as MOBA’s or FPS’s.
Overwatch is a little like Team Fortress. Two teams of six compete to complete objectives, such as establishing turf or escorting bombs, in an allotted time limit. Players have the choice of 22 diverse characters to choose from, each assigned a different ‘role’; offensive, defence, tank, and support.
The mechanics of Overwatch are brilliantly nuanced, and are constantly being tweaked by Blizzard as they continue to receive feedback. But what most people want to talk about is not how the game plays, but how the game presents itself.
Let me explain…
Blizzard have a pretty good history of crafting extremely polished titles. Hearthstone is easily the most well-made video card-game available (sorry Magic: The Gathering players, but it’s true). Its presentation is just phenomenal and the amount of detail; in everything from the sound-effects to playing boards is ludicrous, and ultimately, makes all the difference.
Overwatch is a masterclass in this approach. I’m not going to get into the marketing, because that’s been done to death, but I am going to comment on how excellently Blizzard have crafted the game’s characters. Overwatch has no exact ‘narrative’ per se, but it does tell a surprisingly in-depth narrative. I’m not necessarily talking about all the materials available outside the game; the short films, comics etc.., but the way the game’s characters are designed.
Each and every character in Overwatch has their own story, that they don’t need to open their mouths to tell it to you, at least not directly. The way they look (or as I like to call it: their visual language) helps convey who they are to the player. For example, let’s examine Roadhog; he’s clearly middle aged (got a nice beer belly going-on), he’s got a tattoo of a pig on his stomach (he likes to make a statement), he’s wearing tires as shoulder pads (very Mad Max) but he’s pinned cute little badges on them (he’s got a soft-side).
Now that might seem like a bit of a shallow analysis, but the reason why Overwatch’s characters work so well is that they’re designed to give the viewer a good idea of who they are. Reaper’s design is appealing, because it tells us that this man has a dark secret hidden by that mask and cloak. Winston is a giant gorilla with glasses and a jetpack; clearly a hyper-intelligent monkey scientist. My main man Lucio has a gun that doubles up as a sound machine, therefore; corporate hating skater DJ.
Overwatch may be a multiplayer game on its face, but it’s got a single player narrative in its heart. It’s a competitive game that goes beyond its mechanics; caring about its story and how its characters portray it. This is why, a traditionally narrative-driven gamer like me, loves Overwatch so much, because it provides a storyline alongside all the multiplayer mayhem. It’s everything Destiny wished it was.