Game Mechanics

Overwatch consists of different game modes;

 

Competitive: The main skill-based game mode where players are assigned ranks dependant on their skill level and performance in competitive games, they are matched with players of similar skill, or at least are supposed to be. Players must first complete 10 entry matches which will determine their starting rank and rating for matchmaking. The mode works well for what it tries to achieve and the matchmaking system isn't awful.

Map objectives change slightly in that a 'best of x' system is put in place elongating play time to find the best team as accurately as possible.

 

Matchmaking is one of the most difficult parts of competitive gameplay to balance as wait times must be balanced with accurate player skill levels and even then the player ratings may not reflect their skill level very well; it is something which may never be 100% accurate and yet Overwatch does it very well but sometimes it does feel like you get forced to lose a game every now and then, something in the nature of it.

Quick Play: Similar to competitive but players don't earn skill rating and the players are normally of lower skill level. A random match is found, as in the name, quickly. No settings are selected, this mode is for those who want a quick, stress-free game. It does the job well, however, fairness definitely doesn't come across as well in this mode with completely new players facing off against players of great experience.

Arcade: A relatively new mode to Overwatch as of the time of writing this critique. New game modes rotate every week with new rules that range from story modes to alternate hero ability effects and powers. This mode isn't supposed to be taken as seriously, although some people do. Each brawl has a dramatic change in gameplay than the regular game, sometimes you have restricted hero selection for example, however, some brawls don't inspire as much as others but for something which is rotated so often this is to be expected. The good part is even the brawls that aren't as good are still enjoyable to play.

Versus AI: A fairly standard mode akin to a custom mode, players can face up against AI opponents of different difficulties obtaining fewer rewards in the end but not having to face as many real players. It works the same way as quick play but with AI opponents instead of real players. A great option to have for those who enjoy it, the AI responds well and can be greatly challenging, no complaints here.

Training: Sadly the only true single player content in the game. A great addition for testing new heroes or trying out new tactics to use in the main game, its also great for new players and the training map is designed well for most situations. Unfortunately it misses out on a lot of potential additions such as areas specific to certain tactics (such as wall-riding).

In addition to the different game modes Overwatch consists of a number of different maps, based on different countries each with a unique flavour and put into a specific category;

Assault: Where players must capture OR defend 2 points consecutively within a time limit.

Escort: Where players must escort a 'payload' to consecutive objectives.

Hybrid: A mix of assault and escort where players must capture a point and then escort a payload.

Control: Players must take control of a marked region in a map for a certain amount of time.

I feel the map type that works best is Assault. The most intense experience normally come from these maps in my games especially when defending. The balance of game time and difficulty is well down throughout, however, I feel control games drag on too long especially in Competitive mode where it is best of 5 instead of 3. Additionally, as with most team based games, it can be very difficult to claim victory without voice communications or a pre-laid plan with friends.

Overwatch hosts one of the most diverse rosters of characters from story and appearance to ability design. Players have the ability to swap hero upon death if they desire which changes up gameplay. Players can only play duplicate heroes in non-competitive games.

Heroes usually have 3 main abilities excluding passive effects. Two abilities with a low cooldown and an Ultimate which is charged through gameplay interactions such as healing or absorbing damage. Here are examples of 2 heroes abilities' which showcase the diverse roster;

Reinhardt: Passive: None, Primary Fire: Melee hammer swing, Secondary Fire: Hold up damage absorbing barrier, Ability 1: Charge in a line to grab enemies and smash them into a wall, Ability 2: Fire a flaming projectile forward, Ultimate: Smash hammer down to stun enemies in a shockwave.

Lúcio: Passive: Able to ride on walls, Primary Fire: Fire sonic projectiles, Secondary Fire: Knockback enemies, Ability 1: Toggle between a healing aura and a speed boost aura to empower allies, Ability 2: Empower the active aura increasing the effect, Ultimate: Give all allies in your aura a protective shield which fades over time.

Not to delve into hero specifics too greatly but the flavour of each has had extensive work put into it, not one hero fails to evoke excitement on their character page.

Balancing is perhaps the biggest issue of Overwatch, the same can be said for many games with such a diverse roster. 'Metas' are defined where specific team compositions are desired in certain maps at a competitive level. This will always be unavoidable but it is very important to ensure the game is as balanced as possible so that players don't feel bad for playing their favourite hero. Blizzard has been good at this in Overwatch, doing character overhauls and regular balancing changes, a great benefit that the modern era holds.

Overwatch has a player level system where experience gained from games allows the player to eventually level up and earn new portraits for their profile. Each new level earns the player a new lootbox. Lootboxes contain 4 items; Hero visuals, Stamps to tag with in game, Voicelines, Emotes, Victory screen poses etc.

Perhaps the biggest controversy of Overwatch is the microtransaction system, I believe microtransactions can be done very well and Overwatch's does work for what it does as it is purely aesthetic where lootboxes can be directly purchased.

The main issue is that individual assets, for example a single voice line, can only be purchased with credits, earned from lootboxes through direct currency or if a duplicate asset is opened and credits can't be purchased or earned so players can only obtain what they want by chance. This situation is especially bad when special events are in place where when the event ends the cosmetics can no longer be earned or even bought with credits.

A game deserving of its Game of the Year titles, however, it suffers from the same issues similar games face.

Single Player Campaign: One of the main issues with Overwatch is that you are required to play with others, this isn't the worst situation to be in as the systems and game modes are designed well around it, the main issue comes from the expansive game world itself. There is so much story and world built behind the scenes or only found on the website. It would require a large amount of resources but it is something which, over time, should be added.

The new game mode 'Uprising' shows signs of them wanting to do more with it as it is a story campaign map and it is a good start, however, it doesn't do much to actually tell the background.

Credits: The roulette of rewards from lootboxes shouldn't be removed and isn't an evil. Credits shouldn't be made for direct purchase as it would of course be a detriment to sales from the amount that players purchase.

I believe a solution would be to reward credits in addition to experience in games, albeit in a low amount, increasing the better the player performed as an incentive to perform well. This would limit the fall in lootbox purchases whilst allowing players to feel as if they can earn their favourite aesthetic loot. Collectors as always will purchase as many lootboxes as possible to complete their sets.

Additionally, season specific rewards should be available for credit-based purchases as it is unfair to those who were unable to play the event extensively, this was somewhat remedied when they made them available for credit-based purchase during the event, however, it isn't far enough. Making season specific lootboxes available for purchase at all times may not work as sales during the event would dwindle, limiting its impact.

Another champion hit by Blizzard, a game that will be around for many years to come with many new exciting updates on the way. Overwatch deserved the awards it has won through the dedicated team of individuals who created it. An incredible world with an expansive story and incredible characters, Overwatch has definitely made its mark on the gaming world.

What I Would Change

Overwatch

Developed by Blizzard and released in 2016, Overwatch is a Team-Based First Person Shooter which won several Game of the Year awards. The game received positive reception; 5/5 Stars from The Escapist and 9/10 from GameSpot. It is now a recognised eSport with millions of players. In true Blizzard style, they have revolutionised a game genre to their infamous high quality and polish.

Players can select one of over 20 different hero characters, a list that is increasing ever greater, each with their own abilities and specialising changing the entire gameplay experience for the player. There are many different game modes and maps each with their own goals to achieve that require team coordination.

The game is very large and expansive so I will be focusing on balance and gameplay options as opposed to character breakdowns. What makes this champion of the games industry succeed and what makes it falter?

Brief Description