As a Christmas present to myself, I decided to take the plunge and finally get Overwatch. I asked a lot of my gaming friends about the game, as I am not a big multiplayer gamer. When you are over 35, married, with other responsibilities, sometimes when gaming, you really value your solitude. Not to mention that I have so many other hobbies that I am also trying to keep up with, that there are days that I am lucky to have over 3 hours to sit and play a game – so time is valuable. Also, there are so many other games that I am playing at the time that I have to find a way to squeeze an hour or 2 out for a shooter.
As far as games like Call of Duty and Battlefield go, while I have enjoyed those games since their inception, I don’t like playing them now for many reasons. For one, I am not all that great with twitch shooters. Therefore, I am not the guy you want on a squad where everyone else eats, sleeps and breathes these games. I will not knock those games and say they are bad. They have their place, but mine is not with it as I don’t feel like I can be competitive enough to play, and I am ok with that.
I am happy if I can get 3 kills in a match where the top gamers will get 10 times or 20 times that depending on a match. Of course, the biggest discouraging factor is playing online with that annoying kid or teen that verbally abuses everyone, making these games much less fun for everyone, which is why I have tended to avoid these games like the plague. In recent years, Call of Duty has seen fit to allow gamers to create their own private modes in which gamers can play around with bots and make it as easy or as difficult as possible, but not everyone may want to play. One of my friends bluntly told me that he didn’t want to play because: One, he felt that the bots were ‘dumbed down’ and that I needed to learn to play with other people; and Two, he said that for every moment he was wasting playing non-competitively, he was missing out on prestige points. The prestige points are the biggest factor in playing every shooter on the market. They pretty much are the carrot dangling on the stick. Every time a player plays competitively, they are leveling up getting better weapons, skills skins and so forth. I’m not mad at that, as you need something that will keep gamers coming back month after month year after year.
Many are not as horrible as Peter, but we all know that feeling of being “that guy” holding back the team and the backlash that comes with it.
I have tried over the years to get into these games and overcome my inability to keep up with the sharks, but to no avail. So, when I saw Overwatch release back in May, I looked at some game play videos, shrugged my shoulders and left it alone. I incorrectly assumed it was just another FPS that would be too competitive for me to play. I did make a note that it was getting a lot of buzz but because at the time, I had no real interest in yet another FPS, I didn’t ask why this game was such a huge hit and that was a mistake. The last shooter I actually invested time in was The Division, and while I felt like it was enjoyable, it burnt many of us out so quickly.
Fast forwarding a few months later (last week to be exact), Overwatch was getting some decent updates, maps and newer characters, so I decided to ask a few questions (I am kicking myself that I didn’t get it for Black Friday at $35 dollars) and a few of my friends convinced me to give it a go. The key word many of them said is that it’s “fun”. There were no long descriptions about how to unlock secret guns or get an elusive helmet, just “FUN”. So, I picked it up pre-owned because if I hated it, I had the option of getting my money back. I have been playing it for a few days, and from what I have played, it really is pretty fun. In many ways, it’s the opposite of what makes other FPS games so serious. The first day, I took time dipping my toe in trying to see if this was a game I would like. So far, it is. It seems like Blizzard really thought out what can really make players burn out on other FPS games, and used that knowledge to draw them to play Overwatch. First of all, if you really want to solo the game modes you can. It’s actually best to do so in the beginning if you want to try out characters to see if their style fits yours. Also, it’s a good way to get a better understanding of how some of the game modes and maps work. The game really does shine when playing with others, as there is no real pressure to try and outdo everyone else. I tried competitive mode for a while and I felt a lot more competitive in this game than I have in others.
This brings me to another reason why some may enjoy this game, which is that everyone has a job to do. One of the things I most appreciate about Overwatch, is there is something for everyone as long as everyone tries to play as a team. If you want to go out and shoot all of the things, there are characters for that. If you want to bulldoze through opponents and shoot all of the things, you are covered. If you want to defend, snipe, or heal, you can do that as well, and it all counts for something. Overwatch has something for everyone and if you find your niche, you can excel.
Overwatch in the strictest sense is not a “casual” game as there are still aspects and characters one would have to master, but it’s casual to the point where anyone at any level can pick this game up and play because the learning curve for the basics can be generous. The game still works best only if you play with a team that understands that teamwork gets you wins.
The best part of this game is that there is no dangling carrot placed in front of players that will give them an advantage over others – except their skill. You can be a level 3 gamer playing with someone who is a level 8 and the only advantage they have over you is how well they play. Their weapon is no stronger or better than yours. This means that unlike other FPS games, your lowly character will not constantly get mowed down because some other gamer is at level 47 with a tricked out gun and skill set. However, the more you play, the more loot boxes you get. The loot boxes you earn will change your character cosmetically, and that in itself is your only really hook.
So why should casual gamers and not so good FPS players play Overwatch? As my friends told me and now I have experienced it, it is indeed fun to play. You can play for an hour and stop or you can play for many hours and feel like you have gotten something out of it. Each of the characters in the game have a slight twist to their play style, thus it’s up to the gamer to find one that fits them – as mastering each character is really the challenge. Another consideration is that everything you do in the game counts toward your final score. It’s not just about your k/d ratio, it’s about everything. Getting a kill streak going may be great, but your healer who got to you at the right moment to keep that streak alive may be the one that gets the accolades at match’s end. Additionally, you may be a tank and decide use your ultimate move, and that may be the deciding factor. The bottom line is that there are many variables in how winners are decided.
Lastly, the characters themselves may be a deciding factor in buying this game. Instead of being one of many faceless Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Gears of War grunts, the characters in Overwatch are a mix of a variety of different backgrounds, genders, and…talking apes. This just may be the first FPS to have done this, and it’s the right move to make to draw in a wide variety of players. Then of course, Blizzard revealed that one of the characters is gay and some people lost their minds. It’s not a big deal at all, just go play and do so knowing that Blizzard has stated that there may be even more revealed soon. Chances are there are people you played with online over the years that are black, gay, female, disabled, etc., and that hasn’t stopped you yet, so why get mad now? It’s not a criteria for anyone to game, so one character that’s different should not be a deal breaker.
To wrap up, I will say that in the short time I have played this game, I have so far enjoyed all there is to it. I have enjoyed the lively graphics, the welcoming nature of the game play, the modes of play, and the lack of pressure needed to compete. For those who have wanted an FPS to get into without the pressure to keep up with the sharks, this is the game for you. Whether you play for an hour, or lose half a day playing, you can at least walk away feeling like you accomplished something and probably relieved some stress as well. I know I am 7 months late getting on the hype train, but now I see why the hype is real and why this game has won so many awards. It’s accessible for many players, and its diverse characters make it more inviting. It’s the breath of fresh air that FPS genre needs.