First, I want to say that I’ve been playing the Overwatch beta, and it’s a lot of fun. Blizzard is a company that makes beautiful games that play very well. They did not disappoint on either front with Overwatch.
I’ve also been waiting to purchase Battleborn, thinking based on marketing that they would be similar. Although both allow you to battle using many unique characters, there are more differences than similarities. Don’t expect a story mode or useful gear, for instance. You can read my impression of Battleborn, but today I plan to focus on Overwatch and will assume you’re already familiar with Battleborn.
What Blizzard has made with Overwatch is not the MOBA many of us expected, but rather a kill/spawn FPS experience with neat abilities. The niche-ness of playing as any non-soldier character, say Lucio’s sound wave attacks or Winston’s energy grapple, will take some getting used to and fades quickly in the fray. Fragging is the main objective, so playing as a character that does soak damage or a support character like Mercy is ultimately less exciting. You’ll get awards and earn more XP for healing, but in most of my 20 or so matches, everyone preferred the shooters.
Anytime you make a fast-paced frag-fest, players will predominantly pick the characters that can lay down the most fire. Tracer’s advantage is movement, but her SMGs are deadly at close range. Widowmaker’s name is self explanatory, as are Soldier: 76 and the Clint Eastwood homage calling himself McCree. Hanzo and D.Va are a bit less traditional using a bow and mecha with machine gun arms, respectively. Bastion is actually a tank, sometimes walking around like an 80’s Robotech extra and “holding” a rifle. Junkrat does traps and grenades, while the exo-suited Pharah relies on a jetpack and rockets. Both character’s explosive attacks kill on contact for light enemies and knockback heavies. That’s only half the characters, and I didn’t even include a single heavy. Ultimately there are many, many interesting and fun ways to frag, but genuinely little else to do.
Although the buffing/healing abilities make this arena shooter feel different than your typical death-match, the objectives are lame at best. Defend a location or escort a transport. That’s basically it, and all the objectives seem to do is decide where the kill zone will be. The stages are beautiful, the weapons are neat, and there’s more than a handful of strategies to maximize your killing. But that’s all there is to it: kill more at a certain time and place. I love that about games like Star Wars: Battlefront, but it’s not all I expected from Overwatch.
I’m not sure if I was expecting an analog to Battleborn, thinking there would be some kind of co-op play or at least some advantage to leveling and “loot boxes”. Perhaps I’ve made Blizzard synonymous with Diablo in my brain (e.g. gear grinding). Instead, “loot” simply means cosmetic rewards including skins, sprays (tag the temporary arena, w00t), victory emotes, voice lines…you get it. But for all those, there’s still not nearly as much story and characterization as Gearbox put into Battleborn.
I could have set my sights too high, applied too many biases, or just missed what the game would be about entirely. What I honestly expected was more diverse gameplay. Hopefully the full version of Overwatch will change things up more in terms of locations and objects, as Star Wars: Battlefront did albeit a few months after release. I’d be willing to give Overwatch another shot down the road, knowing now that it’s just a fun FPS, but I’m not excited to buy it.