Overwatch Review

By Jordan Gladstone

Even after 4 years since its initial release, the multiplayer first-person shooter, Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch has lost none of its charm. One of the most dominant forces on the competitive esports scene, the game has something to offer for any skill level of player. Not only does it master the art of wide appeal across age groups, but it has done something that few games have managed to pull off throughout the history of the console war strife, it has made itself available on virtually every modern gaming device available, including Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Though this is a significant accomplishment worth noting, it is not the only thing that makes this game stand out. Overwatch, unlike many FPS games, has an intricate and fascinating backstory for both its world and its entire unique ensemble of characters. The game tells this story in a way no other game before it has ever attempted to do. Instead of just telling the story in a campaign mode within the game, the developers have instead opted to pursue a multi-media storytelling approach, giving interested players several avenues to learn about their favorite characters.

There are two prominent examples of this. The first is the series Overwatch short stories released by Blizzard over the years, each focusing on an individual character’s story and published for free viewing online on all social media platforms and available on YouTube. The second avenue of storytelling is in the form of self-published comics and short stories. 

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The Story

Since the inception of the concept in 2016, Blizzard Entertainment has released 10 animated cinematics, each of which focuses on a different character in the game and aids in explaining their motivation and role within the continuity of the story. The first of these shorts, known as “Recall,” focused on the fan-favorite super-genius gorilla character, Winston. Released in March 2016, 3 months prior to the game’s Beta release for pre-orders, the animation does quite a bit to explain the premise of the game.

Not only does the video explain the origins of Winston and show how he turned from a regular Gorilla into the lovable genius that would become a staple of the series, but it also shows exactly “what” Overwatch is and why it matters. This video is the foundation of which the game’s story is built on, and in watching it you learn that Overwatch is not just the title of the game, but also the name of a team of heroes existing within the world, serving the purpose of mediating stride between the biological characters and the race of robotic humanoids known as “Omnics.” 

At the time in which the animated short takes place, it is shown that the once world-renowned team of heroes was disbanded by the world government for unknown reasons. Winston, while viewing a news broadcast pertaining to the current conflict between humans and Omnics, is tempted to call on the Overwatch team to reassemble. At this moment he is begrudgingly reminded by Athena, his AI assistant, that “recalling Overwatch agents to active duty comes with great risk. The Petras Act clearly states any Overwatch activity is deemed illegal and punishable by prosecution.” 

While weighing the decision of whether to gather his old friends and allies and reactive the Overwatch initiative, a raid begins on his base of operations by an enigmatic group of gun-bearing humans he acknowledges only as “Talon.” 

After Winston easily defeats a small group of infiltrators, you finally get your first glimpse of another playable Overwatch character in action, Reaper, as he overpowers Winston and begins to steal Winston’s stored information of the former Overwatch agents. It is at this moment that Winston turns red and enters a rage mode, clearly reflecting his ultimate ability within the game.

Following another confrontation, Winston manages to gain the upper hand at the last possible moment and foil Reaper’s plot. After standing victorious over the assault on his tower, Winston finally makes the decision he has been struggling with, the decision to re-initiate the Overwatch initiative. Presumably, this act is the moment that sets the ball rolling for the game to take place.

The Gameplay

The objectives in a game of Overwatch is not terribly complicated to grasp, though the mastering of characters is comparably more difficult. Each game begins by allowing two teams of six players to choose from a roster of heroes, each of which has unique abilities and play different classes within the game, support, tank, defensive, and offensive. Upon the game’s initial release there were 21 playable characters for the players to choose from, but in an attempt to stay relevant as the years went on, Blizzard has made several changes to the game, such as eliminating the differentiation between offensive and defensive character and simply labeling them “damage” characters, as well as adding 11 new playable characters and 9 new maps to spice things up for long-time players.

After choosing a character, a player is randomly dropped into a map with one of four objective types. Depending on whether a player wants the match to count against them or not, they can choose between a no-stakes quickplay match or a competitive match which will affect their world ranking by gaining or losing SR points.

Assault is the first game mode, where one team plays a game of attrition attempting to capture the defending team’s objective points, and if successful the defensive team must fall back to a second defensive point. Should both points be captured, the defending team loses, and if the offensive team cannot capture both teams in the designated time, the defending team is victorious. After a round ends, the teams swap roles and the formerly defending team is given an opportunity to beat the first attacking team’s time to complete the objectives.

The second game mode is known as Control, where the two teams fight in a best-of-three format to capture a series of objective areas. There are no attacking or defending teams, but simply two opposing groups fighting for the same territory. The longer the territory is held, the more points are earned. The first team to reach the maximum amount of points in the victor. 

The third mode of play is Escort, where an attacking team strives to gain control of a “payload” and hold the location unopposed to help guide it to its destination. While a defender is stepping on the payload area it cannot move. The attacking team is attempting to get the slow-moving payload to its destination in an allotted time frame while the defending team is aiming to stall it and run out the clock.

Hybrid is the final game type in an Overwatch match and is a simple combination of Assault and Escort. Though these four are the main game types for a standard game of Overwatch, players also have the option to choose a non-traditional game mode in the Arcade, which features a list of several constantly rotating game modes for those looking to switch things up. It is in this Arcade that Blizzard incorporates many seasonal events throughout the year. 

The Gambling

Overwatch is perhaps the best game for a gambler interested in esports to consider. Blizzard, whether intentional or not, has structured its competitive Overwatch League in a manner almost identical to traditional competitive sports. They have set up a self-contained league managed by them with 20 teams set up in most major cities in the United States as well as some international teams, each of which competes during a competitive season to earn a share of the $5 million prize pool. Unlike almost all competitive esports, players have a guaranteed annual salary paid by Blizzard just for participating, regardless of their team’s performance in the League. 

Being that this league is set up so much like traditional sports, betting on it is incredibly easy. Just like one would gamble on their favorite football or baseball team, a person can place a bet on the performance of their chosen team or players on it, and win vast sums based on that team’s performance. This format allows for an entirely new world of gamblers, generally unfamiliar with the world of esports betting but comfortably familiar with physical sports, to bet almost exactly as they would on their chosen traditional sports teams. As long as one is willing to do their research and educate themself on each Overwatch League team and its players the same way an educated gambler would for their favorite NBA team, they can make a bet that offers no knowledge-based risk.

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