Overwatch is a game that should absolutely, 100% not work. At all. It combines some of the worst aspects of modern gaming:
1) There’s no plot. Like, none. It’s a vague sketch outline that can admittedly be augmented with YouTube videos but the story contained on disc makes Destiny’s butchered narrative seem like the complete works of Leo Tolstoy.
2) It’s an online only experience. Yeah, that’s right, hippie. Internet connection down? Go read a scroll by candlelight, you luddite!
3) It’s very light on content. 21 heroes and 12 maps in a series of extremely repetitive 6v6 matches.
So it’s somewhat shocking, frankly, that Overwatch works as well as it does and the reason is simple: fun. Overwatch succeeds where so many other games fail by literally being a joy to play.
The premise is this: a bunch of heroes fight in various arenas for reasons that are vague at best, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The general goal of each match will be ‘defend the thing’, ‘control the thing’ or ‘escort the thing’. The 21 heroes are uniformly delightful and engaging, each of them easily worth their own game. You’ve got Hanzo the bow-wielding samurai who can shoot deadly arrows and dragon magic. There’s D.Va the adorable gamer lady who can fight inside and out of her bright pink mech suit. Then there’s Roadhog, the self-described “one man apocalypse” who is like a morbidly obese Mad Max character with a chunky gun and a chain to ensnare foes.
There are ape heroes, builder heroes, overpowered turret heroes and one inexplicably dull ‘dude with a gun’ hero, Soldier: 76 whose inclusion seems to be an attempt to entice extremely boring teenage boys away from their latest Call of Duty sequel.
Inclusion is actually an important word for Overwatch because as well as a range of characters from various backgrounds and in various shapes and sizes – the game itself is simple enough to give filthy casuals a good time but also complicated and deep enough to keep hardcore shooter fans engaged.
This unlikely but undeniable equilibrium comes courtesy of developer, Blizzard Entertainment (World Of Warcraft, Diablo III) who have taken this balancing act and truly made it sing. Whether your hero is assault, defence, tank or healer class – they’ll all be fun to play. You’ll genuinely want to get good at your initially chosen hero but it’s tantalising to learn all the cool tricks the others can do. And you can, from the start. All the heroes are unlocked, all the powers accessible, from the first time you boot up the game.
So what, exactly, are you grinding for in Overwatch? Well, as you ascend levels you can unlock Loot Boxes that can contain randomised cosmetic items and… that’s it. There are no new weapons, no new powers – you’re literally playing this title because the responsive, exciting, beautifully-realised (albeit small) world is a wonderful place that you’ll want to spend time in.
Whether that means Overwatch will still be high on your list of must play games in six months’ time is, as yet, unknown. Blizzard are confident that their free and consistent content drops with new maps, heroes and game modes will keep the millions of players engaged but that remains to be seen. What is clear, for now, is: Overwatch is an absolute blast, especially when played with likeminded friends who want to join you for a dozen or so “just one more game” games.