Since our love of Overwatch knows no bounds, a Let’s Talk About post just wasn’t enough for us. So even though it’s a little weird for a yuri blog to have a review of a mainstream game like this, we’re not your ordinary yuri blog, baby~ 😛
Soldiers. Scientists. Adventurers. Oddities.
In a time of global crisis, an international task force of heroes banded together to restore peace to a war-torn world: OVERWATCH.
Overwatch ended the crisis and helped maintain peace in the decades that followed, inspiring an era of exploration, innovation, and discovery. But, after many years, Overwatch’s influence waned, and it was eventually disbanded.
Now, conflict is rising across the world again, and the call has gone out to heroes old and new. Are you with us?
From the remnants of the cancelled MMO Titan, comes Overwatch, a team-based shooter from one of the most well-respected names in PC gaming, Blizzard. When you think Blizzard, you probably think of franchises like Warcraft, Diablo, or StarCraft, but an arena shooter likely isn’t what immediately comes to mind, which makes it all the more impressive that they were able to do such a bang up job.
Overwatch revolves around heroes, unique characters with special abilities that are broken up into four different classes: offense, defense, tank, and support. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. The game takes obvious inspiration from Team Fortress 2 (among others), but calling it a rip-off is just doing the game a disservice, as well as being plain untrue. One major difference between the two titles is the sheer number of playable characters in Overwatch. At launch, there were twenty-one heroes available, and through several major updates, the roster has since grown to twenty-four heroes (and counting). Each hero has several powerful abilities that operate on a cooldown, so you can’t just haphazardly spam them one after another to your heart’s content.
In addition to abilities, each character has an Ultimate Ability, which are often times what swing the tide of battles and win and lose matches. The damage you deal, as well as the damage you take, charge a meter that, once full, allows you to unleash your Ultimate. While it feels incredibly rewarding to get several kills and value from your Ultimate, at the same time, it almost feels kind of cheap. To have a long, drawn-out fight on the point, only to lose it when an enemy simply presses Q is disheartening and feels like a waste of mechanical skill. However, managing your Ult is critical, as is knowing the most effective time, way, and place to use it, so even though it sounds like “press Q to win”, there’s actually a little more to it than that.
This is a team-based shooter after all, so what wins matches more than your Ultimates is teamwork. Team composition and communication play major roles, and having the ability to switch your hero in the midst of battle opens up all sorts of strategic options for you and your team. Most heroes have a counter, so at its best, you could view it as a sort of chess match, with each team looking to exploit weaknesses in the enemy team’s composition. Of course, it’s not always like this, and you’ll sometimes have crazy team comps that will pretty much ensure that you’ll lose, so it really works both ways.
Presently, there are five primary game modes, spread across fifteen maps. Assault (capture/defend points on the map), Escort (escort/stop a payload from making its way across the map), Hybrid (combination of Assault and Escort), Control (King of the Hill), and Arena (essentially deathmatch). That sounds reasonable, but I’d be lying if I said that I thought that was enough variety. The good thing is, since launch, two (technically three) new maps have been released (it sounds like there’ll be three more released this year), and the additions of the Arcade and the Game Browser have given the game more variety and options to choose how you want to play. This is hugely important because there’s no single-player component to this game.
What there is, though, is a competitive mode for those players who aren’t satisfied with the more casual modes in the game. eSports has exploded in popularity, and Overwatch wants a piece of that pie. In addition to already having its own pro scene, the game is getting its own league, the Overwatch League. I’m not really into any of that stuff, but that’s pretty cool, I guess. Something for those starry-eyed players to aspire to reach.
One of the best things about Overwatch are the seasonal events that bring us new cosmetic items, but more importantly, they usually bring us new game modes. Lúcioball (pretty much Rocket League with Lúcios), Junkenstein’s Revenge (pretty much a PvE horde mode), Mei’s Snowball Offensive (pretty much a snowball fight), Capture the Rooster (capture the flag), and Uprising (an expanded PvE mode), were fun while they lasted, but I don’t know why they didn’t stick around after the events ended.
As was mentioned a little earlier in the review, there isn’t a single-player campaign to speak of, yet this game somehow isn’t lacking when it comes to lore. This is largely due to the alternative avenues in which the Overwatch universe is explored. Official comics and animated shorts are the primary ways in which the story in this universe is told, but the real fascinating thing is how the community has taken the small doses of narrative and have completely made it their own. The fan-created content surrounding this game is staggering, and, of course, the most obvious example of this is fanfiction. Taking a quick tour over to Archive of Our Own, we see upwards of 13,000 works about Overwatch. Naturally, I’ll use this as a segue to the yuri portion of this review~
When it comes to the yuri in this game, well, honestly, there isn’t any. Yes, Tracer was officially announced as being a lesbian, but in the game itself, we see no sign of that. What fans have embraced and ran with are the brief interactions that we see involving various heroes in-between rounds. Mei x Zarya, WidowTracer, and everyone’s favorite, Pharmercy, saw their ships initially set sail from various interactions between the two heroes, and now, it’s hard to visit Tumblr or Twitter without seeing something related to one of these (or other) Overwatch pairings, especially if those accounts belong to a certain female YuriReviewer and involves Pharmercy… 😛
And it doesn’t just apply for female characters either. McHanzo is actually the most popular pairing on AoOO, more than doubling the numbers of works involving Pharmercy, so the yaoi fans have embraced this game as well. And I’d be remiss if I mentioned the fan-created content and didn’t mention the porn. Yes, this game has spawned all sorts of SFM-related porn, and with eleven (technically) of the heroes being female, I guess that’s not that much of a shock. Whatever the case may be, fans have taken to these heroes, and even after you exit the game, it’s incredibly easy to find them doing all sorts of other things.
So we have a multiplayer-only shooter whose gameplay is not only easy to pick up and play, it’s also hard to put down. And despite the lack of a rich story or in-game yuri content, the fans have taken the bull by the horns and are the ones who are expanding upon this fictional world in many ways~
Graphically, it should be no surprise that Overwatch can’t compete with the likes of Battlefield 1 in terms of sheer technical prowess (what can?), but the game still manages to look good, thanks to a distinctive art style that brings the world of Overwatch to life. Ditching hyperrealism in favor of a colorful, stylized appearance was a great choice that suits the game to a T. A lot of shooters still keep going for the dark and serious vibe, yet this one specializes in whimsy (but doesn’t overdo it), and that style just stands out from most other shooters on the market. It’s far from the greatest-looking game out there, but it’s certainly not lacking in personality and charm. Also, the game is well-optimized and has some modest minimum system requirements, so you don’t exactly need a top-of-the-line gaming rig in order to play it. Once upon a time, I ran it using ancient Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics, and even though it looked like the best PS2 game ever, it still ran smoother than I would have thought.
Audio-wise, music obviously doesn’t play much of a role in a game like this, but what does play a huge role is positional audio. Being able to hear and locate an approaching enemy is a critical factor in success, so those hardcore gamers who are using a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound setup might have a bit of an edge over everyone else, but Blizzard has included a nice little treat to help even the playing field a tad. Overwatch is actually the very first game to be created for Dolby Atmos for headphones, which is essentially built-in surround sound virtualization that works with any stereo headphones, and personally, I could notice a pretty big difference by switching it on. I’m not an audiophile by any means, but I think turning on Dolby Atmos made the game sound practically identical to what it sounds like using my 7.1 virtual surround sound headphones, so I’m pretty impressed by that feature. Besides that, the voice acting adds a lot of personality to each hero, and thanks to that, it’s next to impossible to not fall in love with these characters.
To me, these heroes are the game’s greatest accomplishment. Practically every single one is charming, has all sorts of personality, and consciously or subconsciously, I find that that personality adds a lot to the overall experience.
At the end of the day, Overwatch is an easily accessible shooter that even people who wouldn’t ordinarily like shooters can gravitate towards. Blizzard didn’t exactly rewrite the team-based shooter blueprint that Valve and Team Fortress 2 popularized nearly a decade ago, yet it takes a lot of those ideas and modernizes them, all the while adding in their patented level of polish, personality, and a general fun factor that makes for an extremely entertaining game~