Overwatch is a unique first person shooter. It serves as an accessible FPS game for people who have never played a shooter before, as well as being a game loved by many hardcore FPS players. How has Blizzard managed to provide a gaming experience that welcomes both hardcore and casual players alike without making either feel at a disadvantage?
In this Play of the Fortnight, we take a look at which features casual players love, and how Overwatch has become a gateway to FPS games for MMO and MOBA players.
Overwatch Has a Wealth of Lore
Shooter games generally don’t focus deeply on lore. Back in the days of DOOM and Quake, it was mostly about just blowing up demons and bad guys with a fairly simple storyline, if any. Then we have the various warfare-based FPS games of the 2000s, where players took on the role of a generic soldier in multiplayer. These games often came with increasingly shallow singleplayer campaigns maxing out at 10 or so hours of gameplay. Lore has never been a primary focus of FPS games, the shooting was always enough. And this works – people who enjoy FPS games as a primary source of entertainment love the skill required to enjoy them.
But this made FPS games less desirable for a large portion of the gaming community, particularly those who don’t normally play shooters. How does a developer manage to merge FPS gameplay with lore? It’s not exactly a heavily story-driven genre. If a developer did include lore, players want to focus on shooting things, not following an intense story.
Overwatch features a deep, interesting lore presented in a variety of easy-to-consume media. There are comics, video shorts, interviews with heroes, and more. Players can find hints at the lore in-game but it’s not intrusive. This means people who aren’t interested can ignore it, but it’s certainly attracted players who love stories in games.
The Gameplay is Intuitive
Blizzard has created a game that is simple, yet effective. By this, we don’t mean that it’s “easy”. However, players don’t have to learn and remember a lot of different keybindings when they switch heroes. Each hero uses the same set of controls for their abilities. While you can change the keybindings to suit your preferences, this isn’t required. You don’t have to remember that ‘G’ is the grenade key, but only when you have a grenade equipped. You don’t need to remember a unique hotkey for each individual weapon because you have nine of them like in Quake or DOOM, for example.
On top of that, the concept of each game mode is intuitive. Counterstrike maps can be overwhelming the first time you play the game. Figuring out where you need to be going and remembering map layouts can be confusing. With Overwatch, the objective is more clearly marked and each map fits within one of three game modes or the Hybrid game mode.
Some Heroes Are Incredibly New-Player Friendly
Fans of Blizzard’s other games hopped on the Overwatch train when it was released. Many of them admitted to being completely new to shooters. If all the heroes were traditional soldier types, it might’ve been off-putting for those who didn’t already have the FPS skills that other players might have. Instead, Blizzard added characters that were accessible for people who were new.
Mercy, for example, is super easy to get started with. While there’s a lot more to playing Mercy than just keeping your healing beam on your team and resurrecting them when needed, it’s definitely one of the easiest roles to get into initially. Players unfamiliar with shooter mechanics might find playing Mercy easier to begin with.
Soldier-76 also feels new-player friendly. While he is a standard FPS character with an assault rifle, his kit is simple and his ultimate includes an auto-aim component. Even an inaccurate player can be effective on Soldier while they build their accuracy. That’s not to say Soldier and Mercy have a low skill-cap or are not useful in high level play. Blizzard has created excellent balance. Some heroes like these are easy to play when new, but they are still important in the meta and can be utilized very effectively in high level play.
The Heroes Are Diverse and Interesting
A lot of FPS games feature simple or one-dimensional characters. Since the characters aren’t the focus, it’s possible to leave them fairly empty. Blizzard created an entire cast of diverse, interesting characters. There’s almost someone for everybody, and Blizzard has shown they’re dedicated to continuing on this route.
There are heroes from various cultures and skin colors. Women heroes are just as strong and unique as the men. There are different body types, and while some members of the community want to see this improved further, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Each hero has a detailed backstory, with an interesting history that focuses on them and their achievements. Around Christmas last year, Blizzard revealed that Tracer is in a relationship with a woman, and not one from the Overwatch hero roster.
Blizzard also specifically hires voice actors that suit the heroes they play. For example, Genji’s voice actor is Gaku Space, born in Tokyo. Aysha Selim, an Egyptian voice actress, plays Ana. Her voice recording was done in Egypt.
The Graphical Style is Bright and Fun
Perhaps one of the most immediately attractive features of Overwatch is its aesthetic. Like World of Warcraft, it’s bright and colorful. There are no washed out colors, and no dark and gloomy environments. Even the Halloween event map popped with color, despite the shadows and creepy aesthetic.
The graphical style is borderline cartoony. But most importantly, it’s consistent. Each hero is incredibly different. However, Blizzard manages to maintain a design that is cohesive. No hero looks out of place among the others. The entire roster fits perfectly with the environments.
Overwatch is as Competitive as You Make It
Unlike most shooters, Overwatch doesn’t have to be competitive. With custom games, the Arcade, and the ability to queue up with a group of five friends, you can easily make the game more relaxing. While a team of 30+ people in Battlefield will be hard to fill with just friends, it’s significantly easier to get a group of like-minded players in Overwatch.
Don’t feel like playing ranked matches? No problem. There’s lots to do, and you and your friends can play together just for fun in Quick Play. Sure, there’s still a competitive element, but you aren’t forced to take it too seriously if you don’t want to.
What if you’re a more competitive player? For the most part, Competitive Play will get you your fix, especially if you can find friends who are as competitive as you are.
Blizzard has created a game that appeals to both the casual and hardcore FPS players. Not only that, but gamers who have focused on MMOs or other Blizzard games have picked up on Overwatch too. All of this is because it has something for almost everyone, and is a highly accessible FPS game.
The Overwatch team confirmed in April this year that Overwatch surpassed 30 million players. It’s difficult to compare this to other FPS games, as many report number of concurrent players rather than total players, and we were unable to find how many concurrent players Overwatch has on average. However, 30 million total players is still an impressive number, especially when you consider that’s a five million increase from a few months ago.
Overwatch’s popularity is partially due to its accessibility. A fun game is all well and good but if it’s hard to get into, less people will give it a try. What got you interested in Overwatch?