Blizzard Entertainment is one of those companies that most gamers love to hate. With their penchant for delays, controversial lawsuits, and sometimes oddball community responses, Blizzard focuses on what some say is the least important elements, while Blizzard continues to skyrocket as a developer. I’m just as guilty in certain respects, griping about things that Blizzard is doing, or has done in the past.

With such a long focus on beloved series giants like Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo, it came as a shock when Blizzard unveiled their newest intellectual property, Overwatch. Touted as an objective-based shooter, the game quickly came under fire from some groups claiming that the game was poorly balanced, with some characters easily able to dominate rounds, while others floundered and offered very little. What was discovered, however, is that the game is exceedingly well balanced, with each character having a direct response character, easily able to overcome the worst of offense or defense measures. Case in point, the big gripe from many players is Bastion’s turret mode, which can decimate an entire team easily if caught unawares. However, Genji’s damage reflect has become a staple to throw this damage right back in Bastion’s face, rendering his powerful attack entirely worthless.

Another favorite of mine is Reinhart and his shield. Able to stop tons of damage, it still can’t stop Junkrat’s explosive tire, most times taking him down with one hit.

With the ability to hotswap to any character on the fly from a safehouse, the game complexity grows geometrically, allowing, at any time, for any number of variables to change, keeping the battlefield unpredictable and dangerous, no matter how many times players change characters.

Furthermore, every one of the characters is exceedingly well-designed, with memorable personalities, original designs, and fun mechanics that are simple to learn, hard to master. I remember the first time I tried Lucio. I didn’t bother reading the “how to play” information about him, so I had no idea how his auras worked. Initially, I couldn’t stand him, because I didn’t feel he added anything.

Now, after several dozen matches playing him off and on, I realize that he’s indispensable as a team member, and can easily turn the tide of a fight under the right circumstances with his self-titled “audiomedic” auras and support abilities.

When the game was first announced, I was instantly in love with Tracer, another character on my personal play lineup. Nevermind the fact that she’s adorable, with a sexy British accent, but her abilities make her frustrating to fight, and entertaining to zip around the battlefield, keeping foes confused and spinning with her lightning fast teleports.

Road Hog was my favorite tank in the game, with his Birdie-from-Street-Fighter chain ability, and his Rock-It-Launcher-from Fallout style shotgun. He gives me a pig-with-a-gimp-suit vibe with his gas mask, and his belly button pig tattoo is pretty funny, if not horrifying.

And finally, as I mentioned him before, my favorite is Junkrat. A combination of The Joker and a bomb technician, his explosive abilities, versatility in movement and hysterical lines through an Australian accent make him my favored character. His Heroic Moment intro segments kept me laughing for quite a bit, with his overzealous enthusiasm for explosives, stepping on them, and the occasional nut shot.

Throughout the rounds, I’ve also begun to realize who were, and were not, friends amongst the Overwatch lineup. One round, while running in front of Mei, she made a comment to Junkrat about how she didn’t trust him. Tracer, at one point, made a comment to Winston about how she “has his favorite” to which he replied “NO MORE BANANAS!” It’s fun to see these bite-sized interactions between characters, lending to the idea that while they all know one another, they’re still estranged due to the disbanding of Overwatch as an organization prior to the game.

In an industry with so much focus on immersion, the graphics may seem a bit cartoony or dated compared to graphic kingpins such as Dark Souls 3, but the design works, and makes the setting fun, bright, and kid-friendly.

That being said Blizzard, again known for its interesting take on the community and responses to internet content, has begin conducting content control, issuing cease and desist letters to makers of “Overwatch porn,” using the games assets to create pornographic material that is rampantly and wildly proliferating through the internet. Lighting up forums such as Reddit with pleas for help and pressure against Blizzard for these proceedings, the game has already come under fire for an apparent overt sexualization of some of the character’s best-known characters, such as Tracer and Widowmaker.

My only real complaint about the game is the level design. Personally, I’ve found that some shooters just have maps that stick with you. They create memorable moments, interesting gameplay styles and mechanics, and generally inspire the imagination. Unfortunately, despite their fun layouts and multiple angles of exploration and tactics, the maps feel sort of bland. The initial plays were fun, trying to sort out where objectives were, the fastest ways to get there, and how to catch the other team off guard. Then, it started to feel samey. Hopefully with updates, this boredom will be stemmed over time. I hope to see new characters as well, as the original line up is amazing, but new additions would always be welcome.

Overall, level design aside, I will say that Overwatch has been a breath of fresh air to the competitive shooter arena. Team Fortress 2 ran, uncontested by any viable opponents, for a very long time. Now, something is in direct competition, and seems to be growing large amounts of steam as the game moves forward.

Now, if only someone could come up with a game to usurp World of Warcraft. Keep the scales balanced.

Happy Hunting!

–Jimmy

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