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September 4, 2017

Overwatch, 1.29 Years Later

There was a time when I was able to accurately tell my teacher that The Sims was the best-selling PC game of all time.  Near as I can tell, that’s no longer the case.  I would’ve thought that Overwatch had taken the crown by now, but I forgot we live in a world where Minecraft exists.  That’s not to say that Blizzard’s big shooter hasn’t done well on the charts; there’s a damn good reason why fanart for it has clogged the internet, and it’s not just because Tracer’s spandex-clad caboose.

Because as you know, Mercy is literally the best.

And man, Overwatch has seriously been on a tear recently, hasn’t it?  Junkertown announced with a goofy new short!  Then you get a REAL short starring everyone’s favorite character, Mei!  Deathmatch incoming!  New ult for Mercy, because the best must keep getting better!  And of course, Doomfist came out not too long ago -- sans Terry Crews, but I think we can live with that given the nature of the character.  So, how’s the game doing overall?  What’s the hot take on it well after its release?

Probably pretty good.  But I can only speak for myself, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.  Here’s what I think.

--Not to start off with a tangent, but I’m just gonna go ahead and gab about the “Rise and Shine” short.  Setting aside the fact that it’s clear proof how much the world needs an Overwatch movie or TV series -- or just some kind of in-game campaign mode -- this one is my second favorite of the bunch, behind “Recall”.  I do think it’d be a bit improved if there were more silent moments (which shouldn’t imply that I’m saying “SHUT UP, MEI!”), but for what it’s worth there were some strong images and good moments.

--Weirdly, though, it wasn’t Snowball’s “sacrifice” that made me tear up, or even Mei’s struggle in the face of death.  It was Winston’s speech and call to arms.  I’d explain further, but I suspect it’d be fodder for another post in the future.  So just keep it in mind for now.

--Are we going to get shorts for everybody?  I hope so -- or if not everybody getting a solo one, then at least have the heroes pile in two or three at a time.  Either way, we’re one step closer to Torbjorn going up against Metal Gears.

--Time to rustle some tail feathers.  Here are 4 of my 5 most hated heroes in Overwatch:
5) Widowmaker.  A pain in the ass to deal with when they snipe you from afar, and a pain in the ass when they’ve got terrible aim, but you still need to handle them somehow.
4) Genji.  As an enemy, his ninja shenanigans turn him into a gnat that won’t stop buzzing around you.  As a teammate, they’ll gladly run off and get slaughtered all on their lonesome.
3) Tracer.  Teleport shenanigans piss me off in fighting games, where the movement is limited to a 2D plane with fixed, finite space and perspectives.  Now compound that by adding a 3rd dimension, a full range of movement, and a character whose damage output is exceedingly high.  FUN.
2) Junkrat.  No choice but to respect his rapid-fire explosives, even when he’s seemingly shooting at random.  His traps are one thing, but his passive ability to kill you by dropping bombs upon death is even worse.  And boy, that Rip-Tire makes my blood pressure spike.

--And my number one, most hated “hero” in Overwatch is…drumroll please

--Okay, real talk: you know how a ton of people act like Mei is the devil?  You know how Mei gets a lot of hate thrown her way, to the point where you’d think she waltzed up and burned down an orphanage or something?  That’s how I feel about D. Va.  You can’t begin to fathom how much I hate this character.  On her own, she’s not even much of a threat to me -- just an annoying damage sponge that I have to wear down when it’s time for me to open fire.  Can she kill you?  Sure.  But it’s easy for me -- me, the slowest of the slow -- to circle around her and thwart her offense.

--The problem is with the rest of the stuff in her toolkit.  I learned firsthand that her Defense Matrix shuts down every bullet in her path; I had a clear shot with McCree’s ult and unloaded an attack that would’ve shut down the enemy team.  But then D. Va comes out of nowhere, flies towards me, and then uses her Defense Matrix to completely nullify my ult.  Salt poured out of every orifice for a half-hour.

--And then there’s her ult.  Every time I hear NERF THIS, I cringe a little.  Yeah, I know there are counters to it -- like taking cover behind something, or using character-specific abilities like Mei’s ice moves or Winston’s barrier -- but sometimes that’s not exactly feasible.  What this means is that NERF THIS will cover a massive range with high lethality, and if you don’t have a defense or escape route planned -- if you’re Mercy and everyone scatters to the point where you can’t Guardian Angel out of there -- then you’re dead.  And this isn’t just me needing to git gud; the other night my team lost after making a huge comeback because of a last-ditch, PotG-earning NERF THIS on the point that scored a quintuple-kill.

--How is it that after losing her mech, D. Va potentially becomes more dangerous thanks to nothing more than some dinky little pistol?  How does that even remotely make sense?  And even if she does technically become more vulnerable, why is this the only character that effectively has to be killed twice?  If you’re lucky?

--In summation, D. Va is stupid and I hate her.  Also her design is the blandest of the bunch, and her gimmick -- I’m a gamer, LOL! -- is boring.  She can go suck a Virtual Boy.

--You know who’s cool, though?  Hanzo.  I don’t play him that often because I’m a terrible shot and that’s the last thing any team needs, but I think that of the male characters, he’s the best-looking of the bunch.  It would be Lucio, but his default color scheme puts him slightly below the Shimada sniper.

--Stat-wise, here are the 5 heroes I use the most: 1) Mercy, 2) Winston, 3) Lucio, 4) Zarya, 5) Mei.  Part of the reason is that my aim is terrible, so I need to find ways to contribute to a team effort while compensating for my lack of skill.  A good 80% of those characters can serve me well even if my aim isn’t pixel perfect.  And Zarya kind of has some overlap given her alt-fire, though part of the reason I like her is because -- thanks to her paladin bubbles -- she has a dedicated defense move that I live for.

--So since the game’s launch, we’ve gotten two offense characters, one new tank, and one support.  That still leaves space for a defense-type.  Who will it be next?  Experts in the Overwatch lore, is there anyone who sticks out to you that can fit the bill?  Let me know.

--Of the newcomers so far, I’ve taken a shine to Orisa.  My play with her isn’t super-optimal, but I’m making whatever strides I can.  I pretty much have to, since tanks are the closest I’ve gotten to being an offensive player.

--You would think that after more than a year, escorting payloads and capturing points would get boring.  But here we are regardless -- and if I had to guess, I’d say that a lot of gamers are okay with those being the main modes of play.  Maybe it’s like Smash Bros. in that regard; technically you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but the variables and moment-to-moment chaos makes for a satisfying gameplay loop.  It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out with Deathmatch modes, though.  What happens when a game built around team play ceases to have teams?  I wonder.

--Still, it is appreciable to have the devs offer some other modes via the arcade.  In my (failed) quest to get Mercy’s Winged Victory costume, I pushed through Lucioball and 3v3 matches as fast as I could; I think I like 3v3 more because it feels at least somewhat familiar, but Lucioball has its merits.  If only I actually cared about soccer…

--Also praiseworthy?  The devs are doing a great job at responding to and updating players on the game’s status.  I guess that’s to be expected from Blizzard -- and PC games across the board, I hope -- but you have to remember that I’m basically coming from a console background.  Even if the “games as a service” mindset is taking over, the service aspect is more than a little suspect when said service stumbles while aiming to poke holes in wallets.  Here’s looking at you, Capcom.

--But just like Capcom, it seems like the business side of things has had an impact on the actual product.  Granted it’s not as devastating for this company’s bottom line (I was tempted to say “credibility” but I vaguely remember that Diablo III was a thing), but it’s set a dangerous trend in motion.  I’m talking about loot boxes, of course.  In theory, it should work; level up or win three arcade games, and you’re rewarded with a box that contains in-game goods like costumes, emotes, victory poses, and more.  But then the problems start cropping up.

--As others like Yahtzee and Jim Sterling have pointed out, the only feasible rewards for character progression are cosmetic, and you have no control over the things you actually want.  To wit: I wanted Mercy’s Winged Victory and Uprising costumes so badly, because she’s my main and literally the best and I want to show my support for my favorite character.  But I missed out on both because my luck was too sour.  And even though I managed to crack open about a dozen boxes during the 2017 Summer Games event, I didn’t get anything worthwhile.  Well, except for a steampunk Bastion skin.  And I’d be ecstatic about that if I actually used Bastion.

--There’s such an easy fix for this: add an in-game shop where players can buy the junk they actually want.  Make it so that currency is easier to build up (I don’t think I’ve ever had more than 1000 credits at one time, yet some skins are priced at three times that), and let players pick and choose what they want.  Like, imagine: when you level up, you can either choose to get cash, or get a loot box.  It’s the sure thing versus a risky bet.  Risk and reward.  The former might be a slower process, but at least then you can have some control over the content you want.  I don’t give a crap about getting a Widowmaker win animation because I haven’t logged a single hour with her; the fact that she’s diluting the pool is infuriating.  Not to mention the pool is diluted even further by junk like icons and sprays.

--Overwatch is already a top-seller with armies of adoring fans, critical appraisal, and gameplay that justifies both.  Blizzard (and Activision by extension) has money to spare, I’d bet.  So the only reason for the loot box system to exist -- the only reason to toss in microtransactions -- is to push people toward spending real-world cash to get something they desperately want.  Only it’s a dumbass system…at least, it would be a dumbass system if it wasn’t half-motivated by greed and villainy.

--I’ve given Street Fighter V guff for locking its extra costumes behind pay walls (and for the other content, exorbitant in-game currency prices).  But at least there, if you want a new costume for Rashid, you can spend five bucks to grab it instantly.  With Overwatch, you’re not paying to get Mercy’s Winged Victory costume.  You’re paying for the chance to get Mercy’s Winged Victory costume.  Buying 20 loot boxes equates to buying 20 spins of the slot machine.  Is your probability higher if you opt for that?  Sure.  But you’re still gambling for it -- and if your luck is truly awful, you could walk away with nothing but little squares that only a handful of people will ever actually see.

--But to be fair?  It really does hurt the game, and breed resentment that didn’t have to be there.  Getting rewarded for a job well done and/or perseverance is fine.  It’s welcome, even, given that -- to the game’s credit -- the more you win, the faster you’ll level.  But going for loot boxes becomes less of a reward and more of a chore when you have to grind out EXP for the chance to maybe get something good.  There were moments when I actively started to hate Overwatch and get headaches from it whenever I was denied my loot…or, honestly, lost matches in arcade despite my best and constant efforts.  Lucio says it best: “That’s not right.”

--I guess this is just a roundabout, overlong way for me to say I’M SO BUTTHURT I DIDN’T GET MY MERCY SKIN.

--Let’s get back to gameplay.  Even though I’m not a credible authority on shooters, I’m willing to say that despite being more than a year out from release, Overwatch is solid.  It’s really remarkable how much life the devs managed to infuse into the game.  On one hand, you’ve got the characters, visuals, and animations; it may be in first person almost exclusively (Reinhardt in barrier mode is one notable exception), but you can still get a good read on the cast just by watching how they reload or wave at others.

--That personality carries over to the audio, as well.  There’s a part of me that wishes the game had more overt tracks than little jingles here and there, but that would mean players wouldn’t be able to hear the footsteps, gunshots, and ult callouts that inundate the battlefield.  It really says a lot when you know who might be coming or who’s on the enemy team just by hearing one of their shots whiz by. 

--On that note?  Since I don’t have speakers with my computer, I play exclusively via headphones.  I wonder how others do with their setups -- as in, whether or not having the stereo or bass pumping can help or hinder them.

--Oh shit, I almost forgot -- Lucio has songs in this game.  And they’re -- how do I say it?  Ah, yes.  They’re lit.

--Even though I called out D. Va for her pistol shenanigans earlier, I’ll admit that Mercy’s not that far behind in terms of damage output.  Really, it seems like everybody in the game has multiple methods of lethality, so that even supports can (potentially) do some high damage.  Some methods are more obvious than others, and some have a better shot at landing the game-winning kills, but even Torbjorn can pretend to be a sniper when the situation calls for it.

--I’d heard the term in passing before, but apparently there’s a “dive” meta that’s taken root in Overwatch (and to be honest, I completely misjudged what it entailed).  Apparently as a Winston player I’ve been contributing to it: jump in and disrupt the enemy’s rear lines, even if -- especially if -- it means you get killed.  The real aces at the game can probably make it work like gangbusters, but I don’t mind diving if it means I can wipe out an enemy sniper.  I…kind of have a grudge against them.

--Turrets continue to be strong in this game.  Not OP or invincible or anything, but it seems like there are times when you have to plan for or play around their presence.  You’ll have to think twice before making your approach, unless you’ve got a clear shot or hard counter lined up.  It could be worse, though; as my brother and I discussed, we remember the beta days where Bastion had a barrier to protect him.

--Also, confession time: before the game came out, I was super-hyped to play as Bastion because I thought he was the coolest.  Imagine my surprise when -- for a while at least -- it seemed like he was worse than the devil.  Or scrubby online Kens.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s about all I’ve got.  I’ll admit upfront that right now, I’m a little burnt out on Overwatch because of my Ahab-esque quest to get that costume -- so for now it’s going back into its hole.  But even if I’m doomed to be an on-again, off-again player (as I have been for months now), I don’t mind jumping back in when it strikes my fancy. 

My reasoning for liking the game is actually pretty simple.  Unlike many, many, many shooters out there, this is a game with actual personality -- where you’re playing as people, not just guns with hands attached to them.  It’s a game that took the best lessons possible from Team Fortress 2 when it seemed like no one else would or could.  For that reason alone, it’s deserving of praise.  And for all of the other reasons I mentioned, it deserves to have continued success.  Sans loot box shenanigans.

But even then, I’m kinda-sorta okay with Blizzard and Activision raking in the money.  If it puts us one step closer to Overwatch: The Series, then…well, some evils must be borne for the sake of progress.

…Well, not really.  It’s still a dirtbag move and I hate it and they should stop.  But they can redeem themselves if they make that movie, or series, or just give me more shorts.  Which, admittedly, is a roundabout way for me to say “YO, WHEN’S MERCY?”

This is your 108th reminder in this post that Mercy is LITERALLY THE BEST.

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