Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Pulse Pistols : The Good and Bad of the Overwatch Beta

With the game's release next Tuesday, where could Blizzard seek to improve its already stunning 'overwatch'?

Earlier this month, the beta for Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch spent ten action-packed days in the public eye. The long wait for the game seemed to pay off, and a tidal wave of fan demand helped extend the beta from its original nine-day run. The game instantly stood out in a genre commonly occupied by military-based, first-person shooters — subverting the standard sepia and grey scale for a colorful take on a group assault. For someone who has been out of the FPS scene for years due to boredom, the game is a fresh take because it doesn’t fit quite so snugly within the genre.

Overwatch brings back the art of strategy in an era when most games play exactly the same. While the actual controls of the game don’t stray too far from the norm (and are generally easy to pickup for newbies) players have to strategize from the beginning, selecting characters based on strength, the map’s dynamics, or just skill level. That’s probably where Overwatch shines the most: while it’s not a borefest for the advanced player who may have more time to master the game, it’s still fairly balanced so that unfamiliar players can fall into the rhythm without annoying the rest of the team. With that said, the game isn’t without it’s faults, and that’s why it deserves a few call outs — good and bad — before the official release next Tuesday.

Tip of the Visor: Character Diversity

Overwatch offers up 21 playable characters of different gender, race, body type, and (in some cases) species. While no game is perfect and the possibilities can always expand, this kind of character selection is so broad that the selection screen almost seems like a nod to the packed rosters of recent Street Fighter games. Some characters are harder to master than others, but those seeking more representation in video games might find that Overwatch is a good start. Each character offers up different roles and abilities for players to select from, so even those with a preference for a certain class in games might also find their needs satisfied.

Wag of the Pulse Pistols: Lack of In-Game Variety

Where Overwatch attempts to supply players with a large roster of character options, it fails when it comes to the maps that players can explore. Some game modes are also unfairly stacked against one team, such as the game’s Escort mode. The maps could do with a little more build-out, but for a limited-run beta, the imagination and advanced aesthetic design of the maps were still fun to run through.

Tip of the Visor: Nearly-Instant Matches

One of the stand-out achievements of the Overwatch beta was the quick matchmaking capabilities of the game through Battle.net. Even when games took longer to get into, the option to skirmish sped up any wait times.

Wag of the Pulse Pistols: Map Limits

As mentioned before, the maps may be gorgeous, but they can be lacking and repetitive at times. They’re also locked to individual game modes, and once you’ve learned them, there’s little more left to keep a player going. Hopefully this will be remedied with the game’s release.

Tip of the Visor: A New Approach to In-Game Purchases

While micro-transactions are slightly murky waters for a game like Overwatch, the idea of moving away from purchases for new characters or content has been growing on console and PC as of late. All characters released after the game’s debut, as well as the upcoming maps, will be free. Loot boxes will contain extras, like character emblems, accessories and other ways to personalize and improve the player’s experience. Good riddance, season passes.

As Blizzard builds toward next week’s official release of Overwatch, new information and content has been released to keep hungry fans satiated. Yesterday, an all-new short titled Dragons was released to preclude this weekend’s massive launch celebration.

Overwatch releases worldwide on May 24, but U.S. players can get it a day early via Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop.