When details surrounding Overwatch’s Halloween seasonal event first surfaced, many were concerned about Blizzard introducing a PvE-based Brawl into a game built from the ground up as a PvP experience. Those fears should now be assuaged.
With easy-to-kill AI and a list of heroes designed to fight each other, the idea of a cooperative experience didn’t feel like it had merit in Overwatch. Yet, after playing the new Brawl for myself, I can’t help but feel that the new Horde mode should become a permanent part of the game.
If you aren’t familiar with Overwatch’s Brawls, they’re essentially events that pop up every week for players to participate in. These events have always been built as PvP experiences — matching you up against another team of players with a weird set of rules (such as Support characters only, for example), which attempt to make the Overwatch play different than usual.
The idea is to create unique experiences that feel like a departure from traditional matches. In some cases, they’ve done exactly that, and other times, well, things haven’t quite paid off … until now.
In the new Halloween brawl, you’ll be teaming with three other players to protect the gates of Aldersbrunn castle from Dr. Junkenstein and his minions. Like other brawls, you’ll also be subject to a set of limitations. This time, you’ll only have four characters to choose from: Ana, McCree, Soldier 76, and Hanzo.
Junkenstein’s Revenge takes place in a small section of Overwatchs Eichenwalde map, which has been remastered for the Halloween event. You’ll see broken castle walls covered in ravens with a few pumpkins and burning carriages scattered about, as well as hordes of enemy ‘zombies’ trying to break down the door you’re guarding.
These zombies are broken into two types: Zomnics and Zombardiers. Zomnics are essentially walking time bombs that will explode once they reach the door, while the Zombardiers are larger enemies that shoot at you from a distance with … bombs. They aren’t all that complex from a design standpoint, but they can deal a ton of damage if you aren’t properly managing their numbers with McCree and Hanzo’s ultimate abilities.
On top of that, the basic enemy types are slightly modified versions of Junkrat, Roadhog, Reaper, and Mercy, donning their Halloween skins. Each character has had their abilities, attack, and defense increased beyond normal capabilities too — which make them increasingly dangerous if your team doesn’t take them down ASAP.
When you combine the bosses, enemies, and map with the themed dialogue present in the brawl, you’ve got a fun and fairly difficult experience in Overwatch that departs from the usual versus modes. Sure, it may be set on a fairly small map with a limited amount of enemies, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering a fresh idea worthy of becoming a permanent addition to Overwatch’s game modes.
To make cooperative a full-blown mode though, Blizzard would have to add a few more enemy types and increase the map size. By introducing new enemy types such as flying turrets or basic units that shoot back at you, they could take advantage of the different mechanics unique to each hero in the game. The goal would be to make you feel like you’re fulfilling a role, just like you would in competitive multiplayer.
Take Reinhardt, who could shield damage from enemies like Bastion robot units, or Mercy, who could resurrect friendly AI units to continue fighting against waves of incoming enemies on a larger map. But hey, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here.
Since Overwatch was designed to be a competitive experience between two teams of players, the idea of a permanent Horde mode is one that doesn’t really match the style behind the game. But, that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
With the new brawl, Blizzard opened up an entirely different way to look at Overwatch that absolutely works — with some fine tuning. By limiting certain hero counts and the abilities behind each, the development team could build a challenging element to the game which they could then use to introduce more characters, lore and unlockables. Remember the Omnic Crisis? This could be a perfect way to introduce it to players.