This is what Blizzard does: it snaps its fingers and, just like that, spawns a legion of fans overnight. Of course, we shouldn’t trivialise the amount of time it takes to develop a top-flight online shooter but they make it look so damn easy.
Even when Overwatch was in its earliest stages of testing, you couldn’t scroll to the bottom of an image-sharing site or messaging board without being bombarded by memes, hype posts, and fan art. It’s the kind of pre-release buzz every company in the business would kill for yet so few manage to achieve.
You know what the best thing about all this is? Overwatch has been completely deserving of the adoration it continues to receive. Although Blizzard’s name already carries a fair amount of heft, that’s not the reason why their online FPS has proven so popular. Completely removed from the realms of Warcraft and its sci-fi counterpart, Overwatch carried out the unenviable task of conjuring up a likeable cast of characters.
Aside from having their own distinct look and personality, the vibrant, varied roster of heroes on show are equally fun to play. It’s that core element that has kept fans returning, lending each match a renewed sense of surprise with no two ever being the same.
In the couple of months since launch, Blizzard has allowed this to soak in, propping Overwatch up with a constant stream of fixes, balances, and Competitive Play. Needless to say, they’re in this for the long haul, as evidenced by the game’s recent pair of updates.
The first of these gave us Ana, a versatile addition to the game’s original line-up. We don’t know too much about her standing in Overwatch lore – Blizzard has that covered – though the veteran sniper has made for a welcome new support option. With sniper rifle in-hand you wouldn’t take Ana for a team healer yet she manages to fit between Zenyatta, Mercy, and Lucio rather nicely.
Aside from popping off headshots, Ana’s primary attack can be used to keep players alive through via friendly fire. It’s a weird yet incredibly transition to make, especially if you’re used to to maining heroes like Hanzo and Widowmaker. Her grenade also has that yin and yang effect, restoring health to allies while damaging foes caught in its blast radius.
The sleep dart, though hard to pull off, makes for yet another useful addition, putting enemies down for five seconds. Finally, her Nano Boost applies a powerful one-man buff, allowing its intended target to plough through to an objective.
With a gallery of skins, sprays, and other bits to unlock, Ana is just as fully-featured as the rest of the game’s lively cast. What’s more, she’s completely free with no need to download or pay for ‘access’.
The next update, which launched just this week, perhaps says more about Overwatch’s future. Blizzard’s Rio-inspired Summer Games has injected the multiplayer shooter with even more vim and colour, helping to anchor its real-world locales.
Those who’ve unboxed a fair number of loot crates should know by now how different some characters can look in fancy dress. The Summer Games looks to take that a step further with its own set of appearance options, as well as icons and other tid bits.
Sure, Blizzard is attempting to cash-in on the Rio Olympics but at least the team has approached it in a fun way that’s also rewarding for its players. Instead of tweaking the rule sets for existing scenarios in the latest Weekly Brawl playlist, there’s an entirely new mode altogether.
Lucioball isn’t exactly a FIFA substitute but there’s just enough meat on the bone to warrant the occasional match now and then. For those out of the loop, it’s a three-on-three mode where Lucios skate and leap across a pitch, attempting to slam the giant-sized ball in their opponent’s’ net. It’s a far cry from Rocket League but has way more substance than Nintendo’s laughable Metroid Prime: Ball Blast.
Looking around, there are very few multiplayer games that come close to matching Overwatch. Even if there were, given Blizzard’s track record, we’d likely see them rise and fall years before Overwatch began to lose steam.