My Game of the Year 2017


Inevitable? Well, no. Not exactly.

Overwatch’s beta ran almost concurrently with that of 2K’s Battleborn, itself a more traditional MOBA rather than a `hero shooter’. Unlike the rest of the gaming world, I actually prefered Battleborn’s initial offering to that of Overwatch, although I stopped short of purchasing either at launch.

Battleborn has since tanked spectacularly, whereas Overwatch has been an incredible success for Blizzard, with a flourishing competitive scene and a bright future ahead of it. One Black Friday impulse purchase later and I now understand what all the fuss is about.

Overwatch is such a joy to play because it sports solid fundamentals that are remarkably easy to learn yet offer enough depth to stand up to repeated play. The bar to entry is so low that even the most unique heroes can be learned in about 5 minutes.

But I think the real secret to Overwatch’s success is this: even considering what a breeze game is to play, it’s great at making you feel like you’re a lot better at it than you actually are. Your stats always presented in the most flattering way possible, with ‘eliminations’ – kills you’ve contributed to – taking centre stage as opposed to killing blows, and medals and XP awarded for improvements in any gambit of a huge range of performance criteria. There’s always something to reward or pat you on the back for, with Overwatch’s infamous ‘play of the game’ sequences merely a further means of massaging players’ egos. Understanding why all this is the case not too hard; you’re far more likely to stick with a competitive game you feel you’re good at than one that’s constantly drawing attention your shortcomings. It’s a pretty clever way of keeping players coming back for more. 

Some believe Overwatch was cobbled together from pieces Blizzard’s ill-fated MMO -codenamed Titan – after that project fell through. The company have been coy on just how much Overwatch owes Titan, but aesthetic similarities are undeniably present in the little concept art that has bled into the public domain. Overwatch’s characters are full of personality, and a vague tapestry that somewhat resembles a narrative can be garnered therein, and from supplementary works such as comics and animated shorts. Despite Blizzard’s words to the contrary, I often wonder if Overwatch is simply Titan’s competitive proto-PvP mode fleshed out and repackaged, or if Titan would have told Overwatch’s story in full, RPG-style, and the two are/were set in the same gameworld. Who knows, maybe Titan was originally even going to be called Overwatch.

I make no apologies for being an enormous Blizzard fan. While the company has certainly made some miss-steps in the past, they still make amazing games and craft (and indeed ‘Craft) wonderful and compelling fantasy worlds. Overwatch deserves its place among their very best, and is destined to be a future classic.

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