With a little under ten hours put into the open beta weekend, I have enough play to probably start talking about the game and what my impressions of it are pre-launch. So let’s get down.

The Game
Like previous Blizzard multiplayer titles, Overwatch runs great both graphically and in-play. For mid-level hardware, the game still performs well on high settings at 1920×1080 @ 60FPS, with no issues experienced thus far. About the only complaint I can register is that it does use CPU a little more than most games, rather than relying on GPU for some graphical rendering, so it presented me with some issues streaming the game in OBS using the x264 codec which also consumes CPU, causing choppy video footage from Beta Weekend. I corrected it by changing the codec to NVENC and have had no issues since.

The Online Experience
It’s a multiplayer game, and even though it has functions to play with bots, they aren’t very good, and really only serve to help you learn maps and characters. The real game comes with playing with others, and that is a mixed bag. In terms of people, I have had really no negative experiences apart from some annoying voice chatters playing soundboards or music or screaming at people negatively about the match. Fortunately, the client offers you the tools to not only mute players, but also tell the server not to put you in games with those players. So there are adequate tools to control your online experience.

In terms of gameplay, due to the game being new and open to the public, there were a lot of new players unfamiliar with the characters or objectives. It’s important to note that Overwatch is not “Team Deathmatch” and the point of the game is not kill/death ratios. The point of the game is to work with your team to complete the map objective. So this translates to some rough team compositions where players choose their favorites and not who might help the team, compounded with players who refuse to change in-game. Others are more open to change and try, but might not be the best at their character choice yet. I am okay with learning how to play, since I don’t know how to play everyone effectively, but some team comps were downright frustrating to play, and I hate to leave in-game because I think that’s a dick move.

But when you can get a full pre-made team, be it friends or strangers into a group, the gameplay is amazing. If you don’t have any local friends, join /r/Overwatch on Discord and post in the #looking-for-group channel. A lot of great people hang around there and bring on people of all skill levels to play.

The Characters
I’ve tried all of the characters at least one this beta round, but did not spend a lot of time on many of them still. The Weekly Brawl, Random Hero Respawn, helped a little by forcing me to play as a different hero each time I died. But in regular play, through playing in a group, I got better employing some common team comp strategies that helped me pick up other characters besides Mercy this time around.

Lucio – If you’re playing a control map, Lucio is a very handy addition to any team. His AoE heals not only keep people healed on the point, but his alt provides a huge shield boost when you need to take or hold a point. He also has a right-click knockback move that pushes an enemy back, and if used correctly on some maps, will bump them off of the map entirely. The key is to play him fast, always be moving, always be dodging whenever possible, and kind of skate around everyone keeping them healed, but don’t stay too much in the middle of a fight since you’re still pretty squishy. Also, if Roadhog hooks you, use your knockback quickly to negate his followup attack.

D.Va – As a tank character, D.Va has high-mobility much like Winston where they can get around quickly and deal significant damage. Her mech’s guns can fire a lot and take out light-to-medium targets quickly, and her reflect ability can be used to quickly deflect some fire from turrets or quick-fire characters like Soldier 76 or another D.Va. Her mobility should always be used, especially when getting out of fire by rocketing to another spot. Her alt allows her to self-destruct her mech, and call a new one if it manages to land a hit on someone. This is best used to clear out a point for capture, or force the enemy team to flee an area so you can move in. Outside of her mech, D.Va is even more squishy than Mercy, sporting only a light pistol, but she is fairly agile, so experienced players can weave and dodge landing some hits on light characters in order to get their mech back faster. Overall, I had fun playing as her and look forward to getting better with her as a tank.

Zarya – Zarya is so far, hands down, my favorite tank. Besides being pretty beefy for a tank, her weapon and abilities play into a playstyle I quite like from a tank-type character. Besides being able to shield myself and others for a short time, her weapon when fully charged acts like an arc welder, cutting through light and medium characters quickly, and wearing down a fellow tank character. Her alt takes a little bit of getting used to, because while it helps to pull enemies into a gravity well, unless your weapons is fully-charged, you need someone else with high damage or AoE alt to really capitalize on the moment, such as Bastion’s alt, Hanzo’s alt, Mei to freeze them in place for longer, or Junkrat’s rip-tire. Certainly, Reinhardt is a much better defense-tank with his shield, but as an offense-tank, Zarya kicks Russian bear ass.

Symmetra – When I read things in Discord chat like Symmetra is the worst character, it leads me to believe people either aren’t playing her right, or haven’t played her at all but use her teleporter anyway from another player playing as her. Symmetra is a very capable and I may even boldly say better defense character than support, though the support comes from her teleporter. OneAmongstMany has a good video on how to play her, and after about two hours of playtime, I concur. Placement of her turrets requires an understanding of the maps and the kind of ways people traverse the map. You can place all your turrets in one spot and go, but if the enemy team has a Junkrat, Zarya, or Pharah, they can clear out those rooms easily with splash damage weapons. It’s better to place them in flanking positions to catch Tracer, Genji, Hanzo, Widowmaker, and others who try to get around your lines to alert you of their presence. Also, your teleporter alt charges faster on turret fire, so having a few in the main battle to fire at tanks and attackers always works. On some maps, you can even take advantage of the map features to stick turrets on that make them harder to deal with, like mobile platforms or the payload itself. When you do get the teleporter, put it up where the enemy will not likely find it quickly, and don’t use it yourself if you die, prioritize your team first, so that after the charges wear out, you can get another teleporter up again quickly. Even if you are forced back to the second point on some maps, place your teleporter on a flanking position so that you can catch your enemies off-guard. Playing Symmetra is less about making kills as it is about using your knowledge of the map to lay traps and help your team move around efficiently. When you do have to use your weapons, your photon beam deals more damage the longer it stays on, so grab someone and try not to let go until they are down. You can actually catch tanks like Reinhardt and bring them down in 4-5 seconds if they aren’t anticipating it. Even if you die, you’ve distracted someone from the objective and made it easier for your team to come in and mop up. A more detailed writeup of her was posted on the /r/Overwatch subreddit a few days ago that is worth checking out.

I also got a little more time with Junkrat, Torbjorn, Bastion, and Soldier 76. I did not get to spend much time on Reinhardt, Genji, Tracer, Pharah, or Widowmaker, among others. Once the game releases, I will try to do some videos on each character after I get better at them.

Overall, the game is fantastic, and really brings back the spirit of first-person shooters I remember from the classic experiences like Quake Arena, to more modern-day fare. I’m very interested to see how this game will manage to stay together in the long-term and not fizzle out like Heroes of the Storm rather did, and I think that will come down to largely how they continue to support the game.

Finally, Blizzard’s new animated short released the other day:

…god damn man. Soldier 76 comes up next on Sunday.

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