Published on November 8th, 2014 | by Anders

BlizzCon 2014: ‘Overwatch’ impressions

The announcement of “Overwatch” took many BlizzCon attendees by surprise — myself included.

The game is reportedly being built from the remnants of project “Titan,” a near-future themed MMO that was cancelled after seven years of development.

The upshot: for the short time I played it, “Overwatch” was captivating. The multiplayer shooter is frenetic, twitchy and thoughtful, all at the same time.

“Overwatch’s’ cartoonish-but-sharp art style and class-based gunplay is likely to strike a chord with fans of “Team Fortress 2.” But the game has a character all it’s own.

It’s whimsical but explosive — think Pixar’s “The Incredibles” mixed with the aesthetics of “StarCraft II.”

Teams of six square off against each other in objective-based matches. Attacking teams are tasked with capturing zones and delivering a slow-moving bomb to the enemy base. The defending team must hold the attackers at bay until the match timer runs out.

The game includes four hero classes: offense, defense, tank and support. Offense heroes are nimble but weak, while tanks are powerful but lumbering. Support heroes heal teammates from behind the front lines.

Each hero has an ultimate ability which can be charged by dealing and receiving damage — the latter is handy for tanks and defense heroes who absorb fire with shields.

Reaper, an offense hero, is a speedy, dual shotgun-toting death machine. His “wraith mode” allows him to pass through characters and avoid damage for a short period of time.

After activating the Reaper’s ultimate ability, he becomes a spinning instrument of death, dealing damage to all nearby enemies with a powerful but short area of effect attack.

The camera pulls out to a third-person view, so players can watch Reaper’s chaos.

But offense players won’t survive for long in the open. The class is best used for hit-and-run attacks.

The tank, on the other hand, is built to control the flow of battle. Reinhardt, an armor-clad behemoth with a battle hammer, can handedly push back enemy advances with his forward-facing shield, and kill enemies with a devastating charge.

But tanks are slow and vulnerable to defensive classes. Bastion, a bipedal robot who can transform into a stationary turret, tears through Reinhardt with ease.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of “Overwatch” is the number of heroes, classes and abilities. The floor demo felt surprisingly balanced, however.

While Blizzard hasn’t confirmed the pay structure, some suspect “Overwatch” will be fueled by a micro-transaction model.

If successful, “Overwatch” could bring a colorful, hero-focused flavor to a mostly olive drab genre.

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About the Author

Anders Anders Howmann works as a city reporter for the Orange County Register by day and a contributor for by night.

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