Overwatch First Impressions: The Good and The Bad

I've been playing Overwatch non-stop since launch last night. It's been a great ride so far, and I figured I'd share my thoughts in an impressions article.

Below I'll break down what I think of Overwatch so far into the Good and the Bad.


The Good

Gameplay is on-point. This is such an important factor; how a first-person shooter feels when playing, including how it communicates hit registration with audio and visuals, has huge implications for the long-term play experience. Overwatch is extremely well constructed, so much so that my friends and I have agreed that it's comparable to a Valve-crafted first-person shooter such as Team Fortress 2 or Half-Life 2 (which is saying a lot). It's a very fun game to play and doing something as simple as shooting a weapon at an enemy is always exciting.

What a pretty game. Overwatch has a wonderful aesthetic. It's Pixar-like with a great balance of color and texture variation. Every character is finely detailed with easily recognizable silhouettes and fantastic animations. Maps have great tones making it easy to spot-out enemies even in the darker areas. This has resulted in some remarkable fan art that's being shared on social media sites such as Twitter.

The heroes have great personality. The audio work and art style of each hero makes them pleasant to play with, as, and against. Each hero has a backstory, which has been showcased in a couple animated shorts so far, providing context to who they are, and why they're on the battlefield. No two heroes are alike, and that's no easy feat for a game with a roster of 21 heroes.

Progression is well crafted. In Overwatch you don't get stronger as you level up, but you do earn loot boxes which contain a variety of items. These loot boxes are always exciting to earn, even if you are only on the lookout for victory poses, highlight animations, legendary skins, and gold. It's easy to become addicted to playing the game for hours on end in the search of rare items to stand out.

Ultimate abilities are game-changers. Every character has an ultimate ability, and most of them require serious skill and timing to use effectively. However, when you use them to their fullest, you end up impacting the game in a monumental and visually impressive way.

A welcoming experience. Not only does Overwatch have a very effective tutorial, but it provides surprisingly useful tips throughout the introductory experience. It even labels each hero with a level of difficulty. This is a game that is recommendable to just about anyone.

There's good map diversity. No two maps are alike, and there are a total of 12. They have varying colors, verticality, and structure. This helps keep things fresh in Quick Match.

Post-game is worth staying for. At the end of a game you get to see what the game decides was "Play of the Game." It's always fun to find out who earned this crowning achievement, especially when it's you. Afterward, players get a well-constructed breakdown of who performed best in various areas of the match (not just an ordinary scoreboard) and get to vote on who to commend for their efforts.

A solid launch. I had a couple server disconnects within two hours of the game's launch. After that it's been smooth sailing. Blizzard's ability to handle million of players pouring in is worthy of praise.

The Bad

Microtransactions are a bit harsh. You can earn everything in the game by simply playing and leveling up. That said, it takes a great deal of luck and/or time to earn the most attractive player skins. The only way to acquire these for your favorite characters in any reasonable amount of time is to drop several dollars on loot boxes, which aren't cheap.​ In other words, I spent $40 on 50 loot boxes last night.

Not great for lonewolfing. Overwatch isn't just a teamwork-oriented game, it's one that requires cohesion between teammates. You simply can't carry in this game, instead relying on multiple characters supporting each other to conquer objectives. Because of this, the solo experience is impacted in a negative way. You'll find yourself in lobbies full of Offensive-based characters, forced to play a Tank or Support to have any shot at winning. Even then, your teammates will unlikely aid you properly. You'll want to make friends quickly and queue as a group to get the most out of the game or start hoping for Blizzard to add some form of solo queue.

The lowest tick rate I've ever seen. The way interpolation is handled with 35~ server-side tick rate and 20 client-side tick rate can lead to hit registration issues. Currently, this is something that impacts the game infrequently, leading to shots missing that you could have sworn hit the opponent. Blizzard will need to introduce higher communication design if it desires any chance at Overwatch becoming a popular eSport title. As it stands, there is no way it can function as a professionally reliable game with thousands of dollars on the line.

Not enough support characters. When I look at the Offensive, Defensive, and Tank characters I see several viable options that are fun to play. In the case of Support, which is my favorite role, only Lucio and Mercy are effectively capable of filling a solo-Support role for the team. One more effective Support character and some balancing for Symmetra and Zenyatta will go a long way toward Support players such as myself from getting burned out.