I don’t usually get to involved in betas and pre-launch events for games, but after all of the exposure to Overwatch over the past year or so, and especially after the events at PAX East I decided I would make it a point to get some time in with the open beta that ran through May 10. I won’t go through a full review, since there are certainly plenty of places to read about play strategies etc but I had a few things come up that sort of surprised me.
First of all the fact that you can change characters during a match really has a huge effect on the flow of the game. I’m glad that Blizzard decided to get away from the free to play model and just made it a single purchase unlocking all of the characters, because I think the limited number of characters players would have access to in a free to play model would have really hurt that aspect of the game. I found myself switching characters at least once per match (and significantly more than that in the beginning when I was still learning play styles). I felt like being able to change my character based on the match dynamic was really empowering, since it lets players react to things in a way they can’t normally. The ability to switch to a defensive character if you need to push the enemy back, and then to an offensive character once you gain ground is really rewarding. Plus I found myself actually trying more characters since I wasn’t at risk of getting stuck for an entire match with a play style I didn’t like.
The training area is also a nice feature. While it’s certainly not unique to Overwatch, when there are so many characters, each with unique abilities and play styles, it is really nice to have some AI to beat on and learn how to play them. I found myself in there more than I expected, trying to understand how to use a given character’s super etc.
I got to play a bit with friends, and the party options were much friendlier than some games. First, the ability to switch on and off team chat versus party chat was very useful. I didn’t spend much time in the open team voice chat, which is fairly standard for me at least while I am new to a game, I felt like the integrated voice chat was pretty solid, and despite it being a beta my party did not have many connection issues.
I was playing the beta on my desktop, which is a 4 year old system running a single NVIDIA GTX 580, and the game still ran smoothly and looked pretty damn good. The game defaulted to the medium graphics settings on the system, and I genuinely did not feel that hindered my gameplay at all. I didn’t get a chance to play on my new laptop though, which should be able to handle the higher graphics settings and I am definitely looking forward to launch to see how well the system can handle it.
The beta did a good job of getting me more excited for the launch, and I know that if there are any other titles I want to get time in with I probably ought to do that before Overwatch is actually live. I’m definitely excited for the 24th, (and the day that Blizzard actually makes the Winston plush available :p)