Firstly, if you’re wondering why I’m an eejit who’s only logged a week of Overwatch over a year after its release, I’ve covered that particular bit of stupid already. Secondly, whilst it’s only been a calendar week (and a bit), it was kind of an obsessive week, and I squeezed every bit of Overwatch out of it as I possibly could. Personal hygiene? Eating food that doesn’t come in foil packaging? Face-to-face human interaction? Bollocks to all of that because, like, Overwatch, innit!? Smelling a bit funky, empty calories and physical isolation were all prices I was *totes* willing to pay when there were Overwatch’s 24 characters to learn, maps and Game Modes to get to grips with, and precious, precious XP to be earning – and I happily, gleefully fucked off all of my adulting in favour of piss-arsing around in Blizzard’s colourful, fun future of heroes randomly moving payloads around for shits and giggles. Well, I say shits and giggles but apparently humanity depends on it, but at this point I’m not entirely sure why because delving into the story and setting of Overwatch is cool, I’m sure, but it also gets in the way of actually playing it, so I’ve not really bothered as of yet.
Anyway, that’s all to say that, after a week, it’s possible I may be a wee bit addicted to Overwatch. Like, a teensy-tiny bit obsessed. And that’s pretty weird because I’m not really a huge fan of Online Multiplayer; and whilst I’ll sometimes play it when I’m in the mood, it’s very rare that I’ll completely forsake other Games in favour of endlessly battling randoms in a repeating cycle of “pew, pew, pew – die – pew, pew, pew”. Even better (or worse, if you’re downwind of me, I guess) I’ve still only scratched the surface of Overwatch’s roster, so there’s plenty more of that still to come. Indeed, of those 24 characters, I’ve got to grips with exactly four of them. And one of those was Bastion, and he’s basically a piece of piss (self-healing turret for the win!!). The others, if you’re interested, are D.Va, Zenyatta and Soldier 76.
Why those? Well, the answer’s a slightly complicated one, but it does highlight some of Overwatch’s core elements, so I’ma explain it as best I can. See, as I mentioned in the other piece, before playing properly I’d put a bit of practice time in with a few characters, but when I went to play in a match, I’d frequently find they were instantly picked. After realising this, I returned to the practice modes to find some decent back-up picks. Bastion I liked primarily because of that aforementioned simplicity, and because “how can you go wrong with a self-healing turret?” I thought. And initially, my hunch seemed to have been confirmed as I spent my first few hours of Overwatch playing against people who seemed to gleefully throw themselves in front of Bastion, die (giving me time to heal up), before gleefully throwing themselves in front of me all over again. Sure, I’d die if our position got stormed, but within my first day or so of Overwatch I’d managed to rack up a Killstreak of 17 (a feat I’ve equaled quite a few times since, but bettered only once), died only a handful of times, and was rapidly falling into a “fuck it, I’ma be Bastion for ever and ever” frame of mind……
Then two things happened that made me think I’d maybe been a bit premature in that conclusion. The first was finally going up against players (and characters) who had Bastion’s number, and it suggested those first few hours were more of an anomaly than, say, me finding my forever character/tactics. Bastion could still be successful on certain maps and in certain game modes, but increasingly I was finding that a half-decent Hanzo, Soldier 76 or Pharah could take him down fairly quickly, and suddenly it was me gleefully repeating the same suicidal moves over and over again. It was just as I was realising this that I became aware of the second thing too; crappy team composition. As seems to be a thing in many FPS games, people seemed genuinely reluctant to forego killing in favour of, like, healing, so my team was frequently entering into bouts sans medical support.
In fact, there seemed to be the same, recurring dance happening on the character selection screen Every. Damn. Time. Everybody would rush to pick their favourite character and then entirely ignore whatever the hints at the side were saying. Like, willfully ignore it to the extent that I could practically see and hear everyone putting their fingers in their ears and saying “la, la, la…. I can’t hear you!!” as we commenced attacking an enemy position with 5 squishy characters and a Sniper, or trying to “rush” to an objective with 6 heroes who’d make the world’s slowest sloth look like the bastard lovechild of Usain Bolt and The Flash. Occasionally there’d be one or two players who still hadn’t picked as the start approached, and I’d assume they were choosing between the options in the classes the game was recommending, but NOPE…..they’d invariably go with a “fuck it, why should I play as x, y or z just because I was last?” mentality too. Very, very occasionally somebody would change to whatever our team was lacking, but it was so fucking rare and I rapidly got so frustrated that I began to choose a healer immediately, just to make the strange dance of hope, denial and frustration stop. Initially I tried Lucio – but I immediately found that a team made up of the kind of people who gave zero fucks about composition also tended to be a team that didn’t exactly play well with others. Lucio’s healing style is about as useful as a Patio Heater on the surface of the Sun if your team’s all over the place (literally), and even worse, I was getting pretty fucking tired of each lone-wolf requesting healing from behind enemy lines, miles away from the objectives, and with six enemy players between them and me. Even with Lucio’s mobility and speed, that was a big ask, and I quickly found you can do exactly no healing when you’re dead.
It was basically this situation (repeated ad nauseam) that made me, in my desperation, try Zenyatta. Even though I’d gotten the impression he needed a high-skill level to play well, I figured being able to heal/increase enemy damage taken from a distance would give me options that were lacking in Lucio’s proximity style, so it was worth a shot anyways. I expected to be absolutely horrific at him, but after a few rounds I’d actually been reasonably successful. Not super great, admittedly, but not as bad as I’d thought, and more importantly, I was beginning to understand how I could be better. One of the things that makes Overwatch so compelling is that it’s an intriguing blend of frustration, elation and “ahhhhhhh, I see what I should’ve done there!” and with Zenyatta, it was the latter bit that proved most addictive. As I played more with him, I got a feel for his strengths and weaknesses, and where he could be most effective on any given map/game mode. For a guy who lobs orbs around, Zenyatta’s actually pretty bad-ass too, and that also allowed me to contribute offensively when needed. After a few sessions, I’d gotten a pretty good grasp of him, and whilst I wasn’t racking up huge Killstreaks, I was still doing pretty well, and more importantly, I was often helping the team do well. Even though I’d initially tried Zenyatta out of frustration and desperation, I quickly fell in love with him, and was rapidly falling into a “fuck it, I’ma be Zenyatta forever and ever” frame of mind…..
But, it was also team composition that eventually forced me out of my Zenyatta comfort zone too. I started to play in more Games where a healer had already been selected (and in a full 180, I was actually a bit gutted about that) but where the team was still a bit squishy. People seemed to love playing characters like Reaper, Tracer and McCree – and whilst they’re great when played well, they’re best playing as flankers, and in order to flank effectively, you kinda need a frontline to hold to do so. When every fucker on your team runs off to the flanks, it leaves a pretty big hole in the middle for the opposition to run through – together – and it’s something of a flaw in the Battle Plan, I’d argue. In an attempt to address this tactical oversight(/intense fucking stupidity), I went with D.Va for a few games, and for a couple of reasons. Initially, it was because she seemed incredibly easy to play without much practice, and if you’re going to try holding the line your own damn self, not having to reload and having a shield seemed like a pretty big bonus. Moreover, her whole jumping out of a battered mech effectively gives you an extra 0.5 of a life, and in the context of maintaining a front solo, D.Va’s out-of-mech weapon wasn’t terrible, and the extra few seconds (and damage) could often be just enough to allow reinforcements to arrive. With a bit of practice, I’m now even able to stay alive and do enough damage to be able to call in another mech before dying a good chunk of the time, and that is, if I’m being honest, all different kinds of cool and useful.
Her ultimate/self-destruct doodah is awesome in its own right too, but in the context of holding or clearing an objective/payload it can be invaluable. Even if the other team manage to haul-ass out of the blast radius, that can – and often has – been the difference between victory and defeat if it’s deployed at the right time. Finally, when D.Va’s paired with a healer (particularly Mercy) she really can take a decent crack at being a one-woman front line when your team’s being stoopid, and pretty much slot into any role when it’s most needed if they’re not. Honestly, I absolutely fucking love D.Va – and she’s the Hero I’ve played most, had most success with, and who I’ll pick over any other – all other things being equal.
So why then try Soldier 76? The answer to that’s relatively simple: curiosity. I’d read that Soldier 76 was a great character for beginners, and that he was the most accessible “Gateway Hero” for those coming from more traditional FPS games. Perhaps because of this, he always seemed to be picked quite rapidly, and over time, that added up to me reeeeeaaaally wanting to see what all the fuss was about. As such, in the games where he’d not been picked (and where Team Composition wasn’t terrible) I grasped the opportunity to take him for a spin. I liked Soldier 76, and because he plays more like a standard FPSer, he was pretty easy to get a handle on too – so I’ve been reasonably successful when I’ve played him. He’s a great all-rounder, and he can contribute to any well-balanced team in any game mode. That’s his greatest strength, but also one of his most obvious weaknesses too, I think, because whilst his jack-of-all-trades-eyness can augment a well-balanced team on the fly (with speed for flanking, high DPS/Range for holding, and Healing at a pinch), if a team’s obviously lacking in a particular area, there are other Heroes who fill that hole more effectively. As such, once I’d sated my initial curiosity, my playing as Soldier 76 was entirely dependent on a) him not being picked already (rare) and b) on my team already being pretty well thought-out and balanced (also rare). I’d love to play him a bit more than I do, but as Sun Tzu himself (possibly) would’ve said had he ever played Overwatch, “There’s no motherfucking “I” in “team” you bunch of selfish fucking fuck-knuckles”.
So, anyways – if you’re still with me – that pretty much covers my first week (and a bit) of Overwatch. I guess the flip-side of me being hamstrung by tactics and team comp is that, actually, even though I’ve not tried many characters (and am therefore not proficient with many of them either), it’s exactly this tactical element that’s really hooked me – at least for now. My plan for the coming week is to try Hanzo, Junkrat, Roadhog and Pharah – assuming I can drag myself away from D.Va and Zenyatta, and allowing for Team Comps not being horrific – because I’ve seen them played well in certain circumstances, and I’d very much like to master the shiznizz they can bring to the table in the right situation. In general, I’m loving Overwatch, and even though I’ve had the odd frustrating session, I’m finding that the elation and “feeling like a murrrfucking boss” things are still massively outweighing it most of the time. Anyhoo – enough yammering for now – I’ve got me some Overwatch to play, innit!?
TL; DR – Addicted. Send Help!