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Overwatch: Motley but Deadly

With the success of hero-focused multiplayer arena games like League of Legends and Dota 2, it only makes sense that we're starting to see more and more of them. Furthermore, it also makes sense that developers are starting to put their own twists on the popular genre. Gearbox's Battleborn aims to offer a first-person translation of the MOBA formula, while Blizzard's Overwatch seems more interested in bringing hero-style action to the framework of a more conventional online shooter. Overwatch recently went through an open beta, though that might be a bit of a misnomer. The complete game was live for this period, and I spent a good chunk of that period playing it. While it's impossible to predict Overwatch's success from this point in time, I'm optimistic.

Save for one very integral bit of design philosophy, Overwatch could be described as the most bog standard shooter to come around in a long time. Luckily, that design philosophy makes the game anything but standard. You arenít cast as a faceless, nameless grunt and thereís much more to differentiate you from your comrades than your loadouts. Overwatchís battlefields are manned by very specific individuals with very specific styles, abilities, and personalities. And the magic of the gameplay is in watching these heroes clash.

It wouldnít do to fill this preview space with dossiers on each of Overwatchís playable characters. Instead, simply take my word for it that all of the characters occupy a certain role. Some are offensive, some defensive. Some are relegated to support roles, while others are capable of long-range combat. Any strategic need can be satisfied by one of the over twenty heroes in Overwatch.

Take this scenario, for example. Your team has been charged with the defense of a payload, a movable base of sorts that the other team must capture and escort to a specific location. There are countless opportunities for you to assist in the defense effort. TorbjŲrn can construct turrets and upgrade them with his hammer, while scavenging the battlefield for scrap that can be converted into armor upgrades. Mei can build massive ice walls that temporarily block off possible points of ingress. Widowmaker can grapple to the rooftops and pick off approaching enemies.

But what if youíre on offense? Pharah can take to the skies and drop rockets on unsuspecting foes. Tracerís short-distance Blink ability makes her a difficult target to hit, and her Recall allows her to rewind her own timeline, reverting her health to its former (and higher) level. Genji can climb up walls, hurl shurikens, and lunge with his sword. Mercy can tag-team with Soldier 76, alternating between her healing beam and her damage-boosting beam as the diligent warrior plugs away with his assault rifle and concussive blasts.

While I could go on and on about Overwatchís strategic depth (and I will in the future), Iím hesitant to discuss it in further detail until the gameís official release later this month. With its engaging artistic style, emphasis on teamwork, and character-based, strategic combat, it just might be another hit on Blizzardís hands. Keep your eyes open: Overwatch deploys on May 24. Check the beta out and head back for our full review.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos
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