May 13 2016 - 3:10 pm
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Overwatch: Fast, Fun, But Unbalanced

As players and professionals gear up for competitive Overwatch, here are some thoughts about balance and mechanics issues I found while playing the game.
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One of the most anticipated games to release this year seems to have filled the niche of the fast-paced, objective-based shooter. Overwatch, a Blizzard Entertainment first-person multiplayer online battle arena - or MOBA - game, just wrapped up its open beta last weekend. Though it was fun on a casual level, it’s hard to envision how this game will perform once it opens up for real on May 24.

 

After playing a (probably excessive) amount this weekend with pick-up groups and full squads, I noticed there are still some character balance and game mechanic issues. Without fixes before launch day, it is difficult to say how seriously Overwatch could be taken in a long-term professional, competitive setting.

 

There are already rosters for professional teams and the game hasn’t reached its official release yet. Players are pumped for what could come out of this game and it gives players who aren’t fans of classic MOBA-style games a chance to play something a little different.

Character Balance


Sure, there are characters that are already fairly balanced and fit their roles, but there are also some characters that can be nearly unstoppable in a match. Without fixes to these characters, gameplay can be one-sided, especially with the lack of hero-locks.

 

Through various interactions through the weekend, many players considered Soldier: 76 to be the Call of Duty, run-and-gun style character with little skill required. He carries an automatic assault rifle and one of his abilities, Biotic Field, is a healing emitter.

 

Often, it seems as if his heal ability lasts an excessively long time. Ideally, this ability’s time should be shorter, because it gives him a ridiculous amount of healing and you are often unable to destroy the equipment before he can shoot you in the face. His auto-aim ultimate ability, Tactical Visor, also lasts an unbearably long time and can take out almost a whole team in about five seconds.

 

McCree isn’t as unbalanced as Soldier: 76, but he still has some abilities that need some fixing. One of them is a flashbang that stuns an enemy character and that’s okay. What is a little annoying is that this flashbang still works if thrown at a player’s back. Perhaps it is just because I am used to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive mechanics, but it is a little out there that he can run up behind someone, throw the flash and use his Fan the Hammer ability to destroy someone almost instantly.

 

His Deadeye ultimate ability is also somewhat unbalanced. This is similar to Soldier: 76’s auto-aim, but with a high-powered revolver headshot that hits anyone in McCree’s field of view, sometimes whole teams.

 

There is really only one qualm with Reaper. His Wraith Form ability’s duration is excessive. It’s a great idea that an offensive player can have a way to blink out of heavy situations, but he can just enter this stage and become invincible and make it to near-by health packs with ease. From there, he can blast attackers in the face with his Hellfire Shotguns as they try to eliminate him.

 

This makes him a harder to hit target not only for close-range opponents, but also for ranged characters, as he can easily use this ability and Shadow Step to their locations to take them out. And on top of that, he picks up Soul Globes from eliminated enemies for more healing.

Game Mechanics


Overwatch is suppose to be that unpredictable, all-over-the-place shooter, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t benefit from some in-game regulations.

 

In most games, ranked modes usually have a system in place to penalize players who ditch in the middle of a match. Sure, last weekend was the open beta, but that system should be put into the official release. Having a player leave during the game and playing a man down sucks. More often than not, a substitute player wouldn’t be found until maybe the last minute of the game if at all.

 

Overwatch is a game that relies on team play and it can be hard for one or two people to solely carry a team. If you are missing a player, the full effect of a team is diminished, because you could be losing support, a tank, extra damage to break through the defense or a sniper to help open up areas.

 

Another game mechanic that should be fixed is the lack of hero-locking. This is more important for ranked matches than in casual and custom games, because some heroes are just too overpowered.

 

Playing a game against six Soldier: 76 characters is nearly impossible. Playing a game against six of anything, especially if professional players know how to play a character well, will be hard to combat against.

 

Generally in MOBAs, teams want efficient components that will work together and against other players. And while it’s a cool idea that players can switch their characters during a game, this could also mess with team dynamics for other players if there is a lack of communication. If there was hero-lock, teammates would more likely have to communicate if they wanted to switch characters with someone else.

 

BrainOverAim, a Reddit user, generated an interesting discussion on the Overwatch sub-reddit about the downsides of no hero-lock, which can be found here.

Aside from some mechanics problems, there is one more thing to think about for Overwatch’s potential as a game taken seriously in esports: what platform will professional matches take place on? Since Overwatch will be available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, there needs to be a choice made on which platform will be regulation. This is especially so, because while there is aim-assist on PC, it doesn’t exist on console versions.

 

In all honesty, character nerfs and changes to game mechanics are probably to be expected before release or sometime after, but players don’t really know when changes will be made. Blizzard Entertainment does try to accommodate players’ requests, so that is a good thing to keep in mind. Through monitoring Overwatch’s Twitter, the team behind the game seemed eager to interact with and take comments from players all weekend.


Did you play the closed or open beta? Let us know your thoughts in the comments about the game so far and your expectations for launch day on May 24. Make sure to follow us on our Twitter, @GAMURScom, to keep up with esports news.

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