Late to the Party – Overwatch

Overwatch Tracer SplashLast week I finally bit the bullet and picked up Overwatch, a game I’ve been super interested in after watching a bunch of Funhaus videos. I played the beta, enjoyed it, but let it go by the wayside. Now that I’ve put a week or so into the game, I thought I’d talk a bit about my thoughts with the Xbox One version.

I want to start with my biggest complaint, and that is that the story for the game and characters is being told outside of the game. There’s a bunch of animated shorts and comics that flesh out the world, and also the Heroes that you play. Since I was away from the game from launch until now, I had no clue about anything – I had to go on to the wiki to find out anything about the characters and story. On one hand, I understand that this isn’t really a game that depends on the story to drive the content – just pick a Hero and go to town. But Blizzard is one of the better developers out there at fleshing out a world and making the characters feel real, so I would have really liked to see something in game explaining it all.

Beyond that though, Overwatch has very quickly become one of the most fun games I’ve played this year. Even playing it solo, I’m having a blast pretty much every game I play. The only one that I really got annoyed with was a match on Numbani where the Defense team posted outside our spawn and just kept sniping in our doors – it took nearly the whole first phase to get out to the point. It’s a game that I absolutely understand is more fun with friends in a party to coordinate with. Even with that though, the roles are all pretty clearly defined where solo players should easily be able to have good teamwork. Each game mode feels similarly enough where you don’t have to play a few games in that type to get it under your thumbs, while still shaking up what team comp you should bring in. An escort match requires different Heroes and play than a control or hybrid match. Going in at level one, I certainly felt a little overwhelmed because the rest of the lobby was a bit higher ranked than I was, but the game does a great job of teaching you as you play that it wasn’t a learning curve at all. That of course is dependent on which Hero you play.

Overwatch Reinhardt

Of the handful of Heroes I’ve played so far – Reinhardt, Roadhog, Widowmaker, McCree, Reaper, Zenyatta and Genji – I’ve enjoyed every one, for different reasons. There’s a lot to dig into with the Heroes, and that really is why I haven’t tried some like Symmetra or Torbjorn since I see their learning curve a bit more intense than others. For me though, the most fun Hero I’ve played has to be Reinhardt – I have loved every game with him. I don’t normally like a support style tank, I usually lean more toward a Roadhog style, able to dish out a bunch of damage, but for whatever reason, Reinhardt has just been exactly the character I needed to pull me in completely. I just wish he had a little bit less reliance on healers or health packs. I also know that I’m coming in to the game at a little weird spot with the meta – on the competitive side of things, Zenyatta and Lucio are pretty much the most important characters on any team – and I need to learn the balance a bit more still. It boils, to me at least, back down to what I mentioned earlier – the roles that each character fits into is where that character will perform the best. The ones that are able to break their mold, those are the ones that are a little too strong – when a support/healer character like Zenyatta can dish out more burst damage than a number of other characters, that’s a problem. Same can be said with D.Va – a tank Hero that can dish out more sustained damage than almost any other Hero, with limited weaknesses. I don’t know when the next patch is inbound – I would expect maybe with Gamescom this week we might find out; we know that a new short is coming soon based around Bastion which might mean patch too. If that’s the case, I really hope that Zenyatta and D. Va come back to the pack a bit. We’re getting closer and closer to the fall deluge of games, with a superb lineup on deck, but if you haven’t picked up Overwatch yet, I think now is a perfect time. It’s a damn fun game, especially if you like old-school style arena FPS.

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Halo 5: Guardians – Arena Multiplayer Quick Thoughts

Halo 5 GuardiansBefore my Xbox One died last week, I was able to play a pretty good chunk of Halo 5: Guardians online with my buddies. We played a bunch of Warzone while we had five online, and switched to Arena when we lost one member. I actually managed to play enough games to get my Slayer ranking before the Xbox update disaster of 2015 happened – and managed to pull a Platinum 1 ranking. So with that in mind, I want to quickly talk a bit about how I think the Arena behaves.

As far as the ranking system goes, I actually really like the idea behind it – it draws heavily on the way that MOBA’s rank their players. You get put into a group, and then have to work your way up through the brackets by playing well and winning. The better you do, the harder the competition is within your division. I think that this style of ranking actually fits better with the Halo style of play. It’s always been a series that’s had a strong link to the more hardcore competitive scene. This style of ranking just brings that to the masses online. Having you play ten games before you even get a ranking just makes sure that you’re placed where you should be – and if you aren’t you’ll find out quickly.

Halo 5 Warzone

When we talk about the actual gameplay, the two big factors that really impact how well Halo works are the weapons and the maps. In the play time I managed to get in, I will say that I think the rotation was a little weak – we played Fathom almost every other time it felt like. Now, Fathom happens to be a really solid map, but I definitely wanted to see more variety in the maps. I think in the few hours of playing we did, I saw Regret, Fathom, Plaza and Rig – that’s it. The maps definitely play into the new mechanics – clamber, spartan charging, thrusters – and work well with the weapons too. I actually think that the maps that I’ve played are, as a whole. a really strong mix. I don’t know that there’s a Blood Gulch in there, but they’re certainly not bad maps.

Halo 5 DMR Render

As for the weapons, I like the changes they made to the system here. Gone are Halo 4‘s ordinance drops, and we’re back to set weapon locations on the maps. I like that each map has a much lower number of power weapons on them. Doing that makes the matches feel a lot more intense, since they tend to revolve around those points more. They also simplify it with built in callouts for the respawns on the power weapons – what used to be a pro-level strat, now is just a part of the game. That helps everyone – newer players don’t need to worry about tracking those times, while pro-level players now can focus on other parts of the game. The weapons themselves feel just like Halo weapons should. The new Assault Rifle feels really powerful – especially in mid-range combat. It’s not going to beat a good BR or DMR user at mid-long ranges, but it can definitely do it’s job of knocking people out of their scopes. The fact that default loadouts are back to AR and Magnum puts more emphasis on learning the behaviors of the two weapons – Magnum is a five-shot kill, if you hit headshots all the way. AR is a shield drainer/support weapon to keep enemies in cover while you make moves. My biggest complaint with the new weapons is that the Plasma Caster and Hydra Launcher both feel really weak compared with the rest of the arsenal – they just kinda suck. Same with the Rocket Launcher, although that’s just because the projectile is really slow now.

All in all, with my unfortunately limited time with Halo 5: Guardians Arena, I really think 343 may have done what they needed to with it. It’s certainly more fun so far than Halo 4 was, at least to me, and it definitely works better than Master Chief Collection. I really wish that I could play it more – especially now that we’re a week out from launch and hopefully everything stabilized a bit more. Hopefully my repairs won’t take too obscenely long and I can split time with that and and Fallout 4. We’ll just have to see.