A few weeks ago, Blizzard officially counted 5 successful franchises overall. Present on the MMO, Hack 'n' slash, STR, card game and more recently MOBA market, Blizzard occupies the field with qualitative know-how and new playful experiences, sometimes exploiting universes they have already owned for years. (Heroes, Hearthstone), ... a kind of cross-design in itself. A rather clever recipe that retains both a (considerable) base of fans and newcomers.
In parallel, a mysterious (and hypothetical) project "TITAN", the possible successor of World of Wacraft began to show its nose for a few years and the rumors grew until the announcement of the bitter failure of its development. . A useful frustration, in order to take a step back and work on another project: Overwatch.
This new title attacks the multi / competitive FPS sector. Risky bet for Blizzard, given the references that have occupied the field for years between Quake, Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress, Counter Strike and other Battlefields. How to carve a piece of the cake among the most greedy in the sector? How to be original to generate a sufficiently important attraction over time, especially within a video game archetype as old as the world? Blizzard responded on May 24 and here is my opinion on the latest from the Californian firm.
Tracer - Fan Art by Olivier Wetter
- Successful artistic direction: diverse & timeless
- A fabulous character design: 22 charismatic heroes
- Technically solid, a neat finish & not very greedy
- Qualitative & strategic soundtrack
- Excellent handling (interface / in-game)
- Multiple & original gameplay
- Paced & strategic TeamPlay, inherited from MOBA contributions
- Efficient level design (memorizable, several approaches, verticality)
- A sometimes poor, sometimes questionable personalization system
- Currently, some content weaknesses
- A Lore that could have been more exploited IG
- Artistic direction / Production
- Level Design / Bands son
- Gameplay / Handling
At the crossroads between Team Fortress 2, Loadout or Wildstar, Overwatch's engine (OW) uses a cartoony theme. Its main attraction is to be able to cross time without suffering too much from the graphic evolutions specific to the so-called photo-realistic engines. Exit therefore very sophisticated models or textures more real than life, it is rather a representation focused on animated film. Low poly textures, a vast and refreshing palette of colors, careful modeling, pleasant lighting effects, very little aliasing and even a small purely aesthetic physics engine .... A very soft game design that immerses us neither more nor less in a Pixar production.
A fuel efficient engine and above all at the forefront of what can be done today in the genre. The whole is coherent is very pleasant to watch, especially when the graphics options are in Ultra. In addition, concerning the playable cards, several countries are available and will offer an exotic trip with different atmospheres between Hollywood, Nepal or the Temple of Anubis for example.
Regarding the characters, this is clearly one of OW's strengths. With a neat and unique character design for each hero, Blizzard achieves the feat of creating 22 characters to date overall all charismatic. Their colorful appearances, their animations & their dubbing make them unique and endearing. While other games sometimes struggle to find even a worthy pro / antagonist, Blizzard once again demonstrates the full extent of its creative talent with a panel of heroes that players can easily get away from. identify.
On the production side, once is not customary, Blizzard wants to run its license on a maximum of configuration with apps that consume as little as possible. So OW ensures exemplary fluidity ensuring 60 fps constant and essential for multi-competitive. Apart from 1 or 2 minor display bugs not affecting the experience, OW delivers an exemplary level of finish and this since the open beta. The staging and all of the effects brilliantly underline the in-game action and provide pleasant feedback in the interface. We will also note the presence of many graphic parameters which can be modified as desired, thus leaving some room for maneuver for PCs.
Selection of parts
Speaking of the menu, everything is done so that the handling is both accessible and quick. Indeed, once connected to Battle.net, the player is quickly propelled into a game, without having to spend an eternity in the menus. These are also aesthetically pleasing and refined in the form of Windows 8/10 tiles, ensuring easy navigation and keeping the player in the "Flow" (hyper concentration, immersion / hyperfocus, gratifying control) of OW. Blizzard continues on a logic already engaged in all of these titles, namely support and handling without efforts.
A success therefore, between artistic and technical performances for an attractive and fluid experience.
3D Map Temple of Anubis by Ohrin InsaLan (reddit)
As I said during my previous test on DOOM multiplayer, the level design of the cards is fundamental, especially for the pace of the games and the various strategic approaches for your team and your opponents. It is therefore interesting to have maps that are not very labyrinthine so that the players register them and master them more quickly. By mastery, I mean using the environment to one's advantage: bypassing, taking by surprise, using verticality, knowing the location of bonuses / lives etc.
Let's be clear, OW is making a strong impression in this area. All the maps actually offer a main axis surrounded by multiple passages / shortcuts, while exploiting a little height. It will therefore be possible to surprise the opponent by going through a roof, attacking him from behind, from above and triggering an ultimate attack at the right time. Each of the cards therefore presents multiple strategic approaches, while remaining relatively accessible like the software in general. It will take little time to memorize all the routes and each subtleties of placements. Note also the presence of indications thanks to the HUD, clearly specifying the position of the points to be captured, the escort to follow, the discussion window and the feedkill.
Fan art by Lucio - AIM-art
On the soundtrack side, the music is consistent depending on the maps (country) but remains quite discreet. Only the themes "Principal" and "Victory" offer a real identity to the software because at the same time impactful, playful / heroic. The rest of the corporate action mainly emphasizes the opening and closing of each part. Unlike a Fast Fps like Unreal little being, OW's music does not really participate in its dynamics and remains confined to an especially "aesthetic" dimension, especially in the menus. Scott Lawlor and Tomas Neumann recently presented the interest of the hierarchy of sounds in OW and in particular the importance of ambient sounds & messages from his comrades like full-fledged gameplay tools. Indeed, listening helps prevent many ultimate or needs in a given situation. A sound design therefore pleasant and undoubtedly useful for gameplay.
Finally, the VF / VO dubbing are on the whole excellent, thanks to the presence of recognized FR dubbers, ensuring high quality timbres and interpretations:
- Thorbjorn : José Luccioni (Marcus Fenix => Gears of War, Victor Sullivan => Uncharted 4)
- Soldat 76: Patrick Borg (Son Goku, Vegeta => Dragon Ball Z)
- Reinhardt : Patrice Melennec (Zoltan => The Witcher, Fink => Bioshock 3)
By way of details, at the start and during the game, the characters can all exchange a word in connection with their relationship (Lore) or a warning (taking point, advance of the escort), and this perfectly. organic, depending on the makeup of your team. A little more pleasant which comes to nourish this desire to bring coherence to its universe and to complete the soundtrack in an aesthetic and strategic way. Finally, Blizzard provides "Dolby Atmos" technology, the best in sound spatialization in certain (rare) cinemas. However, the reproduction of such quality in 5 or 7.1 in a simple stereo headset leaves me skeptical. To be confirmed / denied by experts with adequate equipment.
Winston & Reaper
Pretty and well built, OW is therefore based on good foundations. However, its future remains mainly centered around its gameplay and how to renew the experience in the long term. Blizzard must therefore bring the flash of genius that can compete against the behemoths of the sector.
Endowed withexcellent handling, OW offers a very accessible approach to its gameplay, even simplistic at first glance. After a quick and efficient tutorial, you will have only 1 skills per character: basic ATK / secondary ATK / Utility / ultimate ATK. Just like the cards, all the heroes therefore have specific features that are easy to remember and use. 22 characters, 22 different gameplay and that's what makes the strength of OW: a diversified, fun, quick to define experience and time-consuming to be able to master all the subtleties. Indeed, mastering a character and a role is good, adapting and bringing added value to your team by mastering several heroes is better. Obviously, Blizzard's famous motto "Easy to learn, Hard to master" is once again respected.
Can easily switch from one character / role to another, this system inherited from the MOBAs, guarantees a diversified experience and makes it possible to shape in real time the scenario of a game. In addition, these qualities are sublimated according to the talents of your team and your opponents, making the experience more intense than ever, especially during fast / competitive games that are sometimes particularly tight. OW does not offer movements as fast / permissive as a Fast FPS like Unreal (apart from possibly Genji / Hanzo), which does not prevent it from having a fairly nervous pace overall.
It is therefore the roles (Tank, Defense, Support, Attack) which structure this diversity of approach in the gameplay and which is fundamentally the keystone of OW. Blizzard develops and evolves the role concepts of a Team Fortress 2 from which it is inspired on certain points, for a refreshing, coherent and attractive approach to the general public as well as to pro-gamers, in particular by its tactical dimension.
Pharah Fan art of Eva Solo
To take stock of all my games, many of them were rather tight, thanks to a rather successful general balancing. Some adjustments are still to be made (Zenyatta a little weak, Thorbjorn's turrets (too) formidable? ...) but it is satisfying to note that each hero has easily exploitable strengths & weaknesses, by strategically using the switch hero . TheOW's very Teamplay orientation also makes it possible to achieve this balance, especially when the teams respect the composition of the team to some extent. This is not a problem when playing with a group of friends, but otherwise the game invites each team to form themselves by distributing the roles correctly. This is how 3/4 of my games benefited from a minimum of organization, even shaky.
Maybe I was lucky, but overall the system seems to be working pretty well. My point of view on the question of balancing remains that of an occasional player and I restore an overall experience of around forty hours without going into calculations and scholarly analyzes of the skills of each hero. I leave it to the most mathematicians among you to discuss it in the comments to provide clarifications / corrections if necessary.
The Flow of OW therefore requires a progressive mastery of each hero, the possibility of bringing your team to victory and your ability to manage a situation whatever the scenario. Parties also benefit from fast Matchmaking (MM) (0-20 seconds to find a group in solo, 20 to 30 seconds between each game) with the good idea of sometimes propelling the player on the map as a warm-up, while the MM ends. The game therefore tends to keep the player focused and glued to the screen by avoiding the crosses of an obscure menu and other endless loads.
Other game modes include a solo using the principle of quick games, but against an AI in easy / medium / hard mode. The first two modes are only an introduction to the gameplay with an AI with an IQ close to the oyster and reduced damage received (in easy). The AI moves most of the time in packs, without changing heroes and without a hint of surprise. The games thus quickly become a vast shooting with pigeons and will at least have the merit of being vented, while teaching the fundamentals to the neophytes. However, no more laughing with hard mode. With formidable (and superhuman) precision in gunfight and sometimes using surprising initiative, the AI makes a strong impression and can easily give a hard time.
The "Shock of the week" parts bring an additional challenge by adding certain constraints (choice of predetermined heroes, etc.). Some configurations of this mode may possibly please depending on the shock in question, but in my opinion it remains quite anecdotal alongside the fast / competitive games.
OW has an experience point system that can be acquired over time to - eventually - level up like an RPG. This experience bar does not affect Matchmaking, but rather represents your seniority (and not necessarily your skill) in the game. Instead, each level offers a chest with several random cosmetic rewards. These chests are also accessible via a shop for a few Euros depending on the desired quantity. Beyond the pleasure of the game that OW can deliver - which can be sufficient on its own - this reward system represents an attractive second carrot, in order to chain the games and justify this bar of experience. The problem is thatcurrently the amount of cosmetic rewards available is still a bit meager.
The game offers 5 types of rewards: Alternate Appearances & Colors / Tags / Replicas / Emotes / Profile Image. The most sought after appearances, the others remain in my opinion rather marginal in terms of interest. Indeed, painting a drawing at the start of the game on a wall ... funny 2 seconds but it stops there. Replicas and emotes will bring a little more but will remain relatively anecdotal.
Ana, alternate appearance
Like any MMO, where inevitably players end up looking alike through similar gear, the quest for a customizable wardrobe such as WoW transmogrification has become extremely and logically popular. . Integrating this system as a level reward for OW is therefore more than welcome and may justify the presence of a shop ... provided it is sufficiently developed. 40 € for 50 chests, with 3 or 4 out of 5 chances of recovering dispensable rewards ... the price / interest ratio still takes a hit.
Where the bat hurts is thatOW did not sufficiently develop and articulate its bonus content at the level of appearances :
- I find it unfortunate to consider alternative colors of vanilla equipment as new models in their own right. They have a reduced price of course, but it still adds content in a hurry, lack of having had the creativity / time to present more unique set. It would have been better to add color selection when forming teams early in the game, like a Street Fighter.
- Only 2 to 3 really alternative appearances (+ their duplicates with different colors) per character remains rather skinny, although artistically very successful. We are far from having a wardrobe rich in choice and it is not the rewards of competitive games that will correct the problem (1 golden weapon skin + 1 portrait + 1 tag and ... that's it) .
- Finally, instead of presenting entire sets, why not fragment this system with unique pieces (gloves, legs, shoulders ...) and design the appearance of your character (weapons & armor) yourself with specific themes to keep a certain logic of Lore (Soldier, Ninja ...).
Boutique OW Battle net
To conclude, questions arise: Does the game currently motivate the player enough to progress to gain experience and buy moderately attractive / sufficient rewards? By extension, are the whole experience and level system a bit superfluous at the moment? On the margins of the sole pleasure of the game?
For a launch this poor content and this lack of room for maneuver in terms of customization is certainly a shame good that Blizzard logically prefers to keep it under its feet for the months to come. Logical therefore, a strategy which should bear fruit if they manage to properly maintain the flame.
Diva - Fanart by Alex Chow
Speaking of light content, what about the game modes? The current modes are overall the most famous of their kind and a fortiori the modes most requested by players (point capture, escort). Although effective, it is however a shame not to benefit in parallel from more original & varied modes. It's hard to reinvent the wheel but it's up to Blizzard to be able to generate enough interest in its modes, through new types of objectives (flag capture ...) and new maps with totally different game & level design (more verticality). Once again, it is over time that the situation can improve, in order to offer a more varied playing experience.
Regarding the competitive mode, it is still too early to judge its full potential. As soon as it was released, certain elements were put forward on the web, whether with regard to its Sudden Death system, its "coin flip" and other inequalities concerning the classification system. Having not yet had the opportunity to participate fully in competitive mode, the latter will be subject to a later article. You can of course provide your opinion on the matter in comments.
Anyway, season 2 should bring a result that takes into account the feedback of the community and thus offer a probably more relevant experience. Wait & See therefore.
Another point, the Lore of each character. It's obvious that Blizzard wishes to heal all the heroes with a look, an attitude and a welcome script touch. On this last point, their history is exploited through BD / videos moreover of excellent qualities. The gesture is beneficial but it would have been interesting to exploit it more IG with a possible story mode in solo / coop.
OW is first and foremost multiplayer / competitive, but this does not prevent a solo at the margin as a bonus / tutorial could be envisaged, as Street Fighter can do. It is not necessarily a question of bringing a single solo, but for example playable episodes of about 15-20 minutes, in order to experience a major event in the history of each hero. This would further strengthen the player's immersion in the OW universe with a different approach, while continuing to exploit its gameplay and without encroaching on multiplayer. Moreover, it seems that Jeff Kaplan and his team would think of a similar mode and would therefore confirm my remarks.
Summary of Vietnam
Overwatch has generated unprecedented expectation and media coverage in recent months and continues to gain in players and audiences. A performance for Blizzard which manages to fit into an already crowded sector and to offer an experience that is both refreshing with its look and devilishly fun gameplay. The different roles and the range of heroes already available will allow the general public to find their way around and reconnect with a balanced, accessible and strategic management of team play.
A launch on the hats-de-wheels which leaves to consider a significant margin of maneuver. Indeed, despite OW being a little poor in terms of content upon its release, it is up to Blizzard to manage its schedule, its gameplay adjustments and the functioning / interest of the competitive games. This is the key to renewing the experience, generating enough long-term appeal and occupying a prominent place on the e-sport scene.
In the meantime, it's hard to hide your joy in the face of a frankly fun & controlled software, both for occasional players and for pro-gamers. A sixth franchise for Blizzard and today a masterstroke ... to be confirmed in the months / years to come.