I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard so many people talk about one game before Overwatch. Whether it was the exceedingly popular beta, the high quality story trailers stirring up hype or the eventual launch which shot the game to massive sales worldwide, the multiplayer shooter.
But is it worth buying?
Quick disclaimer, this is not a review. I’m not about to tell you whether to buy the game based solely on how it plays. If you’ve plunged into any previous multiplayer shooters, you should already know what to expect from Blizzard’s new IP. What I am going to do is discuss the full package based on its retail price, the available in-game purchases and future DLC possibilities, then compare them to other available titles to see whether Overwatch passes the test. A test I’m calling the ‘Overwatch Affordability Test … Thing’.
Let’s start with the retail price. Overwatch: Origins Edition launched for PC, PS4 and Xbox One at an RRP of AUD$89.95, with the standard digital download edition available for AUD$69.95. That purchase gets you access to all 21 characters on the available roster to play three different game types; Assault, Escort & Control. There’s also a Hybrid mode that combines one part Control and one part Escort. You can jump right in or play a custom game, where most of the rules can be altered.
Now from face value, it does look a little light, wouldn’t you say? Enjoyment aside, three games modes at a full retail price doesn’t sound like a lot for the money involved. Let’s compare that to Star Wars: Battlefront. It caught a fair amount of flack for its lack of game modes and online only multiplayer yet, when compared to Overwatch, Dice’s effort had over twice as many game modes at launch. A considerable difference for a distance, but some of those modes are a little similar to each other to a degree.
The more obvious comparison would be Battleborn. Released just a few weeks ahead of Overwatch, Battleborn did have one major advantage with its co-op campaign mode. The narrative driven campaign was relatively short, but strong enough to get a good few hours out of. Multiplayer wise it checks out similarly to Overwatch with three game modes, but to be fair this is a different kind of beast. It’s more a MOBA than Blizzard’s take on Team Fortress, so the experience can be uniquely different despite the FPS origins.
One the DLC side, Overwatch allows purchases of loot boxes that contain cosmetic items, such as character skins, voices, player icons and emotes. So not unlike Team Fortress and its instance that purchasing hats can be good for your health. New characters and modes will be added for free, at least for the time being, so that’s a plus. Now, comparisons.
Let’s stick with the two we’ve already used. Star Wars: Battlefront had a Season Pass attached to it, roughly $60 in value which gives you access to a handful of updates as they release over time. These packs added new character models, maps and game modes in a similar and more traditional fashion, like Titanfall and Call of Duty before it. Battleborn, meanwhile, also has a season pass which provides access to five planned updates, each with a campaign add-on. New characters, however, will be added for free over time, bringing the roster up to a total of 30 playable heroes. Going on all that, it’s rather obvious that Blizzard are going to follow Valve’s lead and ignore the season pass method entirely, but the amount of content available in said season passes are half decent.
So what does all this mean? Despite paying a premium at launch, Overwatch still seems solid value and a great level of impact, and here’s why. Character.
Yes Battleborn has a solid cast of intriguing characters and plenty of humour, whilst Star Wars is … well, Star Wars, but there’s no arguing that the character designs in Overwatch are second to none. Never before have I been able to list off a bunch of character names from heart, or wanted to cosplay a hero (hello McCree) BEFORE THE GAME HAS EVEN COME OUT. Such was the impact of the beta, which had gamers throwing money at their screen just to get into that. It’s also another reminder of just how good Blizzard are at creating compelling and intriguing characters, easily memorable and filled with heart.
Character also comes from its gameplay. Blizzard wears its influences on its cartoon coloured sleeves, rather obviously pulling from Valve’s success, but it’s also a testament to how solid the action becomes, how well it controls and how unique each character plays that people really don’t care about paying $60 (or more) for it. Though I have heard a few rumblings from players who would have loved it to be free with paid DLC, it’s no-where near the kind of complaints or backlash that Star Wars: Battlefront had. Tellingly, Battleborn has had to drop its price considerably just a month after launch just to compete with the juggernaut.
Question is, would the game have had the same level of impact without the successful beta campaign? Possibly, it’s still a Blizzard IP and we all know they haven’t really put a foot wrong for a while now (Diablo 3 launch aside), but you’d have to agree that the beta pushed the game out there in a big way. Positive reactions, early Let’s Play footage and Twitch streams, it all helped to spread word of mouth and increase the fervor over the game before its launch. That’s the ultimate difference between Overwatch and its competition, and it further proves that gamers are more than willing to pay for a product if you can prove to them how good it can be, constantly putting it out there to whip up some more reactions.
In conclusion, yes, Overwatch passes the ‘Overwatch Affordability Test … Thing’ and is definitely worth buying if it’s your kind of … thing. Whether that’s the same story a year from now remains to be seen, but Blizzard are sitting on an absolute gold mine that I’m sure they have big plans for many years from now. To be honest, I just wish there was a campaign. Maybe one day.
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist and editor of PN2.