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Why You Should Care About Overwatch

The reason I skipped my regularly scheduled Friday post was because it was BlizzCon weekend, and I was excitedly sitting in front of my television, enjoying the virtual ticket I had purchased, watching the Blizzard Entertainment convention that I had been salivating for over the past few weeks. Sure, I probably could've pulled myself away from the streaming videos of pro-Starcraft players to write up a quick post, but I didn't really feel like it.

At the head of the BlizzCon opening ceremonies, they dropped quite a bomb of an announcement. We were all expecting to hear about something new, something noteworthy. Some speculated it to be the next World of Warcraft expansion, some expected it to be something related to Starcraft or maybe even Diablo. Some, like me, expected a new intellectual property entirely.

Shortly after 11:00am Pacific Standard, we were given our first views of Blizzard's next universe, the newest world to stand beside those of WarcraftStarcraft and Diablo.

We were given Overwatch.

The reception at BlizzCon was full applause. The trailer was fun, cute, and felt very Blizzard-y. The gameplay looked exciting, fast-paced, and like it would lend itself to the e-sports arena very well.

The reception I heard firsthand from others who had seen the same announcement, those not engulfed in the wave of enthusiasm that you feel upon seeing the event up close and personally, was much more skeptical.

Many people were complaining that Blizzard was branching out. Many people were voicing their concerns about Blizzard NOT doing something in their well-established wheelhouse. Many didn't want 'Pixar-inspired Team Fortress', as Overwatch was labeled. Many weren't excited in any way for this brand new IP.

This post is to explain why you should care about Overwatch.

We all know Blizzard to be one of the most acclaimed PC developers of our time. Many of us grew up playing WarcraftStarcraft and Diablo. We knew Blizzard to be a company that didn't release games often, but when they did, they were games that set a new benchmark, raising the standards for their genre. As the years went on, we saw Blizzard do less innovating and more improving. They perfected the real-time strategy genre, with Starcraft being globally supported for over a full decade before its sequel was released. They redefined what we expected from Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games with World of Warcraft. And they showed us that, while there are countless clones, the original action-RPG is still the greatest with Diablo. Each of these titles, while very obviously paying homage to other franchises, did very little to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they simply used the absolute best wheels they could find, showing the PC gaming community that they should expect more from their favorite genres.

Overwatch is exactly that. It isn't just another multiplayer first-person shooter. It is the FPS for everybody. You don't choose a load-out, you choose a hero. You don't learn the weapons, buy upgrades, and unlock abilities as you rack up the kills. Each character has a limited number of weapons (one, I believe) and talents (two normal and one ultimate) available to them that never change (at least not that has been announced yet), and the strategy doesn't come from knowing which weapons with which upgrades are the best, but instead from managing your abilities and their cooldowns, and knowing when to pop which one, and when to just use your weapon.

It is fast-paced, and much of the characters have special ways to traverse the terrain. There is no sprint, but who needs it when you can scale walls, fire a grapple, or fly?

Better yet, Overwatch is just like any other Blizzard game. While you're playing it, you're captivated, drawn into its flashing lights, bright colors and vibrant world. Sure, you may quit playing after one match, three matches, or seven matches, but while you're not playing it, you're thinking about it. You're remembering the great plays you made, the objectives you won. You're thinking about where you went wrong and how you can improve it. You can easily tell how to improve it, and you'll be looking for your next opportunity to sit down and put those new thoughts to action.

Just like World of Warcraft's repetitive questing, just like Hearthstone's deceivingly simple board rules, and just like Heroes of the Storm's fast-paced MOBA gameplay, Overwatch won't offer anything that's groundbreaking. It won't create a new genre, it won't test your ability to quickly learn how to play a new type of game, and it won't reinvent the wheel. What it will do, however, is redefine the standard that was once set by Team Fortress 2, and it will at once raise that standard as well as make it easy for players who have never played competitive team-based shooters to jump in and experience. By removing the 'First to X Kills' win condition and replacing it with clearly defined objectives, there is no strong desire to simply pick the strongest build/character. Overwatch rewards teamwork, not experience.

I personally have been following the news around it avidly, and while I haven't played it first-hand, all of the reports of those who have match my expectations. You likely won't be salivating over the game, and racing to your retailer or the Blizzard online store to get your copy. You will, however, get that feeling you always get upon booting up a Blizzard game. You'll see the menu, hear the music, and you'll know that this game is going to remind you, as all Blizzard games do, that you deserve better from your big-name game developers.

We all enjoy our Call of Duty games, our Maddens and our Assassin's Creeds. But there's a reason those games come out every other year (or in some cases, every year). They're fun, they're engaging, but they're easily replaced. A Blizzard game has the longevity to entertain you long after its shine has worn off.

Ten years from now, people will still be playing Overwatch.