Blizzard has been a developer which has always been known for quality games. With launch problems plaguing Diablo III and a loss in StarCraft II popularity following the release of Heart of the Swarm, people were getting worried that Blizzard were losing their touch for polished games. With the arrival of Overwatch, it has become clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

Overwatch was conceived as a result of the shock cancellation of Blizzard’s ambitious MMORPG Titan, which began development in 2007 and was officially cancelled in 2014. The team behind Titan was cut to a much smaller group who were set the task of rediscovering the elements which made past Blizzard games great and applying them to something new – something which Blizzard had never done before.

The members of the Overwatch development team supposedly had been big fans of the FPS genre which has been one of the largest genres in the gaming industry for quite some time. They wished to combine elements of the FPS shooter genre with elements of the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre, which had been rising in popularity at the time. The result was an arena (first-person) shooter game, and a damn good one at that!

Overwatch prides itself on a wide, diverse cast of characters. Not only is there something for everyone in Overwatch; you will likely find that you enjoy playing as many of the characters. This effect is mainly due to the vast differences from character to character; you will find a number of characters whose specific, unique abilities suit your play style and interests. It is difficult to hate any character, as they each have their own charm and personality. Yes, you will be able to say who your favourite character and least favourite character is but I doubt you will be able to hate any of them. Blizzard has done a stellar job developing a selection of heroes who feel like they have a true personality and are not solely pawns for enjoyment.

Most of you who have seen any form of the game in the past will be familiar with Tracer (offense), the fast, light-on-her-feet hero with a characteristic, charming British accent. However, you may not have seen a number of the heroes, such as D.Va (tank), the Korean professional-gamer-turned-hero. D.Va fights using a large mech (500 health) equipped with dual Fusion Cannons, boosters and a defense-matrix ability (blocks incoming damage). Her ultimate ability allows her to eject from her mech and detonate within a few seconds. Out of her mech, she has a powerful Light Gun but only 150 health and no abilities. When her ultimate charges once again, she can call a new mech. She will also eject from her mech automatically once its health drops to zero. Many other cool heroes such as Lucio, the support character who uses music to heal players, have not been featured much in the marketing campaign but are a blast to play as and have a fully-fleshed out story. Truly, you could play as any of the twenty-one heroes and have a great time.

The genius composition of unique abilities among the heroes has delivered an almost perfectly balanced game and allows players to play certain heroes in a number of different play-styles. For example, Tracer can be played up in the front lines dealing large amounts of damage with her powerful dual Pulse Pistols. However, she can also be played as an infiltrator; disrupting the enemy team from the back and pulling them away from the objective, using her abilities to move around quickly.

The only area in which Overwatch is lacking is in the game-mode department. Overwatch features only 12 maps, each of which can only played with one specific mode. The four modes are Escort (move the payload to the destination), Assault (variation on Domination), Hybrid (starts with Assault, becomes Escort) and Control (hold a Control point while the meter fills, first to two rounds wins). However, the synergy within teams of different heroes is what keeps Overwatch feeling fresh and unique. Due to different team selections, playstyles for each hero and skill levels of players, every game feels different from the last. There is also no offline campaign.

Currently, Overwatch features only Quick Play (jump straight into a game), Play vs AI (team of human players play an AI team of easy, medium or hard difficulty) and Weekly Brawl (a game mode with weekly altered rules eg. higher damage, restricted heroes etc). Competitive Play will also be making a return to the game very soon following its last-minute removal in order to be reworked after player feedback from the open beta.

Another area in which Overwatch shines is in attention-to-detail. Immediately upon jumping into a game, you will notice funny posters, destructible items and amazing scenery across each map. From gas canisters which you can fire at in order to make them blast off like a balloon to incredibly unique reload animations on each characters weapon; Blizzard have thought of everything when designing the game. For example, Reaper isn’t a fan of reloading and simply throws his shotguns to the floor and pulls out two new ones! Torbjorn, on the other hand, pours molten metal into his gun to reload. You may be skeptical about the cartoon-like visuals: don’t be! The game looks and plays incredibly and the vivid colours across the characters and maps return great levels of entertainment.

At the end of each match, the game chooses a Play of the Game moment and replays it for everyone to see. Usually, this would be a four, five or six player multi-kill in which the player did a significant amount of the damage to obtain the kills. Following this, a number of players are chosen for their performances and all players are allowed to vote on who’s achievement they think deserves praise. This is a great way to encourage different aspects of play, such as healing in the case of support characters and damage blocking in the case of Reinhardt. It feels very rewarding when your particular success is chosen by your team-mates and indeed opponents.

Now to address the elephant in the room: micro-transactions. Overwatch rewards you with a loot box each time you gain a level. In each loot box, you have the chance of getting cosmetic items such as skins, voice lines and victory poses for the heroes. However, anything which can be obtained from the loot boxes is only cosmetic and has no impact on hero performance in-game. Overwatch allows purchase of these loot boxes and thus does feature micro-transactions. However, there is good reason for this. Blizzard has promised players that future maps and heroes will be delivered to Overwatch completely free-of-charge. The excellent sales which the game has seen since launch should ensure that the game is supported with new maps and heroes for quite some time and the presence of these micro-transactions will allow Blizzard to continue supporting the game in this way. The video below shows some of the highlight intros can be obtained through opening loot boxes.

Overall, Overwatch is an incredible achievement which sets the standard for the first-person-shooter genre. I could go on highlighting the great reasons that you should play Overwatch for a long time, mentioning things such as the great sound effects, music, trivia, humour and great stat-tracking options, but I think it suffices for me to say that Overwatch is an essential buy. I have not enjoyed playing a game, particularly an multiplayer game, this much in quite some time. I won’t be leaving the world of Overwatch any time soon and if you decide to purchase the game, I doubt that you will either!