IGN names Overwatch the 2016 Game of the Year. What is it that makes Overwatch so compelling? What was blizzards secret sauce for creating such an immersive experience? The answer lies in Blizzard’s seemingly obsessive attention to detail on their Character’s personalities, lore, and integrity. Let’s explore this a bit more….
The basic elements of competitive first person shooters are far from original, even Overwatch’s game modes, point capture, escorts, and combinations of them are not new concepts. Games like Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike, Halo, Call of Duty, and other successful titles have used similar gameplay mechanics for decades. Despite the relatively stale gameplay concepts, Overwatch offered something more, capturing the minds of their audience through superior character development. Producing an original cast of characters, each with unique and believable personalities that players relate to so deeply that they can’t seem to stop coming back to.
For a first person shooter, character development is a real challenge. The player doesn’t often see their character so body language and appearance can only partially be used to illustrate the character’s personality. Characters like Gordon Freeman from Half-Life and Master Chief from Halo are built during single player campaigns where a player is immersed in their character’s story, however Overwatch lacks a single player instance where it can further develop its characters. Blizzard had to build its Character’s outside of gameplay, Overwatch’s character development is much sneakier and I would argue deeper than any other competitive FPS we have seen to date. Using clever voice acting, stylized and consistent appearance, deep personalities, menu screens that showcase characters, and grass roots feeling Lore, Blizzard has created what are now some of the most iconic characters in FPS. Let’s take a closer look at two well-known examples who were further developed in Blizzards Winter Edition of the Overwatch comic series (which includes a reveal of Tracer’s sexual preferences!).
Energetic, playful, and deadly fast this cheeky ex-fighter pilot storms across the battle field with abilities based on movement and flanking the opposition. Like all Overwatch characters everything about tracer has a purpose. The goggles and bomber jacket fit her prior career, her move set and fluffy physique caters to a fast paced, dodge and flank style combat approach which makes playing tracer feel more like piloting a jet than a human. Tracer’s vocal are delivered with energy, talking hastily with peppy, quick witted commentary.
A protector and scientist, deep voiced, slow and measured speech. Just like in the video above where he is seen shielding civilians from Widow Maker’s sniper fire Winston’s move set includes shields and a jump pack that throw him into combat. Winston’s intelligence is showcased in his own weaponry as well as being credited with developing the technology that allows Tracer to manipulate time and space. When his friends are threatened he trades brains for brawn in an all-out primal rage channeling his wild nature and gorilla strength. Plenty more backstory is available on Winston in the Overwatch video”Recall”
Both characters are great examples of Blizzard’s near obsessive attention to detail and consistency. The characters are believable and their actions, reactions, and emotions are consistent with the architype that each character fits. Unlike most first person shooters where you are seeing the world through your own eyes from the shell of a hollow character, Overwatch forces you to see the world through the eyes of the character you control. Want to play well as Tracer? You’d better see the battlefield as she does, fast, creative, with hit and run opportunities around every corner. This is what makes Overwatch so compelling. You are not merely the eyes of an empty body, you are in control of a fully developed character, one that you can relate too and understand, with move sets and play styles that compel a player to immerse themselves in the role that their favorite character occupies in the Overwatch universe.
Which character do you most relate too? Do they have a voice line you could see yourself saying? Are you a rugged desperado like Mcree? Or the strong and silent type like Reaper? I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I best relate to a young Korean woman in a skin tight body suit that drives a mech covered in anime bunnies … but we will save that topic for another article… Until then Enjoy IGN’s pick for Game of the Year: Overwatch.
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