Overwatch Kart

An interesting phenomenon in Overwatch is the 99% comeback. I’ve played many a match where one team is up 99% to 0% on a control map, and somehow the other time makes a stunning overtime comeback for the win. Same on an escort – a last gasp push or save 1m before the objective.

One team often seems to (luckily) spawn pretty much together together, then (luckily) arrive at the point together, and then (luckily) have most of the Ultimates ready to blow. It’s like a 6 person Overwatch zerg – pretty fun, but pretty unlikely to happen as often as it does.

After experiencing it a few times – and it being joked about plenty at the PAX Overwatch tournament – I realised it reminded me of Mario Kart’s catch-up mechanic, which subtly grants advantageous boosts to players lagging behind in the race.

Maybe Overwatch is doing the same thing – giving the team about to lose some kind of hidden bonus in the form of sped up Ultimates or co-ordinated spawns. There are plenty of discussion threads and conspiracy theories out there, though nothing provable.

Many put it down to pure psychology: the fact you have one last chance makes the team suddenly focus and enter some kind of heightened-gameplay frenzy. And as it turns out they’re probably right. Asked if such a mechanic were in place, Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan (a fairly reliable source!) responded with a pretty definitive response: “Nothing at all“.

It’s nice to know it’s our skills giving those last gasp victories, and it sure is an interesting psychological phenomena. I guess sports teams and the military – and Jeff Kaplan and co. – already knew all about it.

Team Overwatch

One of the oddities of Overwatch is that if you play with a pre-made team, the game gets harder. I go from a ~60% win ratio in random groups to pretty much 0 in a pre-made with friends.

This is somewhat counterintuitive.

We figured that playing as a co-ordinated group would make you almost unstoppable. Team comps could be spot on, choke points verbally controlled, ambushes and ultra’s given plenty of warning.

All of which is true, but the thing I hadn’t realised is that once you rock up with a 5/6 player group, the game will try to find a matching team of similar numbers to fight against. So while you’re a little more organised than a Quick Play pug, so are they. And unfortunately ‘they’ always seem to be a whole lot better.

Given the rookie status of most of the people I’m playing with, this means we have been getting hammered. We’ve gone 0/10 most nights – we were thrilled (or should that be relieved) when we won one round of a best of three! While our skill level and experience is pretty low, we should be winning at least a few.

Even though we’re theoretically being matched with similar skill levels, it’s pretty clear that most grouped players know how to play, and are probably a lot more organised. Team composition becomes much more important to counter opposition strategies – coming up against a well oiled Bastion/Mercy/Reinhardt team is very difficult to overcome without some thought and on-the-fly planning.

Luckily it’s still fun, and it also means you quickly realise that it won’t be enough to just have 5 people you know playing together: you need to communicate and co-ordinate and play as a team, not a bunch of individuals. That may work in random groups, but it falls apart against an organised attack.

It’s similar to coming up against a well oiled PVP group in WoW. You quickly realise when the other team is used to playing together, and grudgingly prepare for a short sharp lesson in defeat.

The biggest improvement would come from someone taking the leader role and co-ordinating things . Either that or an entire team of D.va’s!

D.va
Nerf this!

Overwatching

Having exorcised The Witcher, I’ve been spending some idle hours in Overwatch as a change of pace. As has been much discussed, it’s a superb implementation of the team shooter with the Blizzard signature slickness plastered all over it. Kind of Team Fortress on steroids and with a coat of shiny paint and a wonderfully varied roster of characters.

bastionFinding a hero that clicks is key and full marks to Blizzard for making each character feel distinct within their designated role. Don’t like whip fast DPS? Choose Soldier 76 over Tracer. Prefer mobility over stomping about? D.va trumps Reinhardt for you (his manic charge notwithstanding). Struggling with the pace? Bastion, despite the jealous trolling, is peerless at plonking in place and holding down a defensive position. The great range of playstyles that are supported is a credit to the dev team and no doubt a large reason for Overwatch’s success – there’s almost certainly a hero that will suit the way you want to play.

mercySo far I’ve managed to get a good handle on Bastion, Mercy, and more recently D.va. Mercy has been my go-to, which has been interesting having never played a healer. Healing really changes your perspective on the game, and makes a nice change from relentlessly hunting down the enemy. I love her flight-escape mechanism, which seems to be key to playing her well. D.va is also a bundle of fun with her two lives, self destruct, and an almost Bastion-like lock down potential.

mccreeNext I need to select a DPS to round out the specialities, with Tracer and Reaper looking most likely1. Tracer seems super hard to play well but it sure is fun having that amazing mobility – I somehow managed to get a POTG in my first ever game with her, but that was more good luck than good skill. Her Ultimate is also a little underwhelming – certainly compared to Reapers’ unstoppable reaping. Unlike WoW, DPS almost seems the hardest to play, but that may come down to no longer being the twitch gamer I aspired to being in ye olde Quake days.

Another highlight is watching good players – some really good – strut their stuff. Witnessing or watching a single-handed team wipe or epic save is humbling, inspiring, and educational. Mastering D.va’s mid-air-Booster-Self-Destruct combo move is next on my list, having been destroyed by it a few times.

It’s fun having a dip-in dip-out game on hand, which is certainly what Overwatch is: no gear grind and insta-play. And it’s also great playing a game which gets away from the drab landscapes of the typical shooter – Overwatch is all saturated colours and lens bloom. Fascinating too to think that this universe might have been the next WoW2 – a story driven version of this universe would be spectacular.


  1. McCree is tempting too, but mainly due to my love of Westerns which I’m not sure is a good way to choose! 
  2. Sadly I’m still finding it impossible to logon to WoW. Such a bizarre situation – maybe I can only play at the end of expansions when the pressure is off. Missing the new Kara in 7.1 may be the final straw.