How 'Overwatch' Lost, Then Found Again, the Things That Made It Special

When it was released in 2016, Overwatch was seen as an innovative entry in the shooter genre that was accessible and entertaining. Since then, the game has undergone many evolutions as both an esport franchise and a delicately balanced competitive game. Different people have had different ideas about what makes Overwatch “good” all along its trajectory, many of which had a significant impact on the health of the game. Being a game that has almost no twin has made a blueprint for Overwatch’s potential failure or success volatile, and weak to pressure internally as well as from the audience.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/g5gvaj/how-overwatch-lost-then-found-again-i

Blizzard doesn’t need to cater to me since I stopped playing in 2016 when I got way too obsessed, and probably won’t ever come back. But man, none of these changes sound like the game I loved back then. Forced role balance? Five-man teams? You have to play DPS the entire time if you choose it?

Screw that. My best memories of this game were just fucking around casually. Sweeping up weak teams with a five Tracer charge that they never saw coming. Or pinch switching to a tank to slow an enemy team down. Or hell, the time I won a match singlehandedly because another team forgot to defeat the second point in Volskaya.

The game was fun when it didn’t have metas, sure. Metas are inevitable, but it sure feels like they’re punishing us at the bottom with no interest in competitive play by forcing these changes to defeat metas.

This is like if Smash Bros removed all items from the game because the tournament people hated them. I don’t want that game.

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Arcade mode has quick play classic, which is mostly configured like launch Overwatch. It’s pretty well populated, at least on Switch and PlayStation, so it’s not like you have to play the new way. Whether that goes away with Overwatch 2, however, remains to be seen.

Although, as someone who has played consistently as a casual player since 2016, some of the changes are actually nice quality of life changes that do make matches more fun for everyone. But hey, that’s just my preference.

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What a nice summary of all the reasons I stopped playing Overwatch. I don’t like twitchy shooters with short TTK so seeing them turn a game I really liked into one was very frustrating. Particularly since it was in service of a competitive league that was never going to succeed for a reason that was, to me, obvious: Overwatch isn’t built to be a spectator sport.

When I watch the NBA or competitive DOTA I get a top down view that provides significantly more information than the player has. I can watch plays develop and have a good sense of the overall state of the game. However Overwatch levels have a lot of interior spaces and verticality that make such a view nearly impossible to provide. That means that matches are often spectated from the player’s view. Overwatch strains the bounds of legibility at the best of times so the perspective of a player with high mouse sensitivity is almost unreadable. As a result the action is often very difficult to follow.

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Indeed, Quick Play is the game as close to the original as possible and the only one I’ve really touched since 2016. Heading into serious play just isn’t what I want from the game and it brings out the worst text chat abuse from an already terrible community.

Like, I’m happy if the game is finding itself again as the article tracks, but if the community still flings slurs and abuse around itself I can’t play it. This was the case when I booted it up again after a long hiatus last fall. Didn’t take more than a few games until things got very nasty. I just can’t believe that they haven’t come around to take care of that yet.

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I play Quick Play only, and I rather do like the role queues as before then, I had quit due to being sick of always being yelled at for choosing the “wrong” hero. The competition side though still suffers from having people who are way too quick to blame others, but Quick Play isn’t as bad in my experience.

I used to play Overwatch as a support/tank main when no one really wanted to play either of those roles, and eventually I just sort of gave up having fun once the DPS creep and the nerfs to tanks and healers made playing either of those roles completely unenjoyable. I fucked off to play Apex Legends or Warframe to get my shooter fun, and started spending more of my time playing Heroes of the Storm, another Blizzard game I eventually fell off when the love and effort that went into maintaining it got pushed to other projects. As soon as OWL became popular and the game started its creep toward only giving a damn about the level of play that made them money, I lost interest. I don’t really care about the esports scene in any genre of game for the same reason I don’t care about traditional sports.

I am glad that they seem to have righted things for the people who did stick around for it, and I do hope that Overwatch 2 has the focus on story and lore that people are hoping for. I know that a lot of the fanbase for the game, in spite of Blizzard’s abysmal record for story-telling, had high hopes for the lore of this game before falling off (myself included, because I never learn). If it has a dedicated story and campaign mode, Overwatch 2 will probably be on my list of games to pick up, but I’m pretty done with competitive shooters otherwise.