Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment.
Overwatch puts players into two teams of six, with each player selecting one of several pre-defined hero characters with unique movement, attributes, and abilities; these heroes are divided into four classes: Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map and/or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time. Players gain cosmetic rewards that do not affect gameplay, such as character skins and victory poses, as they continue to play in matches. The game was launched with casual play, while Blizzard added competitive ranked play about a month after launch. Additionally, Blizzard has developed and added new characters, maps, and game modes post-release, while stating that all Overwatch updates will remain free, with the only additional cost to players being microtransactions to earn additional cosmetic rewards.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s fourth major franchise, and came about following the 2014 cancellation of the ambitious massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan. A portion of the Titan team came up with the concept of Overwatch, based on the success of team-based first-person shooters like Team Fortress 2 and the growing popularity of multiplayer online battle arenas, creating a hero-based shooter that emphasized teamwork. Some elements of Overwatch borrow assets and concepts from the canceled Titan project. After establishing the narrative of an optimistic near-future Earth setting after a global crisis, the developers aimed to create a diverse cast of heroes that spanned genders and ethnicities as part of this setting. Significant time was spent adjusting the balance of the characters, making sure that new players would still be able to have fun while skilled players would present each other with a challenge.
Overwatch is a first-person shooter that features squad-based combat with two opposing teams of six players each. Players choose one of several hero characters, each with their own unique abilities and role classes. The four character roles include: offense characters with high speed and attack but low defense, defense characters meant to form choke points for enemies, support characters that provide buffs and debuffs for their allies and enemies respectively (such as healing or speed alterations), and tank characters that have a large amount of armor and hit points to withstand enemy attacks and draw fire away from teammates. During the pre-match setup, players on a team will be given advice from the game if their team is unbalanced, such as if they are lacking defensive heroes, encouraging players to switch to other heroes pre-match and balance the starting team. Within a match, players can switch between characters in-game following deaths or by returning to their home base. The game is designed to encourage players to adapt to the opposing team during a match by switching to characters that better “counter” their abilities.
The player and their allies are indicated in blue, while the opposing team is in red. The character’s health bar is shown on the bottom left, their main skills and attacks are shown on the bottom right, and their progress towards their ultimate is shown in the bottom center. Each hero has a primary attack or skill and at least two additional skills that can be invoked at any time, some requiring a brief cooldown period before they can be used again. Furthermore, each player slowly builds up a meter towards their character’s “ultimate” skill; this meter builds up over time but can build up faster for defeating opponents or performing other beneficial tasks for their team such as healing other team members. Once ready, the player can use this skill at any time which may last for a few seconds (such as increased attack strength or immunity to attacks) or be a single powerful action (such as resurrecting any recently-fallen team members), after which they then must wait for the meter to fill up again. Opposing players will be alerted to the use of this ultimate ability by an exclamation from the character, often in the character’s native language; for example, gunslinger McCree will call out “It’s high noon” as the player engages the ultimate ability to target multiple visible enemies and deal lethal damage to those still in sight. This gives opposing players a brief moment to try to take cover or respond appropriately.
A second meter tracks how many in-round points a player has scored over time, which are rewarded for killing or assisting in killing, providing team defense or healing, and scoring objective points. When a certain threshold is reached, the player character’s icon will be “on fire,” representing that that character is a threat, but otherwise does not directly affect gameplay. This meter will slowly drop if the player does not continue to score points.
The game records important events of each player’s performance, such as a rapid number of kills or an effective use of team healing. At the end of the game, the game server decides the most important play by a player and shows this to all players at the end of the game, named “Play of the Game” (often abbreviated to “PotG” or “POTG”). In competitive matches, the highlight at the end of a match is called “Play of the Match” (often abbreviated to “PotM” or “POTM”), due to the longer matches in competitive games. Up to four individual achievements for players on both teams are then highlighted and players are given the option to commend a player each.
Players gain experience following a match towards a metagame experience level based on several factors such as whether they won or lost, how effective they used their character’s main powers, being awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals for their team across six categories such as most time spent on the objectives, and beating past personal records in these categories; this experience is only gained when playing on the game’s matchmaking modes and not in custom games. On gaining an experience level, the player can earn a loot box, each which contains four random cosmetic items for individual heroes, including victory poses, paint sprays, alternate skins (costumes), emotes and voice lines. Such items are given out based on their rarity level, which range from Common through Legendary. They may also earn in-game currency called “credits” which can be used to purchase specific cosmetic items directly, with their cost based on the item’s rarity. Items associated with limited-time events cannot be purchased in this manner. Other items can only be acquired by completing in-game achievements. Duplicate items are rewarded with in-game currency. Players also have the option to buy loot boxes with real-world money through microtransactions.