Somehow, there are still people out there who don’t own Blizzard’s sci-fi superhero team shooter Overwatch. This is despite the game being free approximately a quarter of the time (or at least it feels like it) and heavily discounted half of the remainder. If you’re one of those people, now seems as good a time as any to try it, as Blizzard have flung its doors open once more. From now until 8am GMT on November 27th, the game is free to try for anyone with a Blizzard account. Full details of the free week are here, and a pile of animated shorts plus my thoughts on the game below.
Overwatch’s greatest strength is its personality. Originally envisioned as an MMO and later repurposed into a team shooter, all that world-building was funnelled into the (currently) 29 playable characters, each with their own special abilities and a handful of costumes. While not much story is told in the game itself, there are official comics, reams of lore to uncover and Pixar-esque animated shorts introducing much of the cast. It’s the kind of stuff that creates fandoms, and every new line of dialogue between characters cements relationships, either official or perceived.
As for the game itself, it’s good, knockabout PG-rated fun. Bloodless comic style violence, despite much of the cast having massive, noisy guns. Think 90s GI Joe or Transformers – it’s not quite Splatoon, but kid friendly for anyone who’d be alright with their sprogs watching any modern Marvel movie. While there’s a good number of modes (plus some AI enemies to train with), the most common is six-on-six online team battles with objectives. Lots of colourful environments, and given the number of characters, you’re likely to see interesting match-ups almost every round.
It’s a big virtual box of action-figures to smash together, really, wrapped around a familiar team shooter format that was mostly established by Team Fortress for Quake back in 1996. It’s not without its flaws (especially Blizzard’s insistence on letting players buy loot crates with random cosmetic rewards), but it’s good fun, cheap, and continually growing. While the price of some of the dress-up items you can buy with real cash is galling, Blizzard have at least stuck to their guns and released all new maps, characters and modes for free so far, and that seems unlikely to change.
Overwatch is free to try for the next week, and cheap to pick up now on Blizzard’s store. The regular edition is down to £13/$15. The Legendary Edition costs £7/$10 more, and includes a bundle of (entirely cosmetic) costumes. The free week ends on 8pm GMT, November 27th.