Category Archives: Overwatch

A Year in Review: Top 2016 Games and Soundtrack!

2016 has come and gone and if my social channels are any indication, most people people are glad to leave this arbitrary number behind. I don’t personally believe 2016 was the awful year it’s made out to be in the media but it’s certainly been exhausting on a personal level, despite some successes on the writing and day-job front. I’ve pushed myself to leave the safety (and lull) of a stable workplace for more flexible and lucrative work that doesn’t come with the security of a permanent contract. While I am content with my progress thus far, it’s also a stressful situation to be in at times and my constant struggle to find peace of mind inside our daily grind remains one of life’s great challenges. Alas!

top 2016 games and soundtrack2016 wasn’t a rocking year for me gaming wise, either. I arrived with humble expectations and browsing through my blog and steam library, I realize I’ve played much less than in years before. This was also definitely not a year of MMORPGs and I find myself in that strange position now where I am no longer looking forward to a single upcoming MMO title in 2017 and beyond. It’s a weird and melancholic feeling because MMOs have been a big part of my life for the past 15 years. With the exception of Black Desert Online, I’ve barely played anything besides some brief visits to Eorzea in the first half of the year. MMORPG players have seen this coming for a while and it certainly feels like our favorite genre has come to somewhat of a halt; that is, if you’re not still a follower of well-established titles such as WoW or GW2.

My Top Video Games of 2016

For reasons explained above, my past year in gaming wasn’t all about the MMOs. While I still haven’t gone back to GW2 for the expansion, two of last year’s expectations did hold true and then, it’s also been a year of small, unexpected delights. Without further ado, here are my top 5 titles of 2016:

top 2016 games and soundtrack

5. Owlboy
Owlboy by developer D-Pad Studio only came out in November 2016 and while I haven’t finished playing it, it’s already fulfilled all my expectations in terms of being a fun adventure with beautiful visuals and music. There are some unforgettable moments and quirky characters in Owlboy that make it a safe choice for anyone into whimsical and charming adventure platformers that aren’t overly complex. Only minor gripe: no keymapping for gamepads!

top 2016 games and soundtrack

4. Portal Knights
I’ve praised the concept, visuals and soundtrack of Portal Knights on MMOGames and if you ever wondered how a minecraft sandbox meets level-based gameplay would play, this is the title to grab! The game is especially fun for short-session gameplay together with up to 3 other players (also great for kids), while you can still put those solo hours to good use, base-building, gathering and crafting. Controls and GUI management aren’t perfect in Portal Knights but definitely manageable.

top 2016 games and soundtrack

3. The Witcher 3 (DLC)
The Witcher 3 was my GOTY in 2015 and remains my most beloved RPG title of this year – and possibly all eternity. I’ve lived and breathed the Wild Hunt again over the Xmas holidays and I am still so impressed and delighted by this title, I got no words! Not surprisingly, the Hearts of Stone and Blood&Wine expansions have been nominated for great honors again in 2016. I’ve only started to catch up now and intend to make the most of what CD Projekt Red have stated will be their only Witcher 3 expansions! :sadface:

top 2016 games and soundtrack

2. Black Desert Online
I’ve spent copious amounts of time in BDO between spring 2016 and summer, exploring its fantastic persistent world, writing guides for its complicated subsystems, joining a guild and decorating my house. While the game has had its issues and share of monetization scandals, it is still one hell of an experience for anyone looking to explore and travel a magnificent MMO world solo! I never reached PVP “endgame” in BDO and didn’t care to, but I had fun with almost everything else including its different approach to combat. The game remains an “alone together” experience for anyone not looking to join competitive PVP which is good or bad, depending on your personal viewpoint!

top 2016 games and soundtrack

1. GOTY: Overwatch!
There is no way around giving Blizzard the credit that is their due: they knocked it out of the park with Overwatch in 2016. As far as impressive comebacks go, only Square-Enix have managed a similar feat with a Realm Reborn – a persistence we rarely get to see in the video game industry. From the ashes of Titan, Blizzard have salvaged not just an incredibly accessible and fun hero shooter but one that’s so full of charming characters and iconic lines and gameplay moments, the Overwatch roster is already as popular as any other Blizzard IP heroes. I gave this game a 9/10 and there’s nothing else to add here, Overwatch was one hell of a successful release in 2016!

Best Soundtrack of the Year

As far as great VGM went in 2016, I’m sticking with the tradition of my annual youtube recap which you can find below! It’s been a good year for video game soundtrack and the Battle Bards podcast keeps going strong, counting its 4th anniversary soon. There’s been an official twitter account now for a while, too. I am still having as much fun as ever talking MMO music with fellow bards Syp and Steff.

Top VGM of 2016 list:

12. Civilization VI
11. Destiny: Rise of Iron
10. Overwatch
9. Enter the Gungeon
8. Hyper Light Drifter
7. Stardew Valley
6. Owlboy
5. Portal Knights
4. The Last Guardian
3. Revelation Online
2. WoW Legion
1. Black Desert Online

Let me know what your favorite video game soundtrack has been of late and another Happy New Year to all of you! Let’s see what 2017 will bring in terms of digital delights and virtual world travel – it’s all a blank open space for me from this point forward!

Favorite Overwatch Heroes!

I’m playing too much Overwatch which is a bit like eating too much Mexican food, delicious but occasionally frustrating. 38 levels later, my personal hero statistics currently look like this:

Favorite Overwatch Heroes

I love Pharah, she is my desert goddess of the skies. I love Symmetra and Lucio too, both of which are insanely fun to play and have had me roar with laughter and glee so many times. Just how much better can it get?? What Overwatch has done lately is remind me of my PvP soul – it’s always been there and strong, if we care to believe gamer profiling tests anyway, but I feel it’s been slumbering for a time while I was busy exploring MMORPGs with Bilbo’s walking stick.

Overwatch has unleashed the beast. I take more joy from my enemy’s pitiful cries than is probably healthy. Oh well!

The different heroes are really where all of Blizzard’s creative genius has gone into; there’s not a single one that feels generic or sameish and doesn’t come with fun little tricks, voice lines and special interactions. For all its straightforward and simple gameplay, Overwatch piles on the charisma (you can just feel there is so much backstory material) and the seemingly endless combinations (there are in fact 230’230) you can play, counter and adapt to. The quick and brutal matches are some of the most carefree mayhem I’ve enjoyed in a long time but they have the potential of being jarring too, depending on how your team is playing. Still, a close match is a good match and it’s refreshing to play a game again that teaches you how to lose.

My personal Overwatch Hero Roster

So heroes! I’ve started expanding my active heroes in Overwatch to be able to switch according to team setup and map progress. I feel it’s important to know at least one hero per role really well but I’d like to play most of them eventually. Every time I start a new class, it gets really fun after a while, I suspect they all are. For the time being, I’d rank all 21 characters accordingly:

A) Heroes I feel confident playing

1. Lucio
2. Pharah
3. Symmetra
4. Mercy
5. Torbjörn

B) Heroes I’d like to get better at

6. Reinhardt
7. Mei
8. Zenyatta
9. Genji
10. Junkrat
11. Widowmaker

C) Heroes that feel awkward

12. Roadhog
13. Bastion
14. Tracer

D) Heroes I haven’t touched (incl. beta)

15. Reaper
16. Soldier 76
17. Zarya
18. McCree
19. Hanzo
20. Winston
21. D.VA

I doubt that I will ever be a good Reaper, McCree or Tracer. I don’t really seem to enjoy more traditional, up close gun classes much. It’s safe to say I’ll never become much of a sniper either; it feels like they’re missing all the action, loitering in the back all by themselves. I play for the chaos and shared laughs but am sure a great sniper has her moments! The tanks also don’t come naturally to me but I’ve enjoyed Reinhardt so far – Roadhog was just weird and not very pleasant a character. I hate getting hooked by this guy when I’m fighting against one, so I wonder if that’s behind my antagonism. Well, that and he sounds like a pig.

It will be interesting to revisit this post a few months down the line! If you’re on the fence of whether Overwatch is a game for you or not, I’ve shared some pointers over here!

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

Now that the Overwatch open beta has ended, more of the blogosphere’s fine folks have chimed in to give their personal impressions. Having written a fairly positive review myself, it’s always interesting to see where others fall on the approval spectrum, so here’s an overview of the articles I’ve read so far:

While mileage varies here and there, I think there’s a consensus at the moment where Overwatch’s depth is concerned; it is a fun game to get into and for now, matches are very quick. This is something I like about it and I’d say team FPS generally aren’t the deepest genre to begin with but still, the question of longevity is a fair one. This being a Blizzard title however, I don’t see Overwatch remain in it’s current state for long. I expect more game modes to be added very soon (like the mandatory capture-the-flag), maybe with larger maps for one thing. Blizzard aren’t known to launch games and then treat them with negligence – we can expect more to come and I do look forward to Overwatch becoming “meatier”.

Overwatch Blogosphere Impressions

This is why I don’t pug a lot.

Pricing is another popular topic and I do agree that 40$ are fairly steep for what Overwatch currently has to offer. Naturally, there is a very long reddit discussion on this topic which only comes to show once more how differently different players regard their gaming investments. I think 40$ would’ve been more widely accepted if the game launched with more than just three modes and no intention to charge extra for special skins. At this point, Blizzard still haven’t finalized whether the ingame currency you gain from achievements will also be available for RMT. If so, it’s not gonna go down well considering Overwatch is b2p but likewise, the current random lootbox system isn’t very motivating to the average player. Am really interested to see how they address this particular issue for launch. And please, nerf that Genji Dragon!

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

Having jumped into Overwatch early access last Tuesday night, I’ve got myself up to level 14 since, trying out different heroes and learning the basics of the game. As Blizzard explained on their forums, all early access and open beta progress (including skin unlocks etc.) will be wiped before May 24th, and I shall try not question the logic behind an early access starting before open beta weekends.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

On the Fly Overwatch Impressions

First things first: Overwatch looks gorgeous and you know it! Blizzard never cease to amaze in the polish department and absolutely everything from the clean interface and level design to actual gameplay and animations look and behave smoothly as a baby seal. In true Blizzard fashion, players also get the guided newcomer experience with tutorials, practice ranges and optional games vs. AI included (on easy, medium and hard mode). So, even if you’re new to team FPS and slightly weary to jump in, these features will ease you in perfectly.

Having tried most of the characters now, each of them plays very differently with obvious strengths and weaknesses which is a lot of fun to explore and come to grips with. Controls are simple enough, with familiar FPS key mapping and usually up to three special abilities keyed to Lshift/E/Q.  Once I changed some of the keybinds to fit my mouse better, things started rolling and I got deeper into the nitty-gritty with Mei (must kill all the Tracers!), Farah, Bastion and Mercy which I prefer so far. Overwatch encourages playing different roles and characters which can mean the difference between victory and defeat, depending on the map you’re playing and whether your team is attacking or defending.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

There are currently only three game modes in Overwatch (capture, attack/defend and escort), although more are to come. Blizzard recently announced the removal of competitive (ranked) play mode for this open beta because there’s more to figure out and balance after receiving player feedback. General balancing is going to be an issue for a while to come yet, as is to be expected from a title like this; besides some heroes currently possessing clear advantages and some ultimate abilities feeling ten times stronger than others (hello Genji and Reaper), there are still matchmaking and team composition issues to address.

What should be good news to FPS players out there, is that Blizzard are running with dedicated servers for Overwatch’s matchmaking, rather than player-hosted lobbies. This means (mostly) stable servers and reliable ping for random matches as well as playing custom games with your friends.

Why I like it

I had loads of fun in Overwatch with my partner so far and would recommend it to anyone who’s just a wee bit interested in team-based PvP and FPS which offer more variety than traditional offensive/defensive roles. If you dig disrupting or healing only for example, there’s still a place for you in this game. Matchmaking queues have generally been short for me (1-2mins max), so you don’t need to commit to long gameplay sessions to get some Overwatch under your belt.

Overwatch makes it easy to get into (mastery is a different story) and if you’re willing to take the time and try different heroes, you’re guaranteed to find at least one or two who will fit your playstyle. Once you got the basics down, the game opens up to all the tactical group play, making use of team synergies and environmental factors – all of which should keep players busy for a while to come.

Overwatch Early Access Impressions

I got some healing practice on Mercy…she’s Swiss!

Naturally, Overwatch is also packed with shinies and no matter how great your FPS skills, there’s motivating progress and random unlocks for skins, tag lines and so forth. Blizzard have also taken care of honoring and rewarding “best plays” of every match, letting great players shine without naming and shaming anyone on the bottom (for non-ranked play anyway).

So much for my quick Overwatch Early Access impressions! If you’re at all curious, don’t miss the ongoing open beta until May 9th! The cheapest pre-order for the game is 39.99 Euros currently; Blizzard’s pre-order page lands you on the medium package by default, so make sure to switch if you’re looking for best bang for the buck. Have fun – and kill more Tracers!

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and the Legacy Server Question

In the wake of the much discussed Nostalrius server closure, Gamespot published an interview with Blizzard’s Overwatch team about the great failure that was Titan, as part of a history feature for Overwatch. Titan having been this great hush-hush project for so long, with only a single Kotaku article shedding some light on its demise at the time, I found both the timing and takeaway of this new interview quite fascinating. It is rare for a developer of Blizzard’s caliber to come out and talk about screwing up projects of such magnitude in candid fashion, with notable commentary by Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen. Yet if youtube comments are anything to go by, it was another smart move on their end in terms of marketing Overwatch and generating some more trust and curiosity within the player base.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

What the Titan interview is too, is a rather ironical look at the long-lasting after-effects of the monster that was created in 2004 – World of Warcraft, proclaimed hero and villain of mainstream MMORPGdom depending on whom you ask. Over the years many a case has been made against WoW for hijacking the creative diversity of the genre, causing a plethora of unfortunate clones or ill-budgeted AAA-titles crashing in one treacherous MMO bubble. What isn’t discussed nearly as often however are the negative side-effects of WoW from within, for a company and creative enterprise. WoW may be the best thing that ever happened to Chris Metzen and Co. but it “happened” to them in the same bewildering, unforeseen and uncontrollable way it happened to the entire market; a child of chance and momentum as much as creative genius and industry know-how. An alchemy that defies simple re-creation.

That fortuitous chain of events led the team at Blizzard through the same process it would lead anyone that could not be prepared, from a time of unstoppable force and hubris to a place of shattered dreams and identity crisis when it came to Titan, crushed under the real MMO giant that remains World of Warcraft. The irony is strong in this one. WoW casts its long shadow to this day and left the staff soul-searching and scavenging Titan’s remains to come up with Overwatch, a completely different, much smaller game to complement their genre palette. Thus a team used to the dizzying successes of the past stood humbled, as Chris Metzen points out in the Gamespot feature.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

Among MMO bloggers there goes the saying that “there is no WoW killer other than WoW” and indeed, nothing can seem to affect this title’s weight, not even the next Blizzard MMORPG. This must create a challenging emotional ambivalence even among those closest to WoW and most blessed by its many rewards. And I can’t help but think it also plays a role in Blizzard’s unaltered disregard for WoW legacy servers; something that surely makes sense business-wise and in terms of fan service. But if we then consider a crew of people who are simply tired of old WoW and eager to create new experiences, experiences not continuously outclassed by a 12 year-old zombie that just won’t stop rearing its insistent head, well then we can empathize more with that decision.

You run legacy servers when you’re actually happy to keep the past alive. At this point, I don’t get the feeling Blizzard are content to be defined by the successes of WoW’s heyday and this weighs heavier on their mind than a couple more subscriptions.

Pre-Order Ordeal: Overwatch and Black Desert

In this crazy month of November, I couldn’t even catch up with all the games if I wanted to. First, there’s that FFXIV 3.1 patch packed with new content; I’ve just spent two delightful nights playing through the Void Ark and Maiden’s Rhapsody questlines, squealing like a fangirl because epic FF7 and FF11 nostalgia! I would also really like to advance my Wildstar housing project but ever since re-subbing in September, I have barely touched the game. Instead, I sank hours into the coop frenzy of Vermintide, with some Undertale on the side. I gave Telltale’s Minecraft Storymode a shot too but got so appalled at the lazy cliched writing and slow, dumbed down gameplay, I got it refunded on Steam after one hour. And now that Fallout 4 is out, I don’t see myself going near another new title anytime soon.

cait

Guess who’s back

Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t pre-order more games though, right? Ahem. Blizzard got me and damn my weakness – looking at the Overwatch deals after Blizzcon (for some reason I recall there were three?), I decided that I really couldn’t live without Black Widow’s alternative costume. I always knew I was going to get Overwatch, so why the hell not – the game is already a safe bet in my book. That way, I don’t have to remember to get it when the time comes and I’m totally not rationalizing.

Now word has reached me about the Black Desert pre-order bundles which I didn’t expect to see so soon. The game will be buy-to-play and while I am mighty curious (mostly because I want to spend hours on the character creation screen), I am torn on pre-ordering this one. For one thing, I am still very glad I never bought into ArchAge at the time, considering what went down there. For another, my backers purchase for Landmark stings me to this day (I am cheap, I hate bad buys). Granted, the Black Desert page seems very transparent and comprehensive where the different goodies are concerned – still, I think I will hold off no matter the temptation.

I see myself spending some time in BD when it comes out but it’s doubtful I am ever going to live there and care enough to get virtual property and start caring for collectibles like pets and mounts. (Who am I kidding – my home lies firmly in Eorzea. And a good thing too.) In truth I fully expect this new MMO to do a lot of horrible stuff in the mid-and longterm, starting with the type of grind we’re so used to by Korean titles. Also, I don’t think I have it in me these days to pre-order MMORPGs; given how this genre requires players to spend weeks before they can possibly make up their mind, isn’t it almost counter-intuitive to do so?

P.S. It is entirely possible I will have pre-ordered Black Desert before the weekend. I have a horrible track record where new MMO resolutions are concerned!

Women of Overwatch: A Closer Look at Character Diversity

I keep creating more tags for my blogposts which is a real problem. I have SO many tags by now!

Anyway, Overwatch! Blizzard have finally revealed the last of their 21 heroes (funny number?) this Blizzcon, several of which were female characters hooray! And not just your standard fare either – looking at the final 8 heroines, you can tell that Blizzard have actually made an effort in the right direction and are listening to some of that criticism related to representation in character-driven gaming. For their newer games, anyway.

Zarya and Mei

Zarya and Mei

Of course there is no pleasing some people which is one of my biggest gripes with extreme internet culture. You can browse that Kotaku link above to find commenters faulting Zarya’s design for being “too stereotype”. Now look, yes the characters are still stereotypes – for one, the entire game is based on hefty cultural/ethnic stereotypes for both its male and female candidates. Overwatch is doing what most oldschool beat’em ups used to: featuring folk from “around the world” representing a specific country. Their looks are stereotypes, their accents are stereotypes (although I think they should have hired me to voice for Mercy!) and there will be gender-related stereotypes. Also this being a Blizzard title, everything is highly stylized rather than nuanced.

Presence of such stereotypes need not mean absence of diversity however. I am pleased with the variety Overwatch is bringing in terms of female character design and role combos! I’m already loving some of them, so let’s have a closer look at what we actually got, shall we?

Overwatch heroine overview

First off, I did a quick breakdown of role-age-flavor for all 8 female characters, to get a very basic idea:

overwatchstats

– The average age of Overwatch’s women is 28.8. For men it is 36.9. Two of the 13 male characters are non-human.
– While role spread is even for the ladies, there are only two male supports (plus 3 tanks, 4 def, 4 off).
– 25% of female body types fall into a skinny/sporty category, 37% into curvy/sexy (with heels, no bare midriffs tho!) and 37% into heavier/muscled types. About half of them can be considered classic “pretty or cute characters”, the other half ranging from tomboy geeky to strong athletic types (no less attractive but obviously not exactly standard, either). Gear choice and role correspond to these flavor differences (healers…) which makes more or less sense.
– For male character design, about 23% can be considered attractive/hot in a western culture mainstream sense (Hanzo, Lucio, McCree). Generally, with the exception of Hanzo, male characters wear non-sexy gear with little to no notable skin bared (bare bellies also for Junkrat and Roadhog…not hot).

Naturally, these are my subjective impressions of the 21 playable characters, your mileage may vary here and there. I’ve intentionally used simplified, superficial characteristics which serve the purpose of this overview. Body types, armor and role spread (sometimes even gender-locked roles) are an often discussed subject in online games and players are quick to write off characters as the “hot or ugly ones”.

In action and depending on additional gear to come, things may yet change. To me it seemed useful to analyze actual numbers behind Blizzard’s approach to the Overwatch roster. There’s some refreshing stuff going on just like there are still differences between male and female representation. The most significant differences are age range and what I personally wanna call rugged/scarred/crazy characters which remain firmly the province of men. All the female champions seem neat enough and aware of body hygiene.

With all that in mind, there is more character diversity in Overwatch than I am personally used to from MOBA/TF-types and the 8:11 gender split (not counting non-humans) is very nice. So for that I give kudos to the Overwatch crew! Progress happens one step at a time – I’ll take whatever I can.