Overwatch got a new update this week and it’s a big one. It’s also a good one, for the most part. In addition to the usual balance tweaks, the ramifications of which will likely become more clear with time, the update added five main things: a new escort map called Route 66, a new Hearthstone-inspired mode called Weekly Brawl, much-improved Play of the Game functionality, better progression with achievements and penalties for leaving matches.
Here are my initial thoughts on each:
Route 66 is solid. It looks awfully similar to A Certain Team Fortress 2 map, but with a Wild West slant. True to its theme, it’s noticeably more wide open than most Overwatch maps, but with some intriguing landmarks and chokepoints dotted throughout. It’s also significantly more vertical than you might expect at first glance. I especially enjoy the crashed train near the escorting team’s start position, which juts diagonally into the sky.
It’s useful as everything from cover, to a vertical positional advantage, to numerous things in between. It’s a fun enough map, but it does seem like snipers and other rangy characters could skew the balance in frustrating ways. We’ll see.
Weekly Brawl is fun but insubstantial (for now). The mode, which gives people a new (sometimes ridiculous) custom game type every week, is definitely a nice way to vary things up. I played a match that was just Genjis and Hanzos, slinging stars and arrows as fast as human/ninja-ly possible. Naturally, a meta of its own quickly evolved, with Genjis taking point while Hanzos gritted their teeth and aimed at their cyborg brothers’ Dragon Ball Z sword battles.
It forced Hanzo players to really shore up their aim, or risk attracting the attention of one of the most agile, speedy in-fighters in the game. And of course, if Genji players stopped moving or decided to ninja-stroll out into the open, it was lights out for them. Good times all around.
For now, though, Blizzard is treating the mode as an experiment, switching out custom game variants daily. It’s silly fun, but it’s more of a casual distraction at this point than a fully featured alternative to regular Overwatch.
Video courtesy of Overwatch Central.
Play of the Game is finally about more than kills. Play of the Game, which highlights a particularly awesome moment from an Overwatch match after it’s over, used to be kind of a mess. Yeah, it’s an awesome feature idea, but it wasn’t uncommon to see it highlight players doing nothing at all or, more pointedly, killing everybody — even when a fantastic healer was actually the one who carried the team.
Now Play of the Game has four categories: High Score, Lifesaver, Sharpshooter, and Shutdown. It’s still not perfect, but at least now it acknowledges healer and support types more than once every 50 or so games.
The new progression features are smart, if not surprising. Promotions every 100 levels and achievements all throughout? Makes sense for a team-based competitive game like Overwatch. It’s nothing revolutionary, but I’m glad to see Overwatch solidifying into more of a long-term game I can sink my teeth into. I am, however, still worried that it might not hold people’s attention for as long as Blizzard is hoping. I really love the game while I’m playing it, but there’s just not much pulling me back when I decide to take a break.
Quitters never prosper. The new penalties for leaving matches seem pretty reasonable. If you leave an in-progress match, you get a loss. No padding your record. If you leave repeatedly, you get a temporary XP penalty. Fair. Meanwhile, there’s an XP bonus if you stick around for multiple matches, and if you backfill into a match already in progress, you can get be credited with a win from said match, but not a loss.
The new update adds a couple others things (an updated new player experience, personal gameplay highlights) and tweaks a bunch of stuff. You can check out the full rundown here. Are you in the Overwatch beta? If so, what do you think of the new update?