First Impressions of Overwatch: Not Complimentary

overwatch logoI am not really a fan of Blizzard Entertainment.

This is partially because I generally don’t become a “fan” of studios and companies until they’ve produced a great deal of “great” – not just “good” – merchandise, and proven they can do so consistently. In that regard, it often feels like Blizzard has left their heyday far, far behind. Not only have they been known for only three major franchises – Starcraft, Warcraft, and Diablo – for awhile, but if the decisions which blasted the quality of Starcraft 2, particularly compared to the original, have had a similar, detrimental effect on their other two major franchises, then it stands to reason that they’re going the way of Greece in the face of Rome: great in their time, because of their pioneering innovations, but going downhill.

Granted, there’s a lot of downhill for them to go, as they have dominated the online gaming experience for so long, and I don’t even know who would be “Rome” in this analogy, but it’s been my thinking that unless they get back to the “pioneering innovation” and do something new, then it’s only a matter of time before they implode.

So, when I heard that Blizzard was trying something new, after growing noticeably stagnant, you’d think I’d be just a little excited. Not so.

Allow me to explain.

First, I watched this trailer…

…and I was intrigued. This looked like an exciting movie, if also a flagrant attempt to cash in the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it occurred to me that if Universal Studios were to try and either create new superheroes, like these, or at least purchase the rights to unclaimed comic book heroes, they’d have a much firmer ground to stand on. But who was producing this Overwatch anyway? And I look down, and see “Blizzard.”

I immediately rolled my eyes and groaned. “Blizzard… Blizzard is trying to copycat the MCU?!” I thought.

I have since realized that, while they are tapping into the superhero rage of today, they are not just copycatting the MCU. They are also copycatting League of Legends and Smite. Or, at least, they’re trying to. Overwatch has only a dozen characters to play, as of yet, while both of their competitors boast over three dozen or, in LoL’s case, over one hundred and twenty. Of course, as Overwatch is a first-person shooter, that’s more in line with Halo and its ilk.

So, while I say “kudos” for trying something new, at long last, I also see only a mishmash hodgepodge of copycatted ideas. Nothing really original. Sure, the cinematic trailer was good, but that’s one area where I like Blizzard, because I enjoy their cinematic work. The actual games? Not so much.

And then there’s the premise. When you think about it, we have this league of superheroes, who brought order and peace to the world. Then they were shut down, rather quickly, victim of their own success. Now “half of them are mercenaries.” And we see the mercenaries clash with those who are still heroes. Which means, we are watching former comrades and teammates trying to kill each other. Or, at least, one side is trying to kill the other. While that can be compelling if the storytelling is done right, Blizzard has blown its former track record for such storytelling, so it’s just some twisted mess. How did these people ever work together in the first place? What drove them apart? What are they fighting each other over now? No idea!

Another reason why this would be better as a movie than a game: these questions could be answered.

That speaks to me of what has made Starcraft 2 so much less than the original: the original story was crafted by a professional storyteller, while the latter “story” was thrown together by a marketing department. It’s a bit like comparing a master of drunken boxing with an actual drunk.

So, my hopes for Overwatch? Very, very small. Which is a crying shame when the cast looks this awesome.

Overwatch_Poster_FinalBut who knows? I’ve been wrong before, and when it comes to additions to our culture and the rejuvenation of a flagging icon of the industry, I will be more than happy if I am again.

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4 Responses to First Impressions of Overwatch: Not Complimentary

  1. Azernak0 says:

    I don’t see why you are saying that Overwatch is copying MCU. “So there are these guys that get together to save the world -” and you are already saying “Marvel did it”? You could just as easily say Overwatch is copying Justice League from the comics because it is also “so there are these guys that get together to save the world.” Jeez, even “Overwatch is copying Knights of the Round Table from Excalibur” makes more sense to me than MCU. I am obviously missing something as to why you say MCU specifically; can you explain?

    I disagree with a lost of this “it is League of Legends” statements. The similarities:
    There are specific classes.
    There are roles that are meant to do something similar (IE, two different characters with the same role are meant to do the same thing.)
    Each class has special abilities.

    That is about it. The first and the third are essentially the same thing. You are not locked into a character for the entire game, roles are not as strongly set in stone (my guess is that you could do a Hanzo as a defensive character easier than you could do Soraka as an ADC), and there is no ‘creep farming.’ I don’t think “everyone has 3 or 4 abilities therefore Overwatch IS League of Legends” works.

    What Blizzard really is copying is Team Fortress 2. The animation style, the humor, even some of the classes. “The Dwarf” is nearly identical to the Engineer, the healing character both involves pointing a beam that heals the target, the character with a rocket launcher is highly mobile through ‘flying’, and every class as their own specific personality. Even the story can be boiled down to RED vs. BLU; both games are probably more interested in personality of the classes rather than a world that really makes sense.

    Will the game be good? I have only heard “it’s good” from the people that have played it. It is doing what Blizzard has done ‘best’ since the start: (paraphrasing dunkey) “find something good, put their own spin on it, and make it really polished.” But it might still do something that no one else has done ATM.

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    • Merlin says:

      Heh, you realize you just said, “Blizzard isn’t copycatting this idea, they’re copycatting THAT idea,” right? 😉 Of course, I’m unfamiliar with Team Fortress 2, so I cannot speak to that, but you are probably right.

      To answer your questions:
      I refer specifically to the MCU because they are the wildly successful giant of the superhero genre whom everyone is trying to copycat right now. The Justice League franchise has not had such success just yet, though (ADD moment) the creation of the Justice League DID inspire the creation of Marvel’s several superhero teams, so an argument could be made for the JL being the ones copycatted in the long run. 🙂

      What I meant by the comparison with League of Legends (and Smite) is that it seems to follow a similar format of crafting a few “champions” or “heroes” to be played, each with specific abilities, and teaming them up in groups of five or six to fight each other. Now, if the Team Fortress comparison is the more accurate one, then I guess that is that, and far be it from me to argue. 😉

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  2. Azernak0 says:

    The reason I brought up TF2 is because it is a common and easy criticism of Overwatch. Bringing up the MCU is one that I see more as reaching, nitpicking, or essentially giving praise to Marvel through attacking something else. Your post isn’t a criticism of Overwatch being similar to other things (you cannot Google Overwatch without coming by the TF2 similarities) as falling into the Nerdy Godwin’s Law:

    “This game has an anthropomorphic furry creature from space. You know who also has that?!”
    “This movie has aliens attacking New York City. You know who also has that?!”
    “This book has an amoral action anti-hero. You know who also has that?!”

    Your entire post is about trying to frame the game in that light. You call it a movie, call the characters in question superheroes, and don’t go too deeply into explanation. That is my primary disagreement with your post: it isn’t “Overwatch seems to be very similar to certain other games and concepts” but rather “MCU is so amazing and everyone is copying it.” That last bit is probably true but it doesn’t fit everything but your post is ostensibly about Overwatch.

    Like I said, Nerdy Godwin’s Law. Not everything *has* to be MCU and Nazis even if they do exist.

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    • Merlin says:

      I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say, but it feels like you are putting words in my mouth.

      My post actually isn’t about trying to frame the game in any sort of light. It’s just my first thoughts about the game based on the trailers. And my first thoughts are: it’s a lot of copycatting of other ideas. Some from Marvel, some from Halo, some from LoL and Smite, and if I was familiar with TF2, I’d probably have invoked that too.

      It’s not like Blizzard hasn’t taken ideas from movies before, such as Kung Fu Panda and Mists of Pandaria. So what’s so wrong with seeing a trailer with superheroes and thinking, “Marvel?”

      Flip side of Nerdy Godwin: sometimes things ARE Nazis or (insert well-known idea).

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