Blizzard’s massively popular first person team-based shooter, Overwatch, received a new patch last night. This is nothing new, the Overwatch team is very keen on keeping the game fresh and provide regular updates. These updates are typically known as ‘events’ and are usually based around a seasonal theme- 2016 ‘Summer Games’, Halloween, Christmas, Lunar New Year. They are all to be ‘expected’- new skins for the characters, maybe a fun seasonal game mode. However, Overwatch: Uprising is different, very different. Here are 5 reasons why it is and why what I hope this is a promising glimpse of the future.
1. Uprising is completely different to the other game modes that previous updates that provided: The Summer Games had a variety of sports; Halloween had a four player co-op horde mode; Christmas had a snowball fight and Lunar New Year introduced Capture the Flag (which has since been reintroduced as a main game staple). These are usually fun and cutesy. Uprising is not that- the game mode introduced is a four player gauntlet run that combines the point capture and payload escort of the regular game. It is the first lore based game mode, centred around four members of the Overwatch roster (Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy) fighting their way across the London-based King’s Row map against waves of AI-controlled Omnics, the lore’s big bad robots. You capture three control points dotted across the map; defend a payload for four minutes, escort said payload and then eliminate four mini-boss enemies. While the humour remains in the scripted interactions between the characters, the experience is a lot more gritty and tense, especially when the game mode opens with Tracer, Overwatch‘s hella gay poster girl, cheerfully explaining in her cockney accent how robot terrorists killed hundreds of people in the Whitehall area. The combination of the multiple segments, PvE set-up and general foreboding tone finally bring something unique to Overwatch.
2. The story mode option gives a perfect team balance: There are two ways to play Uprising- story mode and all heroes. As previously mentioned, story mode only gives you access to four characters, each one representing one of the four hero classes. The good thing is that they have purposefully gone for non-specialised heroes. Granted, Tracer needs a little time investment to be able to play effectively but the team composition of Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy gives a good balance of abilities, strengths and weaknesses as well as being accessible for a majority of players. And once you grow tired or tiring to master that, Uprising is available with all twenty-four Overwatch heroes.
3. New cosmetic content that isn’t trash: Go to any Blizzard forum or talk to anyone in team chat and you’ll soon realize that a lot of the fan base isn’t exactly fond of some of the skins released for the characters of Overwatch. Often these skins are tacky seasonal garb, a little too out-there or just plain ugly. However Uprising, which provides seven characters with new skins in the blue of the original Overwatch uniforms, are largely very pleasing (I’m a little miffed that my main, Mercy, has something of goofy nurse look (It’s the hat and having her hair down that does it) but you can’t have everything). Uprising also provides a large number of emotes, victory poses, sprays, highlight intros and voice lines for most characters. It seems that Blizzard really have gone all out with these update in terms of cosmetics, rather than the somewhat phoned in efforts of previous events.
4. Uprising is a lesson in teamwork (for those who may have forgotten): For a game whose premise is 6v6 multiplayer, people sure do forget about teamwork. 6 times out of 10, you lose a match due to not working as team (the other four times are a combination of people quitting partway through, poor team composition, trolls etc.). However, if you don’t work together in Uprising, you will lose. I haven’t played a lot of games in Uprising yet but so far, I have only lost once and that was due to the team fanning out across the map in order to collect the time bonuses or whatever. The healer (me) couldn’t heal and so the team was picked off one by one. Teamwork is essential to success in the new game mode, especially at the horde mode and control point sections. Blizzard and Overwatch creative director Jeff Kaplan know that players have a lot of issues with teamwork so I like to think that Uprising is a subtle reminder of the importance of teamwork.
5. Unfortunately, once you’ve played it, you’ve played it: During the Summer Games event, the specific event was changed up once a week to maintain flavour and so it managed to stay fresh, as was the case with the old weekly brawl system before the development team cleaned it up and turned it into a fully fledged arcade mode and custom game server. The Lunar New Year Capture the Flag had similar longevity as it complemented the full roster of characters and played like the other game modes of the regular game. However, as with the Halloween Horde and the Christmas Snowball Fight, the only real variation the mode offers is the difficulty of the AI. While the novelty of the shiny new game mode is going to last for a while, it might not be retained in any real sense after the end of the Uprising event (May 1st). However…
What does Uprising mean for the future of Overwatch? Uprising and its associated game mode are the first real lore-based game modes, the first thing vaguely resembling a story mode/campaign. Its release has me very excited as, while Kaplan and the dev team have expressed an objection to building a full-blown story mode, more co-op extended missions like Uprising, that either tell stories from the past or do push the present lore forwards (mission that ends with a Doomfist boss fight anyone?) would be a great addition to the game, as well as beginning to truly justify the Triple A price tag.
Are you enjoying Uprising? How do you think it compares to events of the past? What are you hoping it means for the future of the game? Let me know in the comments!