Overwatch is a game that depends on maintaining a relative balance between the title’s 25 playable heroes. The development team at Blizzard has been in constant flux throughout the title’s first year, tweaking and reworking certain characters at an almost continuous pace. The “meta-game,” or the gaming term for the current pecking order of hero value, based on those fluctuations, is uttered by players at every skill level.
Some recent example prove just how uncertain each character’s ability kit can be. Junkrat, for example, just got a buff that allows him to place two mines – doubling his mobility and lethality in one swift move. DVa has gained explosive rockets in exchange for a slightly weakened defense matrix ability. The addition of Doomfist last month has also altered the game’s competitive community significantly, as players often take at least a few weeks to adapt to the abrupt addition of another unique set of abilities.
Competitive Season 5 also brought a lot of community complaints to the forefront – primarily that the rating and matchmaking system is still somewhat broken and that certain character imbalances will always influence the overall enjoyment of the game for many people. Blizzard responded by making control point maps a best of three series rather than five, shortening a game mode that was too long for most players’ likings. They also shortened the “offseason,” concluding Season 5 on a Tuesday and commencing Season 6 on a Thursday.
The development team didn’t stop with these competitive changes, though. The latest update also dropped a new arcade game mode, Deathmatch, along with an accompanying map, Chateau Guillard – Widowmaker’s childhood estate. There are currently two forms of Deathmatch: 4v4 team deathmatch and an eight player free-for-all, and the Chateau along with several altered standard maps are all playable maps.
It was overwhelming hopping into my first free-for-all on Chateau Guillard, as I was going into a new map as well as a completely new game mode that would alter the objective of the game completely. As game director Jeff Kaplan has said many times in his frequent developer updates, Overwatch, at its core, is meant to be a team game with team objectives and an alternative stats system that rewards the player relative to their performance in a team environment rather than simply for their kill totals.
But the demand for Deathmatch was too strong. Players longed to insert the simplicity of the classic deathmatch system from games like Halo 2 into the complexity of the Overwatch roster. Kaplan and his team couldn’t hold out any longer.
Blizzard has always been on the ball when it comes to community engagement, and this recent move is only one of dozens of examples of the Overwatch team taking ideas found on Reddit and the Battlenet forums and implementing them into future updates. In my (humble) opinion, I’d like to think deathmatch takes the cake.
Here’s why: I think Overwatch is an amazing game at both the Arcade and Competitive levels. It constantly stays fresh, reinventing itself with the Arcade, which allows the game to add game modes like Capture the Flag and Deathmatch with no direct interferance with the base collection of game modes and maps. With that said, Overwatch matches can get mighty drawn out, and it’s never been a game that one can pick up and play for just a few minutes.
Quick Play has been a fine substitute so far, sure, but sometimes players just don’t feel up to cooperating and staying 100% engaged with the game’s objective based system. In other words, sometimes I just want to take my hero of choice to a battlefield where there is nothing to lose but everything to gain. I think the community will find that niche with the Deathmatch mode.
A few quick examples on how the standard game modes and Deathmatch differ. First, there is definitely a learning curve to consider. Some heros are less effective than others. Ana, for instance, can’t Nanoboost herself and therefore loses her ultimate potential in addition to her lower damage totals. In a Team Deathmatch, she could certainly be effective, but in a free-for-all she is probably a poor choice.
Heroes like McCree, Tracer and Junkrat have seen high usage, however. This is because they can clean up kills quickly and have high mobility, and at the end of the day, in a deathmatch mode, all that matters is the final kill. Damage is not recorded in a simple dropdown menu. The only thing that matters is kills, and to some extent, assists and deaths. In fact, most attack and defense heroes have great utility in this setting, and it’s difficult to play without two or three of them plus a healer and perhaps a tank in a Team Deathmatch.
I’ve also found tanks like DVa and Roadhog, as well as Mei of the defense category to be great picks in lieu of a healer because of their self healing potential. DVa is a lot of fun to play on Chateau because she can hit players off the map with ease and is mobile enough to survive (and therefore theoretically has a higher kill potential) longer than most other heroes. An example of this going wrong, however, is in her defense matrix – specifically in a free for all.
A DVa main must be weary of using the matrix because she can protect other heroes from damage as well. Although she needs to get the final blow to record the kill, she also doesn’t want the other player to kill them first. Therefore, timing involved with this ability has to be looked at from a completely different scope.
That’s just an example, however, as I admittedly haven’t tried every hero long enough to truly get a feel for the way this mode can alter the seemingly infinite amount of interactions that can occur on various maps between various heroes. All I know is that the game mode is incredibly fun, especially with a team of three friends on 4v4. It’s a welcome addition to a game that has had some people leaving the competitive scene due the handful of issues I mentioned earlier.
Blizzard had an answer yet again with this update. They made efforts to fix competitive play, but we’ll have to see how those changes play out in the coming weeks to see how effective they will be. The meta will always be in flux, but the game also has to be accessable and rewording enough to incentivize players to keep coming back.
Deathmatch fills a void that these weary players, as well as the entire community, can get behind. In the coming weeks, players will also be gifted a new escort style map for all standard game modes, including competitive, in Junkertown. For the forseeable future, thanks to Blizzard’s development team, Overwatch players will be able to keep having their cake, and eat it too.