Overwatch (Switch) Review
Unless you’ve been living exclusively in the world outside of the howling abyss that is the Internet, you likely have some idea of what Overwatch is all about. If not, allow me to acquaint you: Overwatch is a team-based online shooter starring a cast of heroes, villains, and people of all the lovely moral shades in-between. These characters, each for their own reasons, have decided to use their talents to fight for their ideals, whether that be social progress or causing large explosions. Some are healers, some are soldiers, and one is an intelligent hamster from the moon in a large mechanised ball with guns.
When you start up Overwatch, you’re greeted with the option to play a tutorial that teaches the basics of hero abilities and how matches are played. The tutorial is pretty straightforward, move here and shoot this, but I do wish the latter section about capturing objectives was a little more detailed. Different game types in Overwatch require different conditions to win, but the tutorial doesn’t tell you any of that. The voiceover character Athena will tell you what you need to do when you start a game, ‘Escort the payload’ for example, but it would be nice to have something in the tutorial, as well.
The narrative premise of the game is all about fighting for what you believe in and stepping up to do what’s right when nobody else will. Aside from the unfortunate irony of that message due to recent real-world events, there isn’t much in the way of story in the game itself; it’s set dressing. If you want any substantial Overwatch lore, there hasn’t been much revealed since the game’s launch, either by developers answering questions or through the comics that have been released every now and then. In short, Overwatch is first and foremost a shooter, and if you’re looking for a strong story to connect with, you’re not going to find it here.
Each hero in Overwatch plays differently; while a lot of them do wield guns of some sort, each hero’s toolkit is different and can’t be changed. Heroes are divided into three roles: Tank, for getting into the fray and leading the charge, Damage, for… damage, and Support, for healing your team and being generally unappreciated by ungrateful Damage players. Solider 76 is a good hero to start with if you’re more familiar with traditional shooters, since his abilities most reflect that type of gameplay. On the more complicated end of the spectrum, you have heroes such as Zarya, Doomfist, and Ana, to name a few. Each hero has a starred difficulty rating out of three that you can see at any time while playing them, along with the controls for their abilities and what each ability does. Having that information available at all times is great especially if you’re trying out a new hero, haven’t played for a while, or if the game’s received an update that modifies your hero’s kit, although the latter happens extremely rarely.
The range of hero abilities really do make Overwatch a standout game; no two heroes feel the same to control, leaving you a lot of options as to how you want to play. The range of heroes is also large without being overwhelming, which is a bonus if these sorts of games can leave you feeling a bit nervous as to whether you’re choosing the right hero; the starred-difficulty system makes this easier, too. It’s fun to try out a hero you’ve never played before only to find you really like how they play and subsequently finding new ways to interact with the maps and cause problems for your opponents is always satisfying.
It is worth noting that while there has been some fan frustration with the cast of heroes, some criticism rightfully deserved, it is refreshing to have such a diverse cast of characters to play as. It’s easy to forget with Overwatch being in its fourth year, but I can’t recall other shooters or multiplayer games that have such a wide array of nationalities, languages, and age groups represented in the cast. There’s definitely room for improvement, but it’s still an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Mechanically, Overwatch feels much the same on Switch as it does on PC with an Xbox controller, although a little sluggish by comparison. I’m honestly not quite sure how to word it, but I almost found the game harder to visually read playing on the Switch, and my best guess as to why is due to the reduced framerate. By ‘visually read’, I mean taking in my surroundings, the positioning of enemies; overall awareness of the level and the game around me. Now, that may sound like me making excuses for my own poor performance as a player, but I just couldn’t shake that sluggish feeling every time I played the game.
The Pro Controller, as to be expected, feels much nicer to use than the Joy-Cons, so I’d recommend using that for the best experience if you’ve got one handy. Even a third-party controller would probably be better; so long as your controller of choice has smoother control stick movement than the Joy-Cons do, the game should be a bit nicer to handle.
Arguably the greatest point of appeal for purchasing Overwatch on Switch as opposed to another platform is the Switch’s portability, but for me, Overwatch in handheld didn’t feel all that revolutionary and to be honest, a little uncomfortable trying to control. It’s nice to have the option, but I always felt more comfortable playing with the Switch docked or set up on the kickstand than I did in handheld. On the plus side, the game doesn’t chew up battery life which is nice if you do want to play in handheld for an extended period of time; looking at you Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
The Role Queue system is a marked improvement and it’s nice that Switch players get to use it from the beginning. While you’re waiting for a game, you choose what roles you want to queue for; if you’d like to play Tank characters, queue for that role. It’s also nice that when you’re choosing roles, you can see what the estimated wait time is to be placed in a game. You can earn credits and dreaded Loot Boxes – more on that later – for queueing in roles that need more players, but it’s nice to choose what you’re willing to play. The downside is not being able to change between roles on the fly if you’re not feeling confident about how you’re currently playing, or if you’re like me and never had the chance to play many Damage heroes because everyone always seemed to pick them first before Role Queue was implemented – four Damage heroes on a Quick Play team, anyone?
On that note, it’s also nice for Switch players that the improved reporting and Endorsement features are live from the get-go; Overwatch has become somewhat notorious for community toxicity and bad behaviour. While it’s a positive that Blizzard have taken steps to combat it, it’s worth warning those of you who haven’t played Overwatch before that you will likely encounter less-than-nice players, especially in Competitive Mode. I tend to stick to Quick Play myself for that very reason, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that bad behaviour has impacted my enjoyment of the game in the past.
After our interview with Overwatch producer Wes Yanagi, I was really looking forward to trying out the gyro-aiming exclusive to the Switch version. Sadly, I quickly discovered that using the gyro-aiming in handheld mode makes me incredibly motion-sick; I found I couldn’t even keep the gyro-aiming on long enough for me to tweak the settings to try and feel okay using it for a full game. Using the gyro-aim in docked mode can be a bit fiddly, so I’d recommend using the aim assist or tweaking the settings to get it feeling just right. I found I did also experience a bit of motion sickness using it in docked mode, too. If you’re at all prone to motion sickness, I’d recommend caution trying it out.
After each game, you’re rewarded with experience points to level up. Each time you level up, you’re rewarded with a Loot Box with four random cosmetic items or coins to purchase said items for the cast of characters. I won’t detail how much I loathe Loot Boxes, which you can also purchase with real money, but I will say it is disappointing that the focus of the themed events, such as the Halloween Terror event every October, seems to be new skins to unlock as opposed to new gameplay. Some of the new game modes have been fun, but the Junkenstein’s Revenge mode has remained the same every year. While that’s nice for new players, the only offering for long-term players is new competitive modes or skins.
It does beg the question as to what exactly Blizzard are trying to motivate players with; is the game good enough for players to be intrinsically motivated to keep playing, or are the Loot Boxes required to keep players returning to the game? Overwatch can be really fun and satisfying to play but pushing Loot Boxes and skins to entice players leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Games can be better than having to resort to this, but as pointed out by David Rayfield for Junkee, online multiplayer games aren’t designed to have an end; they’re designed for me to continue giving them time and money. At some point, I will decide I have achieved all I wanted out of Overwatch, and the game will still be trying to lure me back with skins and the chiffon curtain of a meaningful story; although if the rumours are to be believed, the apparently-soon-to-be-announced Overwatch 2 will also be vying for my attention. Oy vey.
If you already own Overwatch on another platform, I would recommend sticking with it. If you only have a Nintendo Switch or a PC that isn’t great for gaming and you want to try Overwatch out, the Switch version is perfectly serviceable. It hasn’t got all the bells and whistles in graphical appearance or performance, but it works. For me, the gyro controls weren’t large enough drawcards for me to feel that the Switch version is different enough to be a “must play” for existing fans playing on other platforms. It’s Overwatch. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes there’s toxicity, but as a game, it works. Good enough.
+ Diverse cast of heroes
+ Lots of heroes = lots of ways to play
+ Role queue, endorsements and reporting features from day one
- Story as set-dressing
- Gyro-aiming and motion sickness
- Loot Boxes
- Not much new gameplay for events