Overdone?

Now surpassing a staggering 30 million players worldwide, Blizzard Entertainment’s massive online shooter Overwatch has seen some of the strongest support in the industry today. It’s a magnificently polished video game, but now a year after its release has the game actually maintained gamer’s interest?

A thread I recently discovered on Reddit appeared to suggest otherwise. The question was posed to gamers whether they were still playing, and out of approximately 1,300 comments, the majority had stated that they had drifted away from the game. There were a number of reasons for this, such as users complaining that the game had grown stagnant, to the toxic community and timed events ruining Overwatch.

It was a surprising discovery and of course, it goes without saying that this is but a tiny fraction of gamers that have touched Overwatch. Blizzard’s colourful and entertaining shooter is loved by millions, but why do some gamers, including myself, feel completely burned out with the multiplayer game?

There might be a few reasons for this, but we’ll engage with the topic of loot boxes first. To continue free support for the game, Blizzard implemented a loot box system that allows players the opportunity to win new skins, emotes, sprays and voice lines for all characters. They all differ in rarity, and boxes can either be purchased in bulk lots or acquired by completing arcade modes and levelling up.

The loot box system was a welcome idea at first because it allowed us a new way to gain fancy items for favourite characters. These boxes are set to have random drops and if players are lucky enough, they’ll even discover a rare ‘Legendary’ skin inside one! Blizzard appeared to get the system correct, unlike other games that adopted the same method, such as the atrocious Gears of War 4.

However, when Blizzard decided to kick off their first season event for Overwatch, loot boxes quickly became a topic of concern with fans. Whereas all previous items could be purchased via in-game currency, the Summer Games event contained items which could only be found in loot boxes.

With the introduction of 112 items, players had to act quickly if they wanted the desired item, due to the timed exclusivity of the content. It was actually a decent first event, and it was clear that this was Blizzard simply dipping their toes into the ‘loot’ waters.

Blizzard listened to the community’s complaints regarding the exclusive skins, and following events were changed so gamers could purchase whatever item they could afford. Since then, there have been at least five different events with their own unique items. Some of those have been incredibly entertaining, such as the Halloween Terror and Uprising events.

Something started to happen with every new event though, and the community soon realised the exponential number of rare items that were getting included. Whereas the first event began with six legendary skins, the latest Anniversary event boasted a surprising eleven legendary skins, and 24 ‘epic’ emotes!

By all means, fans don’t need all of the items, but if collectors wanted all of those sought after skins, they would have to spend 33,000 of their hard earned credits. If they wanted the superb dancing emotes, at the cost of 750 credits each, it would set them back 18,000 altogether. Sure, some of us tried their luck with loot boxes, but then the drop-rate for the experience was exasperating.

In some instances, users were finding that the money they had spent on loot boxes resulted in severely disappointing results. Some of the wilder players that were spending upwards of £50-100 on boxes were finding that they only won three legendary skins in approximately 50 boxes. The whole event felt like a joke to those who wanted to collect the majority of the content, and you couldn’t blame them, as it was all brilliantly designed.

Of course, Overwatch’s skins and various offering are not essential to the enjoyment of the game. Unlike Team Fortress 2, they’re purely cosmetic and don’t affect gameplay, but the drop rates of loot boxes have still raised important discussion online. Has it been a fair system? Is Blizzard getting a little too greedy with how much-timed content they’re putting out?

It’s a tricky subject. Overwatch’s lead designer, the great Jeff Kaplan, has insisted that these events aren’t intended for gamers to manically collect everything in such a short amount of time. If they have a favourite character, then they should simply focus on getting their new accessories.

That’s a fair point of course, but then I didn’t acquire a skin for my favourite character until the last few hours of the timed content. Standard duplicates were constantly being found in the majority of my loot boxes, and it really soured the entire experience.

Despite how exhausting the loot boxes became, Blizzard Entertainment has actually listened to their community in regards to their events. There are some actual improvements on the way, with drop rates set to increase and the possibility of old skins making a return. That’s fine, but I can’t help but feel that those susceptible to gambling habits have been badly affected by Blizzard’s system so far.

It’s great that Blizzard listens so well to the community, but then that leads us to one of the more important reasons for not continuing to play Overwatch on a regular basis. The community in the game, especially in competitive mode, can be completely and unnecessarily toxic.

Sure, competitive gaming is notorious for bad behaviour, but then due to the anonymity, the desire to win, team gameplay and the dislike for some characters – people can get real nasty in Overwatch. It’s a massive shame, and I’m almost certain that almost everyone who has played competitive has experienced toxic behaviour in some form.

It’s disheartening to have someone yell down a microphone because they’re not happy with the state of the team or a character, or even if someone makes a simple mistake. Their ranking in competitive is so damn important to their lives that they will berate anyone who ruins their chance of climbing up the ranks.

Competitive mode on Overwatch has shown me just how fickle some people can be with video games, and on occasion, I’ve received abuse for not picking the character they want you to be. When you have teams consisting of 6 players, apparently there is just no room for error. Here’s a handy tip for those who suggest you be a healer, go to the character select option and pick Mercy. It’s as simple as that.

Judging by people’s opinion of the community, levels of toxicity are almost up there with League of Legends. In my countless hours of playing Team Fortress 2, there was hardly any abuse thrown around. Players were there to have fun, which some people appear to forget about during Overwatch.

Sure, it isn’t the only game to suffer from hateful players, but then the objective based gameplay just easily angers some folk. And to those who solo queue, you are some of the bravest souls who play Overwatch. Personally, the toxicity has completely put me off competitive, because it’s just not a nice environment to be in.

With so many playable characters and their whole host of abilities, tweaks are regularly needed to help balance gameplay in Overwatch. Unfortunately, some changes have affected the viability of certain characters in the game. The tank class has gone through some of the worst changes recently, with Roadhog mains getting the worst treatment to date.

Several changes have often had a number of negative effects, and players will remember that one time when Bastion became completely invincible for a short period of time. It’s weird that this is happening though, as Blizzard seems to regularly ignore the problems that testers raise. Mostly everybody cried about the Roadhog alterations, but nothing was done.

It certainly isn’t the worst thing that ever happens to Overwatch gamers, but in the past, one of my most played characters D.Va received a decrease in armour and a change to her damage. Suddenly, one of my regulars received an undesirable nerf that negatively impacted the way I play. These fluctuations for the game’s roster aren’t completely game-breaking, but it’s a slight annoyance that has occurred on numerous occasions.

Don’t get me wrong, Overwatch is a brilliantly made game. It has some of the best designs I’ve ever seen in a game, but it’s just not grabbing me the same way it used to. Unlike some users in the aforementioned Reddit thread, I don’t agree that the game is poorly made. Perhaps updates could extend to a little more than just a new hero or map every once in a while because entirely new modes might pique my interest again.

Blizzard has done a superb job with building a rich universe within Overwatch, and they have also provided us with some of the finest animated shorts as well. It begs the question though; where is our single-player mode? The interesting lore they have built upon needs to be made into a fully functional campaign.

Unfortunately, they have absolutely no plans for that anytime soon though, which is a shame considering how well the Uprising story went down with fans. The entire history of Overwatch could be explored and surely knowing Blizzard’s skills, it could be turned into an engaging story mode.

It’s a damn shame that I’m not finding myself returning to the game regularly, but then some of the points made earlier showcase why the game is currently collecting a thin layer of dust right now. It’s a solid piece of work, but the toxic community, the loot boxes, the nerfs and buffs and lack of any substantial update just isn’t bringing me back anytime soon.

At the moment, I’m currently finding myself enjoying Titanfall 2’s crazy multiplayer modes and the new season of Diablo 3. Sorry Overwatch, I do like you; we’re just taking a break right now.

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