Overwatch Is a Spirtual Successor to City of Heroes


So first there was Titanfall.  A team-based shooter that tried to shake up the FPS genre with MMORPG elements, barely any single player campaign, and set in the far future.

Then came Destiny.  A team-based shooter that tried to shake up the FPS genre with MMORPG elements, barely any single player campaign, and set in the far future.

And now Blizzard has announced Overwatch.  A team-based shooter that will try to shake up the FPS genre with NO MMORPG elements, NO single player campaign, and set in the far future.

I fully expect Overwatch to clean Destiny and Titanfall’s clocks.  It won’t even be close.

Seriously, doesn’t anyone remember what WoW did to EVERY other fantasy MMO out there?  Do you people not see this coming?  Because it’s a very easy bet.  Blizzard has had the benefit of watching Titanfall and Destiny for over a year now, and they’ve figured out what works (parkour-styled heroic movement, limited capabilities to allow for both variety and mastery, and very fast-paced combat), and now they are going to come in and take over the genre.

And that’s hard for me to admit, because right now I think Overwatch is not a very good game.  Granted, all I have to go on is the game footage that’s been released along with a few Kotaku interviews, but that’s enough to know that it’s not a game made for me, or will likely appeal to me long term.

But it doesn’t matter.  It’s still going to clean up and I can’t wait to play it.

Say what you want about Blizzard, they are good at what they do.  Having a mountain of money helps but they’re also one of the few triple A developers that isn’t afraid to go all in on a project. They will take all of the elements of the genre that we’ve seen in use so far and cut, and cut, and CUT the core gameplay mechanics down until the distilled essence contains only the most fun elements that they can squeeze out of it.  Then they will polish it until it is so shiny we won’t be able to see how much they’re really covering up.  And they are going to be covering up a lot.  As I said earlier, Overwatch will have NO single player mode.  That has been confirmed.  There is literally no story in the game aside from cinematics (produced by their cinematics department; they have a cinematics department!!!) and offhand comments that are dropped here and there by characters randomly while you are team PvP’ing.  That also means no AI aside from pet AI, and I’ve seen no pets that can walk or follow, so there will be very little AI that needs to be programmed, at least for now.  Characters you play are chosen from a list, require no adjusting and allow for no custom point spending by players, so no RPG elements whatsoever.  Characters are built around pre-defined roles which include tank, offense, support, and the nebulous defense which include just 3 characters.  One of which is a sniper and the other 2 are walking gun turrets.  That’s not very defensive sounding if you ask me.  But, by focusing on these roles, Blizzard has built a game where teaming is vital to victory, as different characters create different playstyle combinations that will synergize and provide alternate ways to win and counter other players gameplay.

This role thing though is a big problem.  Already with the few press previews that have been talked about, balance issues have appeared.  Also when speaking of the lack of a single-player game, director of development Jeff Kaplan gave away this little tidbit:

I don’t think we would ever do a single-player campaign, because the way these characters work… they’re cool when you combine them together….Some don’t play well alone, either. Unless we built a campaign around supporting somebody else, a support character like Mercy probably wouldn’t do well.

Did you catch that comment about support characters right there?  This is classic trinity thinking and it’s a huge problem.  I’ve got a post coming next week about this topic, and we’ll discuss it more then.

Forgetting all of that for a moment though, I realized just the other day why I couldn’t stop watching the trailers for Overwatch.  Aside from the fact that they are gorgeous, and it is so nice to see what a Triple A developer that cares about it’s product marketing can really do.  When I look closely at the characters they’ve made, do you know what I see?

City of Heroes characters.

Here.  Look at them again.

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Aside from the Gorilla (which uses an entirely different wireframe then all the others), there isn’t a single character that I couldn’t recreate in City of Heroes, costumes and powersets included.  A few custom details might be difficult, but Tracer’s goggles?  Got em.  Reaper’s mask?  Got that too. From a powers standpoint, the only one I can’t recreate is the grappling hook.  All other power combinations of each hero I can duplicate with power sets from City of Heroes.  There are sniper rifles, beam cannons, bows, staffs, and pistols.  Hell, the rocket hammer existed as a Titan Weapons skin.  Dashing, teleporting, detecting stealth, buffing teammates, pets, turrets, and healing all existed in powersets and archetypes I could make when I played City of Heroes.

It should also be noted, that of these 12 characters, only 2 of them are white and male, neither of them are young, and neither of them are the focus characters for the game.  Can you even find them in there?  Harder then it looks!  This is a game that looks like no other game we’ve ever seen and that is nothing but good.

Overwatch does something else right too.  They believe in their heroes.  Sure Titanfall and Destiny talk about heroes in their games.  But Titanfall is about war, and while Destiny calls out for heroes directly, it does so in a post-apocalyptic society.  The back story for Overwatch is much better in this regard.  A world saved by heroes, still out there, still fighting the good fight.  It’s already a much more hopeful, enthusiastic and happy world.  They have museums.  They have children.  They have happy children!  These are things that matter. There’s a reason that Star Trek has endured since the 60’s.  It’s because it has, at it’s heart, a very optimistic vision of humanity and it’s future.  In Overwatch, the heroes are all about aspiring to do great things because great things are worth doing.  Freedom, justice, peace, and all those lofty goals that too many today think are corny or naive.  Darkness exists but it doesn’t rule.  The world wants more than that and the people in it want to be more then that too.

And that’s why Overwatch is a spiritual successor to City of Heroes.  Even though I’m 100% positive that Blizzard had no intention of being one.  These archetypes we see in the game and aspirations we strive for are universally human.  With so much bad news, seemingly everywhere you turn, it’s not wrong to want and hope for something better.  Overwatch gives us a view of a world that could be better then the one we have now, and people in it who do good things, because doing good IS GOOD!  And I can’t wait to be good again.

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One Response to Overwatch Is a Spirtual Successor to City of Heroes

  1. LockOn says:

    It has since been pointed out to me that defense is an entirely relevant and rational role to play in an FPS. This is the kind of situation where chokepoints become a thing to control and having a character that can lay down suppressive fire or drop a turret at them can be vital to winning a match. It’s what I get for coming in with no real FPS experience. Something I will have to work on very soon.

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