Blizzard’s ‘Overwatch’ changes the game

By: James Neyer ~Staff Writer~

Photo courtesy of | Winston (pictured above as a baby) is a hyperintelligent gorilla and scientist with a penchant for close-range combat in “Overwatch.”

Blizzard Entertainment is known for creating large universes with rich histories, such as their “Warcraft,” “Starcraft” and “Diablo” franchises. For these series, the core of the story is depicted in game, with books and comics focusing on supplementary storytelling. Their new game, “Overwatch,” is challenging this paradigm by telling the story primarily through animated shorts released online.

So far, Blizzard has released two animated shorts, “Alive” and “Recall,” alongside a cinematic trailer and a theatrical teaser. Two more shorts, six digital comics and a graphic novel are scheduled to be released leading up to the “Overwatch” May 24 release.

These videos focus on four characters, their relationships with each other and Earth as a whole. The characters include the gorilla-scientist Winston, the shadowy mercenary Reaper, the time-jumping Tracer and the assassin Widowmaker. Blizzard is straying from its normal realistic animation style, instead featuring a brightly coloured animation, which has been deemed “Pixarlike” in quality.

“Overwatch” is a multiplayer first-person designed for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Instead of focusing on different sets of weapons and gear, “Overwatch” features playable heroes who serve one of four roles in unique ways. The 21 heroes in the game can be combined into a multitude of teams with no restrictions, allowing characters with drastically different viewpoints to play together even if the characters are supposed to despise one another.

Separating the gameplay and storytelling in this way will allow Blizzard to sidestep one of the largest complaints about multiplayer games: lack of storytelling. Similar games have faced harsh criticism for their lackluster storytelling, with some like “Titanfall” forcing in a campaign which fell rather short.

In addition, Blizzard is able to keep the story from being affected by the gameplay.

Other franchises impair Blizzard’s storytelling capabilities, as certain functions of the game limit what stories can be told.

While the videos released so far have only focused on a handful of characters, sneak peeks of later developments show that “Overwatch’s” other characters will soon have their time in the spotlight.

Though “Overwatch” itself is well-reviewed, its lore is anticipated as much as its gameplay, showing that this separation seems to be working.