Long ago I considered myself a rather big fan of the monolith that is Blizzard, back when the Warcraft series existed without the “World of” and the company themselves had a reputation as crafters of great, well told, contained experiences within the then younger games medium. Today however I’ve drifted from the title of fan and often sit back with little more than a nod of appreciation and some nostalgia, for a company that still nails almost all their projects with clearly honed experience and knowledge in the craft, yet lacks a certain level of…audience individualisation? I’m not sure if what I just typed even makes sense, but point of the matter is that Blizzard once felt like a company that made these grand new experiences for their audience, and now seem content to just milk success as they rest on their laurels so to speak. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Blizzard have never exactly stopped making content brimming with that unique charisma and craftsmanship they had from the start, but it’s hard to look towards their talents when the name alone summons little more than images of cash cows and the not quite dead horse that is World of Warcraft.
Now I’m really not trying to sound cruel, I honestly have a lot more respect for the company than I sound like, but there’s been a certain something Blizzard lost along the way that I miss from the old days, and I think I’m beginning to realise what that is. Blizzard hasn’t really done anything “new” in a long time, and yes I know, they have been putting out games like Hearthstone, Diablo 3, StarCraft 2 and continue to work on various Warcraft projects, they even have a movie coming out, but it’s all really…just them working their franchises. I can hardly blame them, they’ve built an empire upon some truly great series that span even beyond the games industry, but again it’s all just hard to separate at this point. It’s a hard position for them to be in, and honestly it’s not even really fair to them that I feel this way, but the fact of the matter is, there comes a point when you can only enjoy the same kind of content for so long no matter how much you may well enjoy it. This is exactly why Blizzard did something perhaps long overdue. They made something new.
The shadow of Overwatch is slowly looming towards us, consuming everything in its path (sorry Battleborn), and I was originally interested, if somewhat indifferent to this coming apocalypse. It wasn’t until I played the beta that I remembered why I was a fan of blizzard all those years ago. They know what they’re doing, what they want, and they completely nail it. Overwatch is a colourful and surprisingly in-depth 1st person shooter not dissimilar to Valve’s Team Fortress 2. So much so that I personally see it as the new and better version of Valve’s own experience. I don’t say that lightly either, I played a lot of Valve’s well-crafted team based shooter for years, lapping up every new video and update in their surprisingly well made universe.
Overwatch delivers the same experience with Blizzards own touch, displaying a developed cast of characters all with their own fleshed out stories and backgrounds in a world no less detailed. Many people joke that none of this is needed in a shooter, and they’re right, it’s not. The fact that it’s there however, personally means volumes to my own experience as I love knowing Blizzard touched the world with their storytelling and lore. Something that made me a fan in the first place, and part of the reason why their existing franchises are still going strong today. Overwatch marks a great step for the company, because it means they’re still moving forward with ideas beyond their tried and true. I can’t actually say this with any knowledge, but it feels like the team was also happy to pour their ideas into something new for the first time in ages, given the unnecessary, but very welcome, scale of the world and everything in it.
Now I’m not trying to say that Overwatch on its own is the best thing for gaming since Steam, but the best thing for Blizzard as a company? Maybe. It’s long overdue for them to stretch out and try something different instead of falling back on what works. Many would even argue some of their properties could have used a little less attention than they’ve received the past few years. Regardless of whether or not Overwatch lives up to the hype I can honestly say this is the first shooter, especially an online multiplayer shooter, that’s actually made me excited in a long time, because it’s Blizzard, and they brought back some of their magic.