Overwatch: cartoon for new IP

It’s 1998. Titanic has just scooped 11 Oscars, France have beaten Brazil 3-0 to win the World Cup in Paris, and Bill Clinton’s nose is longer than a GTA protagonist’s rap sheet. Oh, and Blizzard has released Starcraft, what will go on to be its last wholly new IP for 16 long years. Fast-forward to present day. As the company celebrates the 20-year anniversary of Warcraft, as well as a decade of its groundbreaking MMO spin-off turned genre powerhouse, the big B has also taken the opportunity to surprise a few people. Not only is that wait now over, but the duck has been broken in a genre the developer has never touched before. Get your game face on for Overwatch.

This colourful, team-based first-person shooter pits players against each other in the roles of interchangeable heroes and villains. It’s a six-versus-six take on Team Fortress 2, only with a cast of 12 which Blizzard says will grow larger with time. Each hero gets unique abilities, just like you’d expect in a MOBA such as League Of Legends. With Overwatch, however, Blizzard wants to enable all players, regardless of skill level, to get involved.
“Blizzard wants to enable all players, regardless of skill level, to get involved”
This is where the game’s classes come in. Fancy yourself a twitch-happy run-and gunner? Go for Offence. Want to pull your weight but not too hot with the trigger finger? Defence, with sniping or turret centric abilities, is where you’re needed. Perhaps you’re keen to offer a more cerebral approach for your team? With a Support character you’ll need to memorise the map to more adequately deploy healing or teleportation abilities. Meanwhile if out-and-out carnage or crowd control is more up your street, then there’s always the Tank class.

Roster roulette
Each of the 12 heroes revealed so far boasts specific skill sets, and the onus will be on switching between heroes mid-match in order to best contribute to your team’s success. Some early favourites include Brit pilot Phaser, who can rewind time by three seconds. With this ability she can jump into a room and dish out the hurt before zipping back to when her health bar was full and leap away to safety.

We also like the cut of Symmetra’s jib: she can place portals about a stage to help her team navigate. Ooh, ooh, and then there’s Winston, a giant ape with cyber armour who can enter a bullet-sponging berserker rage once he takes enough damage. Combinations of various characters’ abilities are the crux of the affair and require careful planning as well as stellar execution. Imagine sending Winston into the centre of a capture point via Symmetra’s teleport just as he’s about to descend into a rage attack. Devastating.

Over and out
If you’re learned in the ways of Blizzard you might very well be scratching your head now wondering where on earth this cropped up from. This, from the studio that took 11 years to put Diablo III together? We’ve already had the chance to go hands-on, and a beta, for which anyone can apply, is tied down for 2015. It turns out that Overwatch has risen from the ashes of Project Titan, the sci-fi MMO that Blizzard admirably chose to shut down when it realised it wasn’t going anywhere.

This isn't the first time something exciting has been born out of a different project. Devil May Cry began life as a Resident Evil title, for example, while Halo, synonymous with Xbox, was originally a real-time strategy on Mac. One game dies, another one lives. Fair trade.

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