Con­tent ex­pan­sions with a twist: The ge­nius be­hind the Over­watch events and their bound­less charm Matt New­stead Pub­lisher Bliz­zard En­ter­tain­ment / De­vel­oper Bliz­zard En­ter­tain­ment / for­mat xbox one / re­lease date May 2016

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - REVIEW -

If I had it my way, Over­watch spe­cial events would be the only oc­ca­sions that need mark­ing on the fam­ily cal­en­dar, but ap­par­ently ‘Mum’s Birth­day’ is just as im­por­tant. Un­like con­tent up­grades and DLC re­leases for sim­i­lar ti­tles, there is some­thing about the Over­watch events that send a wave of ex­cite­ment puls­ing through­out the com­mu­nity. It could be that th­ese sig­nal the re-emer­gence of game di­rec­tor Jeff Ka­plan for one of his elo­quent de­vel­oper up­dates, but I be­lieve it is the va­ri­ety within th­ese events that house a cen­tric func­tion in the stand­out suc­cess of Bliz­zard’s on­line shooter. It has been over a year now since

Over­watch first graced our screens, and its pop­u­lar­ity shows no signs of dwin­dling. A di­verse char­ac­ter ros­ter that of­fers some­thing for ev­ery­one and a cre­ative, en­gag­ing com­bat sys­tem has set a strong foun­da­tion for the Over­watch team to ex­pand on. Nat­u­rally, a string of con­tent ex­pan­sions was an­nounced on re­lease, but no one knew what th­ese were go­ing to be. New char­ac­ters? Of course. Map ad­di­tions? Sure. But that should come as ex­pected for any ti­tle which in­tends a mod­icum of longevity. The trick is en­sur­ing that th­ese events not only pro­vide a timely boost to keep play­ers keen, but make events the part that play­ers crave the most and that is where Bliz­zard hit the nail on the head.

Sum­mer lovin’

First off, we had the Sum­mer Games back in Au­gust 2016, bring­ing with it an ar­ray of Olympic­cen­tric sprays, emotes, and skins to fawn over. Key here, though, was the re­lease of Lú­cioball, Over­watch’s own take on Rocket League, but with the RC cars re­placed by clones of a Brazil­ian DJ. It was the first demon­stra­tion of a lim­ited-edi­tion event—a shame given the en­joy­ment me and my friends have gleaned from it, but a smart move from Bliz­zard. A sec­ond sea­son of the Sum­mer Games is just com­ing to an end. My­self and many oth­ers have dived into some com­pet­i­tive matches of Lú­cioball 2.0 be­fore it dis­ap­pears once again—hope­fully just for an­other few months. The Christ­mas Win­ter Won­der­land event had an­other lim­ited time of­fer­ing with Mei’s Snow­ball of­fen­sive, an adorable snow shooter.

Some later ad­di­tions are such a per­fect fit to the Over­watch Ar­cade li­brary that they have be­come semiper­ma­nent ro­ta­tions through­out the year. The most iconic of th­ese be­ing the ‘Cap­ture the Rooster’ mode from the Year of the Rooster event, which fol­lowed the clas­sic Cap­ture the Flag for­mat with a sprin­kling of Over­watch chaos thrown in for good mea­sure. While not overly im­pact­ing the game meta in com­pet­i­tive play, it gave play­ers the chance to bust out some of the lesser-in­volved yet equally sat­is­fy­ing de­fense char­ac­ters that weren’t par­tic­u­larly prom­i­nent at the time. A sim­i­lar re­sult came from the

Over­watch An­niver­sary event, with Lock­out mode be­ing added to the clas­sic 3v3 and Mys­tery Duel modes. This forced play­ers to get to grips with all char­ac­ters and, as well as of­fer­ing a new take on ex­ist­ing con­tent, demon­strated just some of the many small ways that the de­vel­op­ment team ro­tate the game meta to keep all char­ac­ters fresh in the long term.

Out of all that has been added since launch, how­ever, it is un­doubt­edly the PvE events that have been the stand­out hit. The Hal­loween Terror event still sticks out promi­nently thanks to Junken­stein’s Re­venge—a four-player Tower De­fense mode that tasked play­ers with de­fend­ing a cas­tle from waves of en­e­mies. Many at­tempts led to me and my squad scream­ing and laugh­ing our way through a chal­leng­ing new take on the stan­dard Over­watch playstyle, al­beit one which usu­ally cul­mi­nated in me never speak­ing to our Ana again be­cause she seemed more in­ter­ested in healing the wall. Just one event re­mains un­men­tioned and it was ar­guably the most am­bi­tious of all: The Up­ris­ing event. Rather than be­ing cen­tered around a real-world event, Bliz­zard went for an all-out PvE ex­pe­ri­ence which fur­ther ex­panded the lore of the game by reimag­in­ing one of the orig­i­nal Over­watch mis­sions dur­ing the Om­nic in­sur­gence in King’s Row. Here we also saw that Over­watch could of­fer a fan­tas­tic off­line story mode go­ing for­ward, with char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tion and a deep tac­ti­cal ele­ment to the game­play. Hint hint, Bliz­zard.

At this point in time, the game has nearly dou­bled in size, and play­ers haven’t had to pay a penny ex­tra. Of course, it is Over­watch’s en­ter­tain­ment fac­tor as an eS­port and gen­eral com­pet­i­tive na­ture that has seen it sky­rocket to suc­cess, but for me, th­ese events not only of­fer some­thing con­trary to the iconic Over­watch frame­work, they of­fer whole new pos­si­bil­i­ties for what the game can be­come in the fu­ture. n

“It’s un­doubt­edly the PvE events that have been the stand­out hit”

right Bliz­zard’s cos­tume de­sign team clearly have some fun with the sea­sonal skins.

ABOVE Imag­ine him com­ing down your chim­ney, shout­ing “ar­mor here!” and lob­bing metal at your napping Gran. Merry Christ­mas!

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