Friday, July 1, 2016

Overwatch review

Ever since the first teasers came out ages back, I've been looking forwards to Overwatch. My initial interest took a bit of a hit when I realised it was an online multiplayer only game as that's not normally my kind of thing, but the character designs and in-game abilities looked so cool that I was still interested. Plus the humorous and exciting animations did a good job of drawing you into the world, and I really wanted to know more about the characters even if I didn't end up playing much.

Well, I got the game as soon as I could and before I knew it I was hooked. Despite my self-proclaimed lack of interest in online-only multiplayer shooters, and despite my usual claims that I tend to loose interest in games rather quickly if the story isn't at least mildly interesting, and despite the fact that I've long considered Activision-Blizzard to be the most evil videogame company in the world - yes, even more than E.A. - this one has kept me playing it exclusively for a lot longer than I expected, and I'm not bored of it yet.

I think a big part of that is the massive roster of characters who all play so differently. You basically never get bored because as soon as the game starts to feel a touch repetitive, you simply swap to a different character and the experience changes dramatically. Most of the characters are well-designed and fun to play and can contribute in some way to your team. Team composition is important, so you can't always just pick whatever character you feel like playing as they may not mesh as well with the rest of your team, or might not fill a necessary hole, but I believe that's a small price to pay for the depth and variety that the system has.

I'm going to spend a lot of this review talking about those characters because, really, they are the heart and soul of this game, so it's hard to discuss any part without mentioning them. While they aren't always the most original designs, they are all very cool. Take for example McCree: he's a cowboy. That's pretty much it. But he's a really cool looking cowboy with some small but characterful touches, like his robotic arm and vanity belt buckle. Contrast this with something like Battleborn, where the character designs are all HIGHLY unique, but just not really all that cool or aesthetically pleasing; to be honest I prefer the Overwatch approach.

Besides, I'm not saying that the designs are all generic; most of them have some kind of unique touch or interesting take. Genji is a cyborg ninja with folding shuriken that pop out of his forearm, Reinhardt wears a particularly knightly suit of powered armour that bears a curious resemblance to a certain chess piece (the rook or "castle", quite fittingly), Zenyata is a levitating robot monk with floating rosary beads who manifests multiple ethereal arms, etc. I would like to take a moment mention my absolute favourite character design here: Pharah wears a very cool ancient-Egyptian-themed suit of power armour; her name is clever too as it looks and sounds like Pharoah but Farah is actually a common Arabic name - the primary language of modern Egypt.

Something that I found quite impressive is that, despite having a couple of dozen great character designs, each character actually has multiple skins, and many of those skins are significantly different while still being as good as or better than the defaults. Those skins, along with victory poses and other little aesthetic options, represent the rewards you earn for playing the game, unlocked randomly through "loot boxes" that you get as you play. That's kind of a potentially large topic that I don't really want to get too deep into, so I'll just say that the system does a pretty decent job of motivating you to keep playing, but it can be a bit frustrating and I for one have no intention of paying money for loot boxes with random contents. The most important thing I think is that they offer no gameplay advantage, which is a good thing.

Despite having multiple costumes, most characters have a sufficiently unique silhouette as to be easily and instantly recognized from a distance regardless of which costume they are wearing. Well, OK, I can't always tell at first if I'm looking at a Tracer or a dismounted D'Va, but for the most part characters are quickly and easily recognizable, which is important in a game like this where very different responses can be needed depending on the opponent you're facing.

I really would have liked a strong story to go with the cool characters, but sadly the game itself has very little in the way of storytelling going on - not surprising considering the format. Having said that, there have been a number of short animations released online, and I understand there's other media that fills out the world (I think I heard something about comic books), so I guess there is more story out there, but personally I would have liked for it to be in-game (if not actually revealed through play, then at least collected in a menu in the game itself); I'm not a big fan of having to go hunt online for this sort of thing. Put it in the game people! Additionally, there are small snippets of story hinted at in character dialogue and the game environments, such as small conversations between characters while you wait for the game to start that depend on the environment and selected characters - a very cool and characterful touch that fleshes out the world more than you might expect it to.

I've spoken about the gameplay being based on the character's different abilities working together in a team. This isn't something new; Team Fortress is probably the most famous example, and Overwatch clearly borrows heavily from the older game; the instantly recognizable character silhouettes, for example, is something that Team Fortress was known for. There's nothing wrong with that of course, and Overwatch arguably moves the genre forwards a great deal with it's significantly larger roster of characters and abilities - but bear in mind that I haven't played Team Fortress so I can't really compare the two games directly.

I can only say that I think Overwatch works very well. There are many different ways to play the game based on strategy and team composition. There's a certain paper-rock-scissors aspect to character selection, which makes teamwork doubly important and also means changing character mid-game can sometimes be a good strategy, potentially leading to a lot of back-and-forth as teams shift in order to try to counter each other and win the upper hand.

Unfortunately, in addition to imposing certain character selection requirements on you, this also means that jumping into the game alone can be very frustrating if your motley collection of complete strangers can't come together to work as a cohesive whole. I've heard it said that this game is best played with friends, and I can easily see why. Well, that just comes with the territory for any game where teamwork matters, so it shouldn't be taken as criticism; in fact the game does a decent job of encouraging you to at least form a balanced team by providing useful suggestions on the character selection screen.

In fact my only real core gameplay criticism is that the controls aren't as responsive as I would like. This is probably a good time to mention that I'm playing the game on the PS4, and that - while I'm actually OK with the PS4 controller, which I consider an improvement over that of the PS3 - I still prefer the XBox 360 controller. Obviously a mouse and keyboard trump both for first person shooters, which can affect some characters in this game more than others and could mean that the PC experience is quite different.

But as I'm playing on the PS4 I can only comment on this version, and this version is not as responsive as some other first person shooters that I have played on the 360. When I push the analogue stick to aim in Overwatch, there is a noticeable interval before my character starts to turn on-screen. At first this annoyed me immensely,  but after playing for a very short period of time I stopped noticing it. However, I still feel that it negatively affects my aim, and can make the game frustrating without it being obvious why when things get intense.

Compare this to Titanfall, which I find instantly responsive on the 360 despite being a similar online multiplayer shooter. While it might be naive of me to say this, I feel like if Titanfall managed it on much older and weaker hardware while also including dozens of A.I. bots in addition to the players in every game, then Overwatch doesn't really have an excuse. Although it's possible that the issue might have other causes, such as the PS4's analogue sticks (that I don't think are as good as the 360's); even if that were true it would not change the fact that the issue is there.

What's more, because I can't aim as precisely as I would like due to the slightly unresponsive controls, I've had to turn down the aiming sensitivity a fair bit to help me aim at fast moving character, but a side-effect of this is that it takes me longer to turn and face attackers to my sides or back, meaning I'm much more likely to just die the moment I'm flanked. While this isn't really a big problem on it's own, along with the slightly slow response and resulting difficulty aiming, it significantly exacerbates the REAL problem that Overwatch has: Turrets.

Here's the thing: I like this game a lot. That means I'm invested in it, which makes the frustration of turrets so, so much worse than if I didn't like the game at all. You see, I'll be playing an intense game or series of games, where both sides are giving it their all and there's a constant stream of amazing moments; the game is balanced on a knife's edge and could go either way right to the very end. If we win I experience a great deal of elation, but even if we lose then I've still had a great deal of fun and I can appreciate the skill that the other team showed.

So I'm riding high, having a great time and loving every minute playing a fantastic game, then suddenly I'm up against turrets and the game is no longer fun, it's just tremendously frustrating and I'm wondering what the hell happened and why the hell am I playing this stupid broken piece of crap game. It's infuriating, and that anger can stick with you for longer than you would expect. I'll save casual readers the whole rant for now, you can read it after the actual review, just know that I despise turrets and genuinely believe that they are downright bad for the game. They are, quite simply, not fun. However, it seems that Blizzard understands that there is a problem, at least on the console versions, so hopefully they will fix it eventually.

In conclusion, this is a great game with a few small issues and some balance problems that are to be expected and hopefully will be improved over time. Overall I give it a 9/10: if you like the gameplay of first person shooters you will most likely enjoy this game... if you have a good internet connection.


I figured it would be better to separate this part from the main review. I should probably apologize in advance, because this topic has caused me a great deal of frustration over the past few weeks, so I'm going to have to take this opportunity to rant a little. Well, a lot. But then, the clue's in the blog's name, right?

There's number of reasons why I don't like online-only games, but rather than talk about it right now, I'll just leave these here:

This kind of thing happens more often than I would like. By the way, if it looks like I'm doing weird things like trying to walk into a wall or repeatedly switching back and forth between Bastion's modes: that's the lag, somehow preventing the system from figuring out what I'm actually trying to do. Honestly, Overwatch on the PS4 seems to behave worse around lag than Destiny or Titanfall on the XBox 360.

Let's talk characters. First off, Mei... SCREW YOU, MEI! Mei is the only character who I consider to be genuinely overpowered. I'm not the only one who thinks so; I often hear her referred to online as "Satan". Tells you something about how much people hate her, right?

Let's get the easy bit out of the way first: why the hell does Mei have 250 health? Consider that Tracer and Widowmaker and even Zenyata - who is entirely made from metal - only have 150 health. I mean, Pharah is a battle-hardened military officer clad head-to-toe in a full suit of power armour, including a helmet, and she's only 200 health. Meanwhile Mei is a small scientist wearing a parka, and she has 250 health. It just makes no sense, and it's infuriating in-game; the number of times I've almost killed her only for her to suddenly turn invulnerable and heal right back up... Seriously, whoever it is who works in Blizzard that thinks cotton and wool are somehow stronger than metal and kevlar, please: go back to school. You moron.

Also, her offensive power is kind of crazy; I can only think of one or two characters who might be able to reliably take her in a close-range fight (I'm thinking Reaper and Roadhog), but unlike those two predominantly close-range characters she can work at long range too, and she has powerful control abilities as well. Plus I still think she'll probably still win if she gets the drop on them because she shuts people down so fast with her freeze spray.

Compare her to Soldier 76. He's a highly decorated and experienced veteran soldier armed with a massive assault rifle with built-in rocket launcher, while she's a small scientist armed with an ice-cream maker; you would expect him to be the better damage dealer, yet in a close-up match she is almost guaranteed to win. As soon as she starts waving her magic wand in his general direction he completely loses the ability to aim and then, a second later, the ability to do anything at all, and she will easily kill him before he breaks out. Plus she has more health than him for some reason. And while they can both heal themselves, doing so leaves him vulnerable for a moment and he can still take damage, while she becomes completely invulnerable while healing (I think maybe Reinhardt's charge can get her, but that's the only thing I know of). What's more, she's actually arguably better than him at long range too; he has to fire very slowly to maintain long-range accuracy, significantly reducing the speed at which he does damage, but her ice-spike doesn't have that problem. I might even argue that her ultra is probably better than his as it can shut down an entire team and leave them all vulnerable while his doesn't do as much against tank characters and is more easily shut down or avoided. The only place that he's actually better than her is at medium range, and it's usually not to hard for her to avoid that kind of confrontation - at worst she can throw up a wall to buy her time to close or escape, but if you run into Mei in close range, you have a lot less options for trying to force an advantage before she freezes you solid then kills you.

The problem isn't just that she's powerful, it's also that she's incredibly annoying to play against because she interferes with your movement and aiming. For a long time my philosophy has been that you need to be really careful about taking control away from the player; I'm not saying that you should never do it, but it's a technique that should be used sparingly and only when it serves a very good purpose. Consider the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. There were a couple of sequences where it limited player control, which it did to very good effect in that it increased the impact of those scenes on the player. But after that, every single modern-style fps game (including the Modern Warfare sequels) aped it without really understanding what they were doing, and took control away from the player at every single opportunity they could find. This quickly became a meaningless annoyance that broke the player's immersion rather than enhancing it, and is one of the biggest issues I've had with shooters over the past few years.

And almost every one of Mei's abilities interfere with your control over your character. Her normal attack freezes you, her ultra freezes you, and she can suddenly bring you to a complete stop with a surprise wall. Plus her healing ability suddenly stops you from doing damage; not the same thing but kind of in the same ballpark, especially since if you ignore her and move away you run the real risk of getting killed from behind, so often your best choice is to sit and wait for her to emerge from the ice again, indirectly limiting your movement. This is not a "once or twice in the whole game" thing; these are all abilities she can use all the time, and it's infuriating.

So yes, she's annoying and I hate the philosophy behind her design. I would like if Blizzard reduced her health to 200 and did something about her instant-freeze primary weapon; I don't mind it as much for her ultra, but that primary weapon is insane. Personally I would suggest buffing her secondary fire mode and turning it into her primary, then just dropping the stupid freeze spray thing, but I doubt that will happen. By the way, how the hell does encasing herself in ice heal her? I mean, she's not immune to cold; if she was she wouldn't need that parka, and other Mei's ice guns still hurt her, so clearly being encased in ice should not be beneficial to her health!

I would like to take a moment to mention Junkrat. I would call him the coward character because every single ability he has allows you to damage enemies while being out of their line of sight. However I'm not saying he's unbalanced or easy to play: I actually think it takes a lot of skill to play him well. So while he can be annoying, I don't think there's anything wrong with him and I think he does add to the game.

By the way, I've heard complaints about Bastion, but I don't think he's OP on the the consoles at least. Perhaps on PC where it's faster to aim, but on consoles it's not so bad. He has high damage output but does have limits (unlike turrets can be flanked and he's vulnerable while reloading, for example). I don't have a problem with bastion and I think he's a nice design.

Tracer scares the hell out of me, I can't deal with her with anyone except maybe Winston; I normally just run and/or pray when I see her (or get desperate and chase her to try to kill her as quickly as possible to reduce the number of jumps she can use). But I believe she takes a lot of skill to play well and I don't really think she's unbalanced either.

Winston seems a bit underpowered to me. Once  when I was playing as Winston I was trying to kill someone who had one of Zenyata's healing orbs on them, and as far as I could tell that little orb was healing him as fast as I was damaging him, making me helpless against him. That doesn't feel right, especially considering that having the orb out was not preventing Zenyata from debuffing and attacking normally. Of course there are some situations where Winston works well, so he has his place, I just feel like he needs a bit of a buff somehow. Maybe a bit more health or damage output?

Mercy feels almost superfluous sometimes: Zenyata can similarly heal and increase your team's offensive power without needing to put himself in as much danger or sacrifice his own offense, and Lucio passively heals the whole team (well, as long as they are close enough) without any effort on his own part, allowing him to focus on attack. Meanwhile if you pick Mercy you probably won't do anything all game but hide or run around like crazy putting yourself at risk to try to heal everyone who needs it. She's effective, don't get me wrong, but other characters seem to do the same job a little more easily. Still, her alt is fantastic, so that's something.

I hate the temple of Anubis; that first archway you have to get through on the attack is a killer. If an enemy team takes a couple of Bastions and a Reinhardt to protect them, good luck getting anywhere without a fantastic and highly coordinated team. Honestly just a horrible map to have to go on the offensive on.

As mentioned in the review, the real problem this game has is turrets. I realise that in a competitive game anything that keeps killing you can feel frustrating even if it is in fact balanced, and I've already spoken about  how several character who can be frustrating to play against are still balanced and have their place, but I genuinely believe that turrets actually break the game. You might say that that's just my opinion, but please hear me out.
First of all, let's talk about how turrets work. They almost instantaneous lock-on to an enemy character, then they simply shoot them continuously with 100% accuracy. There's no way to dodge; they never miss so long as you're in their line of sight and in range. They have 360 degree vision, so you can't flank them either. They also ignore some ultras for some reason: Hanzo's dragons don't hurt them, Soldier's auto-aim doesn't lock onto them, etc.

There's two types of turrets: Torbjorn puts down one big turret that has a lot of health and a pretty long range. Torbjorn can repair it, and his ultra makes it much tougher and fire much faster (and I think might instantly repair it? Not sure). As far as I can tell it can kill most characters faster than they can kill it if facing off across an open space (obviously there are exceptions).

Symmetra meanwhile has these tiny sentry turrets that she can put on most any surface. I believe she can have up to six out at any one time. They have short range and are destroyed by just about any damage at all. However, once they start shooting at you they reduce your movement and turning speed, and the effect stacks. Plus they are pretty much always going to attack you from your blind spot. This means they almost always start to damage you before you see them, and if there's three or more you'll be taking damage very quickly; since you're slowed down you can't run away easily, and since it's messing with your turning speed it becomes very hard to turn and aim at the tiny things, meaning even if you manage to destroy them you'll take a lot of damage while doing so. If you get hit by a full six of the damned things, you'll probably die before you can really do anything.

If after reading all that you're thinking that turrets might be a source of some frustration, then you'd be right. Turrets are simply annoying in a number of ways:
  • They have instant lock-on, perfect aim, etc; all the things that humans don't have and struggle with in a videogame, they just do automatically. It's a slap in the face, it really is. It makes you wonder why Overwatch needs this cast of zany characters when a bunch of turrets on a remote controlled car would do the job much better most of the time. In other words, it basically destroys your immersion and invalidates your involvement in the game. It destroys the illusion.
  • Turrets usually win a one-on-one battle unless you know where they are ahead of time, because by the time you've realised that they are there, spun to face them, and performed the fine aim needed to target them, you're probably almost dead already if not actually dead.
  • If you know where a Torbjorn turret or Symmetra nest is (probably because it's already killed you once or more) then it still takes a lot of work to kill it one-on-one with most heroes and will still take a bunch of your health, but you're almost never going to be going one-on-one against a turret. Torbjorn or Symmetra will often be there, and that seriously tips the odds in their favour against most characters because it's a two-on-one fight against you.
  • And while two-on-one fights against turrets are fairly common, what's more common is trying to clear out a zone being defended by their entire team, in which case even if you have your entire team, the enemy still outnumbers you, because Turrets are basically extra players (really good ones too).
  • In any case, when trying to gun down a turret, unlike when attacking other players, you pretty much have to stand still to maximize your aim, or dodge very predictable in and out of cover to get to the same point each time for best aim (because a turret has perfect accuracy and ignores dodging you need to maximize your accuracy in order to compete); this leaves you highly vulnerable to other players taking you out while you're distracted by the turret. If you ignore the turret and try to deal with the other players, the turret kills you because dodging doesn't work against it. So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
  • After you've put all that effort into destroying a Torbjorn turret (or almost destroying it) and then died because you left yourself vulnerable to the rest of the enemy team while trying to deal with it, Torbjorn just fixes it or deploys it again a few seconds later. Symmetra nests aren't always as quick to put back up, but it's the same problem.
  • This might just be my slanted perception, but I get the impression that Torbjorn builds up his Ultra very quickly, between the turret auto-hitting anyone it sees and Torbjorn himself running around shooting, fixing, and tossing out armour. Also he can tell if his turret is taking damage even if he's some distance away, as he can see it's status icon through walls and stuff. So all too often when you go in and try to face down a turret, he'll suddenly trigger his ultra and the turret will start doing a lot more damage and become basically unkillable (plus you end up with an angry nigh-unkillable dwarf running around shooting you in the back at the same time). Also, and again I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the turret gets it's health topped up to full when he trigger the ultra as well, so any damage you've already done is just erased. Considering how hard turrets already are to deal with that can be very annoying, especially when it happens over and over.
  • Symmetra turrets screw up your movement and aiming, which is just annoying (especially the aiming) and leaves you highly vulnerable for other enemy players. I've talked already about how that's something you should do sparingly if at all in a game, and Symmetra turrets do it all the time; that's very, very frustrating, especially when you're trying to gun the stupid little turrets down and you can't do it because you can't aim anymore. It's basically the videogame equivalent of being repeatedly pinned to the ground and kicked in the sides by a pack of schoolyard bullies as a kid: painful, humiliating, and you can't really fight back no matter how hard you try.
  • Symmetra turrets are ALWAYS BEHIND YOU. Even if there's no-one else there it's annoying for that to happen over and over, but if there's enemies in front of you then what do you do? Turn your back on them and try to destroy the turrets, or ignore the turrets and hope you can get out of their range before they do too much damage? Either way, you're probably about to die. Let's not even talk about adding Junkrat beartraps into the mix.
  • They seriously screw up flanking and disrupting, which is what some characters are kind of designed to do. They also really hurt characters who depend on their speed and agility for survival. Perhaps the character who suffers most of all however is Pharah. Playing Pharah is highly depending on the environment and how enclosed it is; I at least find she only does well in some levels or areas of levels, so it can already be difficult to justify taking her. Unfortunately Torbjorn turrets simply murder her; the moment she takes to the skies she's basically signed her own death warrant if there's a Torbjorn turret around. And if you're playing an assault map, there's almost always going to be at least one Torbjorn turret. In other words, she can be very hard to use for assault. So now there's whole environments and whole game modes where she basically doesn't work. That hurts.
  • They ignore (some) ultras. Look, when you've charged up and released your super-ultra-final-attack-power, it's annoying that bloody turrets don't even notice.

No, the fact that turrets are annoying isn't of itself necessarily wrong; there's plenty of good characters who can be annoying in the hands of a good player: Mei, Junkrat, Tracer, any sniper, etc can all get you red in the face - though a turret is annoying all on it's own regardless of the Torbjorn or Symmetra player's skill. I'm not saying it should never be possible to get annoyed playing against an enemy. But turrets aren't just annoying: they basically just ignore the entire game itself. There are a number of elements that form the "gameplay" in Overwatch:
  • Reflexes: in a face-off, whoever reacts faster has an advantage. Turrets lock on automatically, requiring no reflexes on the part of the owning player.
  • Precision: in a face-off, whoever is more accurate - meaning they are able to get the cross-hairs on target more quickly, and keep them on target as the two players move around - has the advantage. Turrets have perfect accuracy, which is automatic and takes no skill on the part of the owning player.
  • Movemement: dodging around to ruin aim, using terrain to duck in and out of cover, playing games of cat-and-mouse with opposing players, is a big part of how most fights go. Turrets don't move, so the owning player doesn't need to worry about all that. Plus you can't dodge them, or fake them out, only try to use cover, so that part of the game doesn't exist for the attacker either.
  • Strategy: flanking the enemy and hitting them from where they don't expect is a big part of the game. Turrets have 360 degree vision and seem to lock on just as fast no matter how far they need to spin to do it, meaning they don't try to outmaneuver or flank and trying to flank them is mostly meaningless.
  • Teamwork: coordinating your movements and attacks with your teammates is a big part of being effective in Overwatch. Turrets don't coordinate with people; though teammates can support turrets in various ways, that still means that the turret owner needs to worry a lot less about how to best work with his teammates.
  • Timing: when you die in Overwatch you respawn some time later back in your base, meaning you lose time travelling back to join the action. Not only does this mean that you lose time before you can contribute to the fight again, it also means you often need to wait and coordinate large pushes with your team or risk a constantly imbalanced fight as just a few member of your team face the entirety of the enemy. Turrets can be almost instantly respawned wherever the owner wishes, taking all that out of the equation.

Those are all ways in which turrets and turret owners operate outside of the normal gameplay of Overwatch. To be fair the Torbjorn or Symmetra player might not be sitting around staring at the wall while the turrets do all the work; they will probably be doing something too. Of course that's kind of an issue too, as has been mentioned, because you're now facing two opponents instead of one. It's also worth noting that Symmetra has an auto-locking weapon (so she doesn't have to aim), that is so short-ranged that she really can't do very much until the opponent gets very close (meaning she really doesn't get involved in assaulting or flanking or anything), so there's a lot of normal gameplay that she simply isn't experiencing either, while Torbjorn often spends a lot his time repairing his turret, which is not exactly skilled gameplay.

Every match of Overwatch ends with a "play of the game"; a replay of the single most effective few seconds that any character on either team had for the entire game. Depressingly often, this replay is just a view of Torbjorn repairing his turret or staring at a wall while his turret racks up a bunch of kills. Think about that for a moment, really think about it: the most effective action that anyone took in the entire game is very often just staring at a wall while the computer plays the game for him! That's not OK, right? There's no denying that that's a problem, right?

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider for example these amazing displays of skill:

So far I've talked about how turrets are always very annoying and how turret characters ignore the gameplay, which I consider a big problem, but originally I said that turrets were actually broken. In some ways this is more subjective, but the way I see it there's a number of things they do that aren't just overpowered or annoying, but they fundamentally break the rules of the game as they apply to most other characters:
  • Turrets have 360 degree vision. I'm not sure what the actual viewing angle is for regular players, but let's just say it's 90 degrees. So players can be blindsided from the sides or back, but turrets cannot.
  • Turrets have instant response times. Their lock-on times are extremely fast, but once they are locked on they move in the same rendered frame that you move (at least as far as I can tell): they have 100% accuracy from that point on. That's something that humans cannot do because even if we had perfect reflexes, we can still only react after we've seen the rendered frame. Obviously we don't have perfect reflexes, and as previously mentioned the controls aren't even perfectly responsive, so it takes us a while to adjust to what happens in game.
  • Turrets have perfect aim. On consoles, no matter how fast you are it takes time to maneuver your crosshairs over your target because of the limitations of the control system. Turrets do not have that problem.
  • Turrets can track at any speed. When a player tries to turn to confront an enemy behind him or track a fast-moving opponent at close range, they are limited by the sensitivity of their control scheme; as mentioned above more sensitive controls means faster turns but lower accuracy and longer aiming times. Turrets have perfect accuracy and very fast aiming times, but without the disadvantage of long turning times; in fact they turn at amazing speeds.
  • There are meant to be six characters on each team, for a fair fight. Turrets change those odds: they are typically as dangerous and hard to kill as a human opponent (if not more so), while not counting as a player, meaning you're effectively facing seven or more opponents rather than six. It might be argued that the turret owner is not very effective, but in fact Torbjorn and Symmetra are decent combatants; not as powerful as some front-line fighters, but not weak either. Symmetra can reliably kill many fast characters who are normally hard to kill thanks to her auto-lock weapon; in fact I'm terrified of her when playing as Reinhardt as she can stay out of my melee range while ignoring my shield. She's also probably one of the best characters to take on Lucio as he can be very hard to hit for most people. Also her teleporter is game-changing, actively tipping the balance of the attrition situation. Torbjorn has good close-range and long-range fire modes, good health (and he can buff his own armour), and is a little harder to hit thanks to his small size. Plus his ultra is pretty decent. Both characters can also support their team by giving them armour buffs.
  • Turrets ignore a number of ultras. Why? I don't know, it doesn't really make sense "fluff-wise". For example, Soldier's aiming visor doesn't lock onto them. That can actually be incredibly frustrating, since it means he actually can't hit a turret while his ultra is on and there's any other enemies nearby, while the turrent can often be the more dangerous threat that needs to be neutralized first. And think about that for a moment: Soldier's aim-bot (which is an ultra, and ultras are supposed to be powerful game-changing abilities that take a long time to charge and only last for a few seconds) can't lock onto Torbjorn's aim-bot, but Torbjorn's aim-bot (which is available all game and lasts until something kills it, at which point it's instantly available again) can lock onto Soldier.

These may sound like similar points that I'd already made, but before I was talking about ignoring gameplay, here I'm talking about things that turrets do which normal players actually can't do. Ignoring gameplay is counter-intuitive since you're diminishing the depth and richness of the game, but breaking the game rules is even worse because it feels unfair. The discussion of whether games should be fair or not is probably a big one with lots of special cases, but in an online multiplayer game when it's being unfair on behalf of one player and penalizing another, I think things are a little more cut-and-dried. And yes, a lot of things can feel unfair in any game, including this one, but I believe I've made some pretty good points for why turrets are objectively unfair in this case.

And while it might be super-salty overkill, I'd like to illustrate my point with an analogy. Imagine you are playing in a football tournament, which you are quite invested in. You play against a great team; it's a hard-fought game full of great sportsmanship that both sides enjoy and feel proud of. Then the next team comes up, and for some bizarre reason there's 22 players walking onto the field rather than 11. Then the game starts and a player runs up and kicks you between the legs as hard as he can, when you fall over in pain the ref comes over and gives you a card for "faking it" and gives the other team the ball. Turns out this team is made up of the children of the tournament organizers, the tournament rules have been written in bizarre ways to favour them, while the ref has basically been paid off and always rules in their favour, no matter what. Every time you get near their goal, the ref calls a foul and gives them the ball, you touch them and it's a penalty. They just push, shove, punch and kick your team without a care. Is this fun for you?

To give a more reasonable comparison, imagine you start a game of Overwatch. You have six players, the other team has six players. Then suddenly six more people join the other team. These six players have aimbots active all the time so they never miss, you can't flank them, they ignore your ultras (but you don't ignore theirs), and if you kill them they respawn nearby almost instantly rather than respawning later somewhere far away and having to waste time traveling to where the action is. Also they can teleport around the map as long as a member of their friendly team is there. Does this sound fair?

Yes, it's an exaggerated example, in fact in a real game six Torbjorns is probably not actually as good as, say, three Torbjorns and some support. Athough, as you might have noticed in one of the videos I posted above, I was in a game against four Torbjorns, a Symmetra, and a Junkrat. That's five turret users and a guy who throws beartraps that locks you in place making you easy prey for the turrets. Also a teleporter so if you actually do manage to kill a Torbjorn somehow, it doesn't take them long to get back to the point. That was a very frustrating game in which we lost badly and which left a bad taste in my mouth.

But anyway, the reason why I'm exaggerating is to better illustrate the point: When you're up against a turret, you're not playing against another player, you're playing against the computer itself, which has sided with the other player against you. The computer is supposed to be the impartial medium in which we play against each other, but when one player picks Torbjorn or Symmetra that very medium becomes your enemy.

Which is very screwed up. Basically, PLAYING AGAINST TURRETS DOESN'T FEEL FAIR. When I'm killed by a turret, it feels like I was cheated. When I lose to a team that plays well, I can relax and admire their skill, telling myself I'll get better and I'll win the next one. When I lose to a bunch of turrets, I get so frustrated that I just wonder why the hell I'm wasting my time on this nonsense.

So why are turrets in this game if they are so bad for the game? I have a few theories. One is that there are turrets in Team Fortress (not a very good reason to my mind). Another is that they aren't as big a problem on the PC thanks to the superior aiming abilities of the mouse and keyboard, they simply haven't been balanced properly on consoles (although I'm not sold on that to be honest). But perhaps the strongest argument for their inclusion is that some game modes might favor the attackers.

There are a couple of game modes where defenders have to defend a point. No matter how many times the defenders wipe out the attacking team, the attackers only really need to clear off the defenders once to win the game (at least in the later stages). This seems to favor the attackers. Which is why there are specific defensive characters who seem to have been balanced in such a way that they are very powerful, but primarily when defending a static location. Clearly that includes the immobile turrets, but also Junkrat's traps (and his grenades, which are great when you have to come towards him but not as much when he has to come towards you) and Bastion's super high damage output in his immobile form.

So that would explain why turrets are quite powerful, and in that context even their immunity to offensive ultras makes sense, since an offensive ultra can completely clear out a whole team and give you the point, handing you the win; at least having a turret there can potentially reduce the impact a little. Although having said all that, I have seen turrets used to some level of success in offense as well, though only rarely.

So yes, in that context the advantage turrets give defenders can make sense, but I believe that the execution is flawed. It would have been possible to make turrets that give the defenders an advantage without feeling as unfair, mainly by reducing the ways in which they break the game:
  • Increase the lock time to something a bit more reasonable, like a human would need.
  • Reduce it's reaction times so it isn't completely locked on to a player, it has to try to chase and even lead them, just like a real human would.
  • Reduce it's maximum turn speed so that there is an advantage to trying to attack it from the side or alternating attacks from different sides.
  • Introduce an element of randomness (same as all games have been doing for all time to all their bots) so it doesn't perfectly lock-on as quickly or as consistently, just like a real human.
  • Reduce it's field of view to 180 degrees or less so that flanking does give you an advantage against it (but of course it will react to being shot in the back so it's not completely helpless), same as it would against a human.
  • Perhaps reduce it's immunity to ultras? Maybe not, I'm willing to concede this point for balance reasons.
  • Prevent Symmetra turrets from interfering with movement, or at the very least with aiming. Seriously, not letting me aim is just too much.
Now I've heard that a new patch is about to be released that will reduce the damage that Torbjorn turrets do by 30%. This shows that even Blizzard has had to admit that there is a problem with the current balance, but personally I don't think that a damage nerf is the right move, since it doesn't change the fact that turrets ignore basic game rules and gameplay elements. I honestly think the best thing they could have done was to reduce turret's aiming perfection: do that and they would feel more like just another player and less like the computer itself hates you and wants you to die. Still, it's a step in the right direction I suppose.

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