Considering that three of my last six GOTYs have been Final Fantasy games, regular readers may be surprised to find that I haven’t chosen FFXV as my 2016 winner. Although I love what I’ve played so far, I simply haven’t seen enough of it yet to be able to legitimately name it as the best game of the year. Therefore, I’ve decided to choose the fantastic Overwatch: Origins Edition instead.
Not only is Overwatch one of my most played games this year, but it is also almost certainly my most played online multiplayer game of all time. Historically, I’ve always been more of a fan of single player games, but there’s something about Blizzard’s FPS that keep me coming back. Maybe it’s the cast of colourful characters; or the stylised cartoony visuals; or the tightly balanced gameplay (well, apart from Genji, that overpowered ninja idiot); or maybe it’s all of the above.
Like Bloodborne – my GOTY of 2015 – Overwatch wasn’t really on my radar until it actually released, and its glowing reviews caught my attention. Looking back, it was a little risky to buy it, considering my usual aversion for online multiplayer games, but having enjoyed other recent Blizzard games like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, I felt I was in good hands.
I entered my first match with some trepidation; mainly because it meant I had to choose who to play as out of the then 21-character roster. I eventually landed on Tracer, who seemed like the most obvious choice, as she appears on the game’s cover. It didn’t take long for me to realise that Overwatch isn’t your typical FPS, with a flow of movement I’d never seen in an online multiplayer game before; it’s still impressive to me that the framerate can keep up with Tracer’s Blink ability!
Even now, Tracer remains my favourite character, although I don’t play as her as much as I did in the early days, mainly because I discovered other heroes like the defensive Bastion, archer Hanzo, grenadier Junkrat, shotgunner Roadhog and assault rifle-wielding Soldier: 76; the latter of which is now my most played character, by quite some margin (to the extent that I’ve been known to get pretty angry if any of my teammates pick him before I can – I’m looking at you, Sam!).
It’s this rich diversity of playable characters which is what I really love about Overwatch, and what keeps me coming back time and again. If you’re having a tough time with a particular hero, all you have to do is switch to someone else and it feels like a completely different game. There are now 23 different characters, and I’ve still only played as half of them to any great extent.
Overwatch’s various modes also keep the game staying fresh; as well as standard 6v6 matches in Quick and Competitive Play, there is also 1v1 Duel, 3v3 Elimination and Mystery Heroes (which, as the name suggests, randomly selects a character for you – needless to say, I’m terrible at it). The game’s seasonal events are also a highlight, such as the football-themed Lúcioball over the summer, or the game’s first PvE mode in Junkenstein’s Revenge at Halloween.
Another extremely impressive thing about Overwatch is just how much lore Blizzard have packed into the game, considering that there is no story mode to speak of whatsoever. Instead, much of the narrative is presented through incidental dialogue between characters, or in the small details scattered throughout the game’s (currently) 14 maps. Then of course there are the animated shorts, which not only flesh out the game’s backstory, but are also brilliantly produced.
It’s turning into a bit of a cliché considering how often I say things like this, but if you told me at the start of the year that my favourite game of 2016 would be an online multiplayer title, I would have said you were crazy. However, thanks to its inventive design and incredible gameplay, I wouldn’t be surprised if Overwatch: Origins Edition remains one of my most played games well into 2017.