The e-sports boom, with millions of fans watching the world’s finest video gamers compete, has taken many longtime industry observers (including me) by surprise. And it has developers scrambling to create the next big e-sports phenomenon.
Blizzard Entertainment is an e-sports powerhouse, with the strategy game “StarCraft,” the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) “Heroes of the Storm” and even the card game “Hearthstone.” Blizzard’s new “Overwatch” (for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, $59.99) is its entry into the crowded first-person shooter genre, and it’s already making waves.
There’s some back story to “Overwatch,” but you’re free to ignore it. All you need to know is that there are two heavily armed six-person teams, and they’re mad at each other. You may be fighting to control certain points on a map, or escorting a payload from one end of a region to another. The missions aren’t as varied as some other popular online shooters like “Call of Duty,” but the simplicity makes “Overwatch” a bit more welcoming to newcomers.
What makes “Overwatch” stand out is the diversity of its warriors. Some are good at dealing out damage but not at taking it; others are the exact opposite. You can barrel your way into the firefight as the tanklike Roadhog, or hang back and heal your teammates as the angelic Mercy. The cast includes men, women, robots and a talking gorilla, each with a lively personality to match his or her distinctive talents.