Today at BlizzCon in Anaheim, California, Jeff Kaplan introduced Blizzard’s next game. It’s a new IP, completely divorced from Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo. It’s been 17 years since they’ve opened the doors to a new universe. First they showed a 6-minute cinematic trailer, which is below.
Aesthetically, it’s not a radical departure from Warcraft‘s now-established style. It’s a natural progression. Clearly hand-painted. Bright, vivid colors. Accentuated character design. Everything about it is gorgeous.
In motion, the trailer is even better. Blizzard’s cinematic department just did a great job. It tells so much about this new game world. The way the little kid gets giddy when talking about the various heroes. He’s so enthused about the battles. There’s history in this world, behind each hero, each artifact at the exhibit. And then he starts talking about who his favorite hero is, deciding that Tracer is the best with her catchphrase, “Cheers, love, cavalry’s here!” Pew pew pew! And the older brother is just having none of it because as he says, “all that’s just in the holovids,” with the implication that everything his little brother likes is fake. He just doesn’t care about anything in the museum.
But then Widowmaker and Winston come crashing through the ceiling! Then Reaper and Tracer show up and it’s just a brawl. And their character designs! Reaper and Widowmaker are obvious villains with their darker color palette, and Tracer and Winston are obviously heroes on the same team with their lighter color palette. Oh, the character designs. Reaper looks positively menacing with his hood and skull mask. He’s definitely a villain. Winston, the big ape, seems like a gentle giant the way he pushes his glasses back onto his face. And Widowmaker! Her narrow face and smaller eyes is such a departure from the boys and Tracer, you can’t help but assume that she’s a cold and calculating femme fatale. And then there’s Tracer, adorable with her big eyes and huge smile. Everything about her, from her spiky hair to her clothing just conveys “FAST”.
And then as the fight goes on, Reaper starts to death blossom and Tracer runs out of energy and takes cover behind a display. Winston goes down and the battle starts looking grim. But she’s hiding behind the same display as the boys and she says, “don’t worry, loves, cavalry’s here!”
The kid’s eyes light up. The cynical older brother gets a look in his eye like he’s starting to believe in heroes again. It’s just a beautiful little moment. And like that cynical older brother, it ignited a spark in me that I thought had died so long ago.
This trailer is magnificent. I’m genuinely excited to hear about this game. And then they showed a gameplay trailer. I couldn’t even.
The first characters they showcase: Tracer, Symmetra, Pharah. In just ninety seconds, Blizzard tells you right away: we have female heroes, and they’re pretty badass. And that’s just three of twelve characters!
Going beyond that, the animation. Again, Tracer. She blows a lock of hair out of her eyes. It’s a silly little animation, but it’s still great. It had all the motion and character you’d expect of a big animation powerhouse like Pixar. It’s a little touch. And the more I looked at the trailer, the more I saw some spectacular animations, from Hanzo climbing walls to Bastion taking position as a turret. The animation isn’t just functional; the animations have character.
Tied heavily to animation is visual effects. If you’re not aware, visual effects (or vfx) includes things like trails following weapon swings, particle effects, and laser beams. And the vfx for Overwatch just looks great. From what I’ve seen, the vfx have all the same great animation and the same gorgeous hand-painted aesthetic you’d see in the characters.
The game just looks great, from top to bottom.
But there’s more to this game. It’s not just a deathmatch. In fact, there’s no deathmatch mode. It’s an objective-based game with teams of six. Payload is like Team Fortress 2‘s Payload, where you move an objective across the map to score. Capture Point is the typical gamemode where teams fight to control specific zones on the map to earn points. Simply, the game sounds like it’s going to play like TF2. But there’s more than that.
Each character has three abilities. Tracer, for example, has Blink (bound to Shift), which lets her teleport ten meters in whichever direction she’s moving; she has Recall (bound to E) that lets her teleport back to where she was three-seconds ago (and sets her health back to what it was then, too); and then she also has the Pulse Bomb—her ultimate ability—that is basically a super-devastating sticky bomb. But there’s still more than that.
There are four Hero roles. There are the Offense heroes (like Tracer and Reaper) that scout the map, harass enemies, and press the objective. There are Defense heroes (like Widowmaker and Torbjörn, the dwarf-like character) who are basically campers. There are Tanks (like Reinhardt and Winston) who are damage sponges and protect their teammates. And then there are Support heroes (like Mercy the angel, and Zenyatta the robot monk) who can do things like heal, debuff, or build a teleporter.
It’s an interesting mix. Overwatch has the trappings of a first-person shooter a la TF2, but with the ability stylings of an action game similar to Dota 2 or League of Legends, but with the class roles similar to RPGs suchs as World of Warcraft. It’s this weird amalgam of several games, and it just looks so fresh as a result.
And I want to play it. I want to be at Blizzcon just to play this game. I want it to be 2015 so the beta can be going. I want to play this game. I’ve never been this excited about playing a game since 2007. I want to do nothing but talk about it while I wait. That’s how excited I am. So you can expect to read more about Overwatch soon.