Overwatch‘s yearly anniversary event is back and better than ever. This time around, the game celebrates the 4th year since its release. We take a look back at the best changes to happen to Overwatch since then!
With Overwatch’s 4th anniversary coming up on May 24, we decided to look back on its origins to see just how far Blizzard’s first-person shooter has progressed over the years. Even today, the game continues to get updated on a regular basis, all, of course, free of charge. Blizzard is known for listening to feedback from their community and to promote an equal playing field for all players, regardless of skill level.
We’ve compiled a list of the biggest changes Overwatch has implemented in the past four years, excluding hero and map updates. These are, by far and wide, the best changes Blizzard has made to ensure their game remains polished and fun for both casual and competitive players. So, in no particular order, here they are!
Upon its release, players only had quick play to work with. Although it’s fun playing against others of all tiers, it lacked a certain element that only ranked matches possessed. Quick play was and continues to be seen as sort of a practice mode for trying out new characters or strategies. There was no sense of urgency or seriousness in quick play.
Competitive introduced a ranking system that was initially from 1-100 but changed to a 1-5000 ranking for a more accurate assessment of skill. It offered players a reason to win, aside from loot boxes and leveling up. Skill points were rewarded for winning but taken away for losing. It encouraged players to give every match their best effort in pursuit of victory or risk the humiliation of de-ranking.
While this also fueled the competitive drive players were searching for, it also birthed a toxic environment where teammates would lash out at each other.
Overwatch is currently in its 22nd season of competitive play, with each season lasting about three months long. Competitive leaderboards are now divided into four sections, support, damage, tank, and overall (a combination of the three roles). Korean player Evermore was the first person to achieve a perfect competitive rank of 5000.
Overwatch was quite a chaotic slugfest without a hero limit. Multiple characters of the same hero would run rampant on maps with no clear counter to choose from. It was played more so like an arcade game rather than a refined first-person-shooter. Hero limit, where only one hero could be played at a time for either side, gave Overwatch a more balanced approach to team play and strategy. No longer could multiples of the same hero be used to exploit matches during certain situations. This also encouraged players to level up other heroes or risk being a one-dimensional player with no flexibility.
The introduction of ult display allowed players on the same team to check on teammates’ ultimate progression. This was implemented so teams, in theory, could have information to better coordinate themselves in a fight.
Although it was added to promote more synergy among teams, it could also be used to determine how much impact players had in any given team fight. The higher your ult meter is, the higher your contributions were to that team fight. This made it much easier to combine ultimates and was even more useful for players who do not use voice chat.
Much like the hero limit, role lock was implemented to better preserve the integrity of the competitive play. It appeared as though the meta composition was constantly developed and overutilized for months on end. Role lock was used to ensure that there was no clear choice of characters that would outshine other compositions in every single scenario.
No longer would a well-balanced composition be up for the team to decide, competitive now forces all teams to choose two healers, damage dealers, and tanks. Although this change was rather recent, an outcry for the format to be reverted was heard from many players.
Perhaps the best quality of life change ever added to Overwatch. The match replay system allows players to visit their last 10 matches and watch every moment of it from beginning to end. The matches can be from any game mode, not just the traditional ones. Players can use this footage to pinpoint where things went wrong and where they could have been better. It allows players to actually develop their game awareness by watching their past matches retrospectively.
Not only can they see the matches from their point of view, but players could watch from the enemy team’s as well. And if you want to see a better angle, match replay offers third person and free cam to better suit your visual needs. Match replays are commonly used as a teaching tool to analyze gameplay, but it also served as a method to expose cheaters.
Replays are now the go-to procedure to evaluate whether a player on either team was cheating. This can easily be used to detect cheaters who use aimbot or wallhacks. When watching the replay, if a player has jagged mouse movements or seemingly flicks to enemy head hitboxes consistently, that should raise the suspicion of aimbotting/aimlocking.
On the other hand, if a player preemptively tracks enemy movement through a wall (without Widowmaker’s Infra-sight), then that of course would be a clear indicator of a wallhack. The Overwatch replay system serves as a great way to learn from mistakes and to out any possible cheaters.
Arcade and workshops
Overwatch is not always about sweaty matches and giving your 110% all the time. It’s also about having fun and enjoying yourself. Overwatch has an arcade mode for those who want to let loose without worrying about the wins or losses. Arcade is about playing game modes that are vastly different from the ones seen in quick play or competitive. The most popular modes are mystery heroes, total mayhem, and free-for-all.
Arcade is also where you would find the seasonal game modes Blizzard adds temporarily. As of right now, the seasonal modes are Yeti Hunter and Snowball Deathmatch. Workshops were introduced to further advance the potential of custom matches. This time, the players themselves are given tools to create a match to their own discretion.
With the number of customization tools granted in workshops, the possibilities are virtually unlimited. Overwatch content creator PMAjellies even created a custom game where you and your friends can play the classic tabletop game, Connect Four. Workshops and arcade are a breath of fresh air and are absolutely perfect ways to pass competitive queue times or to get a break from competitive entirely.
Overwatch has succeeded where most games fail, and that is listening to the feedback of their players. Blizzard has evidently proven that their online forums are being read by the developers and that the opinions from the community are always being considered.
Overwatch has progressed significantly since its release, and although the game is the same mechanically speaking, it’s quality-of-life changes have improved tenfold. It’s continued popularity ahead of its 4th anniversary is a testament to the studio’s devoted staff, constant strive for improvement, and a healthy relationship with its players.