These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.
It’s the age-old adage about Blizzard: they pick a pre-existing genre or game and then take those influences to create a game that has so much polish the disc gleams in the sunlight. For World of Warcraft, it was about recreating Everquest and the feelings evoked by massively multiplayer online games. For Hearthstone, it was about finding what made collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering so perennial. For Overwatch, it’s about reimagining class-based multiplayer shooters, borne from the ashes of Blizzard’s failed Project Titan.
Team Fortress 2, turning ten years old this upcoming October, has proven that this type of shooter has staying power. But Valve’s flagship games, Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, are rooted in the history of PC games’ past, from incredibly steep learning curves to having to manually choose your server host. Blizzard, despite also being one of the titans of PC gaming, chose instead to take a console-like approach to its multiplatform opus. From the matchmaking to the tutorials, Overwatch makes you feel welcome whether you have a mouse and keyboard on your desk or a controller on your hand.
It first prompts you to try out its tutorials, where you explore and try to get the feel of the game. After those, you venture out to try your first player match. At first, you may start with a purely offensive character that’s easier to understand, like Phara or Solider: 76. Then, you may try out Reinhardt because he looks cool and you’re curious how to play defense, or you switch to Lúcio because you need a healer and no one ever picks a healer. Ever.
Then, you see someone use a character in a completely new way, and it makes you rethink your entire play style. Only a game with such care and forethought allows for the constant remixing of gameplay and strategy. Games like Starcraft and Diablo have proven that this is where Blizzard excels.
Make no mistake, a skill curve still exists in Overwatch, made more steep by people dedicating most if not all of their gaming time to it these past seven months, but you can still see the top of the summit. You can see the handholds that lead to you upwards to conquer the mountain. Just like Rocket League last year and every cornerstone of competitive, skill-based play before it: from Halo 3 to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to Goldeneye 007 to Quake, losing doesn’t make you worse, it makes you better. Every person who you’ve ever lost to has also lost their fare share of matches in order to become better, and they became better because the game’s developers created a clear path. Polish doesn’t just mean refined mechanics and systems, it’s an ethos that permeates the entire product. From the dedicated character videos to the burgeoning competitive scene, Blizzard is constructing Overwatch to be a fun and exciting experience from when you first pick it up to well after you’ve put it down.