Bust out the cake and candles … er, candle, I guess. Just one candle.
Overwatch is celebrating its first anniversary, having come out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 24, 2016. The team-based shooter already has over 30 million players, an impressive number for a paid game in only one year. And Blizzard is celebrating with another seasonal event, giving players new play modes and limited-time cosmetics.
But this anniversary event is unusual for Overwatch. Past celebrations have had some kind of theme, such as holidays like Halloween. The last one, Uprising, wasn’t about a holiday, but it still focused on the Overwatch’s past as a peace-keeping group fighting evil robots. This event has no unifying theme. It’s simply a content dump, full of costumes and other new features with little relation to each other.
But does this matter? Overwatch players love these events because of the new stuff. Blizzard and its parent company, Activision Blizzard, love them because it gives those players a reason to spend money on loot boxes. So, even without a real theme, this event still gives Overwatch fans plenty of goodies. And the lack of a theme even has some advantages.
Without having to base all costumes on some kind of holiday, Blizzard able to unleash its creativity. The costumes in the anniversary event range go from clever to cool to completely wacky, and they’re all pretty great. Just look at that dapper, jazzy Lucio up there. Or you can peek at this gorgeous, Power Rangers-esque Genji.
And on the other side of the spectrum, we have a Thelma and Louise-style D.Va.
All of the new skins look great. This event has 11 new skins, which is average for an Overwatch seasonal event. But unlike in past promotions, all of the new costumes are Legendary rarity. Overwatch items come in different tiers: Common, Rare, Epic, and Legendary. Each loot box you earn or buy gives you four items. While most will be Common, one is guaranteed to be Rare or better.
In past events, half of the new costumes were Epics. Making them all Legendaries has some pros and cons. Legendary skins are typically cooler. They transform a character’s appearance, and they’ll sometimes even change a hero’s voice lines or weapon effects.
But they are also harder to come by. Since you can’t count on getting Epic costumes this time, you’ll need better luck to unlock all of the anniversary event’s skins.
Revamped Arcade modes
The Arcade is where you can play the more distinct Overwatch modes. In the past, this has included 3-vs.3 and 1-vs.-1 elimination matches. They were fun, but they also felt a bit half-baked. You could only play on one map if you wanted to try these modes, Ecopoint: Antartica. A lame overtime system also encouraged players to avoid enemy’s in an attempt to run out the timer and force a tie. This wasn’t very fun for the dead players who were spectating the game.
The anniversary event adds three new Arena maps. Many of them have similar looks to past levels, but they’re all completely new. Castillo is close to a main Overwatch map, the Mexican-themed Dorado. The Black Forest is outside of the German town Eichenwalde. Necropolis is another Egyptian-style level, similar to Anubis.
Having more map variety makes 3-vs.-3 and 1-vs.-1 games more enjoyable, but Blizzard also updated the rules for each. In three-vs.-three games, you need to win three rounds. But whenever you emerge victorious, you can’t use those same heroes again. This is a neat way to force players to use different characters throughout the game. In the 1-vs.-1 game, both players can only select a hero from the same limited pool of three characters. This makes players think hard about which of the three available heroes would have the best advantage.
Blizzard also changed how overtime works in these modes. Now, after a certain amount of time, an objective area will appear on the map. The first team to capture it wins. This eliminates annoying ties and helps games move faster.
While it’s obvious that the new maps are sticking around after the event (Blizzard wouldn’t make so many levels for an event that’s only available for a couple of weeks), it’s unclear if these new Arena modes will become a permanent Overwatch fixture. I hope they do, because they add a little more depth and excitement to these small-team offerings.
Does this event feel special?
The new content is great, but that lack of a theme does make me feel like something is missing. Maybe it would have been too generic to just give all of the characters party hats and emotes where they eat cake, but I wish I had a better sense from this event that Overwatch was celebrating a birthday.
But the new costumes look so good that I can’t get too upset. It’s also nice to see the Arena modes get the improvements they needed. Maybe it’s a good thing for Blizzard to just focus on creativity and push out needed improvements without having to worry about putting Santa hats on everyone.