It’s happened, the first major update to the biggest game of the year so far – Overwatch – is live and popping. There’s a few tweaks and changes in there, but the headline feature of the release is what everyone is focussing on. Competitive mode is here.
What is Competitive mode?
Up to now, Overwatch has had 4 modes in which to play; in training against AI opponents, in custom made games, in brawls with varying rules and jumping straight in to play against others. Competitive mode adds a fifth way in which to engage in shooty awesomeness. It’s also likely the one that most people are going to be partaking in. Up until now it has been possible to check out your stats against others using Blizzard’s own tracking over at playoverwatch.com or by syncing your username with the excellent Overwatch Master tool. Competitive mode changes that and now stacks you up against other players based on your rank.
Previously, the player simply gained XP by playing matches, which allows you to level up. Now, playing against others will affect your ranking depending on whether you win or lose. Factors such as the average skill level of the other team versus your own will be taken into account when determining the gains or losses that you’ll see.
By its nature, competitive mode is a little more, er, competitive than the other modes. It has a more serious feel to it. For this reason, players will be prevented from playing in competitive mode until they have hit level 25, ensuring they should have a good understanding of maps, heroes and objectives. Additionally, when taking up competitive mode for the first time, players will be forced to complete 10 placement matches.
This is to ensure that your starting rank is somewhat representative of your skill level. If everyone were simply starting at the bottom, there would be plenty of players taking a pasting as they played against others who are far more advanced. Your rank is manifested as a number between 1 and 100 – exciting.
What else is new?
Blizzard have also introduced a seasons mechanic, which follows the actual seasons of the year. Each game season will last about 2.5 months with a couple of weeks off at the end. Scores are reset during this offseason and there will be a new set of placement matches when the new one commences. There will be a number of rewards available based on your rank in any given season. The best players will be able to win themselves golden weapons to really set themselves apart and prove their superiority to us mere mortals.
The match formats are also slightly different, with control matches being played as best of 5’s in place of the current best of 3 setup. Payloads games are played across 2 rounds and end as soon as you push the payload one checkpoint farther than the opposition. In the case of a tie, a sudden death push to the first checkpoint is enacted. Currently this favours whoever is selected as the attackers and Blizzard have promised improvements.
Having played a number of rounds in the new mechanic, early impressions are very positive. There’s definitely a more serious nature to the matches and people are clearly more keen to ensure team composition is correct, rather than picking 6 Genjis again for lols. The fact that Torbjorn has seen a hearty nerf to the power of his turret means the mix of defensive teams is also more interesting. The balance of teams is also interesting to see. When your team rank average – a number you get at the start of a match – is sat a good few points less you know you’re in for a rough ride. It makes the subsequent games far more tense and all the more rewarding – both mentally and materially – when you steal a win.
Blizzard have openly said that they’re looking to make refinements often and that they don’t expect the first couple of seasons to be perfect by any means. It will be interesting to see how competitive mode evolves.