If you’ve been on Tumblr, Twitter or Reddit for the past two years, you’ve definitely heard of Overwatch at least once. The character designs are cool, and the lore is interesting, but underneath all of the hype and fan support lies an extremely solid hero shooter that is definitely worth sinking some time into. There’s a lot going on that might make you think it’s too late to get on board: events? new heroes? reworks? Torbjorn?! Don’t worry—Overwatch is super accessible.
The best time to give the game a shot is during one of the free weekends. The next one will be on May 25 through May 28 on all platforms — Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Your account isn’t locked to the free weekend; when you buy the game, you get to keep everything you’ve unlocked. Here’s how it works:
When you open Overwatch, you have access to all of the core content of the game. You can purchase cosmetic skins, sprays, and emotes, but all maps, heroes, game modes and arcade events are free. The only thing you can’t enter right away is competitive mode, because you’ve got to learn the basics of the game first. The best place to start is the tutorial which will get you acquainted with most of the game’s core concepts.
There are twenty eight heroes, and the best way to learn which ones are right for you is to jump around and try a bunch of them. Support heroes defend their allies and heal, damage healers dish out offensive abilities to eliminate priority targets, and tanks are beefy characters who support their allies.
A team should generally have a mix of characters—six offense won’t do very well. There will be little notifications in the character select screen that suggest what to do. You can also play against bots if you want to practice in a low-pressure environment and still pick up the game.
Once you’ve selected your hero and jumped into Quick Play, you’ll find yourself doing one of the following:
Assault: There’s a section of the map you want. Your enemies are on it. You need to clear them off and stay on the point long enough to fill up the progress meter. Assault maps require the Offense to take Points A and B, while the Defense want to hold them back.
Control: This is a King of the Hill style scenario. Like Assault, you have an objective and you want to stay on it to fill the bar up. Unlike Assault, both teams are trying to capture the area at the same time. Control maps are best two out of three, so losing one round doesn’t mean you’re out of the match.
Escort: There’s a payload that needs to make it to the end of the map. If the Attacking team escort the payload all the way to the finish line, they win. If the Defense stop them from achieving that goal, they win.
Assault/Escort: Some maps ask you to take Point A, and then escort a payload. You have to achieve both goals in order to win on Offense.
If you want to try a hero out without worrying about the rest of your team, try Deathmatch mode. Arena maps are based around eliminations, not objectives, and you can play solo Deathmatch to try a hero out in a 8 man free for all. It’s a fun way to learn a hero without worrying about who’s picked what on your team.
If you have friends who have mentioned Junkenstein, Retribution, or Lucioball, you might be curious to try those game modes out. These seasonal events are only available during certain times during the year, or the Anniversary Event.
Once you’re ready to purchase the game, you can pick up one of the following:
The Standard Edition: This is just the game. You pick it up, you play it, you don’t get any extra bonus goodies but you’re not missing out on anything gameplay wise.
Game of the Year Edition: You get the game, ten loot boxes, five origin skins, and a bunch of stuff for other Blizzard games including Tracer in Heroes of the Storm, Mercy wings in Diablo, and a baby Winston pet in World of Warcraft.
The Legendary Edition: This is a brand new package that comes with fifteen skins, including Shrike Ana, the origins skins, and Mystery Man McCree.
Once you’re in Overwatch, you can start playing games, earning stars, and getting angry at Hanzo, just like the rest of us.