Overwatch had an interesting 2018, with three new hero releases, new maps, and two cinematics. In many ways, 2018 felt like it was a holding pattern for the game; there were a few high moments, including the launch of the Overwatch League, but the game itself lagged in comparison to the frantic update rate of other games as a service. We still got some excellent content, even if it wasn’t as quickly paced or frequent as we may have liked.
This year (and beyond) will reveal whether 2018 was a year to strategize and prepare for the long-term, or just the standard we can expect for Overwatch’s lifespan. For now, let’s content ourselves with celebrating the best of Overwatch with the 2018 Pachimari Awards.
Best New Hero
Contenders: Brigitte (March), Wrecking Ball (July), Ashe (November)
Three heroes a year seems to be the standard for Overwatch; in 2017, we met Doomfist, Moira, and Orisa. This past year, we got a similar set: a support in Brigitte, a tank in Wrecking Ball, and a damage dealer in Ashe. Brigitte is certainly the most impactful hero of the year, pulling the meta-game around her like a gravity well and requiring a long process of nerfs. Ashe is a wonderfully designed damage dealer that returns to the game’s design roots... but ultimately, the winner is Wrecking Ball.
Wrecking Ball, aka Hammond, was a delightful surprise and callback to Horizon Lunar Colony, one of the darkest and grimmest stories in all of Overwatch. He’s not what we expected, but we got a tank who shook up the metagame without dominating it. Not only is he fun to watch, he’s a great tank to play with dizzying highs and lows that serve as teachable moments. Yes, he’s alienating — not everyone loves Wrecking Ball, and his little hamster face pushes the boundaries of what a hero can creatively be, but Hammond doesn’t cancel out the darkest parts of Overwatch and brings some levity to the setting. He’s fun, he’s cute, and he’s the best hero added to the game in 2018.
Best New Map
Contenders: BlizzardWorld (January), Rialto (April), Petra (May), Busan (September)
Blizzard added three standard maps and one Deathmatch map to Overwatch in 2018. (For obvious reasons, we’re not including maps for events like Lucioball, which are cosmetically new but otherwise not part of the discussion.) BlizzardWorld was shown off at the end of 2017, and the map required some tweaks; it’s still a map that feels like the struggle is front-loaded before the dam breaks and the assault can build nearly unstoppable momentum.
Petra was a map that had similar feelings of ambitious visual design, but a lack of cohesion in actual play. While there’s a lot of fun individual areas to fight, the map is so large. It lacks the elegance of Chateau Guillard, which constantly funnels players into hotspots. Petra allows players to wander a little more and affords larger gaps between action. While the breakable floor and mega health pack is fun, the map feels like it needed another pass to narrow it down.
Busan is gorgeous, chock full of easter eggs, and arrived just in time to match Shooting Star. While it’s a lovely map for lore, visuals, and karaoke, it falls short of our winner: Rialto.
Rialto, an assault map, has lots of fun opportunities for flanking and knocking enemies off narrow chokepoints. It’s also aesthetically gorgeous. Add in an amazing mix of locales, from a Talon boardroom to a fancy hat shop, and you have the map of the year. The lesson we can learn from 2018? Concepts and aesthetics are great, but a map needs to work for gameplay to really excel — and if you can add something unique to the setting, even better.
Last year, we had two separate categories for “lore” and “cinematic”. This year, with only two cinematics, no comics, and three hero drops, it didn’t feel appropriate to split the categories. Instead, we’re looking at any introduction of lore to the game throughout 2018. This includes the Archives event, cinematics, hero origin stories ... anything that tells us something we didn’t know about the world of Overwatch.
The winner of that has to be Retribution, this year’s Archives event. Across new skins, the comic, and the campaign mission, Retribution showed exactly what kind of lore Overwatch can deliver, and brought one of the most intriguing factions right into the spotlight.
An honorable mention goes to Reunion, the McCree cinematic at BlizzCon 2018, for being gorgeously animated and drawn. Being in the audience at BlizzCon and taking it in with the rest of the crowd was thrilling, and the moment where the clock ticks high noon and the fight kicks off is masterful. The Deadlock gang are amazing, and maybe one day we’ll see them return and take the best lore prize in an event or comic... but for this year, it has to go to Reyes and the gang.
Contenders: Lunar New Year (January-February), Archives (April-May), Anniversary (May-June), Summer Games 2018 (August), Halloween Terror 2018 (October-November), Winter Wonderland 2018 (December-January)
Retribution wins best event as the newly rebranded Overwatch Archives; we can get that announcement out of the way. In fact, 2018 made it clear how much of a gap there is between Archives and the rest of the events. While they can be seasonal and fun, and it’s great to unlock new skins, they lack a lot of the same oomph. Many of the events didn’t add anything beyond new skins and discounts on old content; it’s a bit of a maintenance to keep a game going rather than something that revitalizes it and gets players really excited. In 2019, we’ll see whether that’s a sustainable practice, or whether something new will emerge as part of Overwatch’s update structure.
Runners-Up: Blackwatch Moira, Cabana Ana, Banshee Moira, Black Lily Widowmaker, Fastball Zenyatta
Our winner for this year is Krampus Junkrat. Like last year’s winner, Grillmaster: 76, Krampus Junkrat managed to achieve three goals.
One, it’s an appropriate seasonal skin — which is important, as Overwatch relied so heavily on seasonal events. Krampus Junkrat was perfect for Winter Wonderland, but can still be worn all year round.
Two, it transformed a character while keeping to their core themes. Junkrat is still a mischievous, dangerous, intriguing character who is equal parts horrifying and weirdly cute.
Finally, it’s just a gorgeous skin that lets the art team flex. Everything from the broken wheel to the one hoof, one human foot to the curved horns just looks excellent. It would have been easy to phone this skin in, but there’s a ton of care and work into making Krampus Junkrat shine. For this, we award it a Golden Pachi statue for best skin of the year.
Now, onto 2019! With the recent release of “Bastet,” and an Archives event just months away, we’ll see whether this year eclipses 2018. We may never return to 2018, but we can rest assured knowing that we got some truly excellent skins and a really wonderful Left 4 Dead-style game mode. Now, onwards!