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How to Play Overwatch on Your PC
December 2, 2018
For a fast, team-based, and multi-player squad vs. squad match-battle, first-person shooter game, Overwatch certainly has a lot of thought put into its backstory and character designs. But this is what should be expected. Overwatch is the first shooter game developed by industry giant Blizzard Entertainment and everything it does has massive attention to gameplay, style, and story.
Blizzard Entertainment does not just build games; it builds multimedia franchises with world-spanning continuities across comic books, collectible card games, video games, animated shorts, and movies. Its main franchises - Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft - have continued to be successful for years across different platforms and media.
What type of game is Overwatch?
Introduced in 2016, Overwatch is Blizzard’s newest property. It’s a stylized near-future full of mechs, ninjas, talking gorillas, robots, Valkyries and, most recently, a sentient giant hamster piloting rolling mechanized death-tanks. Here’s the story:
In the future, humanity’s technology creates a golden age of robotics, where artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robots called “Omnics” solve all of humankind’s problems.
Economic equality, prosperity, and freedom from want are all achieved by the use of the Omnic servants… Until the servants turn on their masters and begin producing killer robots to wipe out the humans.
Enter the heroes of Overwatch, the international hyper-powered task force created to put down this Omnic threat. The story takes a bunch of twists and turns, with the disbanding of the Overwatch and the rise of new Omnic terror. And it has spawned graphic novels and books collecting the art and design work for the game.
But what it equates to for you, the player, is that it lands you in a series of online matches where you join a six-person team of now-outlawed Overwatch heroes. You fight against other six-person teams across bright and colorful maps and terrains, earning loot boxes full of goodies to customize your selectable Heroes.
The heroes of Overwatch
Overwatch can be called a “class-based shooter,” in which players field teams with some mix of heavy damage dealing and damage absorbing, slow-moving “Tank” class characters, nimble “Damage” class characters, and Healer/Buff-and-debuff “Support” class ones. However, it’s probably more accurate to think of it as a “character-based shooter.”
Because it is in the fun, vibrant, and eclectic mix of over-the-top, super-stylized hero characters that Overwatch makes its distinct mark. With designs and ideas that seem to step out of a high-end DreamWorks or Pixar style movie, these are not the dour, gritty space-marines that populate a lot of the shooters of the gaming world.
You’ll choose avatars like Winston, a hyper-intelligent, genetically engineered, blue-furred gorilla. He’s a scientist and a warrior who joined the Overwatch heroes after breaking away from the gorilla uprising on the moon.
Another is the aging German warrior Reinhardt, who wears a power-suit of techno-armor themed after the chivalric knights of the middle ages.
Then there’s McCree, a techno Clint-Eastwood-style gunslinger in high-impact armor, complete with poncho, cigarillo, and armor-piercing six-shooter.
Or you can choose Genji, a cyborg-enhanced shuriken-tossing cyber-ninja with a power-katana and swift strikes.
Perhaps the most improbable and seemingly incongruous, but fun to play, is Hammond, a cute, genetically-modified, oversized, and feisty hamster, from the same moon colony experimental lab that brought you the gorilla scientist. Hammond (who goes by the code name “Wrecking Ball”) pilots a steel and piston-powered hamster ball of destruction, tricked out with quad-cannons, a grappling hook, and layable proximity mines.
Mix and match characters
You get the idea. There are, as of now, 29 different selectable heroes to choose from to populate your squad, and each one’s abilities, movements, strengths, and weaknesses change how you play the game. Using these strengths and weaknesses strategically with teammates in a mix-and-match fashion ensures that no two matches ever fall out the same way.
You would think that with such wildly different types of characters, seeing any given combination of six of them standing together as a team would tend to look silly or out of place. A space-cowboy, a mutant junkyard punk-rocker, a pink robot mech, piloted by a battle-ready fashion model, a blue-skinned femme fatale assassin, and a sentient robot Buddhist monk shouldn’t look like a cohesive team from the same universe. Yet because of the smart design work, they do.
But that’s the magic of Overwatch. It’s a testament to the well-thought-out character design and attention to little details in gesture and shape that somehow, it always works. Every squad you field looks like a fun, interesting, and animated super-team, ready to take on a hyper-action mission. And they are!
Loot boxes in Overwatch
A large part of the fun of becoming good at games like Overwatch is in customizing your characters and differentiating them onscreen from other players - such as adding bonus victory dances or spray-paint options. These are achieved by way of “loot boxes,” the currency of Overwatch gameplay.
You can earn these boxes of goodies in-game by leveling up and gaining experience point milestones. But this will require hours of gameplay to earn. For those who want their gratification a little more instant, loot boxes are available for purchase with real-world money.
The kind of things you’ll get in loot boxes are called “cosmetics” and they come in four different rarity tiers:
1. Common: Loot box items include sprays, which are graphics/images that can be “tagged” onto walls in gameplay and “voice lines,” which are character-specific catch-phrases you can trigger with a button press in-game.
2. Rare: Loot box items are victory poses that trigger when your squad wins a match, player icons, and skin-options that change the color palette of your hero.
3. Epic: Loot box items are skin-change options that actually modify the character’s costume and model, and small emotes like laughter or little dances.
4. Legendary: Loot box items are drastic “skin” changes that radically change the character model, and elaborate, highly-coveted emotes.
Every loot box contains four random items of possible varying rarity. Blizzard sells loot boxes in bundles, with discounts for bulk purchases. If you buy two to five boxes at a time, they’ll cost a dollar each. If you buy in bulk, the rates are 11 boxes for $10, 24 for $20, and 50 for $40.
It can get pricey, but if you want legendary gear and intricate emotes to taunt your enemies with, it’ll set you back a little bit. You’re guaranteed at least one “rare” or better per box. For players who want to unlock every option and outfit, loot boxes are key.
How to download Overwatch for the PC
Head over to Blizzard’s Battle.net online shop. If you don’t have an account, you’ll have to create one.
- In the far-right top corner, choose “My Account.”
- Click “Create a Free Account” from the drop-down menu.
- You’ll have to fill out your name, birth date, and email, and choose a password. Or you could choose to use your Facebook or Google/Gmail account to log in, if you’ve got them.
- Once you’re logged in, find the “Games” drop-down from the top menu of the shop.
- Choose Overwatch from the drop-down.
- You’ll be offered a choice between buying the Standard Edition (currently $14.99) or Legendary Edition (currently $19.99).
Both editions will have you playing the same game, but the Legendary Edition includes many additional hero “skins” or alternate outfits for your heroes, an extra playable Hero, Tracer, and some add-on Overwatch-themed goodies for other Blizzard games.
Minimum system requirements to run Overwatch on your PC
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i3 or AMD Phenom X3 8650
- OS: Windows Vista/7/ 8/10 64-bit (latest Service Pack)
- Video card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460, ATI Radeon HD 4850, or Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Free disk space: 30GB
Adjust the gaming quality options
Once downloaded, launch the game. But before playing, you’ll want to head over to the Options menu, and adjust the graphics and effects settings that work best with your hardware. If you’re running just the minimum requirements on your system, you’ll want to dial down the graphics quality a bit to ensure that gameplay runs smoothly.
Pro tip: There are five quick-select graphics quality settings: Low, Medium, High, Ultra, or Epic. Changing the resolution and adjusting the Field of View (FOV) will also be helpful for lower powered PCs to run the game smoothly. While there, adjust the mouse sensitivity to your own tastes when playing first-person shooters (FPS).
Playing Overwatch with friends
Matchmaking will always find you a random squad of players to join. But if you’ve got actual friends IRL who also play Overwatch, you can easily create a Friends List in Blizzard’s Battle.net profile settings and choose to squad up with them to battle other teams.
There’s a special thrill to getting a great group that knows each other and plays well together. The makers of Overwatch for PC understand this and have made the process super easy and painless.
- From your Battle.net profile, find the “Add Friend” button in the upper right-hand corner. You’ll need their user name and number. Type or paste that in
- Boom! Your friend is added to your account, and will now be accessible in the “Social” menu of Overwatch when you launch the game
- In the game, click either the “Social” menu, or the little “Friends” icon next to your Player Name
- Either one will bring you to your friends list, where you just click the “+” button next to their name to send out a squad invitation to them. When they accept, you’ll see their icons to the left of yours.
Once everyone had accepted the invites, start the game, and voila! You’re in a squad with your buddies. It’s just that easy. You can find new friends among the people you play with in random squads, and, if you get along and play well, add them to your friends list for future invites.
Controls in Overwatch for PC
The options menu will display the standard key bindings of controls, and from that screen, you can adjust or change keys to your liking. Different hero types stress different types of gameplay styles, so choosing between different key binding schemes will be something that becomes a process of trial, error, and personal preference.
Since each hero has different natural abilities, the options menu also has toggle defaults about character-specific abilities that you’ll want to check out. For instance, the ninja and samurai characters have a wall-climbing ability that can be toggled to “always on” or “activate with button.” Others will have sensitivity settings for their individual abilities that can be adjusted to your play style.
Here are the default key binds for all characters:
- Forward: W
- Back: S
- Left: A
- Right: D
- Crouch: Left Control
- Jump: Space
- Ability 1: Left Shift
- Ability 2: E
- Ability 3: Q
- Primary Fire: Left Mouse
- Secondary Fire: Right Mouse
- Equip Weapon 1: 1
- Equip Weapon 2: 2
- Quick Melee: V
- Reload: R
- Next Weapon: Scroll Up
- Previous Weapon: Scroll Down
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About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.