Overwatch League – Season 2 Preview

OWL Main

With the new season of the Overwatch League (OWL) starting in mid-February, I thought it might be worth taking a look at what’s changed since the inaugural season last year. There are a lot of new teams and some changes to the format, both of which I’ll get into later. To start with, let’s take a quick look at last season and some of the players you should keep an eye out for in 2019.

The first season of OWL was split into four stages, with each stage having their own playoffs before the grand finals. This was a good way to keep up interest during the season because it meant that, while the New York Excelsior were crushing everyone in the overall results, teams and fans had something to fight for throughout the season. The much fancied Korean roster of the London Spitfire won Stage 1, New York Excelsior took Stages 2 and 3 with the Los Angeles Valiant winning Stage 4. In the end of season playoffs the London Spitfire took home the championship, seeing off the Philadephia Fusion in the final. It was a thrilling end to a great first season.

There was some amazing play on display throughout 2018, here are my picks for the players to watch out for in the upcoming season…

.

1. Profit (London Spitfire)

What can you say about Profit? One of the best damage dealers in the league, he has the ability to turn a match on its head with one smart play. Definitely a huge asset to the defending champions.

.

2. Geguri (Shanghai Dragons)

As the first female OWL player, Geguri already had a huge amount of pressure on her and adding to that she joined the Dragons – who lost every game of the 2018 season. Her tank play was a bright spark and she carried the team at times, I’m looking forward to seeing what she can achieve with a more stable setup around her.

.

3. Fissure (Seoul Dynasty)

Ah Fissure, the very confident (and highly skilled) tank player that left London mid-season for the Los Angeles Gladiators, only to not show for the end of season playoffs. And I don’t mean that figuratively, he literally stayed away from the arena after in-fighting with the team. Drama follows him everywhere but he’s a great player and, if he doesn’t throw a wobbly, just what underperforming Seoul need.

.

4. Pine (New York Excelsior)

Pine is what you’d call an impact player. Often being used as a sub during games and pulling off daring damage plays that always seem to come off. I’m hoping he might get some more play time this season as his skill level is outrageous. New York’s stellar season fizzled out in the playoffs, maybe more Pine would’ve helped.

.

5. Surefour (Los Angeles Gladiators)

Surefour is known for his Widowmaker play and I always enjoy seeing him in action. I don’t feel he had the consistency of someone like Fleta (Seoul) or Carpe (Fusion) last year but I think if he can deliver regularly through 2019 then the Gladiators have a real shot of making the end of season playoffs.

.

OWL New Teams

The amount of teams in the league this year has risen from 12 to 20, which has also impacted the scheduling. Each stage will now be 7 games rather than 10, meaning each team plays 28 games overall. In terms of the end of season playoffs, the top Atlantic and Pacific division teams, along with the next four teams in the standings regardless of division, will automatically qualify for playoffs. In a change to last season’s format the 7th through 12th placed teams in the overall standings will also have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. These teams will be pitted against each other in a sudden death tournament, with the top two teams being able to join the playoffs for a total of eight teams.

So from the overall 20, 12 teams will be in with a shout of making the final 8 places in the playoffs. New teams that have paid upwards of $30m to join OWL come in the form of Atlanta Reign (US), Chengdu Hunters (China), Guangzhou Charge (China), Paris Eternal (France), Hangzhou Spark (China), Toronto Defiant (Canada), Vancouver Titans (Canada) and Washington Justice (US). Do any of the new expansion teams have a shot this season? Let’s take a look.

OWL Spark.png

A lot of the teams have picked up players that were in the league last season – Soon joined Paris, Hooreg joined Vancouver and Hotba joined Guangzhou, to name a few. Some teams went for players from the Overwatch World Cup with no league experience – Kyb at Guangzhou or Krystal at Hangzhou. Most of these teams seem a mishmash on paper, especially ones with multiple nationalities that could lead to language barriers. The front runner for a tilt at the playoffs has to be the Vancouver Titans, whose roster is a former title winning team in Korea called Run Away. This synergy could see them make a great start in 2019.

Personally my tips for the 8 playoff slots would be London Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Boston Uprising, Philadephia Fusion, LA Gladiators, LA Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Vancouver Titans. We’ll have to see as the season progresses!

OWL London

With some teams starting to play in their hometown this season, and everyone doing so in the next few years, the league will no doubt be looking to get more teams involved from around the world. I would love to see teams from places like Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Australia or Germany. Overwatch is a global game so it makes sense the league would look to try and get teams started in as many places as possible, especially if they will playing matches locally. I can’t wait to see the Spitfire play in London at some point, it would definitely help increase the bond with the team.

So there you have it, an overview of what to expect from the OWL in 2019. It starts on the 14th/15th February and the league has a deal in place with Twitch to show all the games live so head to http://www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague to catch up on all the action!

.

 

Grand Operations – Should DICE Advance or Retreat?

bfv main

Battlefield V launched back in November of 2018 without much fanfare and alongside a bunch of negative headlines (Eurogamer: “Battlefield V physical sales down more than half on Battlefield 1” / VG24/7: “Battlefield 5 drops down to $30 in new sale“) which did a good job of killing most of my expectations for the title. So I was surprised, when I picked up a copy, by how much I enjoyed the online action in the game.

The big, main mode, alongside series staple Conquest, is Grand Operations. A new version of Battlefield 1‘s Operations mode. In that title you had a few attempts to take ground against your opponents, and the losing team was able to call in a Zeppelin to try and turn the tide. It was a fun mode, which I liked playing. In Grand Operations you play across three ‘days’ of various game modes, although Day 3 is always Conquest. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of it so far but there are some under-lying problems that leave me concerned about the longevity of the mode.

bfv 1

So what are the issues and what can be done to fix them? It’s a tough question because how do you make online play fun over a long period of time in a title where the individual player has such a small influence? In something like Overwatch or Rainbow Six: Siege, you are part of a team of 5 or 6 and your actions, such as the use of a gadget, skill or ability, can directly win a round for your team. In Battlefield V, while you have a squad of four, there are 32 players on each side and your actions rarely impact dramatically as events unfold.

Let’s start with the positives and what Grand Operations does right. It evokes memories of the excellent, and similarly titled, Killzone 3 Operations mode – especially with the parts where you’re aboard a plane before rounds start and you’re waiting to jump down into the action. I’d like to see more cut scene variations between the days if possible but what we have is a decent enough start. Grand Operations certainly feels grand in terms of time – rounds can last between 45 minutes and an hour depending on how close they are. It’s interesting to move through different sections of the map on each day and generally rounds do seem to finish quite close for the most part, which gives it the sense of a thrilling battle.

bfv 2

Grand Operations is likely the best mode in the game… if you have the time. Conversely, on occasion the rounds seem to drag out – especially when the victor is obvious. The first two days are almost pointless as only victory/defeat on the final day decides the battle. This would be fine if the first two days counted for anything on both sides. Attackers do get benefits if they win the rounds (extra respawns etc.) but the defenders don’t, they just stop the attackers gaining an advantage. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as, while defending, winning the first two days and then losing the final day to be greeted by a ‘Major Defeat’ screen. The game is also glitchy during gameplay and cut-scenes, including instances of Day 3 just being a black screen, meaning you have to quit and lose your progress. Also people quit (or perhaps can’t join due to technical issues) between days, leading to wait times between rounds and sometimes completely uneven sides.

I have some ideas to remedy these problems and make Grand Operations the go-to mode for Battlefield V. Some are simple fixes and others more complex suggestions but let’s get into it.

bfv 3

My first suggestion is the easiest to call out as a player, though only the developers will know how much time/resources would be needed: fix the bugs. This isn’t exclusive to Grand Operations but it would make a huge difference. Unlocks not happening, players dropping out of games, standing in the plane literally INSIDE another player – tidy it up please DICE. Secondly, give more rewards for playing Grand Operations. Maybe it is exclusive outfits or even a special gun. Anything would help bring people into the game mode.

DICE have to change how the ‘Days’ system benefits each side. My suggestion would be to scrap the respawns and make each day count as an automatic flag capture on the final day. So, if one team wins both days on Day 3 they start with two flags already captured. Currently if you’re defending, the first two days seem quite pointless. While the extended sessions are great, perhaps the addition of a ‘Mercy’ option like the one in Destiny could help. In that game the ‘narrator’ character ends the game early if one team is completely dominating. Given the World War II setting this would be in keeping with the atmosphere of the game if your ‘commander’ called for you to retreat. In one way it saves you the humiliation of spending another 10 or 15 minutes in a fruitless battle but brings the embarrassment of having to retreat.

bfv 4

My final idea, and likely to be the most controversial, is to make Grand Operations the ranked/competitive mode of Battlefield V. Firstly, it would stop people quitting out between rounds. If you couldn’t play another round until the one you quit finished or you rejoined, it would be a good deterent for quitters. Assigning a specific ranking to performances and having you climb the ladder season to season in the mode would keep people interested for longer. This could tie in with the extra rewards I mentioned and could possibly involve the Tides Of War side mission content. If they actually fixed the issue I mentioned above in regard to balancing rewards for Days 1 and 2, Grand Operations could even be the mode that EA utilize for Battlefield V’s esports angle. It seems like it would be a great fit with potential rounds of up to an hour and I’d love to see what sort of tactical plans teams and squads could come up with, given advance preparation time. I suspect EA will more likely be looking at their Battle Royale mode for that but I think this could be a much more enticing option.

So there you have it, some ideas to help enhance what is a promising game mode. With a few changes here and there Grand Operations could be a stand out mode and Battlefield V’s trump card. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out as 2019 progresses.

.