Picking up where the Switch ports of DOOM and Skyrim left off, Overwatch is one of those things that challenges your preconceptions of what Nintendo’s hybrid handheld is capable of. As pretty, fast and frame-rate dependent as the core game, it’s hard to imagine Overwatch running on something as small as the Switch. Honestly and at this point in time, I’m more surprised that we’re getting a Nintendo Switch version of the game before a mobile spin-off.
Since launch, Blizzard has actively pushed back against requests to bring the team-based multiplayer shooter to the Switch. In a 2017 interview with Express Online, game director Jeff Kaplan downplayed the possibility.
And yet, here we are.
Ahead of an October 16th launch, we got the chance to go hands-on with the Switch version of Overwatch at this year’s PAX Australia and came away a little mixed.
Unsurprisingly, clear compromises have been made in order to get this game running on the more-limited hardware - and I don't know how many fans of the game are going to be willing to live with them.
The portable version of Blizzard’s team-based multiplayer looks noticeably worse than its console and PC counterparts do. Textures look really muddy, the Switch controls require some getting used to and the frame-rate seemed to lose consistency during particularly hectic firefights.
Even as someone who plays a lot of Overwatch, this felt pretty far from the game I’m used to playing. I didn’t get the chance to see how it fared in handheld mode but docked, this thing looked pretty rough. I wouldn't go so far as to call it unplayable but it was certainly sub-optimal.
Still, it is what it appears to be. It’s a version of Overwatch that you can pick up and play anywhere. It's even going to have content parity with the PC and console versions of the game. Still, there’s an intrinsic appeal - especially when played with friends - but there's no cross play and buying in does come with a basketful of caveats.
Unless you’re planning to exclusively play against bots, you’ll need a decent or at least stable internet connection to actually play Overwatch on the Switch. You’ll also need an active Nintendo Switch Online membership and people to play against - which is one of the bigger unknowns around this version of the game. It's not clear how big the regular playerbase for this version of the game will actually be.
I’ll reserve my full judgement until I’ve played review code but, based on a short session with it, it’s not clear why this version of the game exists beyond proving it could be done at all. Even as someone who is way into the idea of playing Overwatch on the Switch, I struggle to conceptualise who the target player for this port actually is.
I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.
Overwatch for the Nintendo Switch launches on October 15th 2019.
Disclosure - Samsung covered the cost of our flights and accommodation for PAX Australia 2019.