Walking in Overwatch’s Winter Wonderland


It’s the holiday season, and everyone’s gearing up to celebrate. Games are as well, and Overwatch is trying out its own first holiday event called “Winter Wonderland.” If you recall my first piece for this site, I was a huge fan of “Halloween Terror” that was the fall event made for Halloween. Unfortunately, I’m not as big of a fan of Wonderland.

This time around, the focus is on Mei in Snowball Challenge. Players are dropped into a six-on-six elimination match, with the catch being that every player is Mei. Dropped into the newer map Echopoint: Antarctica, Mei is tasked with eliminating the other team using a modified version of her weapon that shoots snowballs. Getting hit with a snowball results in instant death, and every Mei only has one shot. Reloading must be done by sucking up snow from patches on the map. Survival requires use of Mei’s other abilities to block shots from the opponents along with skillful dodging and map awareness. While this take on ‘golden gun’ mode sounds pretty solid on paper, in practice there are some problems.

Quite frankly, I don’t think Overwatch lends itself to straight elimination-type battles. One of the game’s strengths is a lack of focus on killing off other players, which in my estimation allows for a more open environment of players than you might find in other shooters. All of Overwatch’s cast was created with this in mind, so removing so many of the elements that makes the game feel different, even for a change of pace, feels lacking. This gets compounded with the other modes in the new Arcade section almost all being elimination games as well. Snowball Challenge also suffers from some pacing issues. Being eliminated takes the player out for the entirety of that round, which simply takes far too long once 2-3 players are left altogether. Eventually the game will reveal the location of all players, but it feels like an eternity when in spectator mode waiting for rounds to end. Also, as opposed to previous seasonal events, Snowball Challenge takes place on an existing map instead of a specially designed one. Everything just feels less inspired this time around.

Other maps also got the Christmas theme, and all of them do feel pretty well designed. Thankfully nothing really gets in the way of playing any game mode, and it is fun to see cleverly placed snowmen and presents all over. That said, there really only is one other change for the season. Once again more skins, emotes, lines, player icons, and sprays find their way into the waiting hands of fans. Highlights this time include Yeti Winston, Santa Torbjörn, and a dreidel player icon. Yeah, it’s actually kind of nice to see some Hanukkah representation. In fact, I’d actually like more of the tweaks for “Winter Wonderland” more not everything took from Christmas-if only because Overwatch feels like the kind of game that is already pre-built for such action.

All that said, it’s time to have the Loot Box chat one more time.

Yes, the distribution of loot is still the biggest problem in Overwatch, and every single one of these seasonal events only highlights how frustrating it can be. Once again, any item in the game can be pulled from the holiday boxes including duplicate items. The more ‘cool’ an item is deemed (read: skins) the harder it is to purchase with currency. Skin pricing is basically the same as it was in “Halloween Terror.” In fairness, the addition of Arcade allows for more Loot Box output. Every three victories up to a certain point will yield an extra box, as will the first win in each Arcade category. This helps with farming out boxes quite a bit, but I’ve opened six boxes so far and seen multiple duplicate items. I did manage to get two holiday skins, but the distribution rate seems about the same as always. Honestly, this not changing on any fundamental level makes it very difficult to be excited about updates. Sure, I can get more boxes, but doing so doesn’t help with getting closer to a goal.

Even so, Overwatch still has a strong foundation. The game has been out for several months, but is still very fun to play. It’s clear from the fact that I didn’t have issues finding matches that the fanbase is still enjoying the game also. You might not get the skin you want, but you’ll still have a good time earning the boxes themselves. “Winter Wonderland” might not be a Christmas miracle, but it won’t hurt at all to fill out your time off for the holiday throwing some snowballs.

Travis began a life obsessed with technology with his cousin's classic Game Boy and a copy of Tetris. He was horrible at it, but has yet to forget that experience. These days, Travis looks to explore the intersection of culture and technology that has come to define our world. When not preparing a project, you can find him catching up on the latest comic books or playing an arrangement of different video games-particularly honing his Super Smash Bros. skills. He is still terrible at Tetris.