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Overwatch Retribution is the PvE Story Content You’ve Been Waiting For
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 11:52am 11/04/18 | Comments
Retribution, the new PvE co-op mission now playable in Overwatch finally delivers on the promise of fun story-based content.

Beginning this week as part of the new Overwatch Archives event, comes a co-op mission called Retribution. Joining the return of last year’s first slice of historical story-based Overwatch action, Uprising, this time players take on the roles of McCree, Moira, Genji, and Reyes (aka The Artist Soon to Be Called Reaper) in a historical look into a key Blackwatch mission. A covert operation that would eventually lead to the dissolution of Overwatch.


Whereas last year’s Uprising event felt like a step in the right direction for pure co-op Overwatch action, there was a feeling that overall it was a bit of a mixed bag. Story-wise it presented an interesting and cinematic look at a key moment in Overwatch history. But in terms of mechanics it felt a little too much like a standard team-based match without a clear narrative drive or throughput. And a little unfocused too, with little reason to play the mode over and over.

“There's just a lot of what we would probably call heavy handedness in Uprising,” Matthew Hawley, Lead Game Producer on Overwatch tells me. “We've tried to be a little bit subtler with Retribution. I think by its nature, Retribution's a little bit more run and gun so you have player interaction as the action. Which has helped us to better tell the story rather than maybe some of the more heavy-handed moments in Uprising.”

Not that it was designed to be the Overwatch equivalent of a campaign mode. The nature of it being a limited-time event meant that it was fine to play through a few times but wasn’t something that you immediately missed.

Little did we know though that whilst we were all experiencing Uprising for the first time, Blizzard were hard at work on a new bit of story content – Retribution. A new co-op mission that would take all the lessons learnt from Uprising, and offer a faster, leaner, and more exciting experience. After the initial tests with the horde-like Junkenstein’s Revenge from the first Overwatch Halloween Terror event, to the experiment in objective-based co-op mission design that was Uprising, it seems like that old saying is true. In that third time’s the charm.

At least from an Overwatch co-op PvE perspective.

AusGamers play through of Retribution. With help from Muselk, ChinglishTV, and Gameplanet.

“I think we learned a lot on Uprising that the playtime of Uprising was just too long, and we'd get a lot of fatigue from playing Uprising, so we tried to just shorten it a bit for Retribution and still make it interesting,” Rachel Day, Senior Effects Artist on the Overwatch team adds.

At a recent hands-on event we had the chance to play through Retribution multiple times, both with the four heroes in the Story Mode and again in a free-for-all mode where anything goes. Right from the get-go you can tell that this is a faster and leaner Overwatch co-op experience. Does that mean it’s short? Well, sure. But the pacing is spot on.

Although very different in execution and style, I couldn’t help but think back to the many hours spent playing the No Mercy mission in the original Left 4 Dead. The feeling that enemies appeared at random and not according to any pattern, team-work and sticking together was paramount to success, and the excitement of having a full team make it to an airlift in the hectic closing moments of a mission - exhilarating.

Retribution doesn’t so much reinvent the co-op shooter formula as perfected by the likes of Left 4 Dead or Warhammer Vermintide. Instead it distils it into a fun and energetic experience perfectly suited to Overwatch. In fact, it’s so successful in its execution that we’re hoping we don’t have to wait another year for the next Archive mission. From the wonderful new enemy types that offer clear distinctive traits – like a melee assassin that can pin down one of your team members forcing you to intervene and a heavy assault unit that charges and fires off a seemingly endless stream of bullets.

“We play a lot of games. We're inspired by a lot of games and having this mode, we were able to explore what that's like,” Rachel Day explains. “I played a lot of Borderlands, and we do get some inspiration from places like that but it's our own take on what that experience is like in Overwatch.”

In speaking with Overwatch Game director Jeff Kaplan (keep and eye our for our interview later today), the first thing I asked was if the new assassin enemy was inspired in any way by Left 4 Dead. To which he responded, “It'd be hard to say, ‘No’.” Mainly because one of the lead designers of the new Retribution mission worked on the original Left 4 Dead – that being Adrian Finol. Jeff added that in typical Blizzard fashion, they put a little twist on the now well-understood co-op mechanic of having to save a partner from being physically pinned down.

“The design of the assassin character, or the hunter from Left 4 Dead. That is great for forcing your group to stay together from a pure game design mechanic,” Matthew Hawley adds. “It's solid, and now it's an understood, mechanic. I think our spin on the assassin is a different spin on that type of thing, but it's still a very solid and understood gameplay mechanic.”

This intense person to person combat of Retribution adds immeasurably to its charm, whilst also setting it apart from Uprising’s reskinned heroes masquerading as enemies. Although given generic names like Soldier, Assassin, Sniper, and Heavy, there’s a more personal flavour to the combat flow and engagement. One that plays into the strengths of the four playable heroes in the Retribution Story Mode - McCree, Moira, Genji, and Reyes.

And it was here that I played Moira for the first time - and it was wonderful. One of the key strengths of this type of co-op mission in Overwatch is the depth found in each playable character. The co-op setting is perfect for playing outside of your comfort zone. Even at 10 or so minutes there’s a real incentive to playthrough Retribution multiple times.

“You'll see more frequency of spawning, different places where things are spawned, but I think where you really see the randomization is when you're doing All Heroes mode,” Rachel Day says. “The encounters will be completely different. You could have an assassin's bomb right in the very first room, and it's different every time.”

Especially when someone decides to pick Hanzo, as seen below.

All Hero Mode. Mission Fail.

Another key part to the success of Retribution though has to be with the introduction of the new Venice, Italy map – Rialto. Also set to make its debut as a Payload map in the coming weeks, Rialto adds another layer of freshness to the Retribution experience.

“When we approached Venice, we knew we wanted a cool PvP payload map, so we said, ‘Okay, well, let's not box ourselves into a corner, let's leave areas that we can go back and add space just for PvE,’” Matthew Hawley explains. “It was very deliberate from the beginning, let's take this PvP map and not box ourselves into a corner when it comes to PvE - that was a lesson we had learned on Uprising, that we had just never had before.”

A new location, new look heroes thanks to the awesome new Blackwatch skins, new enemies, and a fantastic fast-paced story mission – yeah, Retribution is the bit of interactive story content we’ve been waiting for. And really, now that we’ve seen Overwatch story content done well – we can’t wait to see more.

AusGamers went hands-on with Overwatch Retribution at a special preview event last week.
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