Overwatch World Cup favourites South Korea emerged victorious on Sunday for the third time in a row, despite a round of upsets, including a particularly valiant run from the UK. At Blizzard Entertainment’s Blizzcon convention in Anaheim, California, last weekend, the victors of the group stages battled it out to take the trophy in front of thousands of fans.
The team-based shooter game Overwatch matches make for exciting viewing, with two teams of six players battling to attack and defend objectives as a varied cast of characters, each with their own powerful abilities. No two matches are the same, as players choose different strategies in an attempt to get an advantage over their opponents. This variety was especially well showcased this year, leading to nail-biting matches and some surprising outcomes. Turret-building, molten-lava-pouring Swedish hero Torbjörn – previously seldom seen in competitive play – made surprise appearances in several teams’ lineups.
Fans waved flags and signs celebrating their favourite players, hoping that their team’s unorthodox plans would work out – or that they would be able to adapt quickly in response to their opponents. One of the teams that was best able to capitalise on the element of surprise was the UK, who made it to the semi-finals. There, they faced off against eventual victors South Korea, and had them scrambling to react, holding them to two draws in the best of five format. South Korea eventually won 2-0 to advance to the finals.
The UK team can still leave with their heads held high. Before facing off against the Koreans, they had to beat the US in the round of eight, and were not expected to advance. The home team had much more professional experience under their collective belt, whereas just one member of the UK team, Isaac “Boombox” Charles, had competed in this year’s Overwatch league.
South Korea certainly showed off their own league experience as they easily beat silver medallists China, looking much more confident than they had in their game against the UK. The Chinese side had been their practice partners in the lead-up to the event, demonstrating the power that unpredictability can play in upsetting teams that usually look formidable.
Korean support player Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang won the “most valuable player” award, which he also achieved during this year’s league season as a member of the New York Excelsior team. He’s famous for his use of the robotic monk hero Zenyatta, who is traditionally expected to help his team using orbs that heal them and cause enemy players to take more damage. However, JJoNak shines by dealing huge amounts of his own damage, regularly outpacing the more aggression-focused characters on his team.
China’s silver-medal placement also spells exciting things for the region. In the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, the country’s only team, the Shanghai Dragons, suffered 40 consecutive losses. This excellent result could prove a turnaround, just in time for three new Chinese teams entering the competition next year, representing Hangzhou, Chengdu and Guangzhou.
Unfortunately, the UK could not triumph over the Canadian side in the third-place match, and left Blizzcon without the bronze medal. However, the World Cup has been a fantastic showcase for the talent of individual players hoping to advance their careers, and some, like tank player Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth, will now be signed to league teams for the second season, which begins in February.
The World Cup will return next year, with dozens of teams from across the globe attempting to claim Blizzcon fame and lift the trophy themselves. The UK will likely compete again, but South Korea claim they will remain unbeatable: “Without cheating, you can’t win,” joked JJoNak after their victory.