Overwatch is dead; long live Overwatch 2


When Blizzard Entertainment was created Overwatch 2 Jeff Kaplan, who was then the game director and the man who steered the original, appeared to the world almost three years ago. Overwatch from failed MMO to dominant hero shooter, said the team hoped to “redefine what a sequel means.” Kaplan, beloved by the Overwatch community, was believably optimistic.

Blizzard has redefined what a sequel is with Overwatch 2Kaplan may have envisioned it, but it was not the way that it actually happened. Because Overwatch 2 This is not a sequel in any conventional sense. Instead, it’s a thorough overhaul and replacement of the 2016 game, now with free-to-play economic underpinnings to support its continued development.

Overwatch 2 may not earn its “2” — branding it Overwatch 2.0 might have felt more apt — but it does earn its “early access” launch designation. Overwatch 2 arrives without the biggest selling points touted at its reveal: “a complete story experience” and “highly replayable” cooperative hero missions. Blizzard promises that these features will be added in the future. New heroes, new maps and a new gameplay mode are just some of the changes that Blizzard has promised. Overwatch 2 feel… different.

Overwatch 2 The entire roster is carried over from the first game and three new heroes are introduced. One is Sojourn, the series’ first playable Black woman character, who brings a railgun and high mobility to the damage group. Junker Queen is a massive tank who summons Mad Max like comparisons. She also brings aggression to the roster and team buffs. New support character Kiriko combines the fast-paced action of Overwatch’s Genji with the ability to heal and teleport through walls. All three are exciting new additions to the world of Overwatch, but Kiriko represents a new wrinkle for players: Only those who pay for the game’s premium battle pass will get instant access to her. Others will need to play dozens upon dozens of matches in order to unlock her, while a small subset of the public can watch from the sidelines.

Kiriko, a new hero can summon a spirit-fox to help her teammates advance towards an objective.
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

A lot of the original roster was altered in some manner. Heroes who could stun enemies (Brigitte Cassidy Mei, Mei, etc. Their crowd-control abilities have been lost. All supporting characters are now able to self-heal passively, making it easier for them to survive. Other heroes have had major overhauls. Overwatch 2’s launch; Orisa no longer has a shield or a gravitational vortex ball, and Doomfist is now a tank-class hero with a powerful block and reworked movement. Many of those changes and new hero additions serve to flatten the roster with newly overlapping abilities, and make strategic hero counter-picking — an important facet of the original launch version of Overwatch — feel less important.

These heroes, including Bastion, Sombra, or Orisa, have received substantial reworks. Both bots are much more aggressive, and I’m much more likely to pick them in play than I was in the original game. Sombra, which is now more of a damage dealer than ever, can be a threat to backline heroes who might find themselves hacked or quickly disposed off.

The removal of stun moves like Cassidy’s flashbang and Mei’s ability to freeze enemies with her Endothermic Blaster has also reduced frustration. It’s never been pleasurable to be on the receiving end of such attacks, but those tweaks have decimated the thrill of single-handedly eliminating a rival opponent as one of those characters. It’s a trade-off I’m still wrestling with, especially with how often I delighted in launching a brain-skewering icicle into a paralyzed enemy as Mei in the original Overwatch. I’ll miss knowing that the last thing my exasperated, frozen opponents saw was Mei’s smirking face. And for as much as I loathed being harassed by a Cassidy player sneaking into my team’s backline, flashbanging me, and fan-the-hammering me to death, I’ll miss those moments too — in a masochistic way. A bit of each altered hero’s identity has been shaved off in the pursuit of game balance.

Zenyatta, Sombra, Sigma and Sojourn guide a robot in a screenshot from Overwatch 2

Push mode is a variation of Escort-style gameplay in which teams must guide a robot through symmetrical maps to move a barrier.
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

These hero adjustments are in conjunction with another major shift Overwatch 2’s design: Teams are now composed of five heroes, as opposed to six, an attempt on Blizzard’s part to reduce the “noise” of Overwatch matches. This has the benefit of halving the number of shields in any given match — and in my experience with Overwatch 2It has made my battles more exciting by spending less time shooting at glowing barriers, and instead engaging directly with my opponents.

Over the past week, I’ve experienced thrilling new competitive moments, some powered by Kiriko’s ultimate that buffs her team’s speed, turning them into a well-oiled, enemy-shredding machine. With a group of five, team pushes felt tighter, with my allies rallying behind a Nano-Boosted Bastion to break through Reinhardt’s shield and overwhelm a point with superior firepower. Because of their buffs, it feels almost like a boss fight to take down an enemy tank such as a Roadhog and Zarya.

Overwatch 2’s new game mode, Push, adds a trio of new maps and an interesting twist on payload-style gameplay. Push being part of the gameplay rotation — alongside Control, Escort, and Hybrid maps — comes with a bittersweet caveat: Assault maps are now relegated to custom games only, meaning many players will rarely, if ever, battle on maps like Hanamura, Volskaya Industries, and Temple of Anubis in Overwatch 2. While Assault (aka 2CP) maps were often imbalanced, leading to never-ending games, draws, or total blowouts, they were deeply connected to Overwatch’s lore and its personality. Who will destroy the arcade games of Hanamura like a pack of feral dogs after we’ve all moved on?

Playing Overwatch 2 over the past week has also introduced a new calculus I wasn’t required to consider during roughly 900 hours with the original game: leveling up my battle pass progress (and doing it in the most efficient way possible) to chase cosmetic unlocks like skins and emotes. Overwatch 2 The game is free and follows a battle pass system that is used in similar games such as Apex Legends, Valorant, Halo Infinite. I was an avid player who wanted to acquire all of the unlockable, event-themed skins. Overwatch While you can grind for random loot (and sometimes pay for them), the daily check-ins and weekly goals feel overwhelming. Blizzard’s aggressive season schedule — rolling out new content every nine weeks and populating an in-game shop with rotating digital goodies — only compounds that.

The battle pass tier menu with Kiriko, the newest Overwatch 2 hero, and a collection of other cosmetic items

Kiriko is the new hero Overwatch 2 Hero to be part a battle pass. Players who don’t purchase a premium pass will unlock her at level 55.
Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

In the end, the math may work in my favor as well as that of many other players. Do I really need to chase a skin for Widowmaker, a character I’ll never play? Will purchasing a battle pass every few months, either with real-world money or the currency I’ve earned in-game, net out to match what I spent on loot boxes? That’s difficult to say after spending a week with Overwatch 2I only played Quick Play matches or custom games of,

It’s the notion that players have to consider these factors at all that vexes me. Overwatch’s loot box-based monetization tactic had problems of its own — spending 10 bucks on a virtual slot machine pull and occasionally coming away with meager rewards was a drag — but the imposing pressure to grind and accomplish a list of tasks each day, week, and season makes me more cynical than I want to be about the sequel to my go-to, yes-I’m-still-playing-this game.

Perhaps such is the economics of modern game-based service. Fear of missing the opportunity is not a unique fear. Overwatch 2. Blizzard is known for outperforming its competitors, whether it’s by looking at the massively multiplayer online game market in 2000s and answering with World of Warcraft, or building expertly from the ideas of Dune 2 To create Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Team Fortress 2 To make Overwatch. The studio’s approach to retrofitting Overwatch With a battle pass system that closely apes models similar to it, Apex Legends Valorant It doesn’t feel creative enough or progressive enough to erase my initial cynicism.

Do economic concerns really matter in the end? A new player is coming to Overwatch 2, after a bit of playing to unlock everything, should still have endless fun with its eclectic mix of characters, game modes, and maps, just as long as they don’t care about doing it in style with the latest skins, weapon charms, and emotes. Many players will have a wonderful time playing Overwatch 2 It is what it is: A highly polished, playable hero shooter.

Junker Queen throws her glowing knife, Gracie, at an offscreen opponent on the map Junkertown in a screenshot from Overwatch 2

Junker Queen embodies Overwatch 2’s hero design philosophy: aggressive, well-rounded, and with abilities that overlap with other heroes.
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

I still believe in the possibility of success Overwatch 2, after having seen some of Blizzard’s plans for new content coming in the next few seasons. In the coming months, the next two heroes, a new tank, and a new support, will bring new ideas and strategies to the game. The studio has also committed to new seasonal events, including a sequel of sorts to the Halloween-themed Junkenstein’s Revenge co-op mode, and other substantial new gameplay modes that are unlike anything Overwatch currently has. The Overwatch Content famine is about become a feast Overwatch 2.

The promised, but yet to be revealed, noncompetitive content is the story and hero mission that will finally deliver more Overwatch history. How those will be doled out to players — or how much it will cost them — is unclear, and requires faith on players’ part that Blizzard will deliver on time and with the quality they expect.

Enjoy Overwatch 2 is an exercise in cautious optimism — not just in the future direction of its ever-changing lore and world, but in the idea that years of new content will ultimately deliver on the promise of a full sequel.

Overwatch 2 This was published on October 4. Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X. Blizzard Entertainment provided test server access so that the game could be reviewed on PC. Vox Media has affiliate agreements. These partnerships do not affect editorial content. Vox Media may be compensated for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find out additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.



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