Overwatch 2 has very little downtime. In this new and improved version, everything is bigger, better, and quicker, including the action, the sound, the speed, and the number and quality of the spoken lines. However, there is a moment of calm before you and your allies are released onto the battlefield after picking a hero.
Then, when I saw my favorite character, Hana Song (also known as D.Va), transfer her weight from one side of her mecha to the other before delivering a lovely “annyeong” to a teammate, I completely forgot I was playing Overwatch 2. It’s been two years since Overwatch’s initial release, and a lot has happened in that time. In these brief, dreamlike intervals, though, it was as though nothing at all had changed.
After putting 700 hours into the original Overwatch, I was hoping that the sequel would make a lot of significant changes that would advance the series while staying true to the identity it first forged—an identity that made someone like me, who isn’t usually interested in games driven solely by their multiplayer elements, such a big fan of the original Overwatch.
Overwatch 2 does this in a few key ways: it introduces playable new heroes who mesh well with the established cast, it expands to a 5v5 format, and it includes the thrilling new addition of the Push mode. The best part is that all of this is accomplished without sacrificing the game’s signature graphical style, exciting battle mechanics, or fundamental gameplay.
Even with these changes and improvements, Overwatch 2 may often seem more like an update than the fresh start the “2” implies because of the game’s overall familiarity. In addition, Overwatch 2 frequently loses touch with the original’s core values and endearing quirks.
Overwatch 2 introduces a brand-new kind of combat—5v5—that is widely considered to be one of the most noteworthy alterations. Overwatch has six heroes on a team: two damage heroes, two support heroes, and two tanks. Overwatch 2 has five characters on a team, with one tank removed to balance things out.
When only one tank is present to soak up damage, the entire team must be there to assist them and give an assault strong enough to break through the other team’s defenses, making side battles far less likely. It’s challenging at times since certain tanks are better at remaining put and taking damage (like Reinhardt) while others are better at going on the offensive and dealing it (Roadhog).
With two tanks, you may have both sorts on your squad and not have to rely on one player to fulfill both roles. The matches are now shorter and more intense, with teamwork and coordination being more important than ever, and your every move (or lack thereof) feeling far more consequential.
It also means that the makeup of your squad and your knowledge of how different heroes complement one another are more important than ever. This is just as tense as it sounds, but the unpredictable nature of the situation and the need for quick thinking to gain victories make it a lot of fun.
Overwatch 2’s new mode, Push, furthers the game’s commitment to exciting, high-stakes encounters. In Push, both teams must work together to overcome obstacles and make it to the center of the playing field, where a robot and two barricades stand between them. Once a team possesses the robot, they can begin pushing against the opposing side’s barrier; the winner is determined by the team that advances the most at the end of the match.
The relentless back-and-forth of warfare in every game I’ve played has been tremendously suspenseful, like a series of tugs of war where either side may win at any time. The experience of playing Overwatch has never been better than in Overwatch 2.
Blizzard’s efforts to curb cheating and eradicate negativity from the Overwatch community are commensurate with the game’s level of competition. Such measures include removing one of Overwatch’s most coveted features, Medals, and asking users to link a phone number to their Battle.net account. You’ll no longer receive one of them at the conclusion of every game;
instead, the Play of the Game reel and your own experience bar will build up while you play. Eliminating medals seems unnecessary, though, as you can always check how your numbers compare to those of your teammates and adversaries at the click of a button.
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For me, the motivation to improve my game came from the medals I earned (or from the fact that I was “on fire” during a battle, another element removed from the sequel) and from being able to recognize when my teammates or opponents were displaying exceptional talent. Taking this into account, I was able to be more selective in my praise. It’s not a huge thing to miss, but it bothered me.
It’s hardly the biggest shift in the way Overwatch rewards players, though. The introduction of the battle pass is a highly contentious addition to the gaming industry, and it coincides with Overwatch 2’s transition to free-to-play. Overwatch 2’s battle passes, which are available for the full nine-week season, will provide aesthetic enhancements to players instead of random loot boxes. There is a premium version of these battle passes that costs 1,000 Overwatch Coins, or around $10 USD.
Although I still believe that random loot boxes might be exploitative since they capitalize on players’ propensity to “gamble” for whatever rewards they desire, it’s more difficult for me to say whether or not these battle passes are good for players.
Blizzard promotes the fact that all new heroes, which are set to premiere every other season, will always be available for free in an effort to reduce the perception that purchasing the premium battle pass is necessary. Premium Battle Pass purchasers, however, will get access to these heroes immediately, while those without the pass will have to advance to Tier 55 before they become available.
Despite doing rather well in most matches and completing some of the game’s new challenges, I found that the battle pass did not level up all that rapidly throughout my time with the game. Despite Blizzard’s decision to keep new characters out of Competitive PvP play for the initial weeks, this means players are in for a long wait if they don’t buy the premium pass and will need to put a lot of effort into unlocking levels, which feels unjust.
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Sure, much as in Fortnite, you can earn money through the battle pass that lowers the price of a future premium upgrade, which could be the best way to go about it if you want to do a lot of playing. However, some of these changes feel at odds with the original Overwatch ethos, which took great satisfaction in not locking heroes behind paywalls and maintaining fair playing fields.
From what I could tell of seasons two, three, and four in my little time with them, a lot of work is going into themed seasons with unique cosmetics, with the most intricate ones being kept behind paywalls. This new paradigm requires players to pay for a premium battle pass or buy an item outright if they want to dress to impress, whereas the loot boxes at least provided some degree of equality in that you could acquire any item at random.
Another thing to think about is that it has recently been revealed that players who purchase Overwatch 2 without first owning the original Overwatch will have to complete 100 matches before they have access to the full roster of characters. I find this choice to be completely bizarre, even if I do understand the intentions behind it.
The team has made this choice as part of the game’s “First Time User Experience,” which is designed to ease new players into the game and discourage the creation of smurf accounts. Still, making users put through 10-20 hours and demonstrate their skill before gaining access to new heroes seems superfluous and maybe condescending.
Overwatch’s original ethos—that players should try out different strategies and heroes to determine what works best for them—feels ridiculous given that a large portion of the roster is unavailable.
However, this is far from the only problem at launch. My time spent with Overwatch 2 before its debut was challenging owing to the low amount of players, but after its release, my mild displeasure quickly escalated to aggravation. It would take me hours to log in, and then I’d be thrown out of the game after a match.
Not to add the numerous reported issues from others around me, such as unintentional skin purchases, data transfer problems, and troubles with Overwatch 2’s prior SMS requirements. There’s little doubt that the beginning of any live service game is going to be rocky, but this one seemed exceptionally startling.
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However, it’s important to note that Blizzard is working hard to fix these problems. Reduced server wait times, removal of the SMS need for the vast majority of users, and at least three brief server outages for maintenance have all resulted in substantial enhancements.
Notably absent from Overwatch 2’s first release is the ability to engage in PvE. Not only is it upsetting to have to wait until next year to see it, but it also makes the sequel feel more like an update simply packaged as a whole new chapter, given that this feature was expected to be the pioneering, momentous element that set it apart from its predecessor.
Overwatch, although being a fun game to play, feels more like an experiment in conforming to the current economic structures for multiplayer shooters if PvE hadn’t been included at launch. That may sound like a cynical assessment, and perhaps it is, but it also feels cynical.
Overwatch 2 shifts the franchise from a trend-defining shooter to a follower, with changes ranging from the removal of Winston’s motivational opening speech—which speaks to the heart and soul of what Overwatch represents—to the game’s menu’s sleek, almost overly-polished new style.
Because of this, it no longer feels like a novel sci-fi, superhero comic book in video game form, and more like, well, a lot of other games. Overwatch 2’s gameplay certainly allows it to hang with the top of the crop, but this comes at the expense of the first game’s distinctive visual style and interesting environment, which seem watered down.
The characters in Overwatch 2 are the game’s biggest saving grace. The older characters’ visual and functional updates feel like an improvement, giving them a much-needed facelift without destroying the charm of their original forms.
Even while it may take some time to adjust to not having certain abilities (I’ll confess, I miss Orisa’s barrier), the focus on making tanks more effective at doing damage and less reliant on shields makes playing them pleasure and contributes to the game’s more aggressive style in Overwatch 2.
Also, the damage dealt by heroes with stuns and freeze attacks has been increased, so that they no longer bring games to a standstill, and heroes like Sombra and Cassidy have abilities that keep the game rolling and damage statistics going up.
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Considering there are 30 or more people to manage, the roster appears very stable in spite of all the changes. We can, luckily, expect this to hold true for the live service version of the game. While there will always be growing pains as players adjust to more frequent changes (and their favorite characters are unable to play at times), this trend may ultimately lead to a game that is healthier and lasts longer.
I also have nothing but high praise for the three new heroes, who are all well-crafted and surprisingly adaptable. Sojourn is a one-woman army with a keen eye for strategy, and Junker Queen is a tanky behemoth with skills that cripple her enemies to give her a tactical advantage.
Kiriko is unlike any other support hero in the game; not only can she walk through walls to heal her allies, but she can also deal significant damage with her kunai, making her a great choice for players who are more accustomed to the role of damage dealer (DSR) but find themselves in a situation where they must play the support role.
Finally, I was able to get a sneak peek at two characters that will be appearing in future seasons of Overwatch 2. Although they may be tweaked more, both of these heroes have a lot of potentials and have been well-created. They will bring something unique to the table, and I can’t wait to see how they interact with the rest of the cast.
Overwatch 2 is an excellent sequel to a multiplayer game because of the way its features allow for exciting battles between teams of heroes. Nonetheless, it fails to stand on its own as either a standalone work or a worthy sequel. Even while the changes to the gameplay itself are improvements, they are surrounded by irritants that weren’t there before.
Since the game is in a “live-service” state and will be updated in response to user feedback, Blizzard has a solid base from which to expand. Overwatch 2 has a lot going for it, and the addictive multiplayer dynamics that made the first game so popular are back and better than ever in the thick of battle. Still, if there’s one thing the first Overwatch taught me, it’s to think large when it comes to what video games can be.
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