Writing about Overwatch 2 feels strange at a time like this. Not because we’re only seeing half of what this sequel promises to offer (PvE coming next year) but because of the state of Activision Blizzard in the past two years. In that time, the company has been sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after allegations of multiple women facing daily harassment and abuse while at the company; a Wall Street Journal article about CEO Bobby Kotick‘s attempt to cover up this mistreatment; and several employee walkouts demanding a better workplace.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, the company was also purchased by Microsoft for billions of dollars.
For a while, we at Prima Games took a stance and decided not to cover anything Activision Blizzard outside of the lawsuit. Then, almost two years later, we opened up a bit more on that policy; companies are fickle and tricky to navigate. So bear with us as we traverse this ground with respect and tact for the employees of Activision Blizzard and our readers.
Overwatch 2 Isn’t The Grand Entrance We Hoped For
Overwatch 2 has had a very interesting development cycle, from its original announcement to the somewhat finished product. The early access PvP experience launches on October 4, 2022, after years of strange marketing, new design philosophies, and a new business model.
Up front, Overwatch 2 has moved to a 5v5 team composition, removing one tank from each team. I didn’t think this was a smart move when it was initially announced, as many of Overwatch’s tanks feel better disrupting an enemy backline rather than soaking up damage on the frontlines.
However, the reworks of more defensive tanks like Orisa prove that the new game plan is to push your team forward constantly. This allows characters like Sombra to be more useful in their disruption abilities. Every team fight feels like two bulls locking horns, waiting for the knees to buckle. Having your DPS more focused on getting a pick or two ensures the battle goes in your favor.
My gripes with Overwatch 2 don’t boil down to the moment-to-moment gameplay. It’s everything that surrounds this game that is the problem. A move to free-to-play means lootboxes are gone, and a new seasonal battle pass is in place. On paper, that’s every free-to-play game of this era. However, putting new heroes on the free battle pass track or behind the premium battle pass is against everything Overwatch has been for the past six years.
The draw of Overwatch is the ability to quickly swap to something your team needs, making everyone feel like they can contribute to the team even if you aren’t the best shot.
Sure, the development team has said there will be ways to get heroes if you miss a season or don’t make it to tier 55 of 80 on the battle pass, but why lock heroes, the biggest draw to Overwatch, behind a needless grind? Couple that with the nine-week season Blizzard plans to stick to, and you don’t give players a ton of time to progress in this pass.
Heroes are the lifeblood of Overwatch and should be given upfront; it’s the heart and soul of this game. The new “First Time User Experience” that Blizzard is touting is also a design choice that feels antithetical to the original philosophy of Overwatch. Having to unlock heroes from the base roster throughout 100 matches is the easiest way to turn off people from falling in love with the game like original players have.
It’s a cavalcade of decisions like this that make sifting through all the bad choices around a good game challenging.
The battle pass is acceptable, offering multiple skins, voice lines, and other cosmetic items. The trickiest balancing act Blizzard has to do with the pass is to make sure everyone’s favorite hero gets something. This season a new style of cosmetics the team calls “Mythic Skins” were added. Genji is the only hero with one, and it’s a customizable style that allows you to change the weapon, tattoos, color scheme, and mask on the skin. It’s a neat idea and one I hope evolves and changes over time.
An in-game shop now offers a rotating selection of new skins and bundles for players to purchase. This is where most new skins and other cosmetics will live. None of these changes are revolutionary; as I mentioned earlier, every live-service-style game uses this model.
Overwatch has strong bones, and it’s why even, despite a lot of the structural changes around the game, it can still be a great time with friends. I have put a lot of time into Overwatch 2, and there are some new changes, like the daily, weekly, and lifetime challenges that allow players to earn extra experience and player titles, and all-new cosmetics in the game.
The newest playable hero Kiriko, a support class focusing on quick movement and teleportation, is an excellent addition to the roster. Overwatch has always had a problem with too few supports and too many DPS characters. Many of Overwatch’s supports feel a little homogenous in design, and Kiriko breaks the mold in almost every way. Her teleportation through walls sets up clutch plays alongside her kunai daggers that can deal a ton of damage if landed. Her ultimate Kitsune Rush fits in with Overwatch 2’s emphasis on pushing forward. It’s a rush move that gives your entire team increased speed and cooldown reduction—making it a perfect way to push through the enemy line.
Overwatch 2 works because it’s standing on the shoulders of everything that came before it. The original game had its problems, but the core of Overwatch was exceptional. Overwatch 2 should feel like an improvement in every aspect, but it feels like two steps forward and one step back in every direction.
It’s hard to feel like the 2 is deserving here because while there are some sweeping changes, it doesn’t feel like the grand entrance a sequel typically has. Two of the three new heroes have been playable in the recent betas for months, outside of some new maps and a game mode; nothing screams a big-budget sequel here. Even a lot of the character redesigns feel like the team didn’t push the envelope in terms of setting a new standard in the space, instead just making them feel slightly different like time had passed.
Overwatch 2 makes some changes to the formula, and most of the important ones stick. It will take some time to see the team iron out their monetization ideas and structure, but we hope it remembers that Overwatch is about the heroes that bring this world to life.