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Overwatch 2 Review – Some of the Old, Some of the New

overwatch 2
Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment
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Overwatch 2 Review – Some of the Old, Some of the New

Are you with me?

Overwatch 2 on PC

Real talk: my feelings and thoughts on Overwatch 2 have definitely been a bit of a rollercoaster ride since the initial beta with Sojourn. Things started out pretty positive as I’d just been glad to be back on the Overwatch hype train again, then that hype took a nosedive with the Junker Queen beta when I realized how much shorter the time-to-kill was. Look, it’s no secret that I’m awful at competitive shooters, and dying within seconds always feels bad especially when you can’t even react.

Having spent a lot more time with the game over the past couple weeks during the review period, and having gone back to Overwatch 1 in that time as well, my overall feelings on the game have taken yet another u-turn. What I’m trying to say is that as a lapsed Overwatch player who sunk hundreds of hours into Competitive mode before finally deciding that game had run its course, this has been a confusing journey, but I’ll do my best to articulate everything that Overwatch 2 got right and wrong in this review.

The biggest foundational change made in Overwatch 2 is the shift to 5v5 from 6v6 matchups. And not only that, but we’re also taking a tank out of the equation. The impact that this has had on the way the game plays and feels is immediate; fights go by much quicker as once you take out a tank, that encounter is usually over.

My initial complaint with this change was that Overwatch 2 seemed to be moving more towards the competitive FPS scene, and if you weren’t getting kills for your team, then you probably weren’t contributing much overall. That feeling had been exacerbated by the release of Junker Queen, who felt more like a damage dealer rather than a tank. However, while I’m still not a fan of the newer heroes having a larger focus on DPS, it’s clear that dropping a tank has helped to make Overwatch 2 matches a lot more dynamic.

Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment

Going back to Overwatch this past weekend, I was instantly reminded of one of the reasons why I had fallen off the game in the first place. Overwatch was largely dominated by tank and shield metas, making it frustratingly difficult to get kills, as tanks could easily recharge their shields to keep protecting their teammates and prolong the fight. This is the same game that spawned the triple tank meta in the Overwatch League for a period of time, and those matches weren’t just boring to watch, they were boring to play against.

“The faster paced nature of the game feels electrifying.”

Longer matches due to how long it takes to even wear down a shield to get kills isn’t exciting gameplay, and Overwatch 2’s shift to 5v5 helps to alleviate that issue a lot. Being able to take down a tank quickly is immensely satisfying, and the faster paced nature of the game feels electrifying as a result.

On a personal note, faster matches also make those losses sting a little less, since you can quickly hop into a new one and start all over again. I’ve spent many a night in 2016 and 2017 laboring over tough losses in matches that dragged on for 20 minutes, and those were heartbreaking. “It’s supposed to be hard,” I’d tell myself, crying, as I quoted Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own. “The hard is what makes it great.” No, Tom. Sometimes the hard just gets in the way of a casual player’s fun video game experience.

It certainly also helps that a lot of the heroes feel incredibly balanced in Overwatch 2 right now. It’ll be a little while before the community as a whole decides whether Kiriko is overtuned or not (my early impressions say nah), but right now, most heroes seem to be in a pretty good spot. Every role comes with a passive ability now that enable them to perform better; tanks take reduced knockback and give lesser ult charge to foes who damage them, DPS characters get a movement buff, while supports get automatic health regen.

“It’s exciting to go up against a variety of heroes in each match.”

All the role passives are pretty fantastic, allowing tanks to lean more into being the team shield, while supports are slightly less squishy. Damage dealers have definitely benefited the most from the movement buffs as well, and pretty much every DPS hero feels viable. There are some exceptions, of course, as Genji has become even deadlier with increased speed, but Overwatch 2’s meta feels healthy at the moment, and it’s exciting to go up against a variety of heroes in each match.

With Overwatch 2, a lot of team compositions and strategies still revolve around picking and counter-picking, but it rarely ever feels like a match is won or lost based on the heroes you picked anymore. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you liked about the original Overwatch, and with Blizzard opting to lock new heroes behind the Battle Pass, this could be a positive for free-to-play users. More on the Battle Pass later.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you’re having trouble against an enemy team’s Pharah, you’re probably still gonna wanna switch to a hitscan DPS hero like Soldier to deal with her. That said, with the introduction of role passives and small tweaks here and there to various hero abilities, the balance in Overwatch 2 feels good at the moment. If I lost a match to an enemy Pharah, it wasn’t because we didn’t counter-pick against her; it was more likely because our team as a whole just didn’t deal with her and let her run loose.

If you liked the concept of constantly switching heroes mid-match to outplay your opponents, then this change likely won’t sit well with you. Personally, I liked that the flow of a match in Overwatch could completely change whenever someone swapped characters and we were forced to counter-pick against that to advance. It made things exciting, but with heroes being potentially locked behind a paywall or hours of grind for the foreseeable future, this is a change that helps even out the playing field a little.

Speaking of the Battle Pass, I’m not a fan. I’d mentioned in my preview that new heroes would be locked behind tier 55 of the Battle Pass, and it takes a huge time commitment to get up to that level. During the review period, Blizzard unlocked the premium track for members of the press, which meant that I got a 20% experience boost for the Battle Pass as well. Even with that boost, it still took me about two weeks to get to the 20s, and I can only imagine how much longer it’ll take F2P players to reach 55.

overwatch 2 battle pass
Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment

While Overwatch 2 seems to be moving away from counter-picking by making all heroes feel more viable, there’s always the concern that future heroes could end up being meta-defining, and locking them behind the Battle Pass like this would only serve to alienate F2P players. Season 1’s hero, Kiriko, is extremely fun to play and while she certainly doesn’t seem game-breaking or anything like that, we can’t necessarily say the same for her successors.

I’m also not a fan of Overwatch 2’s new weekly challenges. These task you with doing things like mitigating or boosting a certain amount of damage, or healing certain amounts of health. The challenges also require you to play matches as various roles that you just might not be interested in playing as, and this is where Overwatch 2 starts to feel like a bit of a chore. The fact is that some heroes are just better at mitigating damage than others; while Doomfist and Zarya might be able to do some mitigation, Reinhardt’s just way more efficient at it with his giant shield. This could easily lead to players choosing to play sub-optimal heroes just to get their weeklies done, and I wouldn’t hold that against them.

It doesn’t help that Overwatch 2 is pretty damn stingy with its premium currency, Overwatch Coins. F2P players will only be able to get 60 Coins each week by doing all 11 weekly challenges. This means that you’ll have to clear all your weeklies for two straight seasons in order to save enough Coins to buy a Battle Pass, and no, don’t even think about spending any of those Coins on skins. You won’t be able to keep up.

Couple that with the Battle Pass-locked heroes, and the entire Battle Pass system really just leaves a bad impression overall. The Mythic skins alone are cool enough that I could probably justify dropping $10 each season to try to grind up towards that, and the Pass does come with plenty of cute cosmetics on the paid track that fans likely won’t be able to resist. The core gameplay of Overwatch 2 is fun and compelling enough to keep me playing for hundreds of hours, and it doesn’t need to force all these annoying weekly challenges and ludicrous time commitments for hero unlocks on players to keep them engaged.

I’d love to see the Battle Pass tier requirement for hero unlocks get lowered to something a bit more reasonable at the very least, as that would likely alleviate a lot of complaints that fans have had with the monetization system.

Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment

Monetization aside, we can’t ignore that other big elephant in the room: the promised PvE mode. Three years ago, Overwatch 2 was announced with the promise of including a new campaign for players to go through, along with talent trees for each hero in the game. You’d be able to level up and upgrade individual skills for every hero, and go on Hero Missions, which were meant to be a form of replayable PvE endgame content.

Needless to say, none of the PvE stuff is here at launch, as Blizzard has stated that it’ll be coming in 2023 instead, and released in parts. As much as I’ve enjoyed the PvP side of things, I’m also part of the Overwatch fan base that’s far more interested in the characters and the Overwatch universe as a whole. I’m one of those fans who jumps on every animated short that Blizzard puts out, then quickly hops on the game because watching D.Va be a badass mech pilot makes me want to replicate her badassery in-game. And then I proceed to get unceremoniously dragged into the well on Ilios by a skilled Roadhog player.

I can’t help but feel that the less competitive, PvE-oriented fans have been neglected here. Sure, the 5v5 reworks have proven to be beneficial to the overall PvP scene, but the current state of Overwatch 2 won’t appeal to the fans who were looking forward to that completely fresh story experience that was promised the day the game was announced. Now that Blizzard has confirmed that the story mode will be released as seasonal content, it’s hard not to have a sense of trepidation about what that’s going to look like, but only time will tell.

It’s difficult to look back on a game like Overwatch and wonder what it could’ve been if it had been delayed, and released as a complete, full-priced package with none of the extras: no feel-bad Battle Passes, with the story mode and Hero Missions available to all from the get-go. It’s not all doom and gloom of course; I’ve been in denial about the change in direction for PvP, but tens of hours of playtime have convinced me that the new 5v5 format will lead to more exciting experiences going forward. For my fellow lore and character enthusiasts, well, there’s always next year.

Review Block

Twinfinite Editors Choice Award

Overwatch 2

4
/ 5

Great

Overwatch 2 Critic Review
Reviewer: Zhiqing Wan | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.

Pros

  • 5v5 matchups lead to more exciting and dynamic battles.
  • Heroes feel fairly balanced, with no one character dominating the meta, at least for now.
  • Role passives allow all roles to feel more impactful during a match.

Cons

  • The Battle Pass could be better.
  • Fans who were looking forward to the PvE content won’t find much to enjoy here.
Release Date
Oct. 4, 2022
Developer
Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher
Blizzard Entertainment
Consoles
PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, PC
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