Overwatch 2: New Dog, Old Tricks

“Overwatch 2” the semi sequel to Blizzard’s hit first-person shooter finally released for the public a few days ago. After two years of no new Overwatch content, finally something happens. But, while the game is filled with new life, it feels in some degrees to have lost some of its charm. While it’s still fundamentally a lot of the same fast paced action players have come to know and love, it’s hard to say whether this was worth the content drought that plagued the game for so long.

The biggest change to Overwatch 2 gameplay wise is the changing the game to a 5v5 rather than a 6v6, which allows for an ostensibly faster paced game. This change accompanies a fair number of changes for the Tank role as well, as many of the tanks have been reworked to accommodate the 5v5 format. And to the game’s credit, the game does play much faster. Every game feels much faster paced and chaotic, with player awareness being far more required than previously. 5v5, despite being an incredibly risky thing to do, pays off spectacularly gameplay wise and is one of the unambiguously good things about “Overwatch 2” currently.

Aside from 5v5, there’s the new Push game mode which replaces the often-reviled assault mode. Push is interesting, it’s essentially the tug of war aspect of the Assault maps and turns it more literal with a robot pushing a wall to the other side, but it’s too early to tell whether it’s better or worse than what was removed. Push games currently have the tendency to drag on for a very long time compared to other game modes, and you can only get flanked so many times before one starts to roll their eyes and beg for it to end.

The three new heroes are all fun to play. Special mention goes to Junker Queen, a hyper aggressive tank that fights almost exclusively at close range and deals damage over time, and Kiriko the first support hero in three years. But at the same time, the game still feels more like Overwatch 1.5 than a full blown sequel.

Overwatch 2 has gone free to play instead of being a one-time purchase like its predecessor. Accompanying this is probably the single most predatory monetization of a free to play game in recent years. New heroes must be unlocked via the games battle pass, which in a game that is all about counter picking, spells disaster for the players who can’t afford to shill out money every few updates. Furthermore, the PvE campaign that was the original reason that the game was even being made still isn’t even out yet, leaving the player base with what is essentially a glorified patch.

Then there’s minor things, such as the removal of post-game screens, the removal of the on-fire system, the general change in art direction that kind of makes the game feel more streamlined and lose its unique identity. It kind of feels like it was a rush job to get something out the door.

In “Overwatch 2” there’s fun to be had for sure. But it remains too early to see whether this will capture the magic that made the original so special in 2016.