A lot of the Overwatch community are wondering whether or not Overwatch 2 is going to be the magical saviour that the franchise so desperately needs. The current state of Overwatch is unfortunately a hollow shell of what it once was. After a myriad of poor balance changes and bad decision followed by bad decision, Blizzard have run one of their most popular IPs into the ground.
A little pre-requisite, Overwatch on launch was probably the most fun I’ve ever had whilst playing a videogame. I was one of the people who played it for years and loved it, but eventually realised that no matter how I looked at it, it was just not enjoyable anymore. It was like an abusive relationship that I kept going back to even though I knew it wasn’t good for me, and all I wanted was for the game to be as much fun as it was on release.
So, like many others, I’m cautiously looking towards Overwatch 2 in the hope that it will reignite the love that I once had for the franchise, and this beta is probably the best indicator the player-base has as to whether or not that hope will become a reality. This review is going to be from the perspective of a tank main, which is important to note because after playing each role a fair amount, the primary thing I learnt from playing the beta in its current state, is that tank mains are probably going to like Overwatch 2 and support mains will probably not.
Before delving into why that is, it’s important to analyse some of the gameplay changes that impact everyone regardless of their preferred role.
First off, the sound and polish for Overwatch 2 really is fantastic. A lot of readers out there might not care about changes like this, but for those that do, the overall feel and aesthetic has improved a lot. Are the graphical changes drastic enough to warrant the title of a sequel? No, absolutely not. Changing around the weather and time of day on some of the maps is not exactly re-inventing the wheel. But a lot of the small improvements to things like audio, UI and textures do definitely add up to what feels like a smoother, more satisfying experience. A lot of players will ultimately just see things like this as fluff and padding however, so let’s start taking a look at the actual gameplay itself.
One of the main things on people’s mind is how the change to 5v5 has affected things. Well, it goes without saying but picks during team fights matter a lot more when there’s one less player on each team. Overall, the pace of 5v5 is a lot faster, so much so that it honestly feels like team deathmatch half the time. There is a lot less of the usual sweeping team fights and a lot more brawl like chaos. Some people might be disappointed to hear this because it’s a slight step away from the MOBA style dynamic that drew a lot of people towards the game in the first place. I have to say personally, I think it’s a step in the right direction.
Even though the fights are more brawl style they also feel a lot less overwhelming, and I found it easier to process the chaos. The spirit of team based co-ordination is still a core part of the game, but the experience now feels a bit less reliant on needing those big co-ordinated pushes and ultimate combinations to win fights. There is a lot more potential for individuals to carry, which gives each player a lot more control over the outcome of the match.
One of the things that felt so frustrating in the original game, was that it was almost so team reliant, that you often felt powerless in impacting the outcome of the match. In this regard, Overwatch 2’s PvP still has the potential to be one sided, but you as an individual don’t feel completely useless in your role if you end up with bad teammates. Whilst this certainly reduces the need for some of the cohesive skill that was a requirement in the original, it opens up the game to a wider, more casual audience and flattens out what was quite a steep learning curve for new players that are looking to give the game a try.
Whether or not you think this is a good thing probably depends on what you want from the franchise long term. Blizzard have clearly found it difficult to balance the hero roster as it now stands in a 6v6 hyper team-based setting. I would personally much rather have the game take a different direction and appeal to a more general audience if it means a revival for the franchise and a resulting experience that is less soul destroying.
Whether or not you agree, I still firmly believe that how much you enjoy the beta is going to mainly depend on what role you like to play. If you’re a tank main like myself, you’re in for a fun time. I thought that I would miss the co-ordination that came with running compositions like Rein/Zarya, but I really don’t. With the removal of a whole tank spot in the line-up, tanks have received a major buff to health and general survivability, with heroes like Doomfist and Orisa being completely reworked. Rein, Zarya and Winston also have some welcomed changes and overall tanks now actually feel a lot more like tanks rather than punching bags.
With the increased health pool, they’re more geared towards their intended purposes of creating space, sponging damage for your team and being an overall presence. Doomfist’s role swap in particular, means that he’s now used more for disruption instead of damage dealing, and Orisa’s spear is not only a nice form of range but is extremely satisfying to use.
Another huge part of what has made tanks more fun to play, is the removal of a lot of the games CC (crowd control). The presence of too much CC and too many shields is arguably one of the main things that killed the first game, so for tanks in particular these changes are a god send. Cassidy enjoyers probably aren’t going to be so happy with his stun being removed, but I think it’s a sacrifice you cowboy mains out there are going to have to make.
As a filthy Reinhardt one trick, I am having more fun than ever playing the beta. This is the first time in a long time that I don’t hate myself whilst playing Overwatch. But it’s clear that supports are having an absolutely horrific time with the new changes. Perhaps it’s because of the new fast paced nature, but most main healers feel incredibly gruelling. The new fast-paced brawl like nature of things makes it so that the only healers that can really keep up are Lucio and Moira.
If you are a Zen, Ana, or a Mercy main, you are probably not going to have a fun time with the game in its current state. Playing healer has never been the most popular role, but it feels like with one less tank for people to shoot at, you get focused down more than ever. Hopefully by the time it releases, Blizzard will take in feedback and work on this because if the game is released without some improvements for supports, they’re going to alienate an entire role worth of players.
When it comes to DPS, some say Sojourn is overpowered and I was tempted to think so at first. After talking to other players and getting their opinions, I would say that she isn’t necessarily overpowered but is certainly very strong. If you can aim well, unlike myself, then she it’s clear that she has the potential to be one of the best damage dealers in the game. She builds up charge by landing shots and can then use this charge to fire a railgun that can one shot most characters. Her power slide makes her hard to catch out as well, so overall I’d say she might need a little bit of tuning before launch but I’m having a blast playing her and I think she is a great addition to the roster. The Bastion changes are also ridiculously fun. I really thought that rolling around in turret form would be too strong but it’s actually reasonably well-balanced. The same goes for Mei’s new changes, which remove the ability to freeze people from her primary fire whilst keeping the slowing effect and increasing its damage.
In regard to new content, the new game mode ‘Push’ is a much better alternative to 2CP and from what I’ve played, the new maps seem relatively well designed. The lengthy queue times are still as prevalent as ever, only this time tanks now have the highest waiting period and supports have the lowest, with DPS queues being slightly shorter than they were. This is obviously in due part to the removal of a tank slot, but I think it’s also reflective of the popularity of each role.
One positive that I have definitely taken away from the beta, is that regardless of what hero I’m playing, I can say with confidence that I find myself getting noticeably less annoyed at losses than I did in the first game. Maybe it’s because there is one less teammate for me to blame for my subpar gameplay, but I’d say that the removal of CC and the slightly less team-oriented nature of things culminates in an experience that has me much less frustrated when things don’t go well. Of course, there is only quick play in the beta, so perhaps when I get round to losing eight competitive games in a row I might say differently.
So, is the franchise saved?
There’s a meme going round that Overwatch 2 should really be called Overwatch 1.5, and it’s completely correct. It is generally the same game but with a massive shift in the meta carried out through ability balancing and character reworks. All of the changes for the PvP could have been done in a massive update, much like DOTA 2 did a few years ago. The PvP alone is definitely not worth the classification of being a sequel and until we see how good the PvE is, it’s hard to tell why it’s being given the title of a whole new game (definitely not money).
With all of this said though, just because the changes aren’t drastic enough to be sequel worthy, doesn’t mean they’re bad. In fact, I think the gameplay as a whole has improved massively and I am enjoying it nearly as much as I did back in its early years. The multiplayer is also going to be free for those that own the first game, so overall I think it’s a really positive step for the direction of the franchise. I understand why people are sceptical, but all l I know is that for the first time in a long time, I’m enjoying playing Overwatch again, and that feels good.
Pearce is a recent masters graduate with a passion for games. He thinks they can be seen as a form of art, conveying stories and narratives that can have an immense impact on players. Outside of game design, he has an interest in Twitch, music and animals.