I still remember the old days of Overwatch: when Mercy could mass rez, when Symmetra gave out shields to her teammates, or even the time when Sym had her own shield. Overwatch has changed a lot over the years since its release in 2016, and I’ve been around to see it all. Now I’m gearing up for the biggest change the game has introduced yet: Overwatch 2.
Rather than a traditional sequel, Overwatch 2 is essentially a mandatory update to the original game that replaces it with an entirely different one. This is unlike any video game release I’ve ever experienced, and I still have some concerns. Overwatch is one of my favorite games, and it’s the only one my friends will play together these days. While I should be excited about its newest iteration, I find myself mourning the loss of the original.
Currently, Overwatch 2 resides in its own uncanny valley of sorts. I recognize the characters and the maps, and the core idea is still there, but somehow, it still feels foreign to me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own. Of course, I want a so-called sequel to feel different from the first, but I’m not sure if I like all of the changes. That’s not to say that Overwatch was the perfect game and didn’t have its fair share of faults, but on its release, it felt entirely unique and new. Overwatch 2 loses some of that spark in exchange for maximizing profits. The monetization structure is now more aggressive, making it feel less like a game, and more like a product.
I appreciate the shift away from loot boxes in the gaming industry, but the new trend favoring battle passes feels just as predatory. Overwatch 2‘s battle pass system is much like any other game’s. For ten dollars, you can unlock the premium version of the battle pass, gaining access to a ton more cosmetics compared to the free version. However, when new heroes are added to the game, they’ll be unlockable through the battle pass at level 55 (there are 80 levels in total). The thing is, those who fork up for the premium pass get that hero immediately. In a game where counter-picking against the enemy’s heroes has always been a core tenet, some players seem to have a distinct advantage by having access to some heroes while other players don’t.
Introducing new characters this way is a prime example of capitalizing on the fear of missing out (FOMO). It preys on addictive personalities as much as, if not more than, loot boxes. These heroes will at least be available later in the shop or through unique challenges when the season is over, but FOMO can only motivate players for so long before they get discouraged with the game. I fear that folks who aren’t consistently able to purchase the battle pass and unlock the heroes and cosmetics they want will feel alienated.
I don’t typically spend this much time thinking about battle passes in games, but Overwatch 2 feels different. Because the first game had a different system altogether, the monetization seems much more noticeable. Now, I have to grind more levels and play more hours to unlock fewer cosmetics. Loot boxes may have left it up to chance, but at least I was guaranteed four items each time, whereas the battle pass gives one per level. The focus is now on purchasing items from the shop with premium currency. With all of these games vying for my constant attention — and money — these days, I’m becoming exhausted. My favorite hobby is starting to feel like a chore.
My experience with Overwatch 2 hasn’t been all bad though, and I’m very excited to see new cosmetics in the future. That’s why it stings to think about how I may not be able to unlock all the ones I want. The franchise’s strong art direction and character designs have always been incredible, and the quality of the skins and other cosmetics has only increased over time. The graphics have been updated as well, and in that respect, Overwatch 2 feels like a worthy sequel.
Many heroes have been reworked and rebalanced, and the newest heroes are unique and interesting. With so many changes to the core gameplay, namely the reduction of players on each team to five, matches in Overwatch 2 genuinely feel very different from the original. Fights are quicker and more intense, and there seems to be less of a reliance on your team to work together. Being the only tank on the team certainly feels more challenging, especially for those of us who typically preferred the off-tank role over the main tank. It’s a constant balance between playing defensively and aggressively.
The actual gameplay is where Overwatch 2 feels the most uncanny to me. It’s hard to describe many tangible differences outside of a faster pace, but there’s just something different about it, and I’m interested to see what it feels like in a competitive match. Competitive play is where it always gets a little more frustrating when teams won’t work together, and the stakes feel much higher. As with Overwatch, I imagine its sequel will evolve just as much over time as well, as new heroes and maps are introduced, and as the existing roster is rebalanced over and over again. I just hope the devs don’t notice how strong Moira is right now, because she’s especially fun to play at the moment (please don’t nerf her, Blizzard, she’s all I’ve got left).
It’s been difficult to review a game that relies so much on its ability to change and evolve over time, especially when trying to figure out how it will hold up down the line. I’m only left to speculate how I think the release will go, and what the future of the game holds. That’s not even to mention how the introduction of PvE/single-player will change the experience, or how it feels to play when the community at large gains access. Playing with just a small group of journalists was a nice change of pace, but it was very curated and didn’t give the best picture of what the live game would be like. There’s no way to predict the future of Overwatch 2, but I am concerned about its longevity compared to the first.
Above all, I worry that with this new battle pass system, my favorite game will start to feel like every other game out there. With the release of Overwatch 2, there’s now no going backward. Let’s just hope that I’m wrong about its future because I don’t want to lose the game that brought so many of my friends together.
This review is based on the PC version of Overwatch 2. Early access to multiplayer servers was provided by Blizzard Entertainment.
Overwatch 2 replaces its predecessor with a similar, yet different experience, but its future feels uncertain as the franchise moves toward a more aggressive monetization structure with little to distinguish itself from every other live-service game.