The existence of an Overwatch “sequel” was hinted at all the way back in May 2019, at the height of a competitive push. Overwatch League was destined to become the next big esports event, rivaling the likes of League of Legends in viewership. What better way to catch that wave of popularity than create a sequel? And it wasn’t long until we were introduced to Overwatch 2. Blizzard shot for the stars, branding a mere content expansion as a completely new entry — something that could end up a major marketing blunder. Still, players were eager to try it, and now the beta is live. But not without concerns. The Overwatch 2 beta could have been an interesting shakeup, but is instead hugely disappointing, especially considering the years fans waited with no content.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first before diving into the meat of what’s mediocre about Overwatch 2 in its current beta state. Players went years without updates to the main game, only receiving the occasional deathmatch map, skin pack, or balance patch. On top of that, the tribulations going on over at Activision Blizzard with the company culture certainly didn’t help. Jeff Kaplan, the father of Overwatch, left development midway through — certainly not an encouraging sight. Everything was falling over like a house of cards, and there was a period of time when it seemed like Overwatch 2 wouldn’t come out at all.
But here we are, three years later. Three years later after the original game, left in a derelict state where the only new content we got was non-competitive affairs. Game queues lasted ages, due to a forced role queue mechanic that has carried its way back into Overwatch 2. But hope won out in the end. Surely, Blizzard hadn’t left us in the dark for all this time for a mere repainting of the same game.
An old coat of paint
Okay, maybe I’m not being fair here. This is just the first PvP beta, and we were promised more maps and heroes to come soon. But here’s the problem: the Overwatch 2 beta doesn’t quite have the potential of a sequel that distinguishes itself enough from the original.
It’s not that I want Overwatch to play like something other than Overwatch. However, the game has not changed to the point where I felt like the elongated period of radio silence was worth it. Sojourn certainly doesn’t come off as anything truly special, aside from her slide. Most of the characters feel the exact same, if not downgraded completely. Characters like Mei, Junkrat, and Roadhog among others don’t work well in this new 5v5 format. (Not to mention crowd control has evaporated from Mei and Junkrat’s kit — arguably a good thing, except not balanced well.)
Tanks have been overhauled completely and are left in a ghastly state. The transition from two tanks to one has left some of these heroes in the dust, such as Roadhog and Wrecking Ball. The dissolution of a second tank has shifted the meta from a stall-y, team-fight “shoot the shield simulator,” into one that I can hardly say is better. Overwatch 2 doesn’t exactly encourage team fighting. It’s more like a brawler, reminiscent of the dive meta of the original game. Removing a second tank has shredded off a layer of complexity in fights.
Is that a good thing? That’s really up to the community, but I don’t think the transition into 5v5 gameplay is healthy for the game going forward. Some heroes got mild reworks, while the Support cast received a whole bunch of nothing — it’s like they’re playing the same game, except they have to deal with constant bombardment by flankers. The disturbing condition of the Support class is evident in the returning role queue, where players must wait 10 minutes if they want to play as a tank in a quickplay match that lasts three minutes or so.
The graphical changes were not a success either. Many of the maps are bleached in an unpleasant glow, supposedly meant to replicate a sunset, but instead resembling a rapturous apocalypse. Once-beautiful maps like Illios are now irradiated with an orange fog that highlights the smorgasbord of visual clutter. Seriously, there are particles everywhere just invading all of my senses. New characters look somewhat slicker, but the visual updates for the characters themselves certainly aren’t game-changing.
Character reworks are also in flux. Orisa is certainly more fun to play, albeit released in a pretty abhorrent state with damage numbers always skyrocketing to the top of the leaderboard. Sombra is certainly stronger, but currently isn’t fun to play, as her stealth made her obnoxious with unrewarding counterplay. Bastion is certainly different, but his new form is arguably worse than the original.
Even some new UI revamps make it feel like the game is going in the wrong direction. The introduction of a scoreboard totally goes against the spirit of the game. Now, instead of flexing medals at your teammates, you can flame them directly by making fun of their low damage stats. It’s not a good addition. And it’s not even well done. It’s no longer clear anymore when your teammate has their ultimate up, and trying to find what each stat stands for is confusing.
Play of the game
I’m not writing the Overwatch 2 beta itself as a failure. It’s a continuation of Overwatch, breathing in some new energy into a game that unfortunately stagnated. What is undeniably a failure though is that, following an immensely troubled production, we see a test product that only feels like a brand new coat of the same-colored paint. Will the luster of this new product actually breathe new life into not just the game, but the community? So far, I predict most of the players sticking with Overwatch 2 are those who continued to play the original.
Regardless, there’s still more to come with Overwatch 2, and despite the immense problems I had with the beta, I’m not writing it off yet. Maybe Blizzard will churn out enough heroes to spice things up. Maybe the PvE portion of the game will earn the title of Overwatch 2 and bring some new energy into this IP. We’ll just have to wait and see leading up to the official release of this content update.
Do I think that Overwatch 2 can bring players in who weren’t fans of the original? Absolutely not — at least, not right now. I’m not convinced the millions of players who tuned into Twitch streams to receive free beta keys are off playing the game. I do not think the 99% drop in viewership is indicative of a wave of players jumping at the seams to sink hours into this PvP beta, but potentially more as a reflection of shared disappointment. But now that updates for Overwatch seem to be released at a steady pace, the ball is in Blizzard’s court. The game didn’t need just a small “breath of fresh air.” It needed CPR.