The original Overwatch launched in 2016 to overwhelmingly positive reviews and massive enthusiasm. It was a sleek, incredibly polished, hero-focused, team-based, first-person shooter game combining elements of beloved games in similar genres like Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends. Combine that with the pedigree of Blizzard Entertainment’s then untarnished reputation and characteristic charm, and you have a guaranteed success. The original Overwatch flourished upon its initial release, floundered slightly as a result of extremely infrequent updates essential to maintaining public interest in a live-service game, and eventually largely disappeared from the public eye after a handful of years as development was cut off to focus on the upcoming Overwatch 2. The sequel promised major updates and improvements, backwards compatibility, and a massive amount of cooperative Players versus Environment (PvE) gameplay. Now years later, Overwatch 2 has released in a bizarre state that has left fans largely disgruntled and questioning if it even deserves to be called a sequel.
To be blunt, Overwatch 2 feels more like a corporate effort to salvage a dying intellectual property than anything vaguely resembling an update. This is Overwatch 1.5 at best, and even that feels like an exaggeration. The new content amounts to a singular character, six new maps (at the cost of three from the previous game leaving the rotation), and a change from six versus six game play to five versus five. The PvE content promised as a major selling point is absent and won’t be available until next year. The singular new character, Kiriko, is locked behind a paywall and inaccessible until players purchase an additional battle pass or put dozens upon dozens of hours into the game. The five versus five format often turns the game into an unbalanced mess, as most of the original content was based on having six players on each team. Tank classes in particular are now grossly overpowered. User interfaces and logos have been tweaked, but it’s a smoke and mirrors act to distract from the fact that this game is blatantly identical in every meaningful way to its predecessor. It’s the same characters, on the same maps, playing the same game we played in 2016.
I wouldn’t hold your breath for the cooperative PvE content to save this game, as everything points to that being a disastrous mess. Having the core new experience for your title massively delayed on launch suggests that something is substantially flawed. Beyond this, a small taste of the PvE experience is present in the limited Halloween-themed event, Junkenstein’s Revenge: Wrath of the Bride, and it’s terrible. The event boils down to a team of four players making their way through a repurposed multiplayer map and defeating a horde of bland, faceless enemies and repurposed, AI-controlled characters. It’s an uninspiring slog of one-dimensional combat. The AI heroes in particular have massive health bars on higher difficulties and are generally tedious to fight. Not a great first showing for the largest selling point of this “sequel.”
With the launch of Overwatch 2, Blizzard had the game adopt the free-to-play model and completely reworked its progression and monetization systems. The game is technically free to play now, although that feels largely unhelpful to the majority of players who bought the game six years ago. The game going free-to-play seems like an inherent win, but with it comes a host of other issues and aggressive monetization in other areas. It’s fairly common for game publishers to turn titles into free-to-play structured experiences when they fail to perform as expected or are seeing a sharp decline in their active player count. Consider it a last resort option of sorts. It’s generally an attempt to revitalize a failing title or at least make some money off it before it goes. Previously, you could unlock cosmetic items and skins for your characters by leveling up and obtaining loot boxes. These loot boxes were four random items, but they were easily accessible and free to obtain. This has been completely done away with. Leveling is gone, now replaced solely by the battle pass. Loot boxes are also entirely absent. The game’s cosmetics are now solely obtainable through premium currency bought with real-world money. These skins aren’t cheap, and even in relation to the absurd price of cosmetic items and skins in most modern triple-A video games, these are outlandish. Your average skin for a single character is going to cost somewhere around 20 to 25 dollars. That is insanity. There is no reasonable way to justify that cost. These skins don’t even hold much value since Overwatch is a game played from the first-person perspective, meaning you barely see your character while playing and are constantly switching between a pool of several characters. Based on this aggressive monetization scheme, I would also assume that the eventual PvE section of the game will be a separate cost.
In conclusion, Overwatch 2 is a repackaging of the original title to reinvigorate public interest without bringing anything new or interesting to the table. Any changes that have been made are largely detrimental, and the revised monetization scheme is highly aggressive. I enjoyed the original when it launched so it’s sad to see it come to this, but Overwatch 2 is a shameless cash-grab rather than something meant to excite and please its audience.