After over a year of silence from Blizzard, Jeff Kaplan and his team finally revealed a 40 minute behind the scenes video during BlizzConline that aims to tell fans exactly what they can expect in the sequel. A common thread I've heard around the internet for the past year is "What exactly is Overwatch 2?" I'd had a hard time answering - until now.
As a huge fan with over one thousand hours in the MOBA/FPS hybrid, and who still logs in nearly every day, even I was skeptical about what Blizzard was bringing to the table. However, the in-depth presentation this weekend left me more than satisfied, and I'll be glad to pick it up when it launches in 2022.
What is Overwatch 2?
Overwatch 2 is in a strange place; it certainly isn't a full sequel of the Destiny 2 variety, for the simple fact that it will be compatible with the original Overwatch . It's somewhat like an expansion, though it also comes with a complete gameplay overhaul and a new engine. To try and explain it as simply as possible, Overwatch 2 is a huge PvE expansion. At the same time the PvE expansion releases, Overwatch will be replaced on your PC or console automatically. Overwatch as we know it will cease to exist. The PvP element of Overwatch (Quick Play, Competitive, and Arcade) will be compatible with the PvP elements of Overwatch 2: all modes will pull from the same pool of players.
If you fire up Overwatch on your PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 or Nintendo Switch, you will see a locked off area with a prompt to purchase the expansion. If you're on PC, when you open Battle.net, Overwatch will be gone and replaced with Overwatch 2, whether you've purchased it or not. Overwatch 2 is a free game for all owners of Overwatch, but with a PvP expansion you'll need to purchase.
Even if you don't buy Overwatch 2, here's what you're getting in a free update when it launches:
- A brand new engine
- A revamped UI during PvP and menus
- Total gameplay overhaul (Tanks will move faster and have higher damage output, Ultimates have been reworked, all healers have passive healing etc)
- Six new heroes at launch with more to come
- Six new PvP maps at launch with more to come
- A new PvP mode called "Push" for Quick Play and Competitive
- Two Capture Point mode (referred to as King of the Hill) will exit the Quick Play/Competitive line-up and be relegated to the Arcade
- Removal of loot boxes (no word yet on what is replacing them, most likely a season pass)
If you do purchase Overwatch 2, here's what you'll get on top of that:
- A new PvE expansion with two modes: Hero Missions and Story Missions
- New base skins for all characters and new unlockable skins (your previous skins will carry over with you)
Looking at the list, it seems like not much is coming with the sequel. But Blizzard is counting on the wide variety of Hero Missions and Story Missions to tempt even casual players into a purchase.
What are the new PVE modes?
In PvE, you'll level up your characters with experience points and use talent points to unlock abilities and upgrades in a comprehensive RPG skill tree. These upgrades include increased damage, speed or armor as well as brand new abilities, like Soldier 76's traveling biotic field or sonic pulse. Your Tracer will always be the same and carry her skills in any PVE mission, whether it's a Hero or a Story mission, but these RPG upgrades do not carry over to the PvP mode.
It's important to note that every Reaper or Genji in the PVP modes, at least in Quick Play and Competitive, will have the same abilities and power. I personally hope there's an arena of sorts where I can use my Level 99 Mercy against a team with a Level 99 Reinhardt, but that has yet to be announced. For now, your Level 13 Tracer will be confined to the PvE modes and when entering a Quick Play or Competitive match will simply be Tracer.
Hero Missions are a collection of over 100 handcrafted missions that take place on sectioned-off parts of PvP maps, or even on brand new extensions of familiar maps. If you're familiar with the events like "Retribution" and "Storm Rising," it'll be more of that, with a much larger enemy variety. Kaplan's team showcased some of the dozens of different kinds of robots that we'll see in the hordes, running all the way from simple gun bots to a terrifying flying witch robot.
In each of these missions, conditions will be changed. There are a variety of objective types, as well as dynamic weather. A snowstorm, thunderstorm or rainstorm could really make life difficult for a character like Ana, but it makes Hanzo's Sonic Arrow indispensable. Each Hero Mission will be playable with the whole cast of characters, and your Level 13 Tracer with 5 Blinks instead of 3 can finally shine. Four Players will take on a horde and complete objectives with an infinite number of combinations of powers; it seems the team is using the incredibly fun and simple formula of Left 4 Dead as a reference point.
Story Missions are what we're really looking forward to, though. Story Missions will be drip fed to us on a schedule (yet to be determined how frequently, but the plan is to have one every few weeks) and take place on custom maps around the world. The first Story Mission, "Rio", was playable at Blizzcon 2019 on the floor and was met with a positive response. Each Story Mission allows a team of four players to choose from a small, select pool of heroes that were canonically present for the event in question. Each Story Mission is bookended with a several minute-long cinematic short at the intro and outro, and will take place chronologically in-universe in the order of release.
These stories begin in the "present time", immediately following the events of the Overwatch 2 intro cinematic when Winston reforms the team. Expect earlier missions to only have core characters such as Tracer, Mei, Genji and Mercy available, and slowly build as Overwatch recruits more heroes to the fray. This also means there will be specific Talon missions where you play as the villains, featuring Widowmaker, Sombra, Doomfist, Reaper, Sigma, Baptiste and Moira. Story missions seem like the way Blizzard will be introducing new heroes, so everyone can get a feel for them before they enter the PvP pool. And yes, you can bring your wonderful Level 13 Tracer with you to Story Missions she's present for. Every Hero and Story mission is available to replay in four difficulties, so working with friends to figure out the best combos and re-run it until you get it right should be tempting.
Overall, there is a lot to look forward to in Overwatch 2, and I'm excited to see how it all pans out once it releases next year. After over a thousand hours with the first game, I'm just about ready for an overhaul.