I had a great relationship with the original Overwatch. It was the first game I ever played on PC and the first game I played competitively. For all its flaws, Overwatch was a welcoming and rewarding experience, and easily worth the price of entry. I put years into Overwatch, and so the news of a free-to-play sequel that would replace the original game made me nervous. The game released on Oct. 4, and although a mass of technology issues including a DDoS attack and server problems got in the way, I experienced enough to confidently write this review. My feelings ultimately are conflicted. As an update, Overwatch 2 is a worthy refresh of its predecessor, yet as a sequel it falls flat.
Overwatch was made great by its gameplay, and this remains the case in Overwatch 2. I love how Overwatch 2 plays as a hero-shooter. There are 35 heroes in the game, and each plays so differently. There will always be a use for every ability in a match, and coordination and timing is key. What Overwatch 2 does different from its predecessor is that games are now 5v5 instead of 6v6, and this change only increases the excitement in the game. With one less tank per team and tweaks across the board to all heroes, your individual impact on Overwatch 2 is much greater. This is reflected with the new scoreboard system, which lets you track how well you are performing compared to other teammates and your opponents. Each character feels more valuable, as the tank has a much stronger role as a team leader, damage heroes have huge carry potential, and supports are vital to keeping the group alive and mitigating damage received.
It does take some getting used to with just how different 5v5 plays. Matches feel faster paced, more exciting and more winnable. Me and the team had a few games where it felt like we were going to lose, but through careful use of our abilities and rallying around our central tank, we pulled through and captured objectives at the last minute. Overwatch 2 changes how Overwatch plays for the better, with seemingly small adjustments having a big impact. There’s a part of me that wishes that’s all I had to say about the game. A feeling that can’t be brushed away however is just how familiar a lot of this is, especially for a dedicated sequel game.
Officially, Overwatch 2 is in early access. The PvE component that focuses on characters, story and new mechanics won’t be released until 2023, so the first season of the multiplayer is all we have to discuss at the moment. In future, these seasons promise new heroes, maps and new game modes. For this first season however, a lot of it is the same. The introduction of Sojurn, Junker Queen and Kiriko is somewhat diminished by the fact we already played as the former two characters in earlier betas. In Sojurn’s case, we already played as her half a year ago, back in April. We know how these new heroes play now, so having them released with this season wasn’t particularly new or exciting. Kiriko is the only truly new hero here, and she’s great. Like most new heroes, she is pretty overpowered in the right hands, and that’s a lot of fun to experience and try to master.
The new heroes were accompanied by new maps and a new game mode, but they don’t quite feel like the end product of a 3+ years development cycle. The game mode making its debut in Overwatch 2, Push, plays like a more exciting Escort game. Instead of a slow-moving payload, players guide a robot pushing a payload across the map, with the goal of reaching the enemy objective point. This robot can travel forwards and backwards, so your progression can be pushed back quite rapidly by the enemy team, who themselves will be making a push to have the robot reach the end objective. It is definitely a worthy addition to Overwatch 2, but sadly it also comes with a loss.
The Assault game mode was removed from Overwatch 2 with the release of Push, so it’s hard to feel like we have really gained more modes here. Assault was a problematic mode, with a lot of the maps being devoid of any action because they were literally built for teams to clash in one place. Despite this, removing one game mode and adding another does not feel like building on and improving what was wrong with Overwatch, but rather just getting rid of content and swapping it around. This is understandable for an update to a game, but as the end product in the form of a sequel, it’s quite disappointing.
Overwatch 2 does have six new maps, three of which belong to the Push game mode, and they’re all in beautiful environments. The maps feel grander than those in the former Overwatch games, and have a bigger sense of scale to them. The returning maps have had small tweaks to their times of day, but still feel very familiar. In typical Overwatch fashion, these maps also have some killer themes. Colosseo is a particular highlight, with an empowering melody complemented by a beautiful choir and flowing, ethereal vocals. It’s hardly surprising that Overwatch 2 has such lovely audio and graphics, it was a strong point of Overwatch and a lot of other Blizzard titles. The UI receives a sleek upgrade in Overwatch 2, with a less intrusive interface in-game and minimalist menus. Some menus become a little too minimalistic and empty, such as the weekly challenges screen, but that is a minor gripe.
Despite my problems with an underwhelming amount of new content, it isn’t the worst part of the game for me. After hours of playing Overwatch 2, it managed an extraordinary feat – it made me miss loot boxes. The loot box mechanic was an incredibly manipulative tactic used by some of the worst industry players to con players into gambling. I always hated it. Honestly though, Overwatch may have started the trend, but it was never that bad. It had rare skins in loot boxes that would only be available temporarily, but these skins could also be bought with the free currency, Credits, that you earned. I could play for a few weeks and earn some Credits, then once the event rolled around I just spent them on my favorite new seasonal additions. Also, these loot boxes could be earned at any time. They were given away for filling an underpopulated role queue, three were awarded every week in the arcade, and it never took all that long to level up and earn a new one. Look at what Overwatch 2 has done to me, I’m defending loot boxes!
The evil of the loot box may have been defeated, but at the cost of a new item shop and seasonal Battle Pass system that is absolutely abysmal. I invested in the Premium Pass, the paid version of the Battle Pass, to try and have more fun earning rewards as I played Overwatch 2, and I regret it. Playing for hours and leveling up is just not worth it when so many of the Battle Pass rewards are complete filler. An evening of grinding, and all I have to show for it is a mildly amusing voice line for my 29th most played hero and a 3D model of a pizza slice.
At least I have the item shop, so I can spend the currency I’m rewarded with for my time on cosmetics I want. Except I don’t, because the Premium Battle Pass doesn’t reward any currency. Overwatch 2 introduces Overwatch Coins, a premium currency that costs real money. Microtransactions fuel the free-to-play game, which is relatively understandable. Yet, whilst Overwatch Coins bundles may start at $5, most item shop skins cost will see the player spending upwards of $20. At this point, it’s more of a ‘transaction’ than ‘microtransaction’.
Coins can be earned in-game, but it will literally take months to buy anything with them. Completing weekly challenges will reward you 60 Coins per week, which would be nice if legendary skins didn’t cost 1,900. This means that players need to play for eight months before they can spend their earned coins on a good skin. To show how comedically farcical that length of time is, a person could literally conceive and grow a baby in the same amount of time it takes to earn one legendary skin. Of course, this is intentional to get players to spend their real coins on Overwatch Coins.
Like most free-to-play games, the Coins bundles are sold so that you’ll always have leftovers, to convince you to make another purchase in future. I’m sure I’ve hammered this point by now, but at least loot boxes could be purchased directly and actually were microtransactions, starting at just $2. Also, opening a loot box and getting rewards was a lot faster than having a baby. The introduction of Coins has made the game painfully unrewarding.
As I established at the start, the biggest thing that goes against Overwatch 2 is context. The first game gave us more rewarding progression, the same amount of game modes, similar maps in different times of day and more. Transitioning into Overwatch 2, which has made the original game completely unplayable and nonexistent, just isn’t satisfying. The gameplay is solid, because any game using Overwatch as its foundation will have good gameplay.
Blizzard made some nice changes with 5v5 and adding the new heroes, but it’s hard to be motivated to play when you’re so used to the rewards offered from the first game. What Overwatch 2 does with monetization is not new for free-to-play gaming. It’s not even far from Fortnite, a game which I enjoy and take no problem with its strikingly similar monetization model. What makes Overwatch 2’s monetization a problem is Overwatch.
If you head into Overwatch 2 just to play a few games with friends, you’ll have a good time. Blizzard have mastered the gameplay here, and playing as any hero will be guaranteed fun. If you want to get invested in Overwatch 2 over time and collect items for your favorite characters though, you’ll be paying some serious cash. The transition from Overwatch to Overwatch 2 is a good gameplay upgrade with a lot of fun to be had, whilst also being a major fall from grace in how it treats the player with unfair and unrewarding monetization, with relatively little new content for a sequel.
For me, I can’t get over what we had with Overwatch now being completely gone. What I purchased as a full-price title with problematic yet acceptable monetization has been replaced with a slightly better game with far worse progression. It’s not a trade I’m happy I was forced to make. When the expanded PvE experience comes in 2023 I may feel differently, but now after hours of Overwatch 2… I’m over it.
How has your experience been with Overwatch 2? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more gaming news and reviews.
Bobby played the free-to-play Overwatch 2 on PC. Overwatch 2 is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.