Can you teach an old game new tricks? • TechCrunch
strong snow storm is happening. The company’s leadership is a Toxic trash heap is a nightmare (Welcome, Bobby Kotik!) and is only partially cleaned. Failed to deliver Lofty promises from the Watch League It makes the game scene, both competitive and informal, less certain. Microsoft is currently trying Buy the parent company Activision Blizzard, a result that would boost the gaming industry even further but might ultimately help save Blizzard from itself. In the midst of all this, Blizzard released Overwatch 2, making a risky bet that a light update to the aging multiplayer hit would be enough to keep it relevant in a new era of ubiquitous online gaming.
Overwatch 2 is technically a “sequel” to the hero-based animation team shooter, but you’d be forgiven for thinking you were playing the same game that launched in 2016. Some things are new. The primary gameplay now is 5v5 instead of 6v6. There are three new heroes at launch (Kiriko, Junker Queen, and Sojourn) with more on the way in later seasons. You can take these new heroes on a tour of a few new maps – including Toronto, New York City and Monte Carlo – and in a new reverse tug-of-war where you fight to see who can move the big running robot is the furthest. There are also graphical improvements that will likely stand out more for people who play Overwatch 2 on PC and not for people like me, casually playing on last generation consoles (I know) or for anyone so immersed in Blizzard’s buzzing particle effects that they can’t even tell What happens half the time (me too).
The big question: is it enough?
From loot boxes to Battle Pass
Arguably the biggest change here, and the controversial reason you won’t be able to play on legacy Overwatch servers, is Overwatch 2’s switch to free-to-play. When the original Overwatch launched, Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode – and shortly thereafter, Epic’s Battle Pass – had yet to revolutionize the world. In the original Overwatch, you’ll play and level up, earning random loot chests along the way or buying them if you really feel like it. Overwatch 2 is based on the seasonal Battle Pass model used by competitors like Fortnite, Valorant, and Apex Legends, selling players a subscription for unlockable perks like skins and audio streaks.
Controversial, I actually like the Battle Pass model theoretically. Playing for free is great for casual gamers who indulge in playing and out for a few months here and there or for anyone trying to convince friends to check out another new game. Seasonal progression gives casual players a sense of progression, although arguably loot chests have done so as well.
So far in Overwatch 2, the Battle Pass doesn’t offer much to look forward to. One problem is that unlike a game like Fortnite where everyone can use every skin, there are 35 playable characters in Overwatch. Since each Battle Pass stage offers only one appearance and many players specialize in one hero or a small rotation of them, the odds aren’t great for there to be something exciting for everyone. Unlockable items aren’t very exciting either and it’s strange that while releasing an entirely new game (presumably!), Blizzard didn’t think of cooler ways for players to visually customize their characters other than souvenirs, which then play for hours I still haven’t noticed. Some players may be excited about the Battle Pass – and that’s cool – but it’s clear that Blizzard is just trying to get everyone to buy skins in the store. So far, the broader player base doesn’t seem too happy about that, though. actively campaigns To convince people to save their money so the company can learn a lesson.
Overwatch 2 offers a rotating set of skins, but many of them came for free with loot boxes, which provided a much more enjoyable experience all around. I’ve been playing Overwatch regularly for only a few months now, and I was surprised by the number of skins I collected at the time that now regularly retail for $20, which seems like quite a lot. Especially for the things you used to earn by playing the game. Even the first Overwatch 2 Halloween event has a special skin that you can earn Watching streams on Twitch, but the skin is… the same as the Winston werewolf Halloween look that was in the game in late 2016. There’s obviously a lot of chaos in Activision Blizzard these days, but a lot of this is phoned, considering the game is Brand New. However, the skin is very nice (werewolves!) and although I’m really awful in Winston, I’m going to stream Overwatch 2 because I don’t have it.
Three new heroes introduce new ways to play
Overwatch characters have always been the heart of the game and the new game is no exception, introducing three new heroes: Sojourn, Junker Queen, and Kiriko.
The three heroes – one tank, one cannon per second and one support – complement the cast in a nice way. It looks like a lot of thought has gone into Kiriko in particular, and she plays like a mix of Moira and Genji (or arguably Zenyatta), providing some great support position navigation options with the ability to fly across the map in hibernation to follow players others. The skill ceiling is obviously high here (she can heal and throw small daggers at the same time!), so there’s plenty of depth to what would be possible with Kiriko. Sojourn and Junker Queen also have fun combos and look promising, with the former offering a highly mobile power slide and the Soldier 76-ish DPS and the latter offering tank damage over time with a cool Mortal Kombat-esque knife throw that pulls enemies right at you.
Necessity aside: As a longtime WoW player, I feel that Blizzard’s approach to non-Western cultures, especially Asian cultures, has always been a bit strange. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kiriko, the new Japanese support heroine – she’s a young woman, a badass, and a ninja in the literal sense of the word. Her short animation is very good. But it’s all expressed in a slightly exaggerated way, culturally speaking: Kiriko eventually conveys a fox spirit that makes its way out of the Torii gates and its healing takes the form of those little paper fortunes you get at shrines. After Kiriko, the new black hero of the DPS is called “Sojourn” and it’s hard to imagine that this has nothing to do with American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, but she’s Canadian I guess?
Perhaps this kind of acting is OK in a game due to the lack of a more precise topic about “cartoon characters from different countries”, but it’s worth talking about. Ultimately as a geek, I’m glad there are gay characters in the game, even if they are revealed as an afterthought. Many people probably feel in many different ways about it!
5 vs 5 and other gameplay changes
The other biggest and most substantial change is that while Overwatch has pitted teams of six against each other, the game is now 5v5: two props, two DPS and a tank. If you’re queuing up for certain roles in competitive mode and don’t mindlessly embrace the chaos of an open queue like me, you’re going to be on the hook than you’re used to.
The result is that games feel faster and more like a team match despite the goals. It’s early days for a live service game that’s going to last for years, but support players in particular seem to be more frustrated with the new gameplay – no second tank to help absorb damage and protect from the flanks – and the short wait for support time reflects that.
Whether you’re a new player or a seasoned pro, you’ll start over in the competitive rankings of Overwatch 2. All players start at the bottom with bronze and can work their way up skill levels through a mysterious blend of wins and individual performance. Overwatch 2 now reevaluates your skill rating every 7 wins or 20 losses, instead of providing instant feedback during gameplay. Personally, the all-seven-game system helped me focus on entering with fresh eyes and a good mindset to quickly make my seven wins rather than over-analyzing what went wrong with each loss. As a regular player who hasn’t really played the competitive mode in the game’s dark ages, this sounds fine to me, but I can see why people focused on climbing are frustrated with making the system more obscure.
The post-game experience now consists of the game’s gameplay (whatever the computer decides is the best hero moment), endorsements for the players you love, and a new stat block that breaks deaths, eliminations, damage, and healing. The scorecards highlighting single-player play are gone, and the new stats breakdown hasn’t left anyone out, for better or worse.
Blizzard has also added a new ping system that lets you alert your teammates about things like enemy players and your next moves, which is generally a good option for people who don’t want to struggle with in-game chatting with a microphone, even if it seems like that. Like a lot of people haven’t figured it out yet. The icon that appears to players “on fire” after good runs is also MIA, although it looks like it maybe come back.
In the end, the game is still cheerful. There is still a lot of depth here but most of it is mechanical – getting comfortable with the new heroes, and learning their playing tactics and tricks. But it’s not clear if Overwatch can survive another six years without returning to the drawing board with something completely new. I find a lot to do but I haven’t played Overwatch in it five years Five years Overwatch players have spent pushing the game to its fullest potential.
Where do we go from here?
Blizzard could form some ground with Overwatch 2, but it shouldn’t be in that position. The seasonal releases and the upcoming PVE mode that was supposed to be in the game at launch will ease the blow of selling the same game again as a subscription, but for now people are just waiting.
There is such a thing as playing too safe. Blizzard has a competitive landscape to balance it out, but getting caught up in the past won’t help Overwatch 2 stay relevant to rising competitors like Apex Legends, which people seem to be more excited about these days. Can a game that has barely changed in six years continue for another six? Personally, I’m playing a lot at the moment but I’m not sure it will be in six or even three months. A few weeks after launch, the outlook isn’t great.
Even with concerns about balancing a game based on calibrating 35 fully distinct gameplays across objective-based maps, it still looks like Blizzard could have done a lot more here. Fortnite only has weapons to worry about, but the game often changes visually from season to season, making my five-year experience of completely logging out and back to a similar experience impossible. Being curious about new content in a game like Fortnite always inspires me to buy a Battle Pass, which is full of fun things that seem rewarding.
There are plenty of cosmetic additions that can make Overwatch 2 seasons seem more “seasonal” away from the routine holiday stuff that’s been in the game since day one. Themed seasons like Fortnite or even Destiny will give the game at least a bit more variety for casual players that Blizzard seems so eager to woo with its free-to-play model. Even the revamped roster is a dull, soulless grey, a far cry from the colorful cast of characters at the heart of the game.
At the end of the day, if you want to make money from players after you’ve said “Aha, here’s our new game!” And you sell them the old game, you at least need to give people something to get excited about.