The latest Overwatch 2 beta didn't quite convince me and left me with the feeling that Overwatch 2 was still looking for an identity. Now, after an all-uphill launch, that same feeling has turned into confirmation. That "2" next to the name is far from representing a real sequel and the path to becoming the game that has made fans dream since the announcement is still long.
Blizzard has chosen to revitalize a title that was now losing more and more ground in the panorama of modern shooters, relying on a complete change of model, embracing in all respects the formula free to play with season battle pass. The real protagonist, together with the paradigm shift from 6vs6 to 5vs5, is in fact the progression and monetization system which, although very standard and in line with other games, seemed to me to clash with the philosophy behind Overwatch.
In Overwatch 2 we are all heroes… stop spending
Since its inception, Overwatch has been a game that has been built on the idea that everyone can be a hero and that everyone within it can find a role and a character that represents them in a roster that over the years has exceeded 30 heroes. Being able to access new characters for free is what put Overwatch against the trend of the titles that arrived later or, to the titles that in any case had their exploits only after the Blizzard game has rekindled the spotlight on shooters with heroes. Being able to change a hero during the course of the match without limitations and re-enter the field to experiment with new formations was another of the elements that characterized him compared to some competitors who did not provide for the hero change between one round and another, nor even return to the field.
In such a game, free access to all playable characters is the most functional design choice. For me the best has always been playing as a support hero and finding satisfaction in rescuing a reckless companion, keeping the team alive in the most frenetic moments of a fight or charging for the last assault with a nice power-up and that meant during a game switch from Mercy to Lucio or Zenyatta depending on the situation and teammates. It is therefore with great regret that I accepted the novelty linked to the new support hero Kiriko bound to rank 55 of the free path of the Battle Pass, while players with Battle Pass Premium have instant access to the character.
Due to the many problems that plagued Overwatch 2 at launch, I initially found myself in the same situation as those who started playing for the first time because of the incorrect transfer of my account from Overwatch to Overwatch 2. Between once-owned characters no longer accessible except through challenges and the new support hero accessible only after a huge grind or the payment of 10 euros for the Battle Pass, my Overwatch 2 adventure has begun. For this review I was provided a complete Observatory pack of premium Battle Passes, but before activating it I wanted to experience the free game experience to be able to compare them.
What transpired is that Overwatch 2 has a big progression balancing issue. While playing in well-performing teams, winning matches and completing challenges, you need to spend a lot of time grinding to level up and get to rank 55 to add Kiriko to the playable heroes. Even with the 20% Battle Pass XP boost it seems like it will take a lot of dedication to unlock all Battle Pass ranks. I'm not saying that points should be given away or that you shouldn't have to work hard to get the most valuable rewards, but sometimes the experience point reward is not commensurate with the effort and it can get frustrating to do the same things over and over again in the long run .
Blizzard currently remains firm in its idea of the Battle Pass as a balanced system for players and respectful of the competitive nature of the game. While I agree with Kiriko only getting into competitive modes after a few weeks of play, I'm also of the opinion that some changes are still possible to make the Battle Pass fairer for the players, both in terms of the pace of progression, and in terms of rewards. In fact, the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass does not allow you to earn credits that could be spent on new skins and even to buy the following season's Battle Pass. For example, Call of Duty allows you to recover up to 1300 CoD points over its 100 levels. In short, in the end the Chests from Overwatch disappeared but the proposed monetization is still aggressive.
In fact, the best way to accelerate your progress is to dedicate yourself to the challenges which are divided into daily, weekly, seasonal, competitive, permanent and related to heroes. It's an addition to the game that I don't mind, especially if it's seen as something that pushes me to try even modes and characters that I probably wouldn't have tried. Everything also depends on your attitude to wanting to complete everything or not. Every player is different and it's probably those 500 extra points that will push you to play freer game modes over and over again where 5 players play as forwards and don't care about the composition of the team.
New players entering Overwatch 2 for the first time will need to unlock some of the available characters and game modes in a revised first play experience. While I find it right to limit the character pool initially, – 35 is a very large number and it may not be easy for new players to navigate the Overwatch 2 content offer – play 150 games to unlock them all – Echo unlocks after 150 games – seems like a lot to me anyway, plus I don't think the best way to teach someone the basics and correct way to play Overwatch 2 is to force them to play 5 quick games in an open queue. Precisely because of the new 5vs5 format, it would have been more effective to experiment with the exact composition of a team instead of wasting time in matches where 4 people choose a striker, or where two tanks are played just for the fun of it.
Teamwork even more essential
As you have probably understood, I have a hard time finding exciting game modes where the basic rules of the game are not considered at all. I believe that at the base of Overwatch 2 there is above all teamwork which translates into forming a team where every single player is able to put others in a position to play at their best. When that fails, the game ceases to be fulfilling. It is for this reason that most of my time with the game in preparation for the review was spent in closed queue quick matches and competitive mode. Being able to express yourself at your best in a 5vs5 environment today means paying even more attention to your own positioning and that of your teammates.
If in the past there was the double protection of a tank that with a well positioned shield was able to hold the position and intimidate the opponent to attempt a frontal attack, today it is even more difficult to lead the charge and defend an objective. In my opinion, however, it is wrong to read this change as if now all the weight was on the shoulders of a single tank because the weight is actually distributed on everyone's shoulders. If the characters doing DPS don't accompany the action, or in moments of stalemate they don't try to breach the lines with a good flanking, the tank has few faults in the protection of the team. Drawing fire to yourself is functional when the whole team moves with the right timing. The new contextual map ping system helps a lot to get your team in the right rhythm and it's amazing to think that it has arrived only now.
I've been critical of Overwatch's treatment of its support heroes in the past, and the beta had caused a few too many concerns. However, as the days go by, it seems to me that players are getting more and more used to the new format and therefore the quality of the fights is improving. In my heart I have put my soul at peace since the time of the first Overwatch: playing support is a thankless task, but someone has to do it for the good of all. The queues to play support are the fastest and least crowded, as demonstrated by the fact that out of 10 consecutive games queued for all roles, I played at least 8 as support.
The new dynamism that is created on the pitch with the 5vs5 is pleasant: it always seems to play the classic Overwatch but the matches last less, the clashes are more fought, but it only takes one small mistake to see your team annihilated. As a support I feel a healthy pressure to constantly improve and be more in the action than I used to be. At higher paces of play, it gives more satisfaction to adapt in the run and understand when to focus on the heals to be distributed to the whole team or when the best help is to add damage. Moira is simply fantastic in this but we certainly don't find out now, only that she now she adapts perfectly to the new game tempo: using fade to overcome enemy lines and striking unexpectedly and then disappearing again.
In a game where the heroes are the protagonists, the addition of the Junker Queen, Sojourn and Kiriko has undoubtedly overshadowed other novelties of the title, especially if we think that a new hero has not been seen since 2020. Of the three, Kiriko is the unique that I had not yet had the opportunity to try, having only been able to attend its preview presentation. She is very fun to play, above all he fits well into that hybrid role between healing and damage. Among the aspects that make it fun to play there is certainly the speed with which she can shorten distances by teleporting herself towards a companion. Her Ultimate summons the spirit of a fox that darts towards the Torii and accelerates the movement speed, attack speed and recovery times of allies along her trail. Used at the right time, she can change the fate of a game.
The new game mode, Escort, highlights how the level design of the maps has been designed to offer more articulated structures with more corridors and high points that make the clashes less linear. Having heroes like Lucio or the Junker Queen in your team who can increase movement speed can give you an immediate advantage to achieve a position of control over the objective. Heroes like Genji, Reaper, Tracer or Sombra can easily move outside the lines of fire to outflank the opposing team.
It's not a sequel but it's still Overwatch
Over the years I have lost interest in Overwatch until I abandoned it to move to games like Rainbow Six Siege and Valorant. Since I started playing Overwatch 2 again I admit that I can't stop playing. The games are engaging and as a hero shooter it is still fun and rewarding today. In the new 5vs5 formula, personal actions are also under scrutiny: there is less margin for error but the title is still very accessible. It's one of those classic games where it's easy to get started but really mastering the character kits and knowing the maps like the back of your hand takes time and a bit of practice. With 35 characters to try out, there's always something to learn. And yet, these weeks I feel like I've only experienced a small fraction of what Overwatch 2 could offer. The absence of the awaited PvE mode is felt and perhaps in that case we could really have talked about a sequel.
I'm starting to feel a tiredness caused above all by the progression linked to the Battle Pass. The chests weren't perfect but worked well as an incentive to play. A player who chooses not to purchase the premium path will find themselves with little or even unattractive rewards. The choice to lock new characters behind such advanced ranks of the Pass it's an idea that I sincerely hope Blizzard will consider revising. If these are the proposed contents and monetization models, there is a risk that once the novelty effect is over, Overwatch 2 will once again find itself on an uphill road. It's strange to think, 6 years later, that a game that was so revolutionary at the time is now struggling to find its place among the titles that succeeded it and took inspiration from it.