Overwatch is one of the best online shooters of the last decade, so it wouldn’t seem hard for a follow-up to maintain that legendary status. It’s not hard to see why. Overwatch 2It borrows nearly everything from the 2016 title, including its maps and characters. But, the Overwatch 2Beta reveals structural issues that appear to be baked into the core of beta, which may not disappear before it is fully released.
Overwatch’s move to five-on-five has drastically changed the experience and is where many of its shortcomings stem from because of how interconnected the game’s systems are. Having one less tank means that the team’s sole tank now has more to do. Blizzard Entertainment has upgraded a lot more tanks to compensate. Zarya can now shoot multiple bubbles at once. Reinhardt can now shoot two fireballs after cancelling his shoulder charge. Winston can now have a ranged blast. Orisa has been completely rebuilt, and Doomfist is now a tank.
Although buffing and changing tanks is an easy move, it can lead to some schisms. Having just one tank means that if a team’s tank isn’t doing their job and protecting their allies, then defeat is even more of inevitability. It brings back the bad times before role lock was introduced, when stubborn randoms would ruin every casual match simply by not playing their role. These situations are more common than the two-two-two scenario.
Tanks may not have played defensively as many of them were transformed into heroes who deal damage, rather than soak up it. A lot of the shields have been nerfed and Orisa’s has been removed entirely, while many offensive moves have been buffed, which naturally encourages players to attack more and defend less. Blizzard tried to address the problem of so many barriers by making them smaller in previous patches. But this brings the mentality to an extreme, and creates chaos. The constant rushdown and sluggish pacing are exhausting.
It’s a more generic pacing that is more in line with a twitchy shooter where team fights can end in the blink of an eye. It’s not Call of DutyIt is moving towards that goal and is becoming less unique as a result. Current Overwatch has its moments where the action builds and then crescendos, but it’s almost all crescendos here. And that faster tempo means there’s less of an incentive to play as a team. There are still obviously team-based aspects to it, but they’re not as much of a priority anymore since the defensive side of team play has been gutted.
Even though healers possess the most, Overwatch 2’s new and improved user interface features, they bear the brunt of the game’s problems. They have less ways to avoid damage, which can be crucial for such a fragile class. And having more offensive-oriented tanks means that there’s one more aggressor to worry about. Fading away as Moira or gliding to a teammate as Mercy are examples of the few abilities that allow for quick escapes, but it’s still too easy to get pounced on and immediately destroyed with this setup.
Blizzard has tried to address this by giving every healer Mercy’s passive that gradually restores health, but it’s a thoughtless bandage that’s being haphazardly wrapped around a larger issue. It’s an uninteresting change that isn’t actively engaging and doesn’t actually stop users from dying as an enemy D.Va plows into them and deletes them within a few seconds. Blizzard has been trying to buff healers in other ways and give them more survivability, but it just seems doomed to fail since it’s built in a game that wants to cater to damage dealers, a direction that was further reinforced by the first new character being a damage hero with rocket legs and a railgun. Sojourn’s skill-based kit is unique and satisfying, and it’s great that Overwatch finally has a Black woman in it, but she serves as a signal of what Blizzard is prioritizing.
This beta is only one of many, and Blizzard has plenty to do to correct the ship or find a middle ground between styles. Overwatch 2’s PVP releases. The team has even been patching the beta to address some of these concerns, as seen in Zenyatta’s new super kick. These changes are changing the game at a fundamental level. They seem to push it further from its original state: a team-based shooter with an exceptional sense of pace and with all roles equally important. Change isn’t always bad and some will inevitably adore this new direction, but picking away at something until it turns it into a more generic and frustrating experience is when it’s time to sit back and reassess if adjusting a classic this heavily is worth it.