The original Overwatch holds a very special place in my heart. There were nights spent with strangers working together to achieve our common goals: to increase our skill rating and have a good time choosing characters that had strong synergy. Overwatch was unique when it was released, melding the gameplay of a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) with the perspective of a first-person shooter, all while bringing the game to the mainstream. Each match contained twelve players divided into two teams attempting to achieve one of four main objectives; push the payload/defend the payload (Escort mode), capture and hold an area/defend an area from attackers (Assault/Control modes). Some maps had a mix of these objectives as well (Hybrid maps), creating variety. For instance, King’s Row (my favorite map) begins as a standard control point, then becomes an escort map. The game was endlessly fun, and still accessible despite the difficulty level of traditional first-person shooters. There were characters like Mercy and D.Va who were easy to use and not too difficult to master, yet still contributed to the team in a meaningful way. But why am I still talking about the original Overwatch when this is a review for the sequel? Well, it’s not much of a sequel at all.
Thankfully all of the battle pass items, like the loot box system before it, are cosmetic. None of the items are necessary to get ahead of other players. No pay-to-win mechanics. Unfortunately, all those high-quality skins that were once obtainable by playing the game are near impossible to get without forking out a lot of money. I’m not cosmetic crazy, but for those of you who are; this game will get expensive. I would advise not going to the store unless you have a lot of self-control. Luckily, they have not locked new characters behind a paywall. You can earn them through the battle pass for the season they were released (though you do have to play quite a bit to unlock them if you don’t want to pay).
The original Overwatch roster consisted of twenty-one characters. All of which were unique and useful in certain scenarios. Some, like Solider 76 and Mercy, could be used almost all the time, while others, like Torbjorn and Symmetra, were situational (but still useful!). When the sun set on Overwatch, the character total had climbed up to a whopping thirty-two characters! Impressive, but also quite the balancing match. The meta would change all the time, bringing old heroes back into the limelight. But can you guess how many new characters launched with the sequel? Three (in addition to the original roster). That's it. And one of them (Soujorn) was completely overpowered at launch, making her a nightmare to play against in the hands of a slightly skilled player.
Trying different characters is always a blast. Some may not be to one’s liking, but that’s okay, there are another thirty-plus to test! The character pool is divided into three tiers; tank, support, and damage. While all these characters maintain the same movement speed and have the same control layout (for the most part), their abilities and purpose set them apart. These differences are even greater when moving between the different character roles. Reinhardt (tank) and Ana (healer) may both have multiple abilities and an ultimate, but their functions are entirely different. That’s the beauty of Overwatch 2; whenever you feel bored with a character, switching to another almost makes it feel like an entirely different game. That’s something most other multiplayer games don’t do well.
Considering not much has changed, the developers gave the game a little facelift, cleaning up character models and putting in a bit more detail. Better shading and lighting never hurt, but Overwatch already looked great, so the update—while welcome—wasn’t wholly necessary. All the old and new maps are vibrant, even the ones that I don't enjoy playing. Blizzard knows how to make enticing visuals for their multiplayer maps. And while the music is still great, for some reason the developers continue to play very loud intro music on some of the home screens. I don't know who thinks this is a good idea, but they should immediately stop in the next update.
Though much of my review of Overwatch 2 hits a lot of negative points, it's not because it's a bad game. It's still a good game. Just one that took things from an amazing game. While Overwatch 2 remains unique, the transition from a premium to a free-to-play game has not made the game worthy of a “2”. It is not a sequel, but an update that blunts some of what made the original game so great. We were promised co-op modes that would expand the lore, where we could level up our favorite heroes and learn abilities exclusive to the cooperative experience. Instead, we got a game with a little bit of new content, a little bit of cut content, and a whole lot of microtransactions. Overwatch was amazing when it launched, and it was fantastic for quite some time after that, but eventually, it fell from grace amid the studio’s turmoil. Overwatch 2 does its best to inject some life into the franchise, and it does, even if it doesn't meet the heights of its predecessor. Being free-to-play opens the game up to a host of new players. And, given time, I hope to see Blizzard expand upon what they've built, even if Overwatch 2 stumbled out of the gate a bit.
Objective Assessment: 7/10
Bonus: +1 for updated visuals. +1 unique new characters. +1 for beautifully crafted maps.
Penalties: -1 for removing Assault mode and reducing games by one tank per match. -1 balancing issues with characters and maps. -1 for obnoxiously loud intro music every season (yes, I hate it that much).
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.