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Friday, February 3, 2023

How is Overwatch 2 faring one season later?

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Overwatch 2 has taken over my life recently. (Screenshot: Activision Blizzard)

At the time of writing, Blizzard’s Overwatch 2 only has a week to the end of Season 1, before the introduction of the new hero, Ramattra, for Season 2.

I have been playing Overwatch 2 pretty religiously throughout Season 1, since friends whom I used to play the vanilla Overwatch returned for the ‘latest iteration’ of the game.

I’ve waited this long to write a review because I wanted to play it for a whole season, before giving my thoughts on it as a long-time player, and also a game reviewer.

So, with that in mind, how does Overwatch 2 fare in this now saturated sea of competitive shooters?

Gameplay

First things first, let’s talk about the gameplay.

The biggest change from vanilla Overwatch was the reduction of players in a match, going from a 6v6 to a 5v5.

I personally feel, after a full season, that the 5v5 format is much more enjoyable than the old 6v6, especially when there are fewer bullet sponges.

There are fewer barriers to fight through, as the old 6v6 with two tanks per team often had players using two tanks with a barrier ability.

This made it extremely boring and tedious to play against — simply because tanks and supports generally didn’t do much damage, so it ended up being the job of the damage heroes to break these barriers, instead of concentrating on trying to take down the enemy team.

Although I initially did feel the void of not having that one extra teammate at the start of the season, coming fresh from vanilla Overwatch, the faster paced action of the 5v5 format quickly changed my mind.

It does come with a glaring negative, though, if you are generally a tank player.

Queue times can often be extremely long if you decide to queue for the role of the tank, simply because a match only requires two tanks per game (one on each team), as opposed to having four support and four damage dealers per match.

I did wait up to ten minutes once queueing solo, and I would say that is already a pretty decent wait time, since there are reports of people waiting more than twenty minutes to get a game.

Playing a support hero can also feel restrictive at times if you get chased down by a fast-moving hero.

There is a lack of options for support heroes to get out of a hairy situation in a pinch, but this seems to be improving as the game updates, so hopefully Blizzard is able to figure this one out quick.

For now, you just have to pray that your teammates are aware enough to come to your aid if you are in trouble.

Battle pass, skins and hero unlock system

The battle pass and hero unlock system were the new things introduced to Overwatch 2 with the move to the free-to-play model.

In vanilla Overwatch, you had to purchase the game to play.

You get all heroes unlocked from the get go, and you had the option to buy lootboxes in the game’s shop to unlock in-game skins and items.

You could also earn free lootboxes and in-game currency just by playing the game, and I must say, Overwatch was pretty generous with them too.

You never felt the pressure to buy lootboxes, and the acquired in-game currency could be used to unlock whichever skins or unlockables you liked.

And then, the realities of a F2P game set in. In Overwatch 2, you have to purchase in-game credits with real life money to unlock these skins, and there are also limited-run purchasables in the in-game shop.

There is also a premium battle pass, if you wish to get it. It has eighty levels that you will need to unlock by playing the game if you want to get all the items offered. If not, there is also a free option for the battle pass.

A screenshot of the battle pass menu from Overwatch 2.

The battle pass is not actually tedious despite having eighty levels to complete. (Screenshot: Activision Blizzard)

To be extremely honest, all of these are just cosmetics, and do not affect the game in any way, much like VALORANT’s gun skins, so you are not really missing out if you don’t spend a single cent on them.

Unlocking the heroes, however, requires you to religiously play the game… if you do not buy the ‘Watchpoint Pack’ offered by Blizzard.

You have to play up to one hundred and fifty games to unlock all heroes, and while it may seem daunting at first, it is actually very doable.

Not only did I managed to finish the battle pass on my main account, I even had time to create a new account and unlock all the heroes.

It isn’t really all as ‘difficult’ as people made it out to be at the start of the season. One game of Overwatch passes really fast, especially if you are playing in the Quick Play queue.

One thing to note, though. You will have to increase the level of your free battle pass to level 55 to unlock the latest hero in the game, Kiriko, if you do not purchase the premium version.

I personally have no qualms with this approach, since VALORANT also uses this same tactic for unlocking a character as you play the game. But it is very clear that the mechanics of it weren’t thought out properly in Overwatch 2.

In Overwatch, the gameplay is mostly concentrated on playstyles and character counter-picks based on the situation, and the game promotes switching heroes in the middle of a game to adapt to what’s happening in match. Each of the heroes’ abilities have specific uses in the game, and Kiriko is no different.

Locking a hero so deep into the battle pass will only deny players who refuse to pay the ability to learn the character.

This takes away from the general spirit of the game (swapping when necessary), and forces players to actually fork out money if they do not want to be left out.

This is slightly scummy, in my opinion, but could be easily fixed if Kiriko was made available at a lower level in the battle pass.

As an alternative idea, she could also have been made available for free in a ‘Practice vs AI’ match, for players to learn her playstyle before they unlock her to be used in player matches.

Conclusion

I never imagined picking up Overwatch again after dropping it in 2019.

With more prevalent hero-shooters like Apex Legends and VALORANT in the mix, vanilla Overwatch‘s gameplay was beginning to feel tiresome with what the community begrudgingly called “BarrierWatch”.

Overwatch 2‘s 5v5 works great and makes the game much more action packed, with each of the roles having a much more prominent impact in each game.

The new Push mode is also great, and is much more playable than the “Two Capture-Point” mode it replaces from vanilla Overwatch.

A screenshot of the bonus experience page from Overwatch 2.

The game is very generous with bonus experience points, making it easy to complete the battle pass if you play regularly and complete the challenges. (Screenshot: Activision Blizzard)

The in-game cosmetics, though egregiously priced at times, don’t affect gameplay. So I have nothing to say about that.

Players should vote with your wallet, as I have, if you think it is something that should be priced less.

The only major negative I would point out is the option for a player to unlock the new hero if they do not want to spend a single cent.

Although players will technically get the new hero for free eventually, it is still is way too much of a grind to gain access.

Like I said, at least have the new hero available in the practice range or the Practice vs AI mode so that players can train with them.

Hopefully Season 2 and beyond sees much more refinement in these methods, and also not forgetting hero balances to make the game better than it ever has been.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy watercooling his computer parts, he does some pro wrestling.

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