Overwatch 2 has had somewhat of a rocky history since its first unveiling at Blizzcon 2019 almost a year ago. Gameplay trailers and previews painted a heightened focus on PvE alongside the game’s traditional PvP offerings, but everything about what was on offer screamed “expansion” more than “sequel”. Recent reports of key writers leaving Blizzard, and otherwise relative silence from the company, have left Overwatch diehards in the dark as to the franchise’s history.
On the face of it, that’s probably not a surprise: given everything that’s happened globally this year, delayed games and stretched development cycles have become somewhat of an expectation across the industry. Hollywood has been similarly impacted, with many Summer blockbuster releases delayed or cancelled all together in favour of digital releases. That said, given what was revealed back in November, it’s strange that Blizzard hasn’t really provided much in the way of updates since. What exactly is happening with Overwatch 2?
If you’re a frequent Overwatch player like myself, you’ll have noticed a few things over the past 12 months or so. Firstly, there is a dire lack of content outside of new skins. Quarterly events are hardly worth getting excited about, although their PvE offerings do help keep things fresh. They’re not doing enough, however: only one new hero in Echo has been added since Sigma’s release last August, and maps that are starting to age (if they haven’t already). Put simply, Overwatch just isn’t getting much love anymore, which would be fine if we had Overwatch 2 on the horizon.
The Workshop and Customer Games do make things a little more interesting, but the fact I’m playing DVa Egg in a customer game lobby more often than Competitive or Quick Play probably says a lot about the core offering in Overwatch. I can still have fun, don’t get me wrong, but just over a year since I wrote this article, I only now feel that Overwatch is slowly but surely dying.
Overwatch fans have a right to be frustrated. Fortnite, Apex, Call of Duty, and now Valorant have all received steady streams of content, and even The Master Chief Collection is getting more updates and attention from developers than Blizzard is. For Overwatch, it just feels like an annual copy-paste job to keep the casual fans happy.
I probably hit a brick wall when I jumped in Lucioball recently as part of the current Summer Games event. I initially was quite excited, especially given some of the changes to the game, but once I found myself in a match I realised I was playing the same additional content and event that I had played back in 2020. I was angry at myself for not being angrier about that.
When Overwatch was first released, we could bypass the distinctive lack of deep lore due to the fact the core game was so good. The base offering so, so limited, but it stood up against industry giants simply because of how balance and fun the game was. A lot of those fundamentals still exist, but so much about the lore, heroes, events and balancing issues appear out of tune and out of step with community expectations and needs. Balancing, nerfing and buffs appear too heavily dictated by the pro scene, effectively neglecting and alienating lower tiers, which make up a majority of Overwatch players. Echo is the hero equivalent of a melted bowl of ice cream flavours, with a handful of random candy thrown in for good measure: no real identity or flavour, just a bit of everything for the sake of it.
We know – or at least have idea – of what Overwatch 2 will look like. But what of the game’s depth and the developer’s commitment? There will be PvE content: will that mean seasonal events are no more, given these events are what deliver PvE content in Overwatch currently? Will that PvE content be more like what we’re used to now, or will it be like Destiny, or Borderlands? Is it spin-off, non-canon lore like Junkenstein’s revenge, or actual, genuine, real Overwatch lore like Uprising?
Beyond that, PvP content needs more, too. If there is a shifted focus towards campaign and PvE content – which is actually welcomed, even if I question the direction – does that mean PvP offerings take a backseat? Has the base Overwatch game philosophy now shifted to one of cooperative player to better assimilate current industry trends of co-op multiplayer survival?
My concern primarily here sits with the fact that, given the distinctive lack of support Overwatch has received over the past 12 months, that Blizzard may indeed be shifting away from PvP at the core. That would be disappointing, although I guess if there’s any way to be optimistic out of this, it’s that PvP is dynamic and constantly changing, and so things can improve drastically from launch, whereas PvE has a smaller margin for error.
I assume I’m in the same basket as many in the Overwatch community in my indifferent thoughts on the sequel. There’s little to get excited about outside of the sheer legacy the first game has created. Then factoring in the obvious impact Overwatch 2’s development has had on the state of PvP, it does appear as though Overwatch 2 is battling some internal demons at the moment.
It’s probably safe to assume that had 2020 not been like what it’s been like, we probably would have seen more of Overwatch 2 by now, and might actually be playing it. But with a virtual Blizzcon event not planned until early 2021, and Activision Blizzard less likely to release Overwatch 2 before then, it might be time to just accept that Overwatch has reached a critical point in its history. One that maybe could have been avoided, but that is certainly now inevitable.
What are your thoughts on Overwatch 2? And when do you think it will be released? Sound off in the comments below!