Overwatch 2
Blizzard Entertainment

‘Overwatch 2’ Is Here, But What’s Changed?

'Overwatch 2' is finally here, but does it bring that classic spark back to the long-running hero shooter franchise?
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The long-awaited and much-hyped Overwatch 2 is finally here. Players who owned Overwatch 1 will notice that their purchase is completely gone–Blizzard Entertainment deleted the game from existence to make room for the sequel. This has led to some fans describing the game as a massive patch for the original, but that’s not entirely true.

Overwatch 2 is equal parts sequel and update. It’s got some massive, seismic shifts in gameplay that make it very clearly a completely new experience, as well as a handful of new heroes and game modes to keep things fresh. In other ways, though, this is a polished, updated version of the existing Overwatch that fans have spent hundreds of hours playing.

Given that this release has rolled out the first new heroes in Overwatch in over two years, many fans are deliriously excited to tear into the game and get some hands-on experience with everything in the sequel. That enthusiasm has put a serious strain on the servers, making it nigh impossible to play right now.

So, what’s new with the sequel? How will the new cosmetic options be rolled out now that the loot boxes are gone? And what happens to players’ progress from the first game? Let’s take a deep dive into the Overwatch sequel and get to the bottom of these questions.

Overwatch is Dead, Long Live Overwatch

On October 2, 2022, Blizzard pulled the plug on Overwatch’s servers. The game that launched in May 2016 vanished overnight to be replaced by its successor. This move perplexed some fans and frustrated many who paid full retail prices to play the long-awaited and critically acclaimed hero-shooter. 

It’s a bit more complicated than just saying that the original game is gone, though. Overwatch 2 will allow returning players to use all the skins and other cosmetics they unlocked in the first game. And, importantly, returning players will be able to skip the lengthy onboarding process that the new game will implement for newcomers to the free-to-play shooter.

Oh, that’s another new thing you need to know before you jump into Overwatch 2. It’s not a full retail game like its predecessor. Instead, it’s a free-to-play experience that will use a battle pass system like Fortnite or Apex Legends to roll out new cosmetic options. The loot box system of the original game has been completely removed–which might be a good thing, given how much some players hated the system. 

So Long Loot Boxes

When the first Overwatch hit stores, some players took issue with the way it awarded cosmetics. Every time a player accrued enough in-game experience to level up, they were rewarded with a loot box full of four randomly allocated cosmetic items, like highlight intros or new hero skins. There was no way for players to buy the cosmetics they wanted with real-world money; they had to either get lucky enough to roll it in a loot box or accrue in-game credits to buy it outright.

Notably, those in-game credits were exceedingly rare and hard to save up. Loot boxes could randomly contain credits, and players would be rewarded with a small number of credits each time they rolled a duplicate cosmetic in a future loot box. In short, the system rewarded players with deep pockets who could buy a large number of loot boxes for real-world money all at once. 

Some players called this system predatory, claiming it preyed on some people’s propensity for gambling and exposed younger players to chance-based mechanics that they might not have the tools to fully understand. Instead of using loot boxes, this time around Blizzard is employing a new favorite monetization tool: the battle pass.

Battle Pass

Games like Fortnite and Apex Legends popularized a progression method called a battle pass that has bled over into countless other live-service games. The idea is somewhat similar to Overwatch 1’s experience-based cosmetic drip-feed. Players earn experience for completing matches and get bonus experience points for completing unique challenges, like using certain weapons or characters in online matches.

Players unlock a new item or cosmetic when they hit the next level in the battle pass. Usually, there are two tiers in this system: one is free for everyone and includes a handful of items, while the other is paid and has considerably more goodies for players willing to shell out cash. In the case of Overwatch, the change is somewhat controversial, but not for the reason you’d think.

Overwatch 2’s battle pass will cost $10 for the premium tier and will come with a large number of cosmetics for players. However, there will be no non-paid way to acquire some of the coolest new skins because they’ll be locked behind the paid tier exclusively. The loot box system, while controversial, did allow players to eventually unlock whatever skins they wanted with sufficient grinding (and luck). 

New Maps and Modes

Of course, the sequel isn’t just here to unleash a new type of cosmetic monetization. Overwatch 2 includes a slew of new maps for existing game modes and a brand-new competitive mode called Push. Push sees the two teams squaring off to gain control of a big robot in the center of a long map. The controlling team will escort the bot as he pushes a large barricade. 

Whichever team gets their barricade further along the map wins! It’s a straightforward game mode and much more symmetrical than the one it’s replacing. The previously-used (and much reviled) Two Control Point mode caught a lot of flak from fans for being reportedly unbalanced and favoring the attacking side far too much.

For Overwatch 2, the 2CP maps have all been completely removed and replaced with Push maps. Fans eager to see the changes responded well to the recent Overwatch 2 Beta, which included a handful of the new maps to get players acquainted with the game mode. The mode also represents a massive shift for the professional Overwatch eSports scene, where players put a premium on competitive balance. There, Push has been widely cheered on as a worthy replacement for the often-unbalanced 2CP mode.

New Format

Speaking of competitive balance, perhaps the biggest change in Overwatch 2 is the massive overhaul of team compositions. In Overwatch 1, players squared off in six-on-six matches, typically consisting of two tank heroes, two damage-dealing heroes, and two healing heroes per side. These chaotic twelve-person affairs gave the original game its flashy charm, but they also became somewhat hard for spectators to follow.

Overwatch 2 simplifies things by reducing the overall player count to 10 per game, moving the teams to five per side. Now, teams will have to make do with a single tank, who will essentially now take the role of the frontline bruiser and team captain. With only a single tank per team, Blizzard hopes Overwatch 2 will be a faster, more frenetic game that won’t devolve into teams huddling behind shields and poking each other for five minutes straight.

One of the developers’ biggest challenges in the original game was that teams with two massive, “anchor”-style tanks were extremely difficult for some team compositions to respond to. This caused many games to devolve into “poke-fests,” with long-range damage dealers trying to punch through tank characters’ barriers to stick some lasting damage. With the new five-player system, Blizzard feels that it’s struck a better overall balance.

New Heroes

No Overwatch update–or sequel, in this case–would be complete without a handful of new heroes. After all, the game is a “Hero Shooter,” a title defined by the bold personalities and flashy looks of its main cast. Overwatch 2 has delivered on that front, rolling out three new heroes for the game’s launch and promising a fourth soon. 

The first, Sojourn, is a new damage-dealing hero with high mobility and impressive long-range damage capabilities. She’s the first playable Black woman in the series, to boot. Another new hero, Junker Queen, is a brand-new tank character who fills the “beefy bruiser” role and will mix things up on the front line. She’s from the same Mad Max-esque futuristic Australia as existing heroes Junkrat and Roadhog, so her design isn’t entirely unfamiliar to fans.

The most recently revealed hero is the new healer, Kiriko, the first playable Japanese woman in the game and the first hero who will be gated behind the battle pass system. Newcomers who reach level 55 in the battle pass will unlock the agile healer, though returning Overwatch 1 players will get her right away. Likewise, those who pay for the premium battle pass will gain access to Kiriko from the jump.

Is ‘Overwatch 2’ Any Good?

So, with all these sweeping changes and iterative updates taken together, is Overwatch 2 any good? Fans of the original will definitely find plenty to love in the sequel. The new free-to-play approach is sure to draw in millions of new players from around the world, many of whom might have completely overlooked the game’s original release six years ago.

While Overwatch 2 doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it’s still a roaring good time for new and returning fans alike. If you’re ready to dive into the arena and show off your skills, you can download the game for free now for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X and S, and Nintendo Switch.