A Rocky Start To A Polished Game: Overwatch 2 Launch Impressions

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 | October 24, 2022
 |  ,

The highly anticipated Overwatch 2 has finally arrived! I’ve been a diehard Overwatch fan since its launch in 2016, having spent over 500 hours playing the original game across PS4, Xbox One, and PC. I’d frequently return when new seasonal updates would be added (my personal favorites being the anniversary events). 

Something I love about Overwatch is that no matter what mood you’re in, there is always a character to compliment it. Do you want to click some heads and rip the opposing team to shreds? Play as the sniping femme fatale, Widowmaker. Do you want to carry the team on your back and protect them from oncoming damage? Play as the shield-wielding tank, Reinhardt. Want to make all your teammates hate you because you’re more focused on doing damage instead of healing? Play as the frequently phase-shifting Moira!

The original Overwatch offered 6v6 matches where two tanks, two healers, and two damage characters would go head-to-head. Overwatch 2 has flipped the script,  removing the second tank and reducing matches to 5v5 combat.

My first experience with Overwatch 2 was joining a quickplay match and equipping the outfit I bought on my PS4 account for the support character, Mercy, that served to donate money to help support breast cancer research. The game I joined featured an old game mode on a new map, set in New York City. Seeing the Empire State Building in the skyline coupled with the flying cars stuck in traffic overhead, I found myself grinning ear to ear as I took in my surroundings. 

Mercy looking at the skyline in the new Overwatch 2 map set in New York City.
If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. (Patrick Sutherland, Blizzard)

My team was on defense, tasked to defend a king of the hill-like zone. We fought valiantly, but ultimately we were unable to keep the zone under control. The attacking team’s next objective was to push the payload (a slow-moving floating car) into the entrance of Central Station. This is when the game’s momentum shifted, because as they pushed the payload further to their destination, they moved further from their spawn. As the payload approached my team, it moved closer to our spawn point, and we were able to put a stop to their progress much quicker.  

We ultimately won the game when the other team was unable to regroup, with the enemy players continually funneling in one at a time. Working as a team and coordinating attacks is the key to winning any Overwatch 2 game, just like it was with its predecessor. This isn’t Call of Duty, you’re not a one-man army.

After playing a round on a new map I noticed that several characters have seen massive changes to their loadouts. I’m not going to list every single one of these changes, since you can find them all here, but a few standouts are that the devs have reduced the amount of stun abilities available to all heroes, made Doomfist a tank instead of a DPS class, and removed shield abilities from Orisa. 

Cassidy (the hero formerly known as McCree, whose name was changed due to a particularly problematic ex-Activision Blizzard employee) no longer has his flashbang grenade, as it’s been replaced by a sticky bomb that tracks down targets. Another DPS character, the ice queen Mei, no longer freezes enemies in place from her primary fire. Instead, she immediately slows targets by 50%. She’s still an absolute menace though, don’t worry. 

Doomfist is a punch-first-and-ask-questions-later type of guy, and now he’s considered a tank class, featuring increased base health. His rising uppercut ability has been replaced with a damage negation move where he enters a defensive stance, reducing damage taken from the front by 80%. If he blocks at least 90 damage, it will cause his comically large fist to become supercharged, giving his next Rocket Punch 50% more damage - with a boost to distance and speed, as well.

Amongst the changes to familiar faces, Overwatch 2 introduces three new characters from the start. Junker Queen is a muscular Australian badass who reminds me of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Rhea Ripley.

Junker Queen closing the distance and getting in the faces of the opposing Zenyatta and Echo.
Junker Queen thrives in close quarters combat. (Polygon, Blizzard)

She comes equipped with a pump action shotgun that works best at close range, and does her best Kratos impression by throwing and recalling a bowie knife that yanks enemies toward her if she hits her target. In another emulation of the God of War, she wields a large axe that can be swung for massive damage with a long cooldown. 

Her ultimate ability, Rampage, sees her charge 25 meters in the direction of your choosing, dealing damage over time and making it so the enemies you hit can’t be healed for a short while. I’ve only played a few games as Junker Queen, and haven’t quite gotten the hang of keeping myself alive for very long. It looks to me like Junker Queen is going to be a character that is challenging to pick up, but becomes incredibly rewarding in the hands of a skilled player.

Sojourn is a new DPS character with a railgun and high mobility. Her railgun has two firing modes. The railgun’s primary fire is not much different than any other assault rifle. It’s accurate in bursts, but loses its effectiveness with sustained fire. Hitting targets charges Sojourn’s secondary fire, which is a pinpoint laser blast from her gun. If you’re accurate with it, a fully charged headshot melts away most non tank adversaries. 

She also has an ability called Disruptor Shot, shooting a large ball of energy that creates an orb to slow and damage enemies caught within it. Her Disruptor Shot is a fantastic tool to keep enemies away from objectives and snipers off of rooftops. If that wasn’t enough, Sojourn also can do a Power Slide, which is a quick knee slide in the direction of your choice that can be canceled into a high jump to reach locations you normally couldn’t. Sojourn’s ultimate ability gives her Railgun unlimited access to its secondary fire for 8 seconds. It would be a fantastic ability if I could hit anything with it, but that’s simply a Patrick problem.

Sojourn taking slide-jumping into the air, firing upon her enemies below.
Sojourn can attack her enemies from all angles. (Patrick Sutherland, Blizzard)

Kiriko is a new healer who is part of the Shimada clan, which includes previously playable characters Genji and Hanzo. Like the rest of the clan, she has the power to scale high walls and get herself out of the line of fire while supporting her team. Unlike the rest of the Shimada bros, she can teleport through walls to allies and provide support to those further out of reach. 

Kiriko’s primary ability is throwing healing talismans that home in on teammates and dispense healing over a short period of time. Of the three new characters, I’ve spent the most time playing as Kiriko. I sometimes find it a bit hard to focus my healing on a single target when things get chaotic and my team gets bunched together, but fortunately, Kiriko also can throw down a Protection Suzu. This ability provides a brief invulnerability effect, restores 50 health, and dispels most negative debuffs from allies in a small radius. 

Her ultimate ability is called Kitsune Rush, which summons a fox spirit that scampers around the battlefield providing temporary boosts to ability cooldowns, character movement speed, and reload speed if you follow the path the spirit took.

Overwatch 2 also introduced a new game mode called Push, though it’s not much different from previous modes available to players. Push is a big game of tug-o-war where players fight for control of a large robot that, well, pushes a large piece of machinery to the opposing team’s side. If both teams are in the vicinity of the robot, it doesn’t budge. If your team is the only one around the robot, it advances toward your enemy’s side. If the two teams are unable to push it all the way to the destination by the time limit, the team that pushed the robot the furthest is declared the winner. 

Sojourn fighting the enemy by the escort robot in the new Push game mode.
Pushing the robot to victory! (Patrick Sutherland, Blizzard)

Push launched with three new globe-trotting maps to play on: Toronto, Rome, and Lisbon. Push’s new mechanics aren’t anything to write home about, but I do appreciate that it changes the pace of quickplay games in a way that isn’t nearly as frustrating as the removed Assault game mode was.

Besides the new Push maps, the dev team has also introduced three new maps to previous game modes. I mentioned New York already, but they’ve also included a map set in Monaco and a map set in Rio de Janeiro. Maps set in Sweden and India are also under development, and are likely to be introduced in upcoming updates. 

The maps from the original game have also been visually updated, taking place during an entirely different time of day than their predecessors.  Battles taking place at nighttime such as Dorado or Kings Row are now fought in the daytime, and vice versa, with maps like Oasis being played under the moonlight.  

The game’s launch hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, though. In addition to an overwhelming amount of launch week issues, Overwatch 2 was originally supposed to bundle a PVE mode alongside the PVP action. Due to development delays, the launches of the two modes were separated to get the already late game out to the public. The Overwatch 2 PVE story mode was something I was looking forward to, but now I’ll have to remain patient until the expected 2023 release date.

Even in its current state, though, Overwatch 2 remains a top-tier team-based shooter. It presses the “one more match” urge inside of me almost every time. The variety of gameplay offered by each hero set in a beautiful game world keeps me coming back for more. The 2016 Overwatch is and will always be a 10/10 experience for me, and I think Overwatch 2 has that same potential. I’ll be banging the Overwatch 2 drum for the next several months to try to reassemble my squad. Until then, “the world could always use some more heroes.”

Have you gotten a chance to play Overwatch 2? What do you think so far? Let me know in the comments below.

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