Monday, May 20, 2024

Overwatch 2 isn’t even half the game the original is

Overwatch 2 was always going to be a game that would divide people – and that’s before you even acknowledge that Activision Blizzard may just be the most repulsive company to ever exist. With news surrounding the company of sexual harassment, employee discrimination and even suicide, Activision Blizzard’s reputation is at an all-time low.

So it was obvious to anyone looking in that the publisher needed a win, no matter how minimal. It wouldn’t make a difference that Activision Blizzard have been accused of the most horrific things imaginable, and that their workers are still doing their utmost to change the company into something better. A game isn’t capable of that, no matter how you may want to believe it.

Even so, the question remains: is Overwatch 2 a win for Activision Blizzard?

The hero-shooter has been out for a few weeks now and I’ve been playing since it released into early access. The ‘excitement’ of the first week full of bugs and lost content has worn off, and I can finally sit down and put my thoughts together in a way that doesn’t swing from one side to the other like a wild pendulum clock.

Going into the newest iteration of Overwatch surprised me from the get-go, mostly because it felt as though I had re-found something that had been packed under my bed for years. You know the feeling, you stumble upon an item you’ve only thought about once or twice after putting it down and are shocked with the sudden and electric urge to trace your steps, relearn why you loved it in the first place.

And, as it turns out, there is a lot to love about Overwatch 2. The change from 6v6 to 5v5 has given the game a new lease of life, shaking up everything we knew before and transforming the meta away from a hero-shooter where all your damage-dealers could really do is shoot at a bazillion shields and hope for the best. Tanks have more health this time around, making all of them (uh, not including Doomfist) feel useful, regardless of whether they have a shield or not. Junker Queen, one of Overwatch 2’s newest heroes, really shines as a Tank that straddles the line between dealing damage while also being meaty enough to soak up bullets and protect the team.

Overwatch 2 game
Overwatch is at its best when you’re in a match

More importantly, playing Overwatch actually feels like fun again. Remember that, having fun playing Overwatch? Most players will say no, but if they are a DPS player then do they really count? Jokes aside, regardless of how you feel about the nitty gritty changes made to the game, Overwatch 2 is at its best when you’re stuck right in, firing at the enemy team, cursing your own for pushing far ahead, and just having a blast. Regardless of what role you play, there’s a diverse selection of different ways to be useful and experience the hero-shooter.

However, once you step away from gameplay, it’s near impossible not to see just how utterly soulless, how completely lacking in heart Overwatch 2 is. Everything that you loved about the older Overwatch has been stripped away. Every little bit of lore before, such as on different skins for each hero? Gone. The personality behind certain abilities, such as Mei’s ice freezing you and Doomfist being an enemy to be feared with his cybernetic fist? Gone. Even little things like the fire that surrounds your player icon when you’re absolutely kicking ass has now been reduced to a blue glow that you can barely see. I only knew I was doing well in a match by Sombra yelling ‘I’M ON FIRE’, and very little else.

Overwatch 2’s move to a free-to-play model has brought several new issues to the game. The first is its blatantly scummy monetization system which, coupled alongside the worst battle pass I’ve seen since forever, locks old skins behind money, and locks skins and other cosmetics away behind a $20/30 bundle.

Going back to the battle pass, the second issue that drives me to despair whenever I think of it, Blizzard’s greed knows no bounds. Usually when you purchase a battle pass and make your way through it, you earn currency that can be saved up to be used to purchase the next battle pass. That way you only spend actual money once, but it puts the power in your hands to decide whether you want to purchase the next battle pass or, if you’re busy during a certain season, to lay off until next time. A lot of games do this, such as Dead by Daylight and Apex Legends. Overwatch 2 does not do this. Overwatch 2 doesn’t offer you currency at all, instead expecting its players to pay for each and every battle pass. If you ask me, that’s pretty damn greedy.

But what frustrates me the most about Overwatch 2 is just how predatory it is to new players. When it was revealed that the majority of the hero roster would be locked for new players, the reaction was mixed. On one hand the less heroes to pick from, the less you’ll feel overwhelmed by the more than 20+ something roster. On the other hand, it’s just another way to add grind to a game that asks for more than $12k off you if you want to purchase all of the original Legacy skins. Or, if you’d rather sit naked on a hot grill than give Activision Blizzard money (because same), then it’ll take around 450 years of completing weekly challenges to earn enough in-game currency. Thank god we’re not immortal, eh?

Overwatch 2 game
There’s just no looking past the shabby state of Overwatch 2

Not only are new players forced to grind away for new heroes, which can take up to 50 games per hero, but they start with absolutely nothing. No skins, no charms, no cosmetics, and maybe a profile icon. There are challenges which they can do, which may earn you a bit of currency but again, it’d take weeks for them to earn enough to buy a measly weapon cosmetic. It leaves these players no choice but to reach into their pocket and give Blizzard money out of fear of being the odd one out. It is so unbelievably exploitive that fans are asking for loot boxes to come back.

I look at the current state of Overwatch 2 and feel genuine pity for new players who have only just got into the game. While the original Overwatch had its fair share of problems, I always fondly remembered the days of logging on for new events to play a shocking amount of games to get cosmetics and discuss excitedly with friends on which skins we got, which we didn’t and which we wanted to strive for in the future. We pondered over the different voice lines with each new story event and mused if we’d ever get something like a movie or animated show to really flesh these characters out. Then we’d sit back, play a few more games and talk until we grew tired. Overwatch 2 doesn’t capture that feeling in the same way – everything has been scraped away to leave a fun game, but certainly not a great one.

Yet even with all of these frustrations that reside in my heart, I do have a sliver of hope. It lies directly at the feet of the story-focused Overwatch 2 PvE that’s set to release as seasonal content sometime next year. As far as I’m concerned, the heart of Overwatch 2 is its characters. Without the brilliant personalities to be found there in characters like D.VA, Tracer, Reaper, Sombra, etc, I sincerely believe that the game would have not been the global success it was at launch. The way Activision Blizzard has prided itself on diversity within the Overwatch universe is laughable considering how they’ve hidden away stories in books and comics that you can’t even access in-game, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a community who sincerely want to know more about the characters they play. Whether it’s because they want to see more people like them, or because they want to know more about the world surrounding the hero-shooter.

In its current state though? Overwatch 2 remains a game that may hit all the right notes at the right time, but lacks the heart, soul, and personality of the original.

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