It was a relief to see the Overwatch 2 beta loading screen on my monitor for the first time. We’ve been waiting for this game since it was announced in 2019.
The sequel to the popular 2016 first-person-shooter title was mostly a mystery until the past six months. It was announced the Overwatch League would play on an early version of the game, and the embargo on the alpha only just lifted a week ago.
Consider the hype unleashed as Overwatch had over 1.4 million Twitch viewers Wednesday, the most in the game’s history.
I was not one of them because I could not stop playing.
I tried as many new elements as I could, played every role and did the focused gamer thing in which you scoot closer to the screen. Anything I could to win on the Overwatch 2 beta Wednesday morning.
Here’s what I learned.
If you’re searching for completely new content with the Overwatch 2 beta, that’s a path to let down.
There’s one new hero (Sojourn), four new maps, reworked heroes from the original title and quality-of-life changes with new sounds, updated graphics and a fresh game mode (push). Respectable, but it did not overly impress me.
I still had loads of fun, and the new content that existed was not really why I thought the Overwatch 2 beta was impossibly fun.
The updates might seem more like a big patch than a new game, but the changes they made to heroes and the swap from 6-vs-6 to 5-vs-5 removed the most frustrating elements from Overwatch. I did not spend much time shooting at shields because there’s only one tank on each team.
My individual DPS play felt more impactful, and hero selections by random teammates weren’t as punishing. I also felt my in-game life was more vulnerable, making for exciting gameplay.
I played Overwatch 2 for three hours before writing this – enough time to get an early opinion but admit that there’s plenty I do not know yet. But for context, I put in over 1,200 hours on Overwatchwith nearly 800 of those hours on damage heroes.
I love playing Genji, and my buddies would tell you that I force it. Heroes like Genji, flanky glass cannons that require high skill but are easily countered, just were not that good in the old game. The removal of most crowd-control abilities like Cassidy’s stun and Brigitte’s shield bash made those heroes instantly better. So I’ll admit to bias there.
But I had a random teammate on Ana who had a line that felt all-encompassing:
“I was skeptical when I saw Overwatch 2 was going to be 5-vs-5, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.”
I was on Reinhardt, who felt so much better to play than on Overwatch. The teammate was on Ana. My every movement and cooldown usage as the only tank on the team felt so important. It was the same in my two matches on the new tank, Doomfist. Yeah, the synergy between two tank players is gone. But the enabled solo tank might be the better era anyways.
Most of the support feedback I saw was that the role was harder to play with less protection. A tank removed form both sides was also a buff for flanking DPS. I enjoyed my two games on Zenyatta against other casual players. I won both matches and got play of the game with an even damage and healing output. I could see that as a concern for high-level players; the support role may need to be tuned.
How to make it better
Watching streamers and pros play Overwatch 2 and experiencing it myself were completely different. I thought it just looked like Overwatch, but smoother from streams. Playing it taught me why the streamers could not put the game down. Every match was intense, and my own gameplay felt critical.
It was not until I played it that I realized just how much better it felt. I had more praise for the game than expected.
But there’s more that could be done (I recognize this was just a beta).
The Dallas Fuel’s criticism on not enough new heroes was accurate. Only Sojourn was not enough. It’s a safe assumption that the Overwatch 2 developers have plenty of other heroes across all roles ready down the pipeline. It would be bizarre and questionable if they did not.
But that’s going to be a big deal to keep Overwatch 2 fresh. Overwatch dropped the ball with that, not having consistent updates and going two years without a hero after developers shifted focus to the sequel.
More heroes, more maps, a little more risk. Overwatch followers can handle it. And the interest in the Overwatch League could benefit from it too.
I really need to go now. I think I’m addicted to Genji.
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