Although a playable version of Overwatch 2 is finally on the horizon, Blizzard’s incremental rollout for the sequel feels like too small a step after years of relative silence.
It’s been 860 days since Overwatch 2 took center stage at BlizzCon 2019 for its grand unveiling.
Throughout this stretch, the original game has endured an inexcusable content draught while avid fans and pro players alike have been left to speculate what the purpose of a full-fledged sequel even is.
New maps, modes, and heroes were all part of the initial live-service vision for the ongoing multiplayer title. So what exactly does the latest Overwatch 2 roadmap bring to the table now that PvP has officially split from PvE?
Even with a brief explanation from Game Director Aaron Keller, who admitted the Overwatch team has “let [fans] down,” new Beta announcements have done little to make up for the mistreatment of a passionate community.
Content in the Overwatch 2 Beta is extremely slim at launch
At the launch of the first closed Beta period select players will have access to a small chunk of new content. These additions include Sojourn (the long-awaited Damage hero), overhauls for four existing characters, four new maps, and the Push game mode first revealed in 2019.
On the surface, it’s been described as the most significant Overwatch update since launch, according to Keller. When put under a microscope, however, this comment doesn’t exactly carry much weight.
It’s been 723 days since the last hero, Echo, was introduced. And even longer still at 1,061 days since Havana arrived as the last non-Deathmatch map in Overwatch.
This marks the biggest content gap in Overwatch history by a considerable margin. Compared to the previous cadence of fresh updates for the base game across 2016-2020, we could have seen a minimum of four new heroes and six new maps since Overwatch 2 was revealed.
Put simply: had Blizzard not all but abandoned the original title to focus on the sequel, Overwatch fans would currently have far more content than what the upcoming Beta provides.
This begs the question, is Overwatch 2 simply an update or a proper sequel? With further Betas expected “later in the year,” we have no indication of how much additional content to expect.
Obviously, numbers aren’t everything. Chucking 20 new heroes out just for the sake of it would be far from ideal. But with PvE content now being held back for a separate launch, nothing on the PvP side feels truly worthy of being labeled a sequel.
From the swap to 5v5, to the ‘ping system’ we’re yet to see in action, it all comes across as changes that could have been gradually rolled out for the original game.
An extremely passionate community was left in the dark for years for what now comes across as a simple update. It just doesn’t sit right at this point in time. Perhaps that’ll change when we see more down the line, but again, there’s no telling what to expect or when we’ll even see the remaining content.
As a side note, a good chunk of the Overwatch player base is still being left in the dust even with today’s Beta announcement. Given the upcoming PvP tests are PC exclusive, those on console will continue forward without any fresh content, potentially through until 2023.
Is everything else falling behind?
Ever since the Overwatch 2 reveal in 2019, we’ve slowly been drip-fed various hero rework details and teasers of how fan-favorite characters might be changing. While at times it appeared as though even Blizzard was unsure what direction to go in, we finally seem to have four particular changes locked in.
Bastion, Sombra, Orisa, and Doomfist are the first heroes being overhauled for the sequel. While we already know what to expect from the first two in terms of new abilities and functions, the last two remain somewhat of a mystery.
Given a range of earlier comments on the likes of Doomfist, Orisa, Mercy, Brigitte, and plenty more, overall balance still appears to be up in the air for Overwatch 2. If just four of the game’s 32 heroes are ready to go by April, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the rest of the lineup as we move further into 2022.
How long will it take before the remaining 28 are looked at? Is everyone else staying identical to their Overwatch 1 builds in the meantime? Are the rest even in line for an overhaul? Where does this leave any additional heroes joining the roster? There are so many questions still left unanswered following the Beta announcement.
If that’s where we’re at today in terms of hero balance alone, it’s hard to feel confident about the rest of the package. With PvP exclusively in focus, it seems entirely plausible that PvE could slip out of the 2022 window.
It’s great that the wheels appear to be in motion and the full launch of Overwatch 2 can only get closer. But today’s Beta announcement and content roadmap feel far too insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Players have patiently waited years already as the base game dies a slow death and even the most barebone in-game events have been drastically hindered. After all this time, what could be considered a regular content drop doesn’t meet expectations and doesn’t inspire confidence for the full sequel.
Blizzard has once again promised to “communicate much more frequently” moving forward, but we’ve heard that a few too many times before to instil any faith. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how the first Beta period lands for select players come April.