The Overwatch 2 beta has finally arrived, giving players a chance to try out the revamped 5v5 gameplay, reworked heroes, new maps, and Push game mode. How does it compare to the original and is it more an expansion than a sequel?
The big thing with Overwatch 2, at least from a gameplay perspective, is the switch to 5v5. This single change has fundamentally altered Overwatch from an often grindy exercise in frustration to a much more fluid beast that rewards smart play.
By taking one tank out of the equation for both teams and reworking the existing ones, Blizzard has made Overwatch 2 a game where players can carry heavily by themselves while still contributing to an overall whole. Teamplay is still important, but individuals can shine brighter than before.
The lack of shields, crowd control, and stuns enable good players and punish bad ones. Ultimates charge slower, DPS heroes move faster, and the game benefits immensely. It’s no longer all about cycling ultimates and pressing ‘Q’ to win. In this regard, Overwatch 2 feels much better than its predecessor.
The drawbacks to this change, at least currently, are that support heroes feel especially vulnerable with one less tank to peel. Whether this is intentional or not, I’m unsure, but Blizzard will have loads of time to figure out the finer points of game balance, especially with OWL beginning shortly.
When you exclude the 5v5 change, however, Overwatch 2 begins to feel like a content expansion as opposed to a fully-fledged sequel. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, especially as a beta, but it’s sure to draw some criticism.
Overwatch 2’s beta doesn’t add that many new features, but what it does add are things players have wanted for years. A ping system and a proper scoreboard are welcome additions, yet should have been implemented in the first game.
Although there are nitpicks to be found with both of those changes, it’s important to note that this is a beta and it’s expected that these things will undoubtedly evolve. The same can be said for certain hero animations, bugs, sound effects, and clunky UI.
Just look at the original Overwatch beta and compare it to today’s live game — things can and will be upgraded.
The biggest new additions come in the form of several new maps, Push, and the new hero Sojourn. Alone, they make this first beta feel a lot like an expansion to the original game, and there is more to come.
Push sees players work to move a large robot in either direction, with the team moving it the most getting the win. It’s not dissimilar to moving the payload, but with the potential to move in both directions. This can lead to some tense overtime scraps as teams fight for inches, and it is always dynamic — there’s an ebb and flow to every match that’s tough to quantify, but it feels just right.
The mode is paired with new Push-focused maps, and in our time playing, we found Lucio to be incredibly important for shortening the time to get back to the robot after a squad wipe. Other more nimble Heroes can also make use of the hidden pathways through buildings and more to get back into the fray. All of this combines to minimize downtime between team fights, which themselves feel much better for all the reasons we described earlier.
Then there’s Sojourn, a DPS that feels ideal for Push because of her ability to move quickly through environments while slowing opposition characters. Interestingly, Doomfist feels like he’s stolen her thunder somewhat in this beta — the recently-switched Tank version of Akande Ogundimu is downright scary to come up against, pushing players back by punishing anyone that gets too close.
We already know that Overwatch 2 will be adding at least one more game mode to replace the 2CP (good riddance) with more maps and heroes on the way. We also haven’t seen how competitive play will be reworked, how clans or “clubs” will be implemented and so much more.
As a taste of what’s to come, the Overwatch 2 beta has left me wanting more… in a mostly good way. 5v5 has changed the game and it’s a huge deal that, by itself, will make Overwatch a better experience.
For a first beta, it feels almost like a relaunch of Overwatch. It’s clearly a work in progress, but by the time it’s ready for release, I feel like it will earn that “2” next to its name.