The transition to 5v5 enhances the pace of games and allows for bigger actions.
The beta for Blizzard’s latest shooter, Overwatch 2, launched on Tuesday, April 26. The first beta for the hero-based, team shooter franchise arrived at long last this week with new features. Since then, I’ve been playing it almost non-stop, and I anticipate putting in more than 40 hours before the test concludes on Tuesday, May 17.
A new hero, maps, a completely new game mode, and various modifications to existing heroes have all been introduced. People’s views on the effectiveness of those changes will vary, but as someone who has played Overwatch consistently (and sometimes obsessively) for the past five years, I believe they are good progress.
What’s the most noticeable change? The new 5v5 gameplay is lightning fast. Without a second tank in the game to deny angles and protect teammates, players have a lot more opportunities to make fight-winning plays – not just DPS players. Supports are more prone to flanks, but they’re also harder to stop. A Zenyatta on an off-angle can do significant damage, and Ana’s biotic grenade may win fights outright if you land it on your opponents. Lucio is fantastic at boosting his teammates up; he’s an awful nightmare for anyone else.
Tanks may no longer have a partner on the field, but new modifications to various heroes allow for more aggressive, pace-setting play. Zarya’s bubbles are now shared charges, allowing her to build charge considerably faster by frontlining. Orisa has gone from a stationary tank who shoots you down at a distance into a terrifying, stampeding, javelin-wielding monster.
The beta will feel drastically different if you’re used to playing Overwatch as a slower, more positional game. The maps that were once familiar seem quite distinct with one fewer tank on the field: threats appear to spring up from everywhere, and cover is a valuable, limited resource. The game is faster, more hectic, and deadlier than before.
Now that you know where I’m coming from, let’s talk about what the team is like. It has a vibrant community with over 7 million players. Many of my most memorable experiences in Overwatch have been when I’ve felt powerless as a player (like when I was playing on Emerald and couldn’t do anything because they had two tanks and three DPS). At certain points, Overwatch may reach a point of annoying stasis that can only be overcome with excellent teamwork or powerful ultimate combinations.
Some people may be disappointed. If your favorite part of Overwatch is the complex clockwork of team compositions and ability combinations, the Overwatch 2 beta may disappoint you. Overmaul has always been a shooter/MOBA hybrid, so if you enjoy the MOBAs – such as map positioning, ability management, ultimate economies, and so on – in particular, Overwatch 2 will feel like a step backwards.
That is, the things listed above are not gone from the game, but they do take a back seat to mechanics and aggression in this first beta. In my experience, the team that has a more aggressive tank, delivers greater damage through supports, and risks more will usually come out on top. There are exceptions; if the Flanking Deadeye doesn’t work out or if supports abandon the tank to get run over because they’re too focused on kills, the “safer” team will win. I like how the game encourages players to look for creative ways to contribute.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to get used to. In addition to major adjustments like a new hero, game mode, and one fewer tank, there are minor nuances that take time to acclimate. Before I realized I didn’t need to utilize my biotic grenade on myself to heal damage from range – the new support passive would top me up after a second behind cover – I played many games as Ana.
As Sombra, I could utilize the new ping system to warn my teammates which opponent I was going to hack. Little modifications like that have a significant impact on how games are played out.
Overall, I’ve been having more fun with the beta than I’ve had in the past two years of Overwatch. (And it sounds like the developers have heard that.) However, I’ve still enjoyed playing support and other reworked and untweaked DPS heroes alike.
Even the tank position, which I’ve avoided for more than a year and a half, has been thrilling. I’ve played characters that I haven’t logged in since high school, like Zarya or Doomfist, and I’m beaming as to how much fun it is.
At first, I assumed it was simply the thrill of the new. I’m having a good time because I’m playing a new game, even if the pieces are familiar. And while that is undoubtedly part of my enthusiasm, it isn’t what drives me to exclaim, “Holy crap,” in the middle of a match. It’s not what makes me tell my buddy during a game, “This is seriously enjoyable.”
Overwatch has always been a thrill to watch when the game’s big abilities land, such as when a Reinhardt hits a full team with his earthshatter or when a Tracer lands a two-for-one pulse bomb. However, for me, Overwatch 2 has rekindled the same level of excitement that it had previously. It reinvigorates the gameplay experience by revitalizing the action – of striking an unexpected vantage point, nimbly throwing a sleep dart or running forward with a dream and somehow emerging ahead.
If that’s the sort of glory you live for, based on what I’ve seen so far, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy Overwatch 2.