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While the Overwatch 2 beta is in its earliest days (earliest hours, really), even a little time with the game has revealed a series of improvements that may be enough to lure lapsed players back into the experience.
That’s the funny thing about Overwatch 2. At the moment, it’s actually more of a massive patch or rework of Overwatch than the kind of experience that we typically associate with traditional video game sequels. While that makes some sense given that Overwatch 2‘s PvP mode will essentially be a free upgrade for all existing Overwatch owners (only the game’s PvE content will require a separate purchase), fans wondered if Overwatch 2 would do enough to justify its long development time and the many ways Overwatch has suffered due to its “sequel’s” existence. Others simply doubted that their first taste of Overwatch 2 would be enough to leave them hungry for more.
As it turns out, though, Overwatch 2 does make a pretty impressive first impression. While we still have many unanswered questions about the game (and the whole thing has plenty of time to still fall apart), here are a few of the biggest improvements in Overwatch 2 that might actually be enough to encourage you to start playing the game again.
Overwatch 2’s Ping System Improves Team Communication and (Slightly) Reduces Toxicity
At this point, it’s hard to deny that Apex Legends’ creative use of a “Ping System” has really changed multiplayer gaming. While not necessarily the first system of its kind, the way that game allowed you to tag important items and objectives without needing to rely on verbal or text chat was quite the eye-opener. At the very least, the ability to hit a button and instantly tell your team where to find ammo and enemies expedited the efficiency of more traditional forms of in-game communications.
Truth be told, I kind of doubted that a ping system would really work for Overwatch the same way it works for Apex and other battle royale shooters. After all, Overwatch relies much more on team communication than a typical battle royale title. A ping system couldn’t hurt the game, but would it be enough to help it?
After a little time with Overwatch 2‘s ping system, though, it’s honestly hard to imagine going back to the way things were. While Overwatch 2’s ping system isn’t a substitute for a good Discord server, it’s often a pretty great way to quickly relay certain information during a match without clogging the voice chat channel. Being able to place visual indicators accompanied by a brief in-game audio message is sometimes just a better way to tell someone there is a Reaper near you than constantly yelling “Reaper! Reaper!”
It also has to be said that the game’s ping system does reduce instances of toxicity related to teammates not communicating with each other. Anyone who didn’t want to deal with the occasional nightmare of Overwatch’s old team chat system also risked not being able to help their teammates through communication. The new ping system at least offers a way for everybody to contribute to the communication and coordination process regardless of whether or not they’re using a microphone.
Overwatch 2 Has Greatly Reduced the Number of Shields and Stuns in the Game
For reasons that I’ll never quite understand, Overwatch became more and more dependent on “stun” effects over time. From stun grenades and freeze beams to sleep darts and shield slams, too many Overwatch characters had easy access to abilities that could leave you helpless.
So, while it wasn’t that surprising to learn that most of Overwatch 2’s early hero changes/redesigns involved removing a large number of stun effects from the game, those changes are certainly welcome. Now that you can play Overwatch without having to constantly worry about being hit by something that makes you useless, it’s a lot easier to appreciate the flow of the average match. It turns out that maintaining control of your character is more fun than randomly needing to stand still every several seconds.
Similarly, Overwatch 2 greatly reduces the number of shields in the game. While that means you now have fewer things to hide behind when things get rough (and may die more on average as a result), that also means you won’t spend as much time shooting at shields rather than other players. The game’s shield problems aren’t entirely resolved, but it’s certainly nice that the average encounter now feels closer to a battle between players rather than a war over who can deplete the other team’s resources faster.
Granted, I do think that some Overwatch fans are going to prefer the old ways (which is true of many of the game’s changes), but based on what I’ve seen and played so far, this is a big step in the right direction.
Overwatch 2’s 5 vs. 5 Mode Makes More Heroes and Strategies Viable (For Now)
When Blizzard revealed that Overwatch 2 will utilize a 5 vs. 5 competitive format rather than the 6 vs. 6 format that the game shipped with, fans were understandably torn. Some saw the potential for “addition by subtraction,” but others were justifiably concerned about whether or not Overwatch was really built to support the sudden loss of an additional player (specifically, an additional tank).
The very good news is that it seems like those who felt that Overwatch‘s competitive meta might actually be more diverse with smaller team sizes appear to have been on to something.
Now that you have one less tank to worry about in Overwatch (both on your team and the opposing team), that old desire to make tanks the focus of every composition has pretty much disappeared. Overwatch has long had a tank problem (too many of them were either massive walking shields or basically DPS characters), and the decision to remove one of those tanks from a team’s composition helps make it easier to appreciate each tank’s role and what they individually contribute to a team beyond how two tanks may (or may not) work together. That means that you’re no longer expected to play “Tank Y” because someone else is playing “Tank X.”
I know that some were worried that removing one tank from the game would just put more pressure on the tank player that remains, but that’s rarely been the case so far. It’s more accurate to say that tanks aren’t required to be the focal point of a team quite as much as they were before. There is no one tank in the game that is so good that it can possibly be expected to fill the role of the two tanks. Everyone needs to adjust their expectations.
That change also means that more heroes and team compositions feel viable in Overwatch 2. Now that you have to devote fewer resources to tanks, a lot of Heroes that existed on the margins of the meta feel more viable. Granted, that also means that some former tank busters and tank-focused healers are kind of in an awkward spot, but the game feels healthier overall at the moment than it has in recent years.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that Overwatch 2 is in a perfect spot so far as its balance goes. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done and a few character design flaws that need to be addressed. The good news is that it feels like the Overwatch 2 team has put themselves in a better position to ensure the long-term health of the game.
Overwatch 2 Faster Gameplay Helps Ensures a Little More Match Variety
While I know that some Overwatch fans are going to consider this to be more of a problem rather than an improvement, it must be said that Overwatch 2 feels significantly faster than all but the quickest of Overwatch metas ever did.
Thanks to the aforementioned reductions in stun effects and shields, the average Overwatch match now features far more instances of players battling each other rather than dancing around each other as they wait for shields to fall and skills to recharge. Those things still matter (as do certain map objectives), but fewer fights are determined by who takes down a shield quicker or who has access to an ability sooner.
Again, the game isn’t in a perfect place at the moment so far as that goes, but I will say that Overwatch 2’s increased speed makes things just chaotic enough to ensure that there are far fewer times when you feel like you’re just going through the motions. There’s a kind of advanced deathmatch vibe to Overwatch 2 that really helps you appreciate what a fundamentally solid shooter has been hiding under Overwatch‘s gameplay glut all these years.
I do wonder if Overwatch 2’s faster gameplay will eventually scare some players away from the experience (you really do seem to die much quicker in Overwatch 2 on average than in Overwatch), but I think the game is on the right track.
Overwatch 2 Strikes an Interesting Balance Between Fresh and Familiar
It’s hard to deny that Overwatch hasn’t been in a good place in recent years. While there was always something appealing about the core Overwatch experience, a series of bad decisions, a lack of updates, and an increasingly hostile (and dwindling) player base have often made it difficult to summon the urge to dive into the game.
While there’s a lot to be said about how much Overwatch 2 doesn’t change about the game and whether or not this whole sequel experiment ever needed to be so complicated, it should also be noted that Overwatch 2 is almost a perfect update for lapsed Overwatch fans. Those who have been looking for an excuse to fall in love with Overwatch again may find that Overwatch 2 introduces just enough changes to make things feel fresh but not so many changes that you’ll need to start your Overwatch journey over just to keep up.
If nothing else, Overwatch 2 helps you realize that one of the biggest problems with Overwatch in recent years has been the fact that Overwatch just hasn’t felt that exciting in way too long. The shots to the arm Overwatch 2 offers are often enough to get the adrenaline flowing again and allow you to appreciate the aspects of the game that have always kept you wondering whether now is finally the time to start playing the game again.