Just as promised, the Overwatch 2 multiplayer beta went live last week. We're still a year or so away from release, but the game is in a playable state and there is a small amount of new content to boot, including new maps and a new hero. The game is now 5v5 instead of 6v6, removing one tank character from each team, the biggest balance change to Overwatch since its inception. With all of that in mind, is there enough here to justify a full sequel, or should this have been a revamp for the original Overwatch instead?
I was able to obtain Overwatch 2 beta access last week and spent quite a bit of time with it both solo and with a group. While there are some new maps in the beta, all of the original Overwatch maps are here too. With the pool being so large, you are likely going to see a lot of maps from the original game while playing the beta, although each map now has a day and night mode, which helps differentiate it a little bit visually.
The key change here is the move away from 6v6 gameplay. This is something that was announced for Overwatch 2 back in 2019, when the game was first revealed. Now that each team has one less tank, grouping up with your team for a full push at the objective is imperative. The time to kill certain heroes has been reduced heavily, and if you stray too far from your tank, you are going to be picked off quickly.
This leaves less room to split off from your team for flanks, as a one or two heroes are going to get wiped out quickly, and then the rest of your team is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to trying to control the objective. This unfortunately has the knock-on effect of making matches less dynamic. In Overwatch 2, your focus should be on staying together as a group and maintaining strength in numbers at all times.
This also means that choosing the right heroes for the matchup is all the more important in Overwatch 2. As it stands, the game focuses the action into choke points and straying away from your group is near certain death. Before, you could get away with letting a Genji or a Widowmaker main run off and do their own thing, but with the way competitive matches are now set up, you need to be pushing or holding ground in a group, and in that scenario, your team needs to have the tools to overpower the heroes on the opposite side.
Overwatch has never had perfect balance, but it seems in Overwatch 2, there are heroes that stand out and perform much better in this 5v5 setup compared to Overwatch 1. I've had very little success with a Lucio or Zenyatta on my team, and far more success with a Mercy and Ana duo. Reinhart and D.Va hold up in matches much better than Winston, and Soldier 76 can be an absolute force to be reckoned with as long as you stay behind your tank and have capable healers.
This is all much easier to pull off while playing with a group. Even just having three out of the five players in a match being in a party can make all the difference, as you can control the core synergy of the group. One of my most frustrating matches this week was a solo queue match, where I ended up being Mercy, but due to the total lack of team coordination, I found myself getting picked off by the enemy constantly and unable to stay alive long enough to be useful to my team. We ended up losing without even reaching the second objective point on the map. In a match with a group of friends, I had people watching my back and clear communication, so I was able to focus on revives and keeping teammates alive to make a proper push and just like that, we were on the road to victory.
Overwatch has primarily been an esports game, so this focus on group play isn't too surprising, but it does alienate those jumping in to solo queue, looking to carry themselves on skill alone.
It is clear from the first week of beta that more balance work needs to be done and some heroes may need a bit more tuning than expected. That's not to say the game isn't fun, I still enjoy Overwatch quite a bit, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a sequel that nobody was asking for.
Ultimately, Overwatch 2's multiplayer just feels like a faster-paced version of Overwatch 1. I have yet to see a brand new map while playing the beta, and I rarely saw anyone using the new hero, Sojourn, so much of my experience has just been Overwatch 1 with a major balance update.
The Overwatch 2 multiplayer will eventually replace Overwatch 1 entirely, so if you prefer the classic version of the game, then you might be out of luck. If Blizzard wants the sequel to really stand out from the original, it is going to need more new maps and heroes. We're also going to need to be highly impressed by the PvE mode, which Blizzard has kept under tight wraps.
Overwatch 2 is currently in beta and is still near a full year away from release. With that in mind, Blizzard still has lots of time to observe feedback and make changes. We'd also expect the team to have more new content locked away and waiting to be revealed. With that in mind, I won't be writing off Overwatch 2 just yet, but we aren't off to the best start here.
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KitGuru Says: We're going to need to see more from Overwatch 2, especially its PvE mode, before being ‘sold' on Overwatch 2. As it stands, this could have been a balance update to the original game, but I have hope that there is more content behind closed doors waiting to be revealed.