We've condensed the new information that was just unveiled into this one handy article.
I was very critical about Overwatch 2 in my first hands-on preview for the game earlier this year. I thought the changes that had been made were not really worthy of the title being dubbed a sequel, and that was something that I felt rather strongly about, especially since Blizzard had yet to show off PvE, yet to announce a release date, and most importantly, was yet to actually announce whether Overwatch 2 would be a fully priced paid product or something else. Jump to today and we know that Blizzard is making the decision to finally make Overwatch a free-to-play experience, and in fact will be launching as soon as October 4 this year. Now to add to that, an Overwatch reveal event has just concluded and as part of that Blizzard has really dished out on the details.
First and foremost, we get an idea as to how the rollout will work for Overwatch 2. We're told that the game will launch and support full cross-save, cross-play, and cross-progression (even with Overwatch 1 content). Similarly, during a roundtable with Blizzard, Overwatch's commercial leader and VP, Jon Spector affirmed how launch will be handled in regard to the different platforms: "All of this will happen on October 4. The plan is that we are doing that across all of the platforms that we support and around the world as well."
As for what this means for Overwatch 1, well that game won't be around for much longer as Overwatch 2 will be delivered as a meaty client update for the original game. Spector explained, "We want Overwatch 2 to be seamlessly rolled out to all of the Overwatch 1 players, so if you have Overwatch 1 in Battle.net, then on October 4, you will download Overwatch 2, and we'll push that automatically."
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With Overwatch 2 almost acting as an update for the original, you might be wondering whether much of the experience we know today will change. We were told that certain features, such as the Experimental Card, aren't going anywhere, as Blizzard will be using that to continue to offer up proposed changes and unique modes. For example, game director Aaron Keller told us about how the Experimental Card is being used to rework Symmetra, but whatever does end up happening, "healing turrets won't be one of those things."
Likewise, there will be a similar approach to tackling seasonal events, even if they will be offered up in a slightly different method to fit the new approximate nine-week long seasons. Keller told us, "We will probably still run game modes and have a celebration for something that's happening in the real world. That's important to us, it's important for our game to reflect what's happening in the real world and for people to see that."
As for how these seasonal events will be altered, Keller continued, "We are working on new events and new game modes coming in the future. For instance, this Halloween, right after the game launches, we're working on a new version of Junkenstein." To add a bit of extra colour, art director Dion Rogers elaborated, "You still get that same event experience but all new."
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Speaking about the new seasonal approach, the way that Blizzard balances Overwatch 2 will end up being slightly different to Overwatch 1. This will see the team pushing out updates at the start of a season, and with the intent to let those changes stick until the end of a season cycle, with the exception of tackling bugs and other necessary intrusive problems.
For those wondering whether all the new promised maps coming to Overwatch 2 will ever include the now redundant locations from the scrapped Assault game mode, Blizzard has said that it is looking into ways to reuse these, but this will come in the form of "taking the tone or the kit of a map and turning it into another version of that with a completely new game mode behind it," as Keller puts it. Essentially, don't expect to see Hanamura or Temple of Anubis as an Escort map anytime soon.
And for the people out there who are looking to once again test themselves on the Ranked ladder, Overwatch 2 will boast an update to the Competitive mode, with that seeing changes to the actual ranking system (the numeric SR system seems to be getting replaced for a skill tiers system). Here there will also be a packed after-action report so that you can analyse and study where your strengths and weaknesses are in-game, so you can improve on them going forward.
In terms of the professional scene, the team didn't have much to add about how the Overwatch League will continue to handle Overwatch 2 this year. Instead all we are told is that there will be further details during the pre-show that dishes out these details before the broadcast on June 16.
Looking at the future and the new content that is planned, Blizzard even shared a roadmap for Overwatch 2, to give an idea of what to expect. While you can see it all in the image below, it is worth noting that of the six maps coming at launch, one seems to be Rio (which will be available in the upcoming beta), and the other could be a Push map set in Portugal... at least that's what the recent developer video suggests. Similarly, we're told that the Mythic skin - which is essentially the next step up from Legendary and will feature customisable elements - for Season 1 will be for Genji, and will turn the character into a cyberpunky demon.
Also, for those wondering what Heroes could be on the horizon, the developer video mentions that aside from Sojourn and Junker Queen, two Supports and a Tank are also coming up next, and considering the next Tank is set for Season 2, that means we can expect a Support at launch in Season 1 and then also in Season 3.
Keeping on the same topic of new Heroes, we got a deeper look at Junker Queen and how she'll play in-game. She is designed to be an aggressive Tank with a total of 600HP. She fights with a large axe and also what seems to be a shotgun type weapon, and can use the former to deal out hefty melee damage. Otherwise, the rest of her kit revolves around a throwing knife secondary ability called Jagged Blade, which can be recalled to pull any enemies impaled with it toward Junker Queen (similar to Roadhog's hook). As for her Ultimate, this is known as Rampage and sees Junker Queen create a whirlwind of metal before dashing forward for a good amount of damage and anti-healing any targets she hits, meaning alongside Ana, she will be the second character to offer that debuff.
It should be noted that Junker Queen is the first character to be designed solely for 5v5 gameplay, and this is why she has certain moves that allow her to bolster teammates rather than simply protecting them, for example a commanding shout ability that will boost the healing and armour of nearby allies.
While we're yet to really see much of the PvE aspect of Overwatch 2, Blizzard did share a fair few details of how that may look come its rollout next year. We're told that it's designed to be replayable, will show how the Overwatch crew came back together, and also how the old guard (Reinhardt, Lucio etc.) matches up with the newer members (i.e. Brigitte). There will be some returning faces here, including the fearsome Null Sector who are causing trouble again, and we'll also get the chance to visit locations special to members of the team, for example, there seems to be a mission dedicated to Torbjörn and set in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.
This concept of expanding the lore through new experiences also plays into Blizzard's plan to tap into new media avenues for Overwatch. Rogers explains that this will mean more cinematic content than in the past and that "some of the ideas we've talked about are animations, television series, digging deeper into the lore of the game, and other ways to tell stories."
Keller stepped in to affirm that the PvE will feature plenty of cinematic content as well: "Running through the campaign... we're still developing it so it's hard to say exactly how much there is, but it's easily hours worth of cinematic content as you play through it."
Looking to the immediate future, all eyes are on the next beta, which will start on June 28, will feature the new map Rio and Junker Queen, and will be available for PlayStation and Xbox players to dive into as well. As for what kind of Overwatch 2 experience console players can look forward to, that remains unclear right now, as Rogers told us that these versions are "still in flux" as the team has a lot of ideas it is testing. What we do know is that Blizzard is aiming for 4K rendering on PS5 and Xbox Series X.
With such a wealth of new information to wade through, towards the end of the roundtable, the trio of Blizzard developers were asked about how the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard affected the production of Overwatch 2, if at all. Spector told us, "We can't really talk about the acquisition, but we are in a business as usual mode."
Will this change heading into 2023 and beyond? That remains to be seen. But what we do know is that Overwatch 2 is going to be serving up a massive array of changes, and finally, after an underwhelming initial beta, I'm once again truly excited for the sequel in this wonderful universe.