With your permission, I’d like to take moment to vent.
After spending a fair bit of time with the Overwatch 2 multiplayer beta over the last week, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that I don’t like it very much. I’ve put roughly 30 hours into the Overwatch 2 multiplayer beta since I first got access, and I can feel my distaste for it growing by the match.
I dared to hope
That pains me to write. I love Overwatch. Or, at least, I did, before a glut of DPS heroes and a hard push into esports eroded the joy of the thing. DPS creep is what ultimately brought Overwatch down. Its addiction to raw damage, driven by the pro players, supplanted the teamwork that was the game’s original design.
The DPS class wound up so much wider than the tanks and supports that Blizzard was forced to add a role queue in a bid to shake up the meta. Role queue removed the ability to construct more versatile team comps by enforcing a two-two-two meta: two tanks, two DPS, two support. Because you could now only have two DPS heroes per game, and with so many players interested in its large array of DPS characters, queue times blew out to ten minutes. To satisfy the Overwatch League-driven desire for even more DPS, newer tank and support characters like Wrecking Ball and Batiste arrived, out of the box, DPS heavy.
The game lost its way. It stopped being fun and matches, when you could finally get into one, became an artless grind.
When Overwatch launched in 2016, it certainly had balance problems, but the goal was always clear: play your role, work with your team and secure your objective. Communicate, switch up your composition as the situation evolved, find hero synergies, and let strong teamwork prevail. The team that was able to do this the most cohesively was invariably the winner. It led to a lot of hard-fought, evenly-matched games that felt satisfying, even when they ended in defeat. Once the Overwatch League began, that began to change. What the pros wanted was kills, and so that’s what Blizzard came to want too. I knew Overwatch was moving away from the team game I loved and toward showy twitch-shooter flick shots at PAX Aus in 2018. I was on a panel talking about our favourite plays in Overwatch esports. A small group of guys sat among the crowd, dressed in official OWL merch. They hooted at every Cassidy headshot and Widowmaker pick.
When I rolled my clip, what I thought was a memorable display of teamwork from Contenders team Dark Sided — an off-meta squad built around a teleporting Bastion/Symmetra combo that put opponents Order on the backfoot — those boys were silent. The team game just didn’t matter to them. Nothing against those guys. We chatted to them after, and they were really nice, but they made me realise that we were playing a totally different game.
I was excited about this beta because, even if Overwatch 2 felt like it could easily be a carbon copy of the original sold at full fare, it also presented an opportunity to right a lot of the wrongs that grew out of the game the longer its life went on.
Unfortunately, Overwatch 2 does not right any wrongs. Overwatch 2 is a game purpose-built to satisfy those aforementioned OWL fans.
This is not what I was hoping for
The Overwatch 2 beta doesn’t merely suffer from the same problems as the original, it amplifies every last one of them. Blizzard is still putting the opinion of the Overwatch League pro players ahead of the original’s core design. The Overwatch 2 beta moves from a 6v6 objective game where team composition mattered, to what is effectively a 5v5 deathmatch.
Damage has been buffed significantly across the board. Each of the game’s sprawling list of DPS characters now feels more powerful than ever. Tanks have been adjusted to feel beefier and more offensively-tuned because, with its move to a 5v5 model, teams can only take one of them. Even support heroes, who have become increasingly enmeshed in damage dealing, must now consider their healing roles a secondary priority. If you’re a support player in Overwatch 2 and you aren’t dealing at least as much damage as any of the DPS heroes, then you aren’t truly contributing to your team. What use is healing in a game where instakill one-taps are becoming the norm? Not much.
Shield-bearers like Reinhart and Orisa are now more aggressive or stripped of their shields altogether in favour of dive and rush-down play. Supports like Lucio and Moira currently rule the roost because they can provide the most damage value while their support abilities tick along passively in the background. DPS hero Bastion has been reworked to make him, in my opinion, laughably overpowered. Sombra never has to stop cloaking so she can live in the backline, picking off the squishies. Other DPS heroes have been buffed overall, but have taken small reductions to their health pool to make them squishier and soften them up for the Sombras. It speaks volumes that Solider 76 is considered an S-Tier DPS pick right now. The most bog-standard FPS hero of the lot, the most Call of Duty flavoured guy in the game, is the most reliable DPS pick right now.
Even playing the objective is less of a priority. Kills, damage, and headshots are the primary goal. The team that gets the most kills is the winner because wiping the enemy team provides a moment to progress the objective as a secondary concern. This means the game has become even more steamroll-heavy than it already was. If you can’t out-damage the enemy team, you lose. If you’re worse at notching kills than your counterpart on the enemy team, you lose.
To make matters worse, many of the game’s maps have been designed with even more flanks, passages, and shortcuts than those in the original. This encourages your team to split up, creating even more headaches for supports frantically trying to keep their team up.
The sum of these parts is matches with no flow or strategy. Directionless chaos reigns. Despite a new, context-sensitive ping system for comms, callouts fall on deaf ears. The flanks and passages carve your team up, and the wall of incoming enemy damage turns you all to paste.
A brief grumble about role queue
Why Blizzard would drop one of the tank slots for the new 5v5 team comp and not follow through by removing the role queue is, frankly, beyond me.
Now, instead of one class drawing a ten minute queue time, there are two. Now that we can only have one tank per game, half the people who normally play tanks get left in the queue!
If you want to play support, you can get into a game instantly. If you’d like to play tank or DPS, prepare to twiddle your thumbs in a skirmish server for up to fifteen minutes. And then, when you do finally get into a game, you get steamrolled in 4 minutes and it’s back to the queue.
How did this happen?
So, it’s over?
Despite this only being the first public beta, it’s hard not to feel like the writing might be on the wall for Overwatch 2. It’s clear where Blizzard’s design priorities lie, and they’re so far removed from what made the original special that I find it hard to see how it could ever reel things in. My understanding is that there’s a balance patch coming soon that will address some of the more overt power differentials, but that can’t change what the game considers its core focus.
The world that Overwatch 2 launches into is very different from the one it disrupted in 2016. Single-handedly popularising the hero shooter genre, Overwatch 2 now arrives in a market packed full of the modern shooters it influenced. As it shifts to a greater focus on DPS, the question becomes: what does Overwatch 2 offer that other games aren’t already doing more successfully? The answer, unfortunately, is nothing. To make matters worse, the game Overwatch 2 is tying itself in knots to become, already exists. It’s called Valorant.
I’ll come back for the patch to see what, if any, change it can make, but it feels like my long, on-again, off-again relationship with Overwatch is finally over for good. This multiplayer beta paints a grim picture, that Blizzard has taken one of the greatest multiplayer shooters ever made and reduced the experience to juggling balls bouncing around in a tumble dryer.
What a shame.
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