After a lack of information, reduced support for Overwatch 1 and splitting the PvE and PvP components, the first closed beta for Overwatch 2 is finally here. Focused on PvP, it introduces a new hero in Sojourn; four new maps, two of them being designed for the new Push mode; several reworks to established heroes like Bastion, Doomfist, Orisa and Sombra; and above all else, the removal of one Tank for 5v5. The results are interesting, especially if you’re a forever Gold, sometimes Plat player like myself. Here are our nine biggest takeaways.
Fast-paced. Kind of messy. Incredibly fun when you get a pick and begin the snowball. Kind of a lost cause when you get picked and are snowballed. It has resulted in quick games, one where each team member’s importance is amplified beyond the original game. However, it’s also created a scenario where most Tanks are super-powerful and can not die, both due to their kits and their Supports.
This has led to a strategy where you’re better off ignoring the Tank, killing the Supports first and then mopping up everyone else, though obviously you’ll need coordination with your teammates. Some feel that the game has become much more FPS-heavy, which isn’t too far off in some instances.
Overall, 5v5 didn’t seem like an earth-shattering change at first but it’s clearly shifted the flow of the game. Playing as a Tank definitely allows for impacting the game more yet the amount of responsibility is higher – you can’t just leave your team and go on random flanks any more, Roadhog. Overall though, making comebacks when you’re a player down is much more difficult in Overwatch 2.
This probably won’t surprise you but 5v5 also feels incredibly weird on the old maps. Watchpoint Gibraltar, Lijiang Tower, Dorado and Ilios – which now have differing times of days to give them some useless spice – are pretty much the same as in Overwatch 1. However, the fights can be shorter or longer depending on how fundamentally your team understands their roles (along with the order they get picked). You may still get the pitched fights at Point B of Dorado and Gibraltar but teams seem to cruise through more often than not.
By comparison, the new maps like Midtown, Circuit Royal, New Queen Street and Colosseo feel much more attuned for 5v5. They possess more flanking routes along with notable high-ground positions (which can be assailed in different ways). New Queen Street’s metro rail car and streets in Point A along with its overpass and construction in Point B offer their own unique ways to set up as well. Circuit Royal, Midtown and Colosseo are more symmetrical as a whole, which makes sense for the latter two as they’re built with the new mode Push in mind.
Push is a good idea in theory, as each team gathers around a robot that must be accompanied to different points on the map. The team that reaches the final checkpoint, or which makes the most amount of progress, wins. The problem lies in the 5v5 set-up, which makes it tougher to turn fights around when you’re down a player, and the nature of the mode. Once a team has captured the first point, they unlock a spawn room closer to it.
This leads to instances where players won’t push the robot any further and instead use their spawn advantage to bunker down close to it. It’s a fairly snowball-heavy mode as is, especially in maps like Colosseo which are smaller, and it’s hard to really pinpoint a solution beyond increasing respawn times based on the opposing team’s proximity to the robot. As a replacement for Assault, it’s not terrible but definitely needs some tweaks.
A lot of discussion has been had on balance, which is understandable given some of the more abhorrent metas that emerged in Overwatch’s life-cycle – Moth meta, Goats, Double Shield, so on and so forth – and how long it took to address them. Blizzard has released balance updates for existing heroes in the Overwatch 2 beta at a relatively quick pace. For example, Soldier 76 was dubbed a little too strong and saw some nerfs to damage (though Tactical Visor got buffed so make of that what you will).
Zenyatta received some enhancements to his melee that provided knockback and increased damage – essentially a Lucio boop but with no cooldown. Sojourn feels a little more intuitive now – the increase to railgun shot size aids her style, even if her overall kit is simply “fine.” It’s not the big shake-up to the meta that Echo or Sigma provided but it’s early days yet. For all of her interesting tricks, it’s funny that Soldier 76 (who’s been present since the first game’s launch) is much more viable.
There’s plenty to be said about other heroes like Cassidy with his sticky bomb, Widowmaker with her 200 HP, Mei with her primary fire not freezing any more and so on and so forth but this is one aspect of the beta that I’ll cut them some slack. Things can and will change, as evidenced by impressions of Bastion being overpowered during the closed alpha. Currently, some maps lend themselves better to certain heroes – Widow on long-range, for example – but it’s safe to play your standard Soldier 76, Ana, Zenyatta/Lucio, Winston/Doomfist and Genji/Tracer for a good number of them. Rejoice, dive players. Weep, Pharah mains.
One thing I can begrudge, however, are some of the reworks. Numbers and tweaking will determine how good Sombra and Bastion truly end up being. The latter does offer a more aggressive play-style thanks to a moving Sentry form and intriguing Ultimate, though it’s occasionally better suited to Escort. On the whole, however, Soldier 76 offers way more value even after the nerfs and can heal himself along with surrounding players.
Sombra is…still sort of Sombra just with Hack no longer canceling invisibility and EMP dealing some damage. It’s kind of a mixed bag and not having a front-lining damage dealer or a flanker that can execute those quick kills like Genji, Tracer or even Echo is tough, especially with only one Tank.
As for Orisa, she’s admittedly a lot more fun than her Overwatch 1 incarnation. Nailing fools with Javelins and rushing forward, destroying any projectiles while pushing them back with a spinning Javelin, is fun. I’m not the biggest fan of her damage reduction, especially in this current meta where ignoring the Tank and slaying the supports first seems to be key. But her play-style is a lot more engaging as opposed to the Overwatch 1 incarnation of simply huddling behind a shield.
As for Doomfist, he’s retained some mobility options while being much more tanky (due to being in the Tank role now). It’s an interesting rework but this still a character that is super-annoying to deal with when competent players are controlling him and an outright chore when incompetent players (like myself) try to figure out his style. Not the worst change but also just odd as a whole.
Otherwise, when it comes to the likes of Reinhardt and Winston, they’re still very good especially with the addition of two Firestrikes and charge cancelling for the former while the latter gets a charged railgun of his own. Tank-wise, though Zarya didn’t receive an extensive rework (she can now use two self-bubbles or two projected bubbles in a row). Nevertheless, she can still output tons of damage while supporting aggressive plays and Graviton Surge is still good for combo plays.
The Support Debate
Supports are in a somewhat weird spot. Thanks to no second tank to peel for them, it becomes harder to survive especially with DPS heroes receiving improved movement speed. However, they also have passive health regen, resulting in heroes like Lucio (and Mercy, if you’re skilled enough) being nigh-unkillable at times. Ana is also now more capable than ever of dueling with flankers, as is Zenyatta after his recent buff. If you have to deal with two Support heroes healing each other, then it can be tough at times.
But there’s no denying that disposing of the Supports before killing the Tank can result in a lot more pressure on the former. Simply sitting and heal-botting, even as Mercy and Lucio, isn’t the best strategy any more. Positioning is more important than ever and you’re pushed to perform.
As for other supports, Baptiste remains more or less the same though the lack of any real bunker comps makes him less viable. Brigitte can be situational – Rally is still strong but now provides temporary health instead of armor. Her Shield Bash no longer stuns but has increased distance and lower cooldown, making it easier to reposition. Her Whip Shot also feels quicker and deals decent damage. The days of DPS Moira are more or less back with Fade providing tons of mobility. It’s not the best play-style but it still works out.
Voice-Acting and Interactions
I know, I know – it’s a beta so the full story and final set of dialogues hasn’t been implemented. That being said, something has changed about the voice-acting in Overwatch 2. While Tracer previously sounded peppy and hyper-active, she seems almost comically so here. Soldier 76 keeps referencing locations that matches remind him of (seemingly teasing maps that may or may not be in the final game) while somehow being more gruff. Orisa sounds much less amicable and much more vengeful, which is a big contrast to her more gentle demeanor in the first game.
The interactions also leave a bit to be desired – while not fully implemented across the board, the exchanges between Lucio and D.Va felt artificial (when the objective is for them to be playful). File this under the “didn’t ask, don’t care” category of impressions but hopefully things are smoothed out in the future.
Throughout my time with the closed beta, not many players really employed the Ping System. Yes, it’s useful for pointing out threats for the team to focus on. But it also generally doesn’t have as wide of an application as maps in Overwatch 2 are smaller. It can somewhat help to spot flankers and Ulting players though you’ll likely be dead by the time the rest of the team is aware. For the most part, however, positioning and being mindful of your healers is more important than simply pinging every random threat.
In summary, there are those who will dislike the changes – and overall state of the game – and those who will disagree, though both sides can admit that improvements are needed. You can blame messaging and whatnot since Overwatch 2’s main component has been marketed as PvE yet we have no access to it currently. The series has also been built off the back of a PvP-centric community so for many, PvP is all that matters.
Even with the changes though, it’s still the same Role Queue (with Open Queue added as an option recently), still the same annoyingly long queues for DPS players, still the same problems with coordination, still the same debates of skill floors vs. skill ceilings and whatnot. For those who first got into and enjoyed the original game, it was about having fun, first and foremost. Some of that is still there but the sequel exists in this weird state of being a more competitive title versus going completely nuts with its ideas.
I don’t know what the answer is and honestly, it’s too early to say how Blizzard will add on to the current structure. Even the Overwatch 1 beta was a far different beast than what we ended up with at launch. I can sympathize with those who don’t want to see a new structure but continued support and new content for the current game instead (especially since many of these changes will be coming to the first game). Regardless, whether it’s struggling to appeal to those who fell out with the series or hardcore fans, Overwatch 2’s PvP has a long ways to go yet.