Fluidity and a burst of life: Our first impressions of Overwatch 2

The new PvE story mode brings new life into the base game.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

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It’s a new adventure. At BlizzCon 2019, the Overwatch development team announced Overwatch 2, giving fans a sneak peek at the pseudo-sequel that will focus on PVE story experiences as well as a new PVP mode.

Dot Esports got the chance to demo one of the new story missions at BlizzCon. Here are our first impressions of Overwatch 2 and what fans can expect from the new game. 

Story 

The four-player PvE adventure takes place in Rio De Janeiro, where Lúcio is fighting off an army of Null Sector omnics. He sends out the call for reinforcements to help him defend his city. The Overwatch strike team answers the call, bringing everyone from Tracer and Winston to the team’s newest addition, Echo. In a cinematic, the team destroys the Null Sector bots, but Lúcio warns them that the fight is not over. They decide to target a command ship that’s producing omnics. 

Lúcio, Tracer, Mei, and Reinhardt are the heroes selected for this mission. The lore added here is phenomenal and absolutely necessary. Not only does Lúcio finally receive some kind of backstory, interactions between characters throughout the mission reveal more about them as people. At one point, Lúcio chastises Reinhardt for letting “politicians” shut down Overwatch, saying the organization shouldn’t have bent to their will.

Visual changes 

As game director Jeff Kaplan noted in the Overwatch 2 announcement, every character has received a substantial visual overhaul. Reinhardt has a new set of armor and Lúcio rocks a more battle-appropriate outfit. Beyond that, the game itself seems to have become more fluid and bright, with fewer textures and more vivid colors. A game engine change or upgrade has obviously taken place for Overwatch 2.  

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Gameplay 

The new PvE mode plays like an enhanced version of the Overwatch: Archives missions from the past few years. This isn’t a bad thing. Destroying droves of terrorist omnics is still oddly satisfying, even when we’ve all done it before. Additional objectives have been added to the usual linear PVE experience that Overwatch provided. Multi-step objectives bring a sense of urgency and immersion that the Archives missions lacked.

New enemies also bring life to the mode. Skirmishers are small, bug-like omnics that flit around the fight zone. Flying omnics make heroes like Tracer and Mei distracted, increasing the difficulty of the mode. The most obvious addition are the Obliterators, omnics with two massively destructive guns and two separate health bars. They feel like mini-bosses and require the team’s full attention. 

In a way, Overwatch 2 feels more fluid. The story mode flows from cinematic to gameplay almost seamlessly. As the mode progresses, there are no awkward, overly difficult areas that often plagued the Archives missions. Individual character control seems lighter and more linear, with far fewer blips and glitches. Because of these changes, the PvE mode feels more like a mission plucked directly out of an RPG game. 

Upgrades and items 

The biggest change to Overwatch 2 comes in the form of character upgrades and items available within the mission itself. At the very beginning of the mission, every player can choose between two instant Level 1 upgrades to hero abilities. For example, Lúcio players can choose to increase the health output of their Amp it Up ability or opt to have both speed and health songs trigger when Amp it Up is engaged. Tracer players can choose between a bullet upgrade or a pulse bomb enhancement. 

Hero upgrades give a new level of personalization to the game. Players can now tweak a character to their individual playstyle to add to their success in story mode. Two more “levels” of upgrades exist for each character, unlocked at Level 10 and beyond. No information about experience or levels was given at the initial demo. 

Items are a new addition in Overwatch 2. At set times within the mission, characters are presented with items like a healing drone or a corrosive grenade. This item binds to the number four key and can be used once per minute or more, depending on the item. Items exist in various strengths and mimic the levels of Overwatch skins: normal, epic, and legendary. They’re absolutely critical to use intelligently within the mission to succeed.  

Replayability 

Any player who has repeatedly played PVE modes in Overwatch can attest that, eventually, the mission gets boring. Even if the difficulty is bumped up, it’s still the same route, the same enemies, and the same ending. Overwatch 2 may have solved this problem. 

The demo could be enhanced in difficulty, but certain items and hidden secrets require a replay. For example, one item is hidden above the usual route, and only Tracer and Lúcio can access it. More secrets, like character interactions and hidden items, exist within the game. With the addition of leveling, it becomes necessary to replay missions. These fun little additions take the monotony out of replay. 

Overall impressions

Overwatch 2 feels like Overwatch, but with a burst of life shot into it. Maybe it was the colorful streets of Rio or the novelty of items and upgrades, but the Overwatch 2 demo brought a sense of fun that often feels lost in the original game. Unlike the base game, especially the competitive modes, the story mode manages to immerse players in the Overwatch universe. It brought out a level of excitement we haven’t experienced in a while and we can’t wait to see more.