A lot has changed since the announcement of Overwatch 2 in 2019. Game Director Jeff Kaplan left the company in April 2021, and Activision Blizzard has been under tremendous scrutiny for its workplace culture, and the game itself seems to be progressing slowly.
Yet developer Blizzard has already shown off plenty of gameplay that makes the sequel look very exciting. Overwatch 2 will introduce new game modes, with the most notable being story-based player-vs-environment (PVE) missions. There will also be new characters and shared content between Overwatch and Overwatch 2, and all progress from the first game will carry over into the second.
In some ways, the sequel feels like a massive expansion of the first, and the two games will have an unprecedented synergy between them. Overwatch 2 is still years away, but there’s quite a bit we know already. Let’s dive in.
When is the Overwatch 2 release date?
As part of the Activision Blizzard Q3 earnings call on November 2, 2021, the company announced Overwatch 2 has been delayed, presumably to 2023 or beyond (along with the highly anticipated Diablo IV). The reason for the delay was typical, as Activision Blizzard COO Daniel Alegre explained giving the team more time “will ensure that these releases delight and engage their communities for many years into the future.”
Overwatch 2 Community Manager Andy Belford explained 2023 isn’t even official:
One rumor to clear up: I’m seeing a lot of folks assuming a launch date in 2023. Without being pedantic, I want to point out that there was no release date or beta date communicated in yesterday’s earnings call. While I’m not prepared to discuss dates with you here today, I want to quash the rumor of a 2023 release date as being somehow “official”.
During a 2021 investor call, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack confirmed the Overwatch 2 team had been on track in meeting major development milestones. New Game Director Aaron Keller corroborated this in the April 2021 blog post confirming Kaplan’s departure from the company.
“Development is continuing at a good pace,” Keller said of Overwatch 2. “We have exciting reveals planned for this year and beyond as we ramp to launch. We’ll be sharing more frequent updates about Overwatch 2 progress and new features in the live game with you all very soon.”
It’s unclear if development is still on track, or if the July 2021 lawsuit has set the entire development process back.
Is there an Overwatch 2 trailer?
There are several Overwatch 2 trailers that were released alongside the game's announcement in 2019. Below, you can check out the cinematic trailer, which is titled "Zero Hour." This is the latest in Overwatch's series of high-quality animated shorts. It shows how the team finally gets back together before the events of Overwatch 2's story. It’s immaculately produced, totally epic, and enough to make diehard fans well up with tears.
If you want to see the game, its PvE missions, and story mode in action, you can also check out the gameplay trailer that Blizzard released at BlizzCon 2019. But there’s also an extended behind-the-scenes video from BlizzCon 2021 that comes in at a whopping 38 minutes and 50 seconds.
Check it out below:
In May 2021, an Overwatch 2 PvP livestream aired, showing off the game’s competitive modes, maps, and new role abilities. The main focus during the livestream was to show off the new 5v5 teams, which are comprised of two damage roles, two support roles, and one tank. This is a major change from the first Overwatch, which featured 6v6-based teams.
What are the Overwatch 2 platforms?
So far, Blizzard has confirmed that Overwatch 2 will be released for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. That isn't surprising considering that the first game is also on all of those platforms.
A next-gen upgrade for Overwatch rolled out quietly for Xbox Series X|S in March 2021, which is a good indication that the sequel will also launch on the platform. Curiously, a PS5 upgrade has been skipped. Though, this isn’t an indication that Overwatch 2 will not appear on PS5.
Given the fact that Overwatch 2 will likely launch three years after the release of next-gen consoles, higher-end versions of the game feel like a certainty. The worst-case scenario is that the Xbox One and PS4 versions will be playable via backward compatibility, perhaps with slight upgrades.
What are the Overwatch 2 changes?
There are many new gameplay modes and features coming to Overwatch 2. Perhaps the most noteworthy, revealed during a May 2021 livestream, was the major shift away from 6v6 gameplay to 5v5. Specifically, it’ll be 2 Support, 2 DPS, and 1 single Tank. As such, all of the Tank characters have been reworked with additional abilities and defensive capabilities.
“Each player has a larger individual impact on the team,” Game Director Aaron Keller said, touching upon how and why the team made this drastic shift.
At BlizzCon 2019, Keller and former Game Director Jeff Kaplan talked at great length about Overwatch 2 in a lengthy panel, revealing tons of other details.
Overwatch 2 will have PvE missions
PvE story content was long-requested by the Overwatch community, and players will finally get that with Overwatch 2. Other standalone PVE content is a big draw as well. These modes will let players team up to fight the game’s A.I. in narrative-driven modes.
Story Missions dive into Overwatch lore in a big way, complete with cinematic intros and outros. In the first game, Winston sent out an (illegal) message, calling back all the former agents to reunite and stop a new menace, Null Sector, from destroying the world.
This event inspired a series of short films produced by Blizzard that explored how different members of Overwatch responded to Winston’s call. Overwatch 2 will see the team canonically reunite as Overwatch, with story missions that detail their efforts to save the world.
True to its name, the mode will have players pick from a predetermined set of characters that make sense for the story, in a way that almost sounds like how Super Smash Bros. Ultimate handles its story mode. As noted by Blizzard onstage, it wouldn’t make sense for villainous, rogue characters like Junkrat or Reaper to help Winston, but players can have the option of choosing different characters based on the specific narrative. Characters like Wrecking Ball that don't speak also won't play a big role in the narrative.
Hero Missions are the second major PVE mode. Blizzard intends this to be the PVE mode that keeps players coming back over time. Unlike Story Missions, Hero Missions will allow players the freedom to choose from any of the characters to play against A.I. on any of the maps.
This is similar to the sporadic PVE missions we've seen in the first Overwatch like Junkenstein's Revenge. Missions will be changed by Blizzard on a frequent basis. “We want them to feel fresh and new every time you go into them,” Keller said.
Will Overwatch 2 add new PvP game modes?
There's a whole new game mode called “Push” that resembles escort game modes a great deal except it's a bidirectional tug-of-war. Rather than have an offense and defense, both teams are competing to push a cart in either direction. Points are given based on how far teams get the robot down markers (located on the map).
Victory goes to the team that can either amass the most points before the end of the match or whoever pushes the robot down enemy territory first. The game will be a major feature in Overwatch 2. It will be playable in quickplay, competitive, and also in the Overwatch League. More new modes might be in the pipeline, but they have not been revealed yet.
What are the new Overwatch 2 maps?
Blizzard has revealed a number of new maps coming to the game, as recently as the May 2021 PvP livestream. Here’s a quick look:
What are the Overwatch 2 hero changes?
Because team structure has shifted to 5v5, it seems like all of the Tank heroes will get some significant buffs. The May 2021 PvP livestream noted some specific changes for Winston, one of the tanks, but also Mei, a DPS character.
- Winston now has a ranged alternate fire that charges up a long-distance lightning blast.
- Mei’s signature primary fire, meanwhile, now slows enemies and deals additional damages without eventually freezing enemies in place. Mei mains will no doubt read this as a net nerf ... which is sadly accurate.
- Reinhardt will have two charges of Fire Strike and his charging pin move can be canceled, which gives him more flexibility and survivability
Across the board, however, pretty much every hero in the entire game is getting a major rework — including some major redesigns.
Will Overwatch 2 have shared cross-progression?
Veteran players of Overwatch will keep their progression (stats, loot, skins, etc.) going into Overwatch 2. Blizzard talked about “redefining” what a sequel means; such language has already begun to appear in the game’s promotional posters.
“It will be a shared, multiplayer environment where no one gets left behind,” Kaplan said. Along with shared progression, Blizzard confirmed Overwatch and Overwatch 2 will share content between games.
In short, you can play as the same characters and the same maps in either Overwatch and Overwatch 2, including new ones yet to be revealed. “The last thing we would ever do is split what an amazing community you guys are," Kaplan said. So all new PVP maps, heroes, and “new heroes beyond that” will be made available to all players, including those on the original game.
How does Overwatch 2 Hero Progression work?
Said to be “still under development” by Blizzard, Hero Progression will essentially allow players to level up their favorite characters and empower them with what Blizzard calls “Talents.” That’s a big departure from Overwatch, which only rewarded players with cosmetic upgrades, and this would allow players to customize their characters in ways that lean into playstyles.
Every character has special Talents that will allow them to basically kick as much butt on the PVE battlefield as possible. The feature will be implemented in all PVE modes; Blizzard confirmed that Hero Progression will not be a factor in PVP competition. In some ways, it sounds like Overwatch 2 could wind up feeling a bit like Marvel’s Avengers, with a team of heroes assembling. And over time, you upgrade whatever abilities you feel keen on investing in.
Who are the new Overwatch 2 heroes?
So far, only one new hero has been confirmed: Sojourn. This is a character first introduced in 2016 via a small appearance in the short film “Recall.” She will finally be made playable in Overwatch 2. Named after African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, Sojourn is the game’s first Black woman playable character and the first Canadian hero.
Little is known about Sojourn except that she was a captain in Overwatch and is imbued with cybernetic enhancements. How Sojourn’s enhancements will translate into gameplay remains to be seen.
Overwatch 2 is in development for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Eric Francisco, Corey Plante, and Just Lunning contributed reporting to previous versions of this article.
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