It was curious that Blizzard left Overwatch 2 out of Blizzcon’s opening ceremony on Friday (presumably because they had little to show), but its developers went into immense detail about what they’ve been working on immediately after that first event was over. I’ll just go ahead and say that there was plenty to show and it should’ve made the cut and Blizzard is weird as hell for that decision.
To kick things off, two new maps coming to Overwatch 2 were shown, one in Rome and the other in my hometown of New York City. The first highlights “the powerful feeling of old world architecture” and features the iconic Colosseum. As well as this, the team has taken it upon themselves to apparently rebuild previously destroyed structures in the future Rome that exists in Overwatch 2. New York City, on the other hand, boasts a 1920s art deco style and takes you through an area “a little bit like the Village” all the way up to Grand Central Station. It looked charming in the way all Overwatch art does, though as a New Yorker, I’m contractually obligated to point out some of the blatantly wrong color schemes used on MTA subway signs. The A,C,E line employs a deep blue not yellow, and the 1,2,3 line boasts a bright red and certainly not the barf green of the 4,5,6. Blizzard, I expect my check in the mail immediately.
Next in the presentation, we got to see how Blizzard is revisiting classes. This is coming primarily by way of class passives that look to shake things up on a subtler level and break them from their rigid state in the existing meta. DPS (damage dealers) for example are looking to get a movement speed buff, allowing them to more quickly get into skirmishes and flank better. Support heroes, who are often the characters with the lowest health points and thus need constant protection, have the ability to automatically heal once they’re outside of combat for a while. This is quite similar to an existing passive for Mercy, a healer in the game, but looks to be made widely available to help support units stand on their own some.
The most drastic of these changes looks to be coming to the tank class, which is eyeing a rework that’d move them from just being damage blockers and give them more offensive capabilities. Every aspect of Reinhardt’s kit, for example, seems to have gotten a touch up, amounting to a series of changes that would make him a much fiercer character to come up against. His charge, which he used to be locked into once he started, can now be halted, sending foes caught in it flying with momentum. He also has a greater degree of control when he is charging, allowing him to steer more carefully and target foes more specifically. Instead of one projectile fire strike, he now has two, doubling his damage output at a distance. While Overwatch’s creative director Jeff Kaplan noted that some of these changes, like the frankly startling amount of changes they showed off for Reinhardt, might not necessarily ship with the game, it’s encouraging to see them experimenting and making the game feel fresh.
Following this look at reworks, we got a peak at a team that’s been working on making the game feel, look and sound more kinetic and visceral. For example, Blizzard is doing a sound pass that sets the gunplay in the context of the surroundings around it, meaning that firing a gun in a tight hallway will sound different to firing it in a factory or a sprawling canyon. They’re also investing in screenshake when you fire a weapon as well as better visual feedback on the weapon itself to make it seem like a real weapon being fired by a real person in the hopes of immersing the player.
Kaplan began talking about the introduction of new modes and the chance to phase out other less favorable ones. He specifically calls out “2CP” or 2 Capture Points, commonly known as Assault, a generally disliked mode due to how unfavorable it can be for attacking teams to win.
Talk of modes eventually gave way to seeing some of what we should expect in Hero Missions, which are replayable cooperative missions meant to sustain the PVE side of things in the sequel. There will supposedly be hundreds of these available to play and we’ll be able to see these maps at different times of day and with different weather effects, including rain, blizzards, and sandstorms on some of the existing maps. Some of the maps will be seeing revisions as part of a rework to make them work across both PVP and PVE. Hero Missions will also feature a slew of objectives meant to keep them fresh for a while such as Gather and Return, where you scrounge for resources to bring back to a central objective. Others were teased such as Kill Quest or Wall of Death, with brief teases as to how they’d look.
We got to see how talent progression for PVE has evolved since first seeing it at Overwatch 2’s announcement. Characters now come complete with three skill trees which radically change how they play, like Soldier 76’s ability to make his healing field move with him and even send out shockwaves that repulse enemies. The idea seems to be to provide enough permutations to make these characters play wildly different from the ways you could in the original Overwatch.
In order to make combat more engaging, the Overwatch team has also been building out the kinds of enemies you’ll be fighting in the campaign and PVE modes. We got a look at revisions to existing units, as well as ones being added to fill out the ranks and present more of a challenge after Blizzard being disappointed in how unengaging Overwatch 2 felt at its debut. New additions include a floating enemy with long hair, who can pull you into her before she pierces you with the pointed edges of it. Alongside these additions and revisions, there have been visual flourishes added, signaling how damaged enemies are to better communicate states to players.
Towards the end, the team showed off some of the redesigns of some core characters. While none of the changes seemed particularly huge (Reaper’s boiled down to making some of the white surfaces of his outfit silver instead), there were hints at bigger ones like Reinhardt or Soldier 76, who’s now sporting a beard. Good for him.
Moises Taveras is an intern for Paste Magazine and the managing editor of his college newspaper, the Brooklyn College Vanguard. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.