A Month Of Overwatch 2 Feels Like Just Enough

Games Features Overwatch
A Month Of Overwatch 2 Feels Like Just Enough

On October 4, Overwatch was put to rest. By the time service was restored to the game, it was under a new moniker. Though many have eulogized Overwatch’s shutdown and subsequent replacement over the last month, I’ve largely made my peace with the move and get the difficulty of running two separate live games, even if Blizzard seemed like it was barely keeping it running at the end there. The more I’ve played Overwatch 2, though, the more it feels like the original’s shelving was less of a logistical matter and more an admission that Overwatch, and that make of game, has run its course, and there’s no more room for it in this industry. Thing is, we’ve now had just over a month to play Overwatch 2, and while I’ve had my fun, I don’t think I’ll continue to make time or space for it..

The story around Overwatch 2 has been one of dysfunction. Upon launch, most players were met with long queue times, meaning many went days without playing. I personally couldn’t get past the introductory trailer and onto the main menu until nearly 24 hours after the game had come out. Back to back DDos attacks made sure that the game stood unplayable for much longer than anyone expected, but even with those hiccups in Overwatch 2’s rear view, the experience hasn’t felt all that much better. Why? Because Overwatch 2’s many transformations, chief among them its transition to a free-to-play title, are the game’s greatest dysfunctions, and I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon.

Overwatch 2 is a fun game much like its predecessor, and while this new iteration sands off aspects from the latter that I wish remained intact, it’s still mostly successful in delivering thrilling gameplay. However, a large part of the appeal behind these games and their literally colorful cast became how much we as players could embody the various heroes and make them our own. And that begins and ends with the predominant manner in which you can express yourself in games like Overwatch: cosmetics. These appropriately became integral to the notion of Overwatch, with prominent holidays/in-game events bringing a bevy of them every few months. Importantly, Overwatch was a very generous and open game, which rewarded loot boxes that bore the chance to reward players with these cosmetics for simply playing modes, leveling up, and sometimes just logging on during an event. Sure, they were also available to buy with real money, but there was a reasonable system in place that made sure there was a way around paying for everything. It actually felt like a game more than a product. The problem now is nobody can enjoy this aspect of Overwatch in the way they used to anymore and this has become most symbolic of Overwatch 2’s woes.

Here’s the shitty math, so you don’t have to bother: weekly challenges reward a grand total of 60 coins of Overwatch 2’s currency, meaning that over the course of a nine-week season, players who aren’t looking to shell out actual money on anything and everything can only scrounge together 540 coins. 540 coins can either buy you a single victory pose or a heroic emote, but not both. It falls remarkably short of the 1000 coins needed to buy an epic skin (or battle pass) and barely puts a dent in the 1900 coins one would need to buy a legendary skin. Even after a year of playing and completing all 11 challenges every week, you’d still only turn over 3,120 coins, or just enough to purchase one legendary skin and another epic one, or three battle passes a year. Overwatch 2’s monetization is so piss poor, people are actually playing other Blizzard games to get around it.

To complement that paltry offering, progression in the game now totally revolves around the battle pass, which contain 80 levels, 20 of which have free—not to mention middling—rewards. So when you’re leveling and only earning something a fourth of the time, that’s why. That stat keeps specifically getting stuck in my head. Only one-fourth of the (let’s be real here) work you put into this game actually gives you back anything. It’s no wonder this change has made everyone, including myself, clamor for the loot boxes of old, and is a stark departure from the generosity of Overwatch, a game that brought in millions of players and generated millions more in profits over the years, and which Blizzard let wilt on the vine, not us.

This new reward structure’s all but forced me to contend with whether I like Overwatch 2 as it is enough to go broke playing it, or spend forever trying to fashion it into the game I remember. Neither seems like a healthy relationship to have with a product, let alone a regular pastime. And ultimately, no, I don’t really like it all that much. Sure, I enjoy aspects of it—mostly Sojourn— but there’s only so few hints of positive change amidst a storm of decisions that only get in the game’s way. I have rarely seen a game suffer from what I’m dubbing a “number” syndrome. Everything in Overwatch 2 is quantifiable and maximized now, and in these sweeping changes, swaths of the game’s identity have disappeared or feel warped. The scoreboard—the ultimate quantification—turns me into a horrifying version of myself that compares stats among my teammates when we’re losing and mentally berates the weakest link. The reduced player count means there’s less room for feeling out a role or character before pressure mounts to perform at the highest caliber rather than play for fun. Damage is up across the board, likely due to a shifting priority in what Blizzard wants to emphasize to new players, and has flattened or hampered the experience of playing characters who aren’t damage-oriented. Tanks crumple under greater degrees of pressure with one less of them on the field, and support needs to work overtime to heal and constantly feels spread thin. All the while, DPS is more aggressive than ever trying to ratchet those eliminations up higher. If a single thing goes wrong in a game of Overwatch 2, it has a greater cascading effect than ever before. In some regards, these are the tenets of competitive play. What I’m talking about might sound like the ebb and flow of a match. As an inherently competitive person, this resonates with me deeply most of the time. But there was a time and place for that in Overwatch, and the simple, unvarnished truth is that it often aspired to more than simple competition and was better for it. It could be more and consequently was, and has spent years being retooled and reduced into something lesser: what is now functionally Overwatch 2, a sequel that claims it does more and yet feels so hollow to its very core.

So a month later, how’s Overwatch 2? Well, it feels insidious, like an almost exact facsimile of this thing we all used to love, built with the hope that it might deceive and draw you back in only to bleed you dry. Sure, there’s fun to be had with it, but it feels nearly impossible to invest in Overwatch 2 beyond making out constant checks to the game or trudging through its slog of a progression system. Furthermore Overwatch’s slow erosion of its own standards and philosophies has finally solidified in a way that feels unbecoming of the game it once was, and I think Overwatch 2’s going to have a difficult time retaining much favor or goodwill should it carry on like this. At the end of the day, the saddest bit of all is that the further we’ve strayed from it, the more Overwatch feels like a fluke doomed to the annals of history instead of the blueprint for the future it felt like all those years ago. Ah, what could’ve been.

Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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