Not So Massively: Overwatch 2 is what Overwatch should have been from the start

    
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Hold your breath and count to ten, fall apart, start again.

Much to my own surprise, the announcement that most excited me at BlizzCon this year was not from any of the franchises I usually care about. It was Overwatch 2.

Overwatch is a game I’ve had a lot of criticism for over the years. Blizzard created such a beautiful and rich world for it, but then it squandered it on another arena shooter. With the additions made by OW2, though, the game looks set to finally become what it should have been from the start.

That’s not a diss, mind you. I’m not too keen on continuing to beat people up for their mistakes once the mistakes have been corrected. It’s not like there’s any shortage of games to play, so I lost nothing by Overwatch waiting so long to add the content I want. (And a whole lot of team shooter fans got something they liked too.)

But for me, that’s specifically, a campaign and co-op play. I’m someone who isn’t a big fan of competitive play — especially in fast-paced shooters, which I’m terrible at — so Overwatch‘s current PvP-only focus, especially given the game’s MMORPG origins, left me cold. But now that actual PvE is on the way, my interest has been reignited.

It’s frustrating that all of Overwatch‘s story has been out of game so far, but all of the cinematics released have been pretty amazing, so I have no reason to believe an in-game campaign won’t be of a comparable quality. It should be a good ride!

My one concern right now is that it looks like the campaign will be playable only in four person teams. If there’s one thing we learned from Star Wars: The Old Republic, it’s that the combination of a strong narrative focus and group gameplay (especially in pick-up groups) is, at best, an imperfect marriage. I can foresee a lot of powerful story moments being ruined by people spamming chat with bad jokes or nagging you to skip the cutscenes.

Is it too much to hope that Blizzard might add a solo story mode? Maybe by giving the option to let AI control your three teammates? If not, I hope there’s at least a way to opt out of all chat, a la Heroes of the Storm. There’s a time for social play, but it shouldn’t be forced in a story mode.

Where I welcome the team play is in Hero Missions, which will be OW2‘s repeatable co-op content. Whereas the campaign will restrict hero choice based on the story of each mission, Hero Missions will allow us to play as anyone we want, and they will have variable objectives for each map, making for a semi-randomized and highly replayable experience. Hero Missions also add a leveling system and unique talents for each character, adding a layer of progression.

This all sounds like a copy of StarCraft II‘s co-op missions, and that is a very good thing. As I’ve written before, SC2‘s co-op is an absolute gem, providing almost infinite replay value. Perhaps not surprisingly, this content is now SC2‘s most popular game mode. If OW2‘s Hero Missions can recapture some of that magic, this is something I can see myself sinking many, many hours into, and I imagine the same is true for many other people.

The addition of a leveling system and talents for all heroes just further adds to the potential goldmine of replayability. Part of what keeps me coming back to SC2 co-op is the variety of commanders; leveling new ones keeps the mode fresh. With so many heroes already in Overwatch and more on the way, that’s a lot of leveling to keep any player occupied.

I think Blizzard also deserves some praise for implementing Overwatch 2 as what is effectively a standalone expansion rather than a traditional sequel. The studio is perhaps a bit too eager to congratulate itself for “redefining a sequel,” but it remains a good deal for all players. Existing Overwatch players can move into the new game without losing any progression, and those of us who didn’t care about PvP can jump straight to the content we care about without wasting money on the original. Everybody wins.

Finally, on a more personal note I must say that I am more than a little tickled that OW2 is bringing with it some Canadian representation in the form of a Toronto map and the new hero, Sojourn. We don’t see my home country represented in a lot of popular culture, so it’s exciting for me.

While there are some valid criticisms to be made of the fact it’s taken this long for Blizzard to add a black woman to the Overwatch cast, I will say that I love the fact that the first Canadian character is a person of color. Multiculturalism is such a huge part of the Canadian identity; it is perhaps our country’s greatest strength. Sojourn represents so many real people I see every day; she’s a worthy face for Canada in the Overwatch universe.

The Toronto map is also showing off the diversity that makes my home the amazing place that it is. It’s a small thing, but I kind of wanted to cheer upon seeing a Jamaican restaurant in one screenshot of the new map. As a Torontonian (and a lover of Caribbean cuisine), I think that says “home” to me even more so than the CN Tower or Nathan Philips Square.

Canada gets stereotyped a lot in American culture, and while that stereotyping does tend to be relatively harmless (there are worse fates than being stereotyped as clean and polite), I am glad that Blizzard seems to be making an effort to represent what Canada is really like, rather than leaning on tired cliches of lumberjacks and hockey players.

Considering the popular fan theory that Pharah’s father is a First Nations Canadian, Sojourn might not even be the last Canuck to join the cast…

There are a lot of things about Overwatch 2 that you could justifiably argue should have come long before now, but nevertheless what it’s promising is tantalizing. Blizzard has made a lot of mistakes lately, and it deserves to take heat for that, but this one looks like a win.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.

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Stiqman

“I’m not too keen on continuing to beat people up for their mistakes once the mistakes have been corrected.”

Overwatch, released in the form it was, posted over 1 billion in revenue in it’s first year for Blizzard. I don’t think they will classify how they released it as a “mistake.” It’s gracious of you not to beat them up over it. The fact they are leveraging their billion dollar cash cow to earn even more money in a new format will also not be a “mistake.” But the first release wasn’t either.

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Utakata

“Multiculturalism is such a huge part of the Canadian identity…”

Yep, they even let Gnomes live here… o.O

I have to pay attention to more of The Six map in question though. As what I saw was not very recognizable to my neck of the woods. Also, I hope it has more seasons than Winter, because as of tonight in typing this…the last thing I want to see is more Winter. >.<

PS/Off-Topic/Personal: Does Mr. Tyler have any suggestion for cheap but good Caribbean based eateries around The Annex area? The one I was going to got gobbled up by that Mirvish Village development thing. :(

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PurpleCopper

Single-player and co-op campaigns are completely different from multiplayer pvp games.

Hell, those two different game modes are pretty much targetting different audiences. It makes sense to split Overwatch campaign mode from Overwatch PVP into two different games.

Lore is pretty overrated. There’s hardly any lore in the Overwatch game. It’s like TF2 and LoL, a lot of the lore is outside the game like youtube videos or webcomics. As far as I’m concerned, lore in PVP focused games is nothing more than marketing material.

Now lore in a PVE game (single or co-op) however can be an important component that can be incorporated into the actual game itself instead of just multimedia marketing fluff in PVP games.

I never liked Overwatch PVP, but I might give the PVE mode a whirl.

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sizer99

That’s generally the case though. The first game is ‘get it working, see what sticks’, then you learn what’s wrong and what’s right and the sequel is the ‘this is what it always should have been.’ Half-Life 2, Uncharted 2, Starcraft II (okay, it took till Warcraft 3), Assassin’s Creed 2, I could name 50 so I’ll stop here.

It’s a little weirder with MMOs because what do you call 2.0 in WoW when the whole thing is constantly changing? But launch WoW definitely had a lot of issues that are fixed even in WoW ‘Classic’.

Anyhow, ‘Foo 2 is what Foo should have been’ is usually true, but has the benefit of hindsight (and just getting Foo 1 out the door at all).

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Crowe

If the original OW had had what OW2 is supposed to have… and it actually works… then I might have stayed playing OW longer than a couple of weeks. However, that ship has long since sailed. First impressions are set and I don’t feel like re-downloading/installing much less potentially purchasing a sequel.

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IronSalamander8 .

I played quite a bit of OW at first but the lore is a hot mess to put it lightly. Pharah being older than Tracer but being too young to join OW which Tracer was a member of is just one such example. There are some decent ideas in the game’s lore to be sure but they’ve played fast and loose with it since day one.

I’m not a huge PvP player barring shooters like this, and love some PvE stuff to do, but indeed other games have done this and/or doing it right now and don’t have Overwatch’s abysmal loot box model, this is a huge reason why I talk about the PvZ shooters so much, even the first GW had the garden ops which let a team of 4 plants (only plants back then) defend a garden from waves of zombies, and that game had a huge focus on PvP, GW2 added quests and graveyard ops so zombies could defend a grave in a mirror image of the garden ops, and BfN adds the free roam regions with quests and exploration on top of that.

I’m from Wisconsin so we are pretty close to Canada and I don’t know anyone that has a negative opinion of Canada around here, a lot think of Red Green though!

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Armsbend

I’ve never met one person who has a negative opinion about Canada or Canadians. Except that maybe it is too cold.

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Shadex De'Marr

A co-op PvE game with LoL style game modes, story, and hero progression. Yeah it was called Battleborne and OW players and news sites crapped all over it. But now that Blizzard is making it step back!

Not a comment to you Tyler, good article. Just cannot escape the irony that so many people hated on pretty much the exact same game made 3 years before Blizzard. I guess maybe it didn’t have as good Rule 34 content?

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Sorenthaz

Pretty sure Battleborn had issues beyond just directly competing with Overwatch.

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IronSalamander8 .

I actually really liked Battleborn and wish it had done better. The launch timing with Overwatch was a bad idea (and Garden Warfare 2 had launched 2 months prior to that and had a mix of PvE and PvP), but as Sorenthaz points out it had other issues too (some champions were not accessible right away to some players as one example).

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Completely agree. I’ve always loved the the OW world, the storyline for its characters and the cinematics, which are just fabulous. But the game itself left me cold. I think I played two matches when it was in demo or beta or something and put it down for good.

I, too, was exciting by the initial announcement of a PvE campaign, only to learn it will be a forced Diablo-esque 4-person co-op. Having done that repeatedly in Diablo, I can confirm that you get exactly zero story, mood, or insight in co-op story mode. And if it’s done like Diablo was with no lobby, no game list, just being dumped into whatever group there is next in line, that really sucks.

(I think I played several early dungeons in SWTOR in a group just to get a social achievement, but never touched them again. Same thing. Rush, ignore, rush. This is also what gripes me about WoW putting so much story in dungeons and raids.)

In D2, players had the ability to name their game. If you named it Act 2 No Rush, then it was clear to players who joined that you actually wanted to play through the act and not simply be rushed through to the boss. Then there was the opposite. Act 2 Rush Please, which was obviously a straight run for the act boss.

So if OW2 adds on top of required co-op auto generated grouping, then it will really have missed the boat.

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Eamil

I’m of the same mind. I don’t really get super into competitive games, so PvE is something I’ve wanted out of the game for a long time, and I’ve been annoyed for a long time by their insistence on making their only forays into co-op play an annual event.

I love that they’re FINALLY giving some actual meaning to the constant “Overwatch is getting back together” angle the character trailers took. I watched a video the next day that compiles all the character videos including the new OW2 cinematic, and with that to cap it off the whole thing has a lot more weight.

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Richard de Leon III

I wouldve loved it if Overwatch was a true shooter rpg with both solo and group pve. I hate the pvp aspect of a lot of the games that are released these days. I prefer story based content rather than encountering players that could use a dose of proper upbringing or discipline.