My overview of the changes and features coming with today's Overwatch patch

After an unusually long wait the Overwatch beta has finally returned, bringing with it a lot of exiting new additions and an even bigger amount of disappointment as many people have once again realized that there is no key awaiting in their inbox.

The new features I'm talking about are updates to the player progression system, a new co-op vs AI mode, a new game mode called Control, two new maps and a bunch of mutators/custom gameplay options for private games. Here's the developer update video along with my brief overview of the changes:

 

The progression system has received its third and most likely final rework. In this version you will gain account-wide experience by simply playing the game and the better you perform the more you will gain. A simple enough system.

These experience points will then go towards your account level which is most likely going to be of relevance sometime in the future, but right now only serves as a way to obtain loot boxes. You will gain one loot box every single level and each one will contain 4 cosmetic items of varying rarity, with at least one guaranteed to be rare or above.

Despite sounding like one of those microtransaction RNG boxes the loot box is completely free to open and contains items from the following pools: player icons, skins, emotes, sprays, voice lines, victory poses and highlight intros. While I'm sure everyone would prefer if they were just limited to skins I have to say I like the idea of having some rate vocal taunts and other such nifty effects to play around with.

Finally, if you get unlucky and unbox an item you already own you will instead gain credits which can be used to purchase specific skins and effects in the hero gallery. Just bear in mind that purchases made with credits can not be refunded so once Overwatch goes live don't spend them on heroes you rarely play.

The contents of the Overwatch loot box

A loot box containing credits, a voice pack, a legendary skin and a rare animation(?)

The next big part of this beta update is the new game mode called Control, which veteran FPS players might recognize as a variant of the King of the Hill game mode. The idea is that each Control map has 3 points available for capture though only one is active at any given time. You will be declared victor if you can capture two of the points so expect a lot of hectic action on and around them.

Depending on how well the balance in Overwatch ends up panning out on release I can see Control being either an incredibly fun fast-paced mode that's all about constant action or an incredibly "grindy" one where two teams are stuck in a permanent cycle of respawning and dying without the point swinging either way. Hopefully the former.

Along with the Control game mode come two new maps, Nepal and Lijiang Tower, information on which is unfortunately rather scarce right now so you'll just have to check them out on Youtube later today once those with beta keys start uploading their impressions.

Torbjorn's Dreadlock skin

 Torbjorn's Deadlock skin

In a bit of news that will excite all newbie players out there the co-op vs AI mode has been enabled. You will be able to gain experience and loot boxes in the AI mode although at a slightly reduced rate to discourage farming. Even if this mode doesn't interest you its a great way for less experienced FPS players to try out new heroes, tactics or even practice their aim in an environment that hopefully won't be so harsh towards them.

And speaking of hostile environments, the newly remade private games system will allow you to add numerous mutators or customization options to your games. These can range from simple stat increases (such as everyone starting with +100% hp) to more interesting options such as headshot only modes. If done sufficiently well this could actually create a custom game scene around Overwatch, something I can't say I expected I would ever see, so here's to hoping it ends up being as good as it sounds.

And there you have it, all of the major features arriving with today's Overwatch beta. Now the only thing required is to win the virtual lottery and experience it all in practice.

Good luck!

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