Overwatch 2 artwork showing off Sojourn, Junker Queen and Kiriko along with the logo

[Update]: I'm afraid I have some bad news. Overwatch 2 will be drastically downscaling the scope and amount of its long-awaited PvE missions.

When Blizzard first announced Overwatch 2 back in 2019, their vision for the game included a plethora of co-op focused missions that would finally let us learn more about the world and its characters, an MMO-style talent tree to help us customize each hero and their playstyle to our liking, as well as more of everything we've come to know and love from the original game. It was exactly what me and a majority of the playerbase were asking for ever since the first PvE event arrived alongside the Halloween Terror update, so how could this possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, in a myriad of ways as the freshly released version of Overwatch 2 is not even close to what was promised three years ago. It can barely even be considered an expansion, let alone a sequel, as all it really brings to the table is three new heroes, a new game mode alongside a couple of new maps, a new monetization system and an assortment of balance changes - all stuff that we could've received through the usual seasonal updates had Blizzard not prematurely abandoned the game.

Yet despite the disappointing amount of new content, I still found myself falling in love with Overwatch 2 as the core gameplay is so incredibly polished and varied that it's hard to stop playing once you really get into it! So if you're curious about what exactly makes Overwatch 2 so enthralling, as well as how it all compares to the original, allow me to share with you my thoughts after quite a few hours of exploring all of its game modes and characters.

Video version of this review (~16 minutes)

Major gameplay changes

The biggest difference between Overwatch 2 and the original is the simple fact that the matches are now 5v5, with each side only having access to one tank. In order to compensate for this, all of the tanks have been super-buffed and are now capable of spearheading each assault without worrying about being blasted apart in the span of a single second. Additionally, Blizzard has taken away many of the shields players have come to rely on, thus forcing most tanks to manage their health through the clever use of powerful defensive cooldowns. This is a relatively small change on paper, but in reality it has just about revolutionized Overwatch 2's gameplay.

Right around the time I got sick and tired of Overwatch the predominant strategy in Competitive Play was stacking defensive abilities and drowning your opponents in an endless sea of shields. This resulted in not only repetitive gameplay where you were just shooting at one shield after another, but also a meta where individual skill barely mattered compared to your team's ability to coordinate ultimates. Needless to say, that wasn't exactly fun as a DPS or support player, so I'm beyond delighted to see Overwatch 2 shift the focus from fighting objects to fighting players.

Thanks to the reduced amount of shields and the lack of a necessity for players to stack up, it's also much easier to parse what's happening in Overwatch 2's fights. Don't get me wrong as there's still a lot of visual clutter flying around, especially due to the new healing effects that needlessly obscure character models, but it's still a massive improvement over the original. Instead of having to pick a target through four overlapping shields while both teams are blasting everything they have into the mosh pit, you can now actually take a moment to breathe and reassess your situation before diving back into action.

Overwatch 2 close up screenshot of the new tank Junker Queen

Who needs shields when you can shout your way to safety

All of this also helps makes tanks a lot more pleasant to play, even if you get a particularly disorganized team. Thanks to the aforementioned defensive cooldowns your life is now primarily in your own hands, so as long as you play it smart it can be immensely difficult for the enemy team to overrun you. Even as the melee-focused Reinhardt you can now be the deciding factor behind your team's success rather than a simple cog in the machine. On the flip side, this does also mean that you have a lot more responsibility since you're now in charge of every push and every retreat. Because of this, I've found that playing tanks in Overwatch 2 can be a seriously intense yet highly rewarding experience.

Perhaps the biggest piece of praise I can offer Overwatch 2's tank design is to say that I genuinely enjoy Orisa now. For those of you that haven't played Overwatch, Orisa was an extremely slow, shield focused tank whose gameplay often consisted of shooting an endless barrage of slow-moving projectiles that very rarely resulted in anything of consequence. To me she was the epitome of all the problems with Overwatch's shield-focused gameplay.

However, in Overwatch 2 Orisa kicks ass! Instead of hiding behind a tiny shield she leads the charge by smashing enemy projectiles aside, getting up close and personal, and then impaling anyone dumb enough to stick around with her sharp and snazzy spear. This new take on Orisa offers a fast, highly dynamic playstyle that gives you plenty of opportunities to outplay and outmaneuver your opponents, so in a twist I never could've anticipated, Orisa ended up being one of my favorites in Overwatch 2!

Overwatch 2 screenshot of Doomfist in his new tank role

Due to popular request, Doomfist has also been reworked as an aggressive tank

Sadly, not every tank has made the transition to Overwatch 2 with the same grace. Poor ol' Roadhog has never been a true tank as he plays mostly like a fat DPS, and despite his many buffs and reworks that hasn't changed in Overwatch 2. He can still go whole hog on the enemy team and dominate the map, hook is a powerful tool after all, but right now he just feels noticeably more selfish than the other tanks, and that doesn't gel well with the new 5v5 world.

Support and DPS heroes have undergone a variety of changes as well, though theirs are not as drastic. Some like Bastion and Sombra have been reworked to be less one-dimensional, while others like Moira and Soldier 76 have scooted on by with only a couple of minor tweaks to their numbers. Fact of the matter is, there never was much wrong with either category, so there was no need to redesign them from the ground up.

That said, just because they haven't received a ton of changes doesn't mean that their gameplay experience isn't better. There is now a lot more room for skilled players to stand out since both flanking and sniping are highly effective strategies when there is no off-tank that can jump directly at you at a moment's notice. Similarly, with there being less need to constantly pump healing into the back of the previously fragile main tanks, there's now numerous lulls in the fighting where even support heroes can try to get a pick off or simply flank alongside the DPS to help up the odds of success.

Add to that a serious reduction in crowd control effects like stuns and slows, and you end up with battles that have a much smoother flow than before. Things can still go from zero to pure chaos in the blink of an eye, the ultra fast-paced nature of Overwatch hasn't changed much in the sequel, but with less players, less shields and a focus on smaller skirmishes, I very rarely found myself getting lost in the action unlike the latter stages of the original.

Overwatch 2 screenshot of the overbearing healing effects masking heroes

Playing DPS is a ton of fun, but something needs to be done about the glowing heal effects

Battle Pass and the in-game shop

Another major shift in direction has been the monetization. While Overwatch was a singular purchase that tried to sell you loot boxes on the side, Overwatch 2 is a free-to-play game with a very familiar Battle Pass and in-game store combo. There are some downsides to the new system, and I'll get into that in a moment, but for the most part I'd say that Overwatch 2's monetization is actually quite reasonable.

Thanks to the daily, weekly and seasonal quests, along with the experience you can gain from simply playing the game, the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass looks to be remarkably easy to complete. Best of all, the quests simply ask you to play the game in a team-orientated fashion rather than try to 360° no-scope enemies while doing a backflip off the King's Row statue. Combine that with a 10€ price tag and a set of purely cosmetic rewards, and you end up with a somewhat generic albeit solid take on the whole Battle Pass system.

As for the free side of the Battle Pass, that one has a serious serious problem - you need to reach Level 55 out of 80 in order to unlock the fancy new hero... or buy the Premium Battle Pass to get it instantly. This is such an unnecessary slight against the free-to-play crowd since the Battle Pass doesn't need this kind of thing to prop it up. It's perfectly fine all on its own, so I genuinely don't understand why Blizzard decided to wall off a hero in a game that's all about hero synergies and counters.

Overwatch 2 screenshot of the daily quests from the new battle pass

The daily quests can be done with barely any effort

Unlike the Battle Pass which I ended up buying, I found the in-game store to be a lot less appealing and so I didn't touch it at all. Not because the skins aren't as good since that's mostly going to come down to personal preference, but rather because the prices are ridiculous. Following in the footsteps of games like Apex Legends, the Legendary skins in the Overwatch 2 store will set you back 20€ which is just obscene since you can't even see most of them during a match. This is especially egregious when you consider that in the original Overwatch you could simply craft whatever cosmetic you liked by using the plentiful in-game currency. This is still technically possible in Overwatch 2, though getting enough coins will require many months of grinding due to them being given out in small batches on a weekly basis.

But, and this is a very big but, all of these things are purely cosmetic and thus completely optional. Besides the newest hero that requires a bit of grinding, all of the excellent gameplay in Overwatch 2 is free for everyone to enjoy. So even though some of the prices are silly, I honestly can't complain too much since I'm perfectly content to buy the occasional Battle Pass, ignore the rest, and just focus on enjoying the (hopefully) sped up and free update schedule.

Overwatch 2 Junker Queen screenshot of the new 20€ skin in the in-game shop

I don't know what a 20€ skin should look like, but this isn't it

Fresh new content

Speaking of new heroes, Overwatch 2 has brought with it three, one from each category. Sojourn is a medium-ranged DPS that can zap people with a railgun, Junker Queen is a fast and aggressive tank that clobbers people with an axe, while Kiriko is a ninja-themed healer that's accompanied by an adorable spirit fox. Much like the rest of the cast, all of them are well modeled, have excellent voice acting, and are a great deal of fun to mess around with. Whether they're balanced or not, only time will tell, but whatever the case may be I feel like they are solid additions to the roster and a trio I'll happily keep playing for a long time to come.

The new game mode, I'm not quite so sure about. Push is essentially Escort where both teams compete over the same payload, and while that is a great concept I don't think Blizzard has managed to nail the numbers just yet. If you die the run back feels like it takes an eternity due to the distance involved, which combined with the relatively slow movement of the payload frequently results in stall-outs that favor whichever team won the first fight and got the ball rolling. Push does have a lot of potential since it's an incredibly dynamic game mode that supports all sorts of strategies, so I'm fully expecting it to become a favorite of many players after a couple of updates.

As for the new maps all of this takes place in, I'd say they're on par with the better half of the original's roster. They're very easy on the eyes, filled with little details and touches of personality, along with plenty of flanking routes and high grounds to fight over. As such, they've been a blast to mess around with so far. Whether that will still be the case once a meta develops and people figure out the dominant strategies, that I'm afraid is beyond my grasp, but I'm happy to say there is no Paris-style map where the whole lobby collectively groans whenever it shows up.

Overwatch 2 screenshot of the rooftops from the Esperance Portugal map

As always, the art team has delivered some gorgeous maps

UI tweaks

The final thing I would like to touch upon is the UI which, aside from a couple of bizarre omissions, has been a solid improvement over the original's. Taking pointers from Apex Legends, Blizzard has added a highly useful 'ping' system that lets you coordinate targets and decide on strategies with your team without speaking even a single word. Players are still getting used to the whole system so truly taking advantage of it is currently tricky, but once everyone has settled in I can easily see it becoming a quintessential tool that everyone relies on.

I'm also pleased to report that Blizzard has finally added a proper scoreboard! It's still missing a couple of useful tabs like "damage taken" and "healing received", but even so, being able to compare yourself to your friends and foes is a very handy tool for self-improvement.

However, instead of simply adding long-requested features to the UI, Blizzard has also chosen to remove some - notably the medals, the hero cards at the end of a match, as well as the 'fire' system that lets you know which players are currently dominating. Funnily enough the characters still yell about being on fire, so the system is active, but the effects just don't show up.

Neither of these three are truly important features, and I can definitely see why Blizzard decided to cut them, but to me it seems like a bit of a mistake. Without medals and hero cards, the end of a match feels barren. Once the Play of the Game is done you're unceremoniously dumped to a gray screen tallying your Battle Pass experience, and that's it. There's no natural pause to allow you to chat with others, no moment to unwind after a game - it's just over. It honestly just feels like a change for the sake of change, so I can only hope future updates will bring some of these more social aspects back.

Overwatch 2 screenshot of the strangely gray and boring end match screen

The end screen is simply lifeless when compared to the original one

Closing thoughts

Overwatch 2 may not be the grand sequel we were promised back in 2019, but thanks to the new additions and rebalances it's still a massive improvement over the original and a game I'm definitely going to be playing for a long time to come. I especially have to commend the tank redesign here as Blizzard has managed to take the most stressful role in Overwatch and transform it into one that feels like a constant power trip, to the point where even the once-boring Orisa might be one of my favorite heroes now!

So if you're in the mood for a colorful and a team-orientated shooter, I would highly recommend giving Overwatch 2 a try. The prices in the store may be absurd, but all of the excellent gameplay is entirely free and well worth experiencing. After all, it's not every day you get to watch a cyborg ninja duel a space gorilla!

Overwatch 2 screenshot of some of the new and old heroes in a battle