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Overwatch 2: Everything we know about the unconventional sequel

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2 is real and very much in the works, but it's far from your average sequel. In fact, some of its content—including new heroes and multiplayer modes—will also come to Overwatch 1, to make matters even more confusing. The one thing we can be sure about is that the two games will eventually coexist as one big PvP experience.

To clear things up, the main focus for Overwatch 2 will be its PvE story missions. These are something that Blizzard is keen to continue building on, following the narrative foundations forged from Overwatch's previous character cinematics. Heroes will be getting a bit of a makeover in the sequel, and there's even a new map type that will launch with the game. 

We've combed through all the details announced so far to get a better picture of how this game will shape up. So, here's everything we know about Overwatch 2 since its announcement at BlizzCon 2019.

When is Overwatch 2's release date?

At BlizzCon 2019, Blizzard said that Overwatch 2 is still early in development and isn't sure when it will release. "I don't know. I have no idea," game director Jeff Kaplan said at the reveal panel. "Like, just let us make it great, that's what we care about more than anything. We don't have a date in mind."

Following the reveal, Blizzard said it's "going dark" on Overwatch 2 until they have more to share.

A more recent leak, reported by Dexerto also suggests that we may have to wait until Blizzcon 2021 for more details on Overwatch 2. Again, there's still no official confirmation from Blizzard, so we'll just have to wait patiently, and hope that we get some more information before then.

We'll probably hear more at BlizzConline 2021

Blizzard has announced that 2021's BlizzCon is moving online from February 19-21, officially dubbed "BlizzConline". Clever name aside, the event will more-or-less have the same style of fan-facing events that BlizzCons usually feature, including an extensive Best Cosplay competition.

More importantly, BlizzConline is probably the earliest date that we'll hear more about Overwatch 2. Assuming COVID-19 hasn't delayed production too much, this could also be when a 2021 release date is announced for the game.

What is Overwatch 2, exactly?

Well, it's a sequel to Overwatch, but not in the way that we usually think about sequels. By the sound of it, Overwatch 2 is more like a big expansion that focuses primarily on PvE missions. These missions appear to build off the Overwatch Archive seasonal events from the past few years. The new story missions will likely have more story, dialogue, and cutscenes than the highly repeatable limited-time events. We go over those in greater detail below.

Overwatch 2's announcement cinematic is pure delight

The new 8-minute cinematic feels like a dramatic declaration of a new Overwatch age. It feels different from the disjointed hero cinematics that we've gotten used to over the years, tying together multiple characters into a focused story. Overwatch 2 will have a story that moves forward, and this is the kickoff.

Here's the Overwatch 2 gameplay trailer

The Overwatch 2 gameplay trailer is a quick rundown of everything coming in the sequel. We get a look at the story, co-op, and the new hero Sojourn. 

Overwatch 2 PvE missions are divided between 'Story' and 'Hero' missions

Overwatch 2 is going all-in on PvE. The game's main campaign, made up of co-operative Story Missions, will see new and old Overwatch heroes teaming up against the Null Sector, the robotic army players fought in the Uprising event from the original game.

According to Blizzard, players will "team up as different sets of heroes and fight to defend the world from the omnic forces of Null Sector, uncover the motives behind the robotic armies’ attacks, and come face-to-face with rising new threats around the globe."

overwatch 2 items

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Story missions will also have item pickups that can slightly modify a hero's playstyle. The three shown were an HP generator, a corrosive grenade, and a barrier shield similar to Winston's. Any hero in the mode can pick these up and use them at will, but they don't carry over between missions.

On the other end of PvE are Hero Missions, missions separate from the story that are designed to be highly replayable. In this mode, players can level up heroes and unlock customization options that modify their abilities. In the gameplay trailer, we see a modified Tracer build that chains her Pulse Bomb explosion to multiple enemies.

As far as we can tell, these ability modifiers are exclusive to PvE and won't have any impact on PvP.

Overwatch 2 may not have loot boxes

(Image credit: Blizzard)

In an interview with PCGamesN, game director Jeff Kaplan discussed how the team is exploring other monetization models for Overwatch 2. "Well, we have made a lot of changes to loot boxes and how they work over the years, so we’re definitely open to change. Overwatch 2, in terms of business model, we’re exploring different options that move us away from loot boxes, but I think that will be more for Overwatch 2 than the core game. I would never rule anything out," he siad.

Kaplan also said that he thinks battle passes are a great idea, but wouldn't go as far to say that Overwatch would implement something similar. Still, assuming Blizzard doesn't come up with a different model altogether, battle passes are a pretty good guess.

Watch 2 hours of Overwatch 2 gameplay

Youtuber ohnickel is one of several content creators who were allowed to stream their Overwatch 2 demo from the BlizzCon floor. The video above is a fairly comprehensive look at a story mission and the new PvP Push mode. 

Overwatch 2 hands-on impressions

Joanna sat down with Overwatch 2 at BlizzCon 2019 and came away feeling like she'd played an expansion rather than a full-on sequel. Read on for hands-on impressions of the story mode and Push PvP mode.

overwatch 2 sojourn

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Sojourn is one of Overwatch 2's multiple new heroes

And she looks cooooooool. We don't know much about Sojourn yet (other than that she's Canadian), but her build and intimidating gun arm suggest that she's a damage-focused hero. In her highlight intro seen in the gameplay trailer, she also slides into a super jump, so mobility might be her thing. In an interview with PlayStation Blog, lead writer Michael Chu said that Sojourn is a "central figure to the Overwatch organization, and a critical character moving forward."

Blizzard is being coy about how many other new heroes we can expect at the launch of Overwatch 2. Fans previously suspected that Echo, the elegant flying robo seen in the cinematic trailer, would be another new hero in Overwatch 2, but she's officially coming to the original Overwatch instead. 

overwatch 2 push mode

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2's new Push mode is a tug-of-war match

Overwatch 2 is getting a new map type called Push. The premise is as simple as it sounds: Two teams fight over control of a robot that pushes two barriers back and forth across the map. Whichever team pushes farther into the other's territory wins.

Push sounds like a cool twist on traditional payload that might encourage different hero compositions based on which team is pushing farther. During the Overwatch2 BlizzCon panel, assistant game director Aaron Keller described the mode as "really flanky," because players can access various points along the robot's path through different shortcuts and connections.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

You can see what he means when looking at this overview of the Toronto map. Keller said heroes that wouldn't normally see as much utility on Control or Payload maps (Tracer, Reaper, etc) excel in Push thanks to flanking routes.

Like all PvP content in Overwatch 2, Push maps are also coming to Overwatch 1.

Overwatch 2's new PvP maps are predictably gorgeous

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Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo (Image credit: Blizzard)
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Toronto - Push

Toronto - Push (Image credit: Blizzard)
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Gothenburg (Image credit: Blizzard)
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(Image credit: Blizzard)
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Rio De Janeiro

Rio De Janeiro (Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2's website and panel revealed a few new maps coming with the sequel, with the promise of more to come. The first four shown above are Monte Carlo, Toronto, Gothenburg, and Rio De Janeiro. The last one with the big ring in the sky is still a mystery, but I sure like its style.

We know that Toronto is a Push map type, but the rest are unclear. During the Overwatch 2 panel, Monte Carlo was shown with what looks like a payload. Jeff Kaplan also revealed that every mode will receive new maps with Overwatch 2, so there's a lot more to be revealed.

Overwatch 2 customization

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2 PvP is compatible with the original game

Since Overwatch 1 is receiving all of the PvP updates coming in Overwatch 2, the two games will be completely compatible. Overwatch 2 players can party up with Overwatch 1 players like they always have.

This is really cool, but it also raises interesting questions. Will Overwatch 1 receive the same graphical updates promised in Overwatch 2? If not, will players see things a bit differently depending on their version of the game?

No more new heroes will release until Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Blizzard)

With the release of Echo, Blizzard is continuing to wind down support for the original Overwatch as it prepares for Overwatch 2. No more new heroes will come to the game until Overwatch 2's release, will have multiple new heroes at launch (including Sojourn).

From here on out, we should also expect seasonal events to be simple reruns of past years' content. The one train that doesn't seem to be stopping is the cosmetic department, which is still pumping out top-notch skins for events.

All existing Overwatch cosmetics will carry over to the sequel

For existing players of Overwatch, that's huge news. Going into Overwatch 2, many players will already have an extensive library of skins to equip. This bit of backward compatibility is great to see, but I also wonder if Overwatch 2 skins will come to the old game. Based on the "shared multiplayer environment," it sounds that way.

Lucio's hair glows now?

overwatch 2 lucio

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Listen, I know there's a lot of seemingly more important stuff going on in Overwatch 2, but we need to talk about this. His hair is glowing. It's like glow-in-the-dark Play-Doh noodles. I like it, but is it even hair? Is it a synthetic replacement, or some sort of nylon cover over his real hair? Where do I get some?

Morgan is an FPS specialist who spends way too much time trying to get his friends into Rainbow Six Siege. He also loves weird stealth games, immersive sims, and having new memes explained to him by his partner.