Overwatch 2 is definitely an expansion rather than a sequel

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Several years after the Uprising, the war between humans and the Null Sector hits a crucial tipping point. The only hope at restoring peace lies with the disbanded Overwatch crew. In a new cinematic, we see Winston send out an SOS to his scattered, former partners in fighting crime, reuniting everyone to save the world from destruction.

Overwatch 2 is not a sequel to Overwatch in the traditional sense, but rather expands on the entire canon. "It's is a game we've been dying to make," said Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu. "Other than the archives, all we've been able to do is give you a little glimpse. We were never able to give you that big chunk of really living in the Overwatch universe." And that's what Overwatch 2 is all about: PvE hero and co-op story missions designed to do a massive amount of world building.

The story mode of Overwatch 2 plays similarly to Left for Dead 2. Games are four players to a team, and heroes are first come, first serve, like Overwatch before the role lock—but even if you're not familiar with a certain hero, story mode is a great chance to practice with them in a lower -pressure environment. Also, based on the map you're playing your hero choices will change. This playable demo lets you choose from Lucio, Mei, Reinhardt, and Tracer, but that line-up will change with other maps. All existing maps in Overwatch will be available in Overwatch 2, but there's no information on what heroes will be available for what maps at this time. 

Also like Left for Dead 2, you can pick up items like health packs, grenades, and turrets to use in addition to your standard abilities, and you have a chance to revive downed teammates before they are permanently out of the game. If everyone dies, then you and your team restart from the last checkpoint. In that sense, Overwatch 2 is more forgiving than Left for Dead 2, but if your entire team dies too many times before you complete your final objective, then you fail the mission and have to restart from the beginning. 

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2 story mode looks and feels identical to Overwatch's gameplay, save for one important change: level progression, which is similar to Heroes of the Storm, although the characters have different abilities. The demo wasn't long enough for us to get into higher-tier abilities, but we were able to choose between two low-level ones. Playing as Mei, a talent that dealt extra damage to nearby enemies after killing one stood out to me the most. It wasn't clear how much damage was dealt, so it didn't seem that effective at first, but throwing Mei's ultimate into a tightly clustered group helped set off a chain reaction. One enemy would deal nearby damage, and then enemies would die and deal nearby damage, and so on until everyone within Mei's ultimate radius was dead.

However, as a group of four, it felt too easy to take out every robot in our path. Perhaps playing Overwatch for years made the robots feel like easy targets, or maybe the difficulty setting was turned way down. I imagine there will be an option to change that once the game is released, though as the demo currently stands the only way you could fail is if you run around shooting erratically or make really stupid mistakes.

There wasn't anything to show off for Hero mode, as Overwatch 2 is still very much in development, but it definitely seems Blizzard is spicing up its character abilities—like, Carolina Reaper spicy. Torbjörn can not only turn his turret into a flamethrower, but he can also turn his turret into three mini turrets and turn them all into flamethrowers. This is only a glimpse into what Overwatch production director Julia Humphreys says is the beauty of Overwatch 2's talent progression system. Choosing how you want to progress your playstyle is a "real superhero power fantasy," something that is easy to explore in a PvE environment, but not PvP where balance is a top priority.

How you progress individual heroes in hero mode is still a mystery, though. Humphreys likened hero mode to World of Warcraft's world quests and Diablo's adventure mode: dynamic, changing experiences that you can come back to over and over again. As far as level caps or skill trees, it's still too early to tell how that will take shape.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

While all heroes will be available to play in hero mode, only a handful will be available in story mode. "There's a little bit of a balancing act," said Chu. "We now have 31 heroes and we obviously want to include as many as we can, but we also have to be conscious that a good story will get harder and harder to tell as we add more characters." With that in mind, Chu said that pretty much all the heroes we saw in the Zero Hour animated short will be playable throughout the story mode missions.

As to whether or not Echo will be a playable character, that is still unknown. "She's definitely a bit of an enigma right now," said Humphreys. "She has a long and interesting relationship with the Overwatch team," added Chu. Whatever the case, she seems like a central part of the Overwatch 2 world.

The new 'push' PvP mode is a different beast all together: two opposing teams race to the center to take control of a robot and escort him into enemy territory. (The robot can get a little snarky too, if the teams keep making him switch directions. It's hilarious.) Unlike control and payload maps, the push maps are symmetrical, and the robot becomes the central tether in a esports tug-of-war. There are tons of places to hide and flank, as well. Heroes like Widowmaker, Bastion, and Sombra can do well in this new PvP mode, where slow moving tanks like Orisa probably wouldn't be a good choice.

But the main problem with push mode right now is that if the opposing teams aren't evenly matched, one can easily dominate the other and the robot basically becomes a payload. Even with more flanking opportunities, the result feels very similar to payload maps—you're still trying to push something in one direction. I haven't seen anyone try to ride the robot like you can a payload, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone has already figured out how to do that.

Overwatch 2 is still in early development, so what was demoed at BlizzCon will most likely change between now and whenever the game is released.

Joanna Nelius
When Joanna's not writing about gaming desktops, cloud gaming, or other hardware-related things, she's doing terrible stuff in The Sims 4, roleplaying as a Malkavian, or playing horror games that would give normal people nightmares. She also likes narrative adventures.