Overwatch has had PvE modes for a long time, but none of them are as thrilling as Overwatch 2's Halloween Wrath of the Bride mission.
Wrath of the Bride is a sequel to the Junkenstein's Revenge mode that Overwatch 1 players spent years grinding loot boxes in. A new monster-hunting squad is here: Junker Queen, Sojourn, Ashe, and Kiriko. Each of them are equipped in their Halloween Terror skins and are dropped into a medieval fantasy horror story set in a fictional German town.
Unlike the stationary, horde mode framework for Junkenstein's Revenge, Wrath of the Bride resembles co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead and Vermintide (but at a much smaller scale). You tear apart zombified robots and bosses along a path through a heavily-modified version of the regular PvP map. There are objectives, like having to find a key in a randomized location to unlock a gate, and boss monsters that disrupt what would otherwise be a simple shooting gallery with unique abilities to hinder your progress.
The boss encounters, at least on Hard difficulty and higher, demand you to utilize the four heroes' abilities tactically to dodge and nullify their high-damage attacks. I played the tank, Junker Queen, during a double Gargoyle Winston battle (You can't convince me this isn't a reference to Dark Souls' The Bell Gargoyles boss in a map that already has a bonfire). The Gargoyles work similarly to how an enemy player would play Winston. They jump in, electrocute you with his Tesla Cannon and hide in their big bubble shields. They leap around on your team as regular Zomnics crawl out of the castle and explode for nearly lethal damage. The trick is to pull them out of the bubbles with Junker Queen's throwing knife ability. That way, your team doesn't have to waste precious time breaking the bubbles.
Much like an MMO boss (but distinct from a normal Overwatch PvP match), tanking in Wrath of the Bride involves a lot of crowd control and kiting enemies around and away from your team while you work to hit Junker Queen's abilities that lifesteal her health back. In the final fight against a ghostly Sigma that is effectively a Nemesis- or Mr. X-type unkillable monster that chases you, it was my job as the Queen to circle him around the throne room to give my team time to pick off weak enemies and pump damage into the boss Sombra. And when my allies got downed, I used her Commanding Shout to give us temporary health to survive a revive.
In the solo encounter with Sigma, our Kiriko used her teleport to instantly escape a chase. And Sojourn's Disruptor Shot was incredibly useful for slowing surprise groups of Zomnics down to give us time to re-position and pick them off.
Overwatch PvE modes rarely make me feel like I'm puzzling out a proper boss encounter. Some of the special challenge modes Blizzard has done in the past get close—one forced you to strategically split enemies up so that they could take damage—but they usually have arbitrary difficulty spikes where success feels like rolling the dice instead of the result of tight teamwork. I remember spending days trying to finish the Retribution PvE mission on Legendary without anyone dying and losing to AI enemies that would randomly down people in one shot, ending a 10-minute long slog in failure.
I'm sure that Wrath of the Bride will get stale after repeated attempts, especially on the lower difficulty modes, but it's the first time the harder achievements felt not only possible but parseable. The PvE mission has a whole list of challenges to complete, including completing it on the four difficulty modes, photobombing the boss intros, defeating bosses, and performing specific actions during certain fights. None of them seem particularly hard to get, which is probably why the rewards are mostly sprays, voice lines, and battle pass XP.
This is Hallowgreed
I'm glad Wrath of the Bride isn't another rehash of the same Junkenstein's Revenge template, especially because the rest of the Halloween Event is a letdown.
Halloween Terror is usually my favorite Overwatch event. All of the monster and witch skins are completely my vibe, but Overwatch 2's version is a little sparse compared to years past. The only new skins in the shop right now are Witch Kiriko (available as a bundle for 2,600 Overwatch Coins or around $25) and Executioner Junker Queen (1,900 Overwatch Coins or around $20). There are no Epic tier skins to earn through weekly challenges and obviously no loot boxes filled with cosmetics. It's the first time during a Halloween event I haven't felt the urge to just play the game a lot to see what I can get. You can't even reliably grind for coins either. The surprise and anticipation is gone: you either buy the skins or don't. It's disappointing for Overwatch 2's first holiday event when the base game has already been light on cosmetics worth caring about.
Wrath of the Bride is the most compelling thing in the event and maybe the first thing in Overwatch 2 that actually feels like sequel material. The shifting objectives, propelled pace, and challenging bosses suggest that Blizzard might have a substantial amount of tricks up its sleeve for the story-based PvE mode coming next year. It's not groundbreaking, but it gives me hope for a game that has drained most of the optimism out of me.
The Halloween Terror event runs from October 25 to November 8.