Overwatch 2, which still feels as strange to type as it does to say, officially exists as of today’s massive Blizzcon 2019 opening festivities. Most of the world had assumed the game was a foregone conclusion after all them leaks, but Blizzard did manage to keep some of the sequel’s most interesting details hidden until today.
Just as the scuttlebutt indicated, Overwatch 2 puts a heavy emphasis on new PvE modes while also retaining the PvP modes that made the original such a success. In Story Missions, groups of four players will inhabit various pre-set combinations of Overwatch members as they work to halt a global outbreak of Null Sector (read: evil robot) violence and Talon (read: evil Overwatch) interference. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the first game has already done a ton of experimenting with this format, in the form of its limited-time PvE event missions. But unlike Overwatch‘s holiday modes, Story Missions will be a primary and permanent focus in Overwatch 2.
Meanwhile, Hero Missions are a new “highly replayable” mode in which players level up individual Overwatch heroes by “defending cities against robot invasions, taking on elite Talon agents, and battling the villainous forces laying siege to the world.” Players unlock augmented versions of their hero’s abilities as they level, which marks the first time that Blizzard has attempted to integrate any sort of RPG mechanic into Overwatch‘s rigid shoot-mans framework. While also cooperative in some fashion, Blizzard hasn’t clarified how many players can participate in each Hero Mission, or what those missions really entail on a mechanical level.
That all sounds cool, but the PvP side of this announcement is where things get particularly interesting. Not only will Overwatch 2 allow OG Overwatch players to import their entire collection of unlocked cosmetics — skins, badges, the whole nine — it also just straight-up lets Overwatch players use the new maps and characters without buying the new game. “Current Overwatch players will battle side-by-side with Overwatch 2 players in PvP multiplayer,” according to materials provided to the press. “In addition, current Overwatch players will be able to play Overwatch 2 heroes and maps,” which ensures that the established player-base isn’t fragmented into Overwatch 2 haves and have-nots.
Based on this, it sounds like Blizzard plans to continue supporting the original game as a platform for the esports side of Overwatch, while Overwatch 2 introduces a bunch of non-competitive content for (what I’m guessing) is a higher price tag. Blizzard also touts an improved UI experience and general graphical overhaul for Overwatch 2, but it’s unclear if any of those upgrades will get back-ported to the first game. The official Overwatch 2 website has a fun little slider that lets you compare/contrast hero models from both games, and aside from the obvious cosmetic differences, it looks like Overwatch 2‘s models have a slightly higher polygon count and more detailed shadows.
This creates an interesting problem: How does Blizzard implement new heroes in both Overwatch and Overwatch 2, if Overwatch 2 uses a different set of character models from the first game? If the first game doesn’t receive Overwatch 2‘s upgraded visuals, wouldn’t that necessitate the creation of a worse-looking version of the new character(s) for implementation in Overwatch? Will skins for the new characters be available in the first game at all? There’s a lot of different ways that this could all shake out, but knowing Blizzard, I’d err on whichever implementation encourages players to upgrade to the new game, and/or keeps them buying as many loot boxes as possible.
And speaking of new characters, today’s reveal trailer showcases Echo, a lady robot whose design answers the question “what if EVE from Wall-e, but sexy?” As is always the case with new Overwatch characters, Echo is introduced like we’re all supposed to know who she is already, but at least Blizzard made sure to use her name. The same can’t be said for Sojourn, the Overwatch universe’s only named black woman, who has been in development since 2015 but still isn’t in the game.
Sojourn can be seen in the photograph that Winston gazes longingly at (in what one could argue is a more egregious form of ret-con), but she isn’t seen in-action, nor is her presence in the photo addressed in any way. This feels like Blizzard’s attempt at showing the community that Sojourn hasn’t been forgotten, but all it shows me is that Blizzard was willing to paste some comic book artwork onto a 3D model of a photograph. Overwatch 2 has no release date or window, so there’s still time for Blizzard to unveil Sojourn as a playable character that will launch with the new game. I really hope that happens, because this trailer gave me more feelings than I’d like to admit, and it’d be really cool to enter a new Overwatch game with a clear conscience.