A brief history of Overwatch 2: A shambolic launch to an incredible game

Almost three years ago, on November 1, 2019, Blizzard Entertainment announced the bold, ambitious sequel to their wildly popular first venture into the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, ‘Overwatch 2.’

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White Gaming Console on Wooden Surface. Pic. Pixabay

Almost three years ago, on November 1, 2019, Blizzard Entertainment announced the bold, ambitious sequel to their wildly popular first venture into the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, ‘Overwatch 2.’

Overwatch was a phenomenon from the moment it launched in 2016, drawing in fans from all over the gaming fandom. This meteoric, widespread success came from the diverse cast of characters, called “Heroes”, all of which looked, interacted, and, most importantly played completely differently, Overwatch separated itself from other shooters in this way.

At launch there were 21 characters, and therefore 21 totally different ways to play the game, if you were mechanically skilled or not, passive or aggressive, experienced or completely new to shooters, there was a way you could have a positive, even vital impact on a game.

The heavy emphasis on teamwork and co-ordination made playing with friends an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, which helped the game spread even faster and further - the more friends you had playing the game, the more fun it would be. Simple as that.

This number of 21 continued to increase over the years, the game growing and evolving with each update. Whether it was the introduction of a new hero, the balancing or reworking of existing heroes, or the skills of the player base coming up with new strategies, the META (Most Effective Tactic Available for the uninitiated) was always shifting. This kept the game fresh, alongside frequent seasonal events and cosmetics being added to the game and these changes all came in the form of free updates.

This raises a question though, if a game was so successful, and constantly updated, why would it need a sequel at the peak of its popularity? Well, this was not a decision made by the amazing Overwatch team. It came from the higher-ups at Blizzard Entertainment. This was the beginning of the slow but steady decline of (what is now known as) Overwatch 1.

Work immediately started on this sequel, which diverted resources away from the very-much-alive Overwatch 1, leading to what was named a ‘content drought’ for the game, which was met with disdain from the players. This drought, combined with a lack of communication about the status of Overwatch 2, divided fans. The once fluid META had become stale and boring and players moved onto other games.

Unhelpfully, it was also around this time that the Covid-19 pandemic hit, this greatly hindered the sequel’s development, and the already agitated player base had to simply endure another year of radio silence from the Overwatch team regarding Overwatch 2 (OW2). It had already been a year since OW2’s initial announcement, yet the game, and the promises that came with it, had never seemed so far away.

However, at the start of 2022, we got our first taste of the game we weren’t sure even existed until this point. Closed betas followed by open betas painted a promising picture of what the developers wanted the game to be. But, despite the well-received betas, when the game finally launched last week there was one big problem.

This wasn’t a sequel at all.

Yes, there were significant changes, but this was the same game we had all been playing for over 5 years. It was just an update, and they were trying to market it as a fully-fledged new game. The player versus environment (PvE) story mode that fans were promised almost 3 years ago was nowhere to be seen. Skins, which had previously all been collectible for free (with a few specific exceptions), were now locked behind a paywall in the form of a battle pass, as well as charging real money for certain items.

These factors, combined with glacial queue times to even get into the game in the first place and temperamental-at-best servers, set the scene for an absolutely disastrous launch. However, there is one vital aspect of Overwatch 2 that rescued it from certain doom.

The gameplay is the best it has ever been.

The switch from 6v6 to 5v5 matches, removing one of the Tank heroes from each team, was a risky but genius decision. The game feels so much more free than it did, with more opportunities for different strategies, team compositions and playstyles than it ever had before. Everything that made Overwatch so popular in the first place is still there, but the game has been streamlined and upgraded in almost every way gameplay-wise.

In the eyes of many fans and returning players, this was enough to justify the long list of issues and controversies surrounding the game’s launch, but for sceptics who wanted to see the game fail, these problems provided plenty of ammunition for disparaging articles and scathing reviews.

This is a shame, because if you can manage to look past these admittedly glaring issues, Overwatch is still one of the best shooter experiences out there and this initial backlash has (in my opinion unfairly) turned a lot of people off from the game.

Like many things, Overwatch 2 has its flaws, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t an absolute treat to play - Give it a chance, I promise you won’t regret it.

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