Midseason madness showed that Overwatch 2 can fly
We'll speak for everyone when we say, Overwatch 2 can't come soon enough. Activision Blizzard's polarising FPS sequel has seen its fair share of criticism, most of which has been more than reasonable. However, as we spend more and more time with the game, the more things seem incredibly positive - and not just from a competitive standpoint.
Through all the hero diversity, narrative depth, and a tournament that kept us all on the edge of our seats, Overwatch League's Midseason Madness finale showed the world that Overwatch 2 can still fly.
Midseason Madness had it all.
Excuse us while we dust off this tired old soap box for a moment. Ahem. "The Los Angeles Gladiators have won their third consecutive non-playoff tournament in a row." That doesn't happen, especially not when international competition is factored in. There are few repeat stage titleholders, but three in a row? That's a new distinction entirely. And while he may have escaped the post-match interview spree unseen, the credit, large in part, goes to head coach Sam "face" Merewether. Building out his staff, and trusting in Patiphan "Patiphan" Chaiwong, this all is the fruit of his labour in the preseason. Face deserves his fair share of the credit.
It wasn't just the winners winning either, you had Overwatch mainstays like Zheng "shy" Yangjie's otherworldly performance for the Hangzhou Spark as well. A stand-out since his debut in 2016, we've been waiting for Shy, and we only got a taste of what he could do last year. And low and behold, we give the maestro a meta where individual performance can catalyse wins from water and Shy steps up. We don't call him "the sixth gear" for nothing.
Okay, you might not - but we do.
Speaking of made-up monikers and musings, Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun's continued hunt for the big one will eventually end. Not because he'll eventually win the Shock a title, but because he's already cemented his stake for the Alarm Rookie of the Year Award. Let's address the facts; Proper is one of the most, if not the most talented player, Overwatch has ever produced. He collects what pundits thought was possible, the dreams of other fellow rookies or unfortunate souls that have the displeasure of facing him, and eats them whole - kicking and screaming the entire way. Proper is Overwatch League's "dream eater."
On the team side, you've got Philadelphia Fusion's deep run while ill which speaks to their character as a team. Are they cursed? You bet. We're they sick? 100%, but they still had it within them to topple the likes of the Dallas Fuel, the Florida Mayhem, and the Hangzhou Spark. That's a feat that looks impossible to most healthy teams.
Now, we're not going to claim this is the magic panacea to their inconsistency, this Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde team will likely still be just as confusing after the midseason break, but we're seeing power. This team is a nightmare to prepare for because you don't know who shows up on the day. And after the Midseason Madness, Fusion's best might be able to battle the world fairly close.
Even past the flowery drama, there were more tangible reasons why Overwatch League's Midseason Madness was an all-time great Overwatch event.
From the swift movement of Wrecking Ball, to the slow encroachment of Reinhardt, to an unironical Roadhog sighting, Overwatch League's Midseason Madness proved to the world that you don't need randomised hero bans to keep the game feeling fresh. With consistent updates and novelty injections in the form of new heroes, it's no wonder there is a certain fluidity to how Overwatch League feels at the moment.
Overwatch League team's assumedly relied on lessons from the past for parts of this, remembering that rigidity only gets you so far in the grand scheme of things. They found creative solutions and leaned into their strengths despite jeers about the metagame. From the San Francisco Shock's D.Va style to London Spitfire's continued reliance on Reinhardt and Mei, and even looking at how and where Ashe is played over Sojourn, the Midseason Madness was a canvass for teams to express their own unique competitive art form.
As much as we might have loathed the hero pool model, it did reveal that fans of this game enjoy diversity. They want to see flexibility and a variety of the cast that Overwatch has at its disposal, and while it's hard to bottle lightning, Midseason Madness showed that you can reproduce it in a healthy and novel way.
Let us be very, very clear, this isn't just collective praise of the Overwatch League, there are plenty of things that need to be addressed and changed, but stapling the leaves back on the trees won't stop the autumn progression.
The esports audience, general fanbase, and even outside eyes for this beloved FPS is beginning to see the sprouts in the field.
Overwatch 2 has all the potential in the world.
We survived COVID, bruised, but still breathing.
We've found our identity, after nearly six years of trying.
We're adapting to the content hunger of modern consumers, while still keeping some polish.
For god's sake, it's a miracle we're even here. Overwatch was an afterthought of a failed MMO.
We understand that's a tough pill to swallow as we all settle into the third downswing of Overwatch 2's third beta cycle, trust us when we say we understand, but we're under the impression that the audience will have felt a renewed sense of novelty towards the game they fell in love with in 2016.
5v5 is seeing increasingly more positive reviews as cautious optimism has bloomed in the absence of Overwatch 2. Count how many times friends of yours or people on your social media timeline bemoan how uninterested they are in going back to Overwatch 1.
There is a reason for that.
There is a reason no one wants to go back.
Counterintuitively, in shedding weight, 5v5 has tapped into and heightened certain core FPS elements that people were originally enthralled with on the game's release.
Incredible skill expression, willing your team back into situations deemed lost - in Overwatch 2, the individual has the agency.
In that way, Overwatch 2 and the Midseason Madness are bedmates. They both have very serious and tangible problems but the results each produces stand well above any complaints. Sure, the Overwatch 2 beta has felt like a three-year-old playing with a light switch and yes, the Midseason Madness might have been held in a science lab with too many teams in attendance, but criticise the execution not the product in its entirety.
To reiterate: if we agree that Overwatch 2 is a hand-over-fist improvement on the core concepts Overwatch introduced, then we should be walking into a beautiful horizon.
If we agree that Midseason Madness was a masterclass of the dramatic highs and lows that Overwatch 2 can offer, then can't we also say that our esports marketing complex is beginning to churn once again?
Overwatch as a piece of pop culture is in a recession, we can't ignore the facts, but in that same breath, we'd be lying if we said that the future wasn't bright for this former industry giant.
Overwatch 2 has wings.
Midseason Madness proved it can fly.
Now it's up to Activision Blizzard to decide if they're made of wax.