Overwatch 2 Has All The Potential In The World
On November 7, 2014, the world was introduced to Overwatch. For its successes and failures, the game would capture the imaginations of the universe, its heroes, and the competition that surrounds it. Now we sit in a holding pattern. Overwatch 2 is coming, the Overwatch League is preparing its next adventure into an unknown game, and we collectively don’t know much about it.
Yet, from what we have seen and all the work the original game went through, Overwatch 2 truly has all the potential in the world. And it all starts from the seed planted in the corpse of a failed game.
Overwatch is a miracle.
When we look at Overwatch through the dusty lens of time, we have to always keep in mind that this game was born from the corpse of a failed massively multiplayer online game (MMO). While its development was shrouded in secrecy, Blizzard Entertainment’s “Project Titan” was set to be the first new intellectual property for the AAA developer in over a decade. A tentative date as to when Project Titan was originally begun development is unknown, but speculation kicked up around 2007 before the secret Blizzard title would meet its demise in 2014.
Once development on Project Titan was officially cancelled, it was reported that the team working on the project had just “six weeks to pitch new game ideas to the studio.” If they failed to cobble up something in the allotted time the team which included Blizzard Entertainment veterans Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen would be divided up between other titles like World of Warcraft and Diablo 3.
That game was Overwatch.
And this fact colours and explains many of the woes the original game has faced - and where Overwatch 2 can make vast, sweeping improvements.
Chris Metzen gave an ominous yet inspiring quote at BlizzCon 2014, stating: "[...] the Titan thing comes up - and we’re not really going to get into what it was going to be or what we wanted it to be—I can tell you what it was. It was frustrating. It was a big giant idea, it was almost like six video games in one, it was the most ambitious thing ever. And it was fun to try and tackle it—and boy did we tackle it."
That ambition manifests itself within Overwatch and its greatest strength and biggest weakness.
For five years, Overwatch has had a vision issue.
Between hero stacking, hero limit, role queue, and hero pools Overwatch has seen a myriad of fundamental shifts to its gameplay philosophy. And while the franchise still has many hurdles to the vault, the fresh coat of paint applied with Overwatch 2 is the perfect time for Blizzard to focus on a vision for its beloved franchise.
And from the small interactions we’ve seen from the development team, it sounds like that is happening.
Be it the investment into “reducing crowd control effects throughout the game” and centring on the sole tank in Overwatch 2, the removal of Assualt and the addition of Push, the addition of a PvE element to the game, or through the reworks we’ve seen - Overwatch 2 is far from a large patch.
Overwatch 2 is its own game.
If we shift our bias from five years of Overwatch to a five-year beta period to file down what Overwatch’s vision is, then you’ll start to see where the potential lies and how successful the game could be.
Overwatch’s biggest plague has been its content draught. No new heroes. No large-scale developments on heroes. Just FFA maps that no one is champing at the bit for. Overwatch 2—thus far—has brought exactly what the doctor ordered. Sombra and Bastion have seen massive reworks, with more teased. A number of new heroes are set to be packaged with the game. Overwatch fans have been clamouring for new toys to get their hands on, and they are on their way.
Fans, at large, have been enthralled with the Overwatch universe. All the stories you’ve waited so long for, all the information left hanging on a cliff, are coming with Overwatch 2’s PvE system. This not only taps into those lore fanatics, but it also elevates an undervalued problem with Overwatch’s initial release; the game is shallow. Sure, now we have some arcade modes and PvE-style events, but by in large, Overwatch 1 is a shallow game. Building out a proper PvE structure with its second attempt at bat is an eloquent plot to not only rupture that non-competitive audience, but also to lay the groundwork of growth in that very same department.
Even when we narrow our scope and look at the gameplay elements that seem to be changing, it all looks positive. Damage dealers are built for lethality. Paring down the tank line allows for more experimentation with maps and pathing. Healing reduction removes the “stickiness” that 2019 cautioned. Even broadening out the possibility for passive abilities inherent to your role adds a new level for balancing for Blizzard to tweak.
After five-plus years of toying and tinkering with Overwatch, Activision Blizzard now has the perfect opportunity to make Overwatch what we all imagined it to be all those years ago. Through its miraculous beginnings, its torturous identity issues, and its lack of content, Overwatch 1 may have started running—but ended with a quiet stroll. Overwatch 2 either directly addresses or attempts to solve each of these problems in one fell swoop. And after the amount of time and resources developing the game, is it too farfetched to say that Overwatch 2 contains some of the most potential in gaming today?
And perhaps that’s where the cautious person lies their head.
“It is too good to be true.”
“The expectations are too lofty.”
“The PvE may overtake the game as a whole and become cumbersome.”
“Potential at the end of the day is just dead weight if it can’t be moved, right? So why be excited?”
All these comments are rational takes on what we’ve been shown. However, let’s consider how much time this sophomoric take has had. Overwatch 2, as an idea, has been in the works since the day Overwatch 1 hit digital shelves all across the globe. Not only that, but they have five amazing years of both casual and competitive lessons they’ve learned along the way. Now, we’re not going to sit and claim that everything is sugarplum dreams and perfect scenarios, but we do have to give credit where credit is due. Overwatch, as a game, is currently in a fairly balanced place. The Overwatch League has just wrapped on an incredibly versatile and stylistic season. The main issue is that it is stale. However, both the developer and its best players are beginning to understand what this game is at its core.
Undoubtedly there will be growing pains with Overwatch 2, yet we have a base to work from.
Overwatch 2 is a new game. It’s a fresh start to take the IP to the next level with re-works, re-designs, new ways to play the game and new mediums to tell stories.
Overwatch 2 has all the potential a game studio could ask for - and now we wait, with excited anxiety akin to the sleepless nights brought by Christmas Eve festivities. The Overwatch universe is changing, that is inarguable, but with its sequel, it’s planting the initial seeds of its growth.