Since the release, the Overwatch 2 beta has not lived up to the original level

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The player-versus-player “Overwatch 2” beta has been out for nearly three weeks. The game, which launched with a great deal of fanfare — including record viewership on Twitch — has become the subject of greater scrutiny, particularly over whether the game really represents a significant step forward from the original “Overwatch.”

Last week, four Washington Post reporters and editors — some longtime Overwatch players and fans, others less so — gathered to discuss their time with the beta. The conversation, reproduced below, touched on the more single-player gameplay encouraged by “Overwatch 2” and what it means for the game to have a sequel in 2022.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Mikhail Klimentov: Let’s talk about first impressions. What are your feelings about the game so far?

Nathan Grayson: Honestly, I played less than I thought. I played the first couple of days, and I think at first I was surprised at how great the gameplay was. But I was also like, wait, that’s what “Overwatch” felt like. So, at first I was like, “Oh, I kind of missed Overwatch. It’s good to be back.” But after a short while, I felt the same feelings as when I played the original game. I’ve actually gotten into the same headspace because I’m annoyed with certain things, like when you lose a match in a landslide, which can be a pretty big problem in “Overwatch”.

It all feels less of a sequel and more like a very substantial update. And I thought, why didn’t this happen years ago? Why has “Overwatch” been weak for several years and barely receiving anything beyond seasonal event updates and some balance changes when this was waiting in the wings?

Overwatch 2 beta has been a huge hit on Twitch. This may not be enough.

Shannon Liao: Even though I own the Overwatch chair and have “Overwatch” on the Switch, I’ve never gotten into the game. But once I started playing “Overwatch” and “Overwatch 2” around the same time, what I noticed, first of all, is that the user interface of the former is much more straightforward. Overall, I think “Overwatch” is more beginner friendly than the sequel so far.

Teddy Aminabar: There is still a big question about what “Overwatch 2” is. Really going to fetch. To Nathan’s point earlier – why did the original ‘Overwatch’ weaken for two years without any updates? – I think the answer will be clearer when we see what “Overwatch 2” actually offers. The presentation of the player versus environment mode has been out for years now. It’s been billed as a “Left 4 Dead” experience, but that’s all there is to it. I don’t know if there is enough information to be excited about.

I think I’m very excited about the possibility of “Overwatch 2” getting enough heroes that there are no hard hero counters and bans. I think the most frustrating part of the original game, especially afterwards, is that you might really enjoy playing Cassidy or Lucio or someone else, but if your team has a certain composition or if the other team plays with a certain composition, they won’t. It makes sense to play it. This does not make sense. Especially when these characters are so likable and people are their favorite, it can be frustrating to have to stick with a Mei or someone you don’t like very much.

Mikhail: Teddy, as an Overwatch League fan, how has “Overwatch 2” affected professional play?

dummy: I think after one weekend there is not enough data yet. But stepping back a bit, what the pros and coaches are saying is that “Overwatch 2” puts more ownership over single-player gameplay, while the core Overwatch has turned into a game of business capabilities and team synergy. If you look at the teams that win the Grand Finals at the end of the Overwatch League in the original game, it’s always going to be the teams that have a really deep roster, that have had a lot of synergy and that have played really well by definition. But what the teams are hoping for is that in Part Two, you’ll have more players playing these incredible match-turning solo plays.

Nathan: I’ve seen people talk about how taking things in this direction reduces the focus on teamwork somewhat, so you get matches where people are just kind of running around and doing whatever they want. Then I think the other part of it is that there’s something really cool about “Overwatch” when all of the hero’s abilities work in tandem, and I feel like some of that is lost. Instead, what you get is an experience that is very similar to other shooters. But if I want an experience like this, where what you really need is a high level mechanical skill, why not go to Valorant? Why would Overwatch 2 try to do what other games already do better when it could instead try to be better?

dummy: I guess that’s the open question: Do casual players care about team synergy, or has casual play in the platinum and lower ranks always been loosely coordinated?

Nathan: When the mechanics are set right, you end up encouraging teamwork implicitly so that, even if players don’t coordinate via voice chat, they’re still actually working together. I feel like some of the most satisfying moments I’ve had on “Overwatch” were when I didn’t really talk to people, but we all ended up working together anyway in a way that was really satisfying. And I think some of the combos that they gave to the heroes in “Overwatch 2”, kind of take from that.

The ways Blizzard got people to do it on “Overwatch” weren’t super chic. They were barriers, because people naturally gather around them. It was a lot of bumps and kicks and stuff that took opponents out of play and motivated other players to pile on them in that window. The idea was: How do we design capabilities so that people work together around them, whether or not they can communicate directly? I like this thought process. I really like the idea of ​​designing a game where the characters’ skills naturally intertwine. And I think the more “Overwatch” gets away from that, the more it gets away from the original spirit of the game.

It’s not about what’s new in “Overwatch 2.” It is what has been removed.

Shannon: “Overwatch 2” was delayed several times, and internally, employees at the company viewed this game as an extension of “Overwatch”, and weren’t sure if there was enough to warrant a sequel. There’s been a lot of internal buzz just the past few years, when they released “Overwatch 2”, so will that be enough for fans? And I think you can feel that when you play the game.

Nathan: I feel Sojourn is another example of where the game is headed. She’s really cool, and I love slipping in rocket shoes, but she’s a fairly straightforward character who could work in something like “Apex Legends”. The rail gun is stylish, but it isn’t Abroad Like some other “Overwatch” character designs. When you release a new game, all that is there at launch is a statement of intent, right? They are intended to give people an outlet for mechanical skill. If you are good at shooters and love the ability to maneuver, you will be good at this character.

dummy: With two tanks and supposedly double armor, this kind of scan character wasn’t viable in the original “Overwatch”. But from what we can see now, I think there’s been a fundamental shift from a team-based shooter to an in-ring shooter. And part of the reason is that when you have two tanks with potential armor, it makes it impossible for heroes like Soldier 76 etc to do anything besides trying to break the armor. So I will miss abilities that encouraged people to work together, but some of those abilities made it impossible for other characters to be viable or enjoyable.

Shannon: I tried Sojourn because I wanted to see what this new champ would be like. She has a very specific style of play – kind of aggressive, one where she’s ready to jump in the wing. It’s definitely not my style, but I can imagine professional players choosing that. I’d like to see what that will do for Overwatch League games in the future. But the fact that there’s only one new character seems pretty limited, though it’s also worth noting that she’s the first black woman to come to “Overwatch” in all of the years since the game ended.

Mikhail: Nathan, at one point I asked, what does it mean for “Overwatch 2” to be a sequel? What do you mean by that?

Nathan: It was always planned that “Overwatch 2” would eventually be merged with “Overwatch”. I think customers, level selection and a bunch of other things would be the same. They don’t want to divide their audience, it’s smart. But if that’s what a sequel would be – functionally just an add-on to an already existing game – at what point would it stop being a sequel? Why do we even need to make a sequel here? I think the answer is only because Activision said “we need a sequel”, but I think in the future you’re going to see more and more games just sort of build their sequels into existing games because that’s how the live service model works. This is what Fortnite did. You could argue that “Destiny” has probably added three or four sequences of content value at this point. “Warframe” will probably be like 20 sequels to itself. So I actually think that in many ways Blizzard is hurting itself by putting a “2” next to the name of this game.

Shannon: When Jeff Kaplan left Blizzard last year, I did a lot of outreach and spoke to current and former Blizzard employees about why he was leaving and what they thought had happened. And a lot of people had different theories, but the gist was that Activision was asking Kaplan and his team to work on Overwatch 2, Overwatch, and the Overwatch League at the same time. They couldn’t allocate that many resources to all three of them, especially when their teams were of a certain size. This is one of the reasons why “Overwatch 2” seems to be installed in “Overwatch” – because there hasn’t been much time to develop it. Also, while going through all of our reports on Activision Blizzard, the company is going through several lawsuits and investigations at the same time as it was a lot of attrition.

dummy: I think “Overwatch” got to a point in the Overwatch League where Blizzard had to release a sequel to it. And I know the Overwatch League isn’t the biggest concern for Activision Blizzard shareholders or the company, but the sequel was announced too early, and the game was off updating for so long that there was no other way to do it. Speaking to franchisees across the league, I hear the need for a new reset due to several issues. Overwatch is not organized to handle seasons or updates or any of that. The game was released like a year and a half before Battle Royale Madness – and maybe even less. And so I think sometimes the situation we’re in right now is a byproduct of terrible timing.

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