Some of the best players in the world took the reins to Overwatch 2 over the weekend during the recent Overwatch League 2021 championship. During the tourney broadcast, these pros showed off a couple of big character reworks and strategic overhauls coming to the sequel, while also highlighting an apparent missing reference to former director Jeff Kaplan.
The long-anticipated sequel to Blizzard’s 2016 breakout team-based shooter took center stage during the OWL finals half-time show, with players from the Washington Justice and Los Angeles Gladiators trying out a new Overwatch 2 game mode called Push. It’s basically a big tug-of-war with a robot called TW-1. In action, it was a frenetic eight minute scramble, if not more on the aggressive side than what most expect from the first-person shooter. It’s a shift that’s left some regular players hopeful and more than a few professional competitors skeptical.
The exhibition match showed off big changes in Overwatch 2, starting with character reworks for DPS-types Sombra and Bastion. Sombra’s manual hack will have a shorter cooldown, can be performed while invisible, and will last longer, thereby disabling targets’ abilities for one second while revealing them through walls for eight. Her primary attack will do 50% more damage to hacked targets, while her EMP ultimate ability will no longer remove shields but will damage opponents by up to 40% of their health.
The overhaul to Bastion is even more dramatic. The robot will no longer be able to self-heal, but he will have access to tactical (but bouncy) grenades that stick to enemies. Bastion will also have a high accuracy, low-rate of fire recon gun that makes him into a “pseudo-sniper.” Instead of turning into a tank for his ultimate, he’ll be able to do that any time with a short cooldown. Bastion’s new ultimate allows him to call down three separate artillery strikes anywhere on the map, and these damage enemies when they hit and again when they explode. But most importantly, Bastion now wears a hat to make him more “relatable.”
How do you do fellow kids:
The match also showed off some of the already known character changes in-action. For example, tank hero Reinhardt’s forward charge can now be directed, making the hulking armor-clad fighter much more mobile. This occasion was also the first time seeing matches reduced to 5v5, and with each side down a tank class, fans also got to see how that pivot would affect the flow of play.
One of the pros involved in the demo, Indy “Space” Halpern, told the Washington Post the whole feel was a bit like Call of Duty with “a lot of action, nonstop.” Washington Justice player Gui-Un “Decay” Jang, who also tested the game, said that based on their experience, Overwatch 2 would rely more on individual mechanics than teamwork.
Another member of the pro Overwatch scene was more blunt about the changes coming in Overwatch 2. “I really do feel that having two tanks in the game added a lot of strategic depth,” Atlanta Reign head coach Brad Rajani said in a post-finals press conference as reported by the Washington Post. “But I’m going to hold back real judgment until I get to see the game up close because, you know, people worked very hard on this.“ He added that the new game might just end up being different, “not worse.”
While Overwatch 2 still doesn’t have a firm release date, the Overwatch League will be using it when its fifth season starts next spring, a change that comes as Blizzard faces the a wave of developer departures and ongoing fallout from a California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit, and parent company Activision Blizzard’s response to it, led to an employee walkout. Recent turn of events also saw the formation of a worker group called ABetterABK, that has demanded an end to forced arbitration and more pay transparency, among other changes.
Overwatch director and Blizzard veteran, Jeff Kaplan, left the company earlier this year prior to news of the lawsuit breaking. It was all seemingly a part of a recent exodus following reports of Activision, Blizzard’s parent company, cutting costs and running creative interference. Overwatch 2 had previously included a nod to Kaplan in the form of a restaurant on its New York City map, which included a that read “Jeph’s Corner Pizza.” One of the new trailers for Bastion’s rework, however, shows that “Jeph” has been removed.
The change comes as Blizzard apparently implements a new policy against including personal references to developers in its games. This move comes in the wake of the California lawsuit and extensive reporting on the company’s unprofessional behavior and sexual misconduct against women. Blizzard is also set to rename Overwatch’s cowboy hero after its namesake, veteran developer Jesse McCree was revealed by a Kotaku report to have been involved in a BlizzCon 2013 “Cosby Suite.” The company parted ways with McCree last month.