Halfway through the Toronto-based story mission that’s part of Overwatch 2: Invasion, things get a little scary. Omnics, Overwatch’s in-universe sentient robots, are under attack from a terrorist organization called Null Sector, and you’re there to help them—but as your squad of carefully curated heroes (you can choose from a smaller roster in each PvE mode than the typical PvP offerings) work your way through the tunnels of the Toronto subway, you stumble upon something terrifying.
Omnic bodies are strewn about subway cars and heaped on top of each other in corners; broken electrical wires snap and crackle around them. On the platform, an omnic kneels before an octopus-like robot that hovers overhead, its tentacles attached to its metal skull. As the subway doors open, my squad bursts onto the platform, guns blazing, but it’s too late to help the poor guy. We move on, because we must.
All three story missions that come with the $15 Overwatch 2: Invasion bundle are beautifully detailed and emotionally charged—and I’m genuinely surprised. This is certainly not the PvE that Jeff Kaplan promised back in 2019, sure, but it’s also not the reanimated corpse of older Overwatch PvE modes. However, is it worth your money? Ehh...
I was skeptical heading into my first Overwatch 2 PvE match—communication from Blizzard has been inconsistent and confusing since the announcement of the (somewhat unnecessary) sequel to the hit hero shooter. Plans have shifted and changed multiple times since 2019, and the game launched in October 2022 without the promised PvE mode. Blizzard has struggled to monetize the game, now free-to-play, in ways that don’t seem predatory, with players rightfully pointing out the exorbitant cost of cosmetics and the lack of free legendary skins.
So I’m surprised when I load into my first match (Toronto, as I missed the Rio matchmaking sessions the day before, but it is based off of the mission that debuted at BlizzCon 2019) and am greeted with a large—albeit on-rails—mission that is challenging.
“This is our story mode, this is our campaign,” senior designer Jorge Murillo said during a press roundtable “This is really handcrafted…really bespoke…it’s just a big, long, arduous process.” This isn’t your run-of-the-mill Overwatch Archives missions from back in the day, with copy/paste enemies and smallish maps—these are big missions on the game’s biggest maps ever with completely overhauled enemy AI.
During my Toronto mission, myself and one other journalist (plus two bots) struggle to protect a ferry full of omnics from swarms of Null Sector, and fail the mission twice before we get our shit together. The enemies overtake us far faster than I expected, and beeline straight for the ferry doors in waves that cause us to collapse into chaos.
“The Archive Missions taught us a lot of really important lessons about how players engage with our enemy AI and how they kind of learn to predict the behavior that those enemies display,” senior designer Dylan Snyder explained. “We’ve really kind of built our AI from the ground up to be a lot less predictable, to be more aggressive…And then additionally, we have the destructible limb system for Null Sector in particular, that makes engaging with the ecology and these enemies really fun.” I can confirm that we spent several minutes confused as to why the mission wasn’t progressing until we discovered a Null Sector robot, devoid of its legs, pulling its torso along on the ground with its one good arm.
After successfully protecting the ferry, we move further into Toronto, giving us a lovely chance to get to know Sojourn better. As the only Black woman hero in Overwatch, it was disappointing that she debuted with the launch of the sequel and didn’t get the attention or fanfare that heroes historically have gotten. Lawlor said she’s “super fundamental to the story missions” and from my gameplay, I can agree. We learn more about Sojourn’s history with the international task force that is Overwatch, her friendship with Winston, and her love for her country—but most importantly, she feels, finally, like a fleshed-out character.
She’s not the only character who will get more depth in these new missions. “If you’re the type of person who really wants to lore-dig and you want to experience all these interactions, there’s an insane amount of stuff in there for you to do,” Murillo says. Earlier in the roundtable, audio director Scott Lawlor said there are between 5,000 and 10,000 different voice lines across these three missions.
Plus, there’s a new in-game lore codex that will excite sickos that’s accessible via a new menu set in Winston’s office. “As you play the story missions with the different heroes, you unlock new lore entries or journal entries on that hero’s part to kind of give their perspective on what is happening in the conflict, and what they’ve experienced,” Snyder says. “That kind of insight into the characters is what I think most of us love the most about Overwatch, and there’s definitely a lot of that to be found in the story missions.”
Near the end of the Toronto mission, another major fight ensues that we, once again, fail. We get a second chance (you’re allowed, it seems, two fails before you’ll have to redo the entire mission) and manage to fight off the swarms of Null Sector baddies trying to attach themselves to the head of our omnic friend. I breathe a sigh of relief and double-check that we were…yup, playing it on the easiest mode.
“In regard to the difficulty levels, this isn’t a case where we just made the game on Normal and then said Legendary is just the values but times two,” Snyder explains. “We have gone in and made sure that on every single difficulty level the experience feels fresh and feels relevant and appropriate for that difficulty. And I can tell you right now that legendary is tough. It’s not going to be a walk in the park for most players, even some Grandmasters out there.”
But you don’t have to do things the hard way—you can enjoy these new PvE missions on low-lift difficulties with some sweaty friends and breeze through them. “[Story missions] are just our way of just kind of giving the players a lot of lore and story. They can kind of jump in and play around and see new things each time they play,” Murillo said. And though I couldn’t play through these missions more than once to see all the little details and hear all the new voicelines, I can certainly sense the sheer amount of content packed into them.
Despite the surprisingly bespoke feel of Overwatch 2’s PvE, I return to the question that has plagued the game since launch: Is the $15 extra cost worth it?
Blizzard’s sequel is free-to-play, but its new heroes are locked behind the battle pass, and you either have to grind to get them through the free battle pass or fork over $10 for the premium one, which grants you immediate access to the newest character. Legendary skins, which used to be found in loot boxes you could either earn or pay for, are difficult to get now without forking over money. Many of the best skins, often shown in trailers for new seasons, are only available for purchase in the in-game store. And Blizzard has confirmed that every new set of story missions will need to be purchased in order to access them—though there’s currently no timeline for when the next set of PvE will drop, players will have to consider that going forward.
Blizzard has confirmed that the Overwatch 2 Archives bundle will get you:
- Permanent access to the Invasion story missions
- 1,000 Overwatch coins (which can buy you the premium battle pass)
- A legendary Sojourn skin ($19 value)
- Access to Sojourn if you haven’t bought her/unlocked her yet
So, you could buy these story missions and get enough coin to pay for the newest season’s battle pass, too, which may be the most enticing aspect of the purchase.
But the missions aren’t that long, especially if you’re playing on an easier mode, and their replayability is questionable. Though, its value is subjective—maybe you don’t want to spend $15 when you’ve already spent on skins or previous battle passes, or maybe you’ll buy this set of story missions and decide, whenever the next ones are released, to pass, or maybe you’ll love the missions and want to challenge yourself ot beat them over and over again on increasingly harder difficulties. It’ll be interesting to see how players react to this new PvE content.
Overwatch 2: Invasion drops on August 10.