Feature Article

Overwatch 2: Everything We Know

Never-before-seen characters, mythic skins, hero missions, and a new, free-to-play model? Big changes are coming in Overwatch 2. Here's everything you need to know about them ahead of the game's release on October 4.

First announced at Blizzcon 2019, the follow-up to Blizzard’s popular first-person team-based hero shooter is almost here. While the newest entry in the Overwatch series retains all the same locations and characters you know and love, it also comes with a number of big changes and fresh faces. Here's everything you need to know about the game before it hits PC and consoles this fall.

Release date

Overwatch 2 enters early access on October 4, 2022. This will consist solely of the game's PvP mode, with PvE releasing in 2023. Overwatch 2 is coming to all platforms that currently support Overwatch, including Nintendo Switch, as well as PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Will Overwatch 2 be free-to-play?

Yep! Blizzard is completely overhauling Overwatch's current pay structure with the upcoming sequel, making the core game free-to-play and eliminating loot boxes. Instead, there will now be an in-game store, additional PvE content available to purchase, and battle passes that offer in-game cosmetics and other fun perks.

Will I be able to play with folks on other consoles?

You sure will! Regardless of what your preferred console is, you'll be able to play with your friends on every system thanks to Overwatch 2's cross-play feature.

Beta tests

The first PvP beta for Overwatch 2 took place this spring, giving players time to test out all the game's reworked characters as well as its newest hero, Sojourn. During GameSpot's time with the beta, we found the PvP played more like "Overwatch 1.5" rather than an entirely new experience, though returning to the series was still incredibly enjoyable.

Following the end of the beta test, Blizzard published a thorough report detailing hero usage rates, win rates, and the effects of recent buffs and nerfs. The blog revealed that Sojourn, understandably, had an extremely high usage rate at the start of the beta, peaking at around 80%. However, this number dropped off rapidly as time went on and more players got the chance to take the newest damage hero out for a spin. Of the reworked characters, Orisa saw the highest usage, followed by Doomfist, then Bastion and Sombra.

While the first beta test was strictly for those playing on PC, Blizzard has stated that future playtests will be available on console as well. Looking to join in on one? The next beta test begins on June 28 and will feature a first look at the game's newest tank-hero, Junker Queen, as well as a new map. For more information on how to participate, check out our beta sign-up guide.

Director Jeff Kaplan steps down

After nearly 20 years with Blizzard, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan announced in April 2021 that he was leaving the company. In addition to working on a number of beloved Blizzard titles during his tenure, including World of Warcraft and Warcraft 3, Kaplan has essentially been the public face of Overwatch since before the first game's release in 2016, and his departure is a major shakeup for Overwatch and its sequel.

Kaplan is succeeded by co-director Aaron Keller--check out our interview with Overwatch 2's new director after he stepped into the position below.

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A tumultuous time for Blizzard

In addition to Kaplan's departure, Activision Blizzard has had a tumultuous past few years as the company has come under fire for allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, and workplace misconduct. In July 2021, the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment sued Activision Blizzard, alleging that the company "fostered a sexist culture" in which women were paid far less than men and people of color experienced instances of discrimination. The suit goes on to say that sexism has "plagued the male-dominated gaming industry for decades," and brings forth this legal action to "remedy, prevent, and deter" Activision Blizzard from violating California's civil rights and equal pay laws.

The suits caused serious backlash throughout the games industry, as well as within the company. Employees staged a walkout to protest workplace conditions and Activision Blizzard leadership's handling of the situation. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stepped down from the position, replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra; Oneal subsequently announced she would step down at the end of 2021, revealing she had been making less than Ybarra despite essentially holding the same position. More recently, the company hired its first Head of Culture to help make greater strides in diversity and inclusion.

There's a lot more to the internal situation at Blizzard, including more lawsuits, plenty of allegations against CEO Bobby Kotick, and additional actions taken by the company's leadership. Check out the complete timeline of the situation for more.

Game modes and maps

PvP in Overwatch 2 and Overwatch will be compatible with one another--so even if you stick with the original game, you'll still be able to play with anyone who buys the sequel.

Overwatch 2 will include some new takes on the combat we saw in the original game, however. That includes a brand-new game mode called Push, in which two teams fight to escort a robot into enemy territory. The team that pushes the robot furthest into the other team’s territory before time is up will win the match. As the robot moves down the linear path towards enemy lines, it’ll occasionally come up against barriers that must be pushed to unlock checkpoints. This momentarily slows the robot down, but the checkpoints unlock new spawn points for players.

The most notable change is that the game will move to 5v5 matches, as opposed to the current 6v6 model. Team composition is also being adjusted so that squads sport only a one tank character per team.

Overwatch 2 will have all-new PvP maps for Push mode, but also for every current "core" game mode. The team wants to ensure players have a "totally new experience" thanks to the new maps, which are also coming to the original Overwatch as well. Blizzard had previously mentioned several new maps, and showed off two more in May 2021.

Check out Blizzard's videos of Push mode in action, which show off the new Rome, Toronto, and New York maps.

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Currently confirmed maps new to Overwatch 2 include:

  • Gothenburg
  • Toronto
  • Monte Carlo
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • New York
  • Rome

Blizzard also tweeted some brief videos of a variety of new maps that can give you a little more of a sense of them.

Story missions

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Story missions are a new feature in Overwatch 2. They will be heavily curated PvE missions where players will only be able to select from a limited, contextually-relevant roster of characters. Every single story mission will have its own cinematic intro and outro video.

Hero missions

Hero missions are another new PvE feature, designed to be “deeply replayable” thanks to three factors outlined by Overwatch 2’s directors: varied locations, which will take players across new maps and old; constantly changing objectives, which will keep the gameplay fresh and varied; and different enemy groups, such as Null Sector, Talon, and “other threats.” Certain objectives or enemy types may demand certain types of heroes to counter, allowing more hands-on time for players stuck playing their main in PVP, Kaplan explained at BlizzCon 2019.

Ping system

Tired of your teammates not staying on the payload? You're in luck, as Overwatch 2 is introducing a new and significantly improved ping system designed to strengthen communication between teammates. The new system features more commands than ever before and allows players to precisely ping locations, alerting their teammates to enemies and allowing for more strategic plays. According to Blizzard, "The inspiration behind the ping system came from a value the Overwatch team holds dearly: Every Voice Matters. This is a core value at Blizzard, and the Overwatch team wanted to personify this value in the game."

Item system

The newly introduced item system is exclusive to story missions. Rather than a loot system like Diablo, Overwatch 2’s item system will work in much the same way items do in games such as Apex Legends and PUBG, according to Kaplan: temporary item pickups that you can use for the duration of the mission. These include things like a corrosive grenade, a healing station, or a barrier fence. Items also come in tiers depending on their quality.

Talent system

Overwatch 2 will introduce a new progression system designed exclusively for hero missions. It will allow heroes to level up and unlock talents that give them additional perks in combat and is meant as a strictly PvE, non-competitive mode feature. A series of talents for Tracer were shown off at BlizzCon 2019, but Kaplan warned that the progression system was still very early in development and could change a lot.

Unlockable Talents for Tracer, part of Overwatch 2's new PvE-exclusive progression system.

The example abilities shown off for Tracer include:

  • Level 1:

    • Adaptive Reload (Pulse Pistols reload when using any ability)
    • Chain Reaction (Pulse Bomb causes secondary explosions on enemies that are damaged by it)

  • Level 10

    • Flash (Blinking through enemies damages them)
    • Hindsight (Recall causes damage to all recently damaged enemies)

  • Level 20

    • Vortex (Enemies are pulled toward the point of Recall and snared)
    • Speed Kills (Killing blows speed up your cooldowns)

As for why the talent system won't be implemented in PvP, Overwatch 2 director Aaron Keller recently explained the team's reasoning.

"Some of the talents that we've made for the PvE side of the game are pretty cool, and really, really fun to use. Like Tracer can practically stop time as one of her talents. It's pretty amazing. Things like that don't really work in our PvP matches," Keller explained. "I don't know if we've talked about it much, but the original game, during the development of it, we had a talent system that we were working on. And one of the problems is it was always really difficult to know what type of hero you are about to face off with. Is this the Reaper that can heal himself as I'm fighting? You need to know--in our game, because it's so fast-paced--exactly what you're facing off with at any time."

New heroes

Sojourn, Overwatch's first Canadian hero.

Overwatch 2 will introduce new playable heroes, including both characters that are brand new and “characters you’ve been waiting for.” It will also carry over every hero from the first Overwatch.

Currently confirmed heroes new to Overwatch 2 include:

Sojourn is the first Black woman and Canadian hero to grace the game and has a role “right at the center of the story of Overwatch 2,” according to Kaplan.

Described as a mid-range specialist with incredible mobility and artillery skills, Sojourn's primary weapon is a railgun that generates energy on each successful hit and can then consume that power for a high-impact shot. This makes Sojourn well-suited for players with marksman skills, as they can use that accuracy to deal devastating blows with the railgun's secondary fire mode.

In addition, Sojourn also has an area-of-effect ability that will snare enemies and eat away at their health, a rocket-powered slide, and an ultimate ability called Overclock. During Overclock, Sojourn can fire shots that pierce through enemies. Secondary fire on the railgun enables her to quickly eliminate enemies with high-powered shots, which Blizzard likened to a "hitscan version" of a Genji's Dragon Blade attack.

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Teased for years by Blizzard, Junker Queen is the not-so-benevolent ruler of the post-apocalyptic wasteland Overwatch mainstays Roadhog and Junkrat call home: Junkertown. Equipped with a mohawk, six-pack abs, a shotgun, and a battle ax, Junker Queen is the game's newest tank, and seems more than capable of leading her team to victory.

Described as a fierce and resourceful survivalist, Junker Queen's play kit perfectly showcases her will to not only survive but thrive in the harsh, Australian outback. Blizzard has described the move Adrenaline as the "cornerstone of Junker Queen's identity as a tank." The passive ability allows her to heal her wounds over time by dealing damage to other players, encouraging those playing Junker Queen to adopt a more aggressive playstyle.

In addition, many of Junker Queen's moves are most impactful at close-range, including Scattergun and Carnage. Scattergun refers to Junker Queen's powerful shotgun blast, while Carnage is the name given to her big, sweeping ax swing.

When not blasting away at baddies, Junker Queen also has some pretty impressive moves that can turn the tide of battle for her team. Commanding Shout sees Junker Queen increase the health and movement speed of herself and the teammates around her, similarly to Lucio. Junker Queen's ultimate ability, Rampage, allows the tank to lunge towards her opponents using her magnetic gauntlet. Once there, she also prevents her enemies from healing, making Rampage the first ability since Ana's biotic grenade to apply an anti-heal.

Blizzard has also confirmed a new support character will be available at launch, though the studio has yet to reveal any additional details about them.

Skins and progress

Kaplan previously confirmed that all progress and cosmetics earned in the first Overwatch will carry over to Overwatch 2. According to Kaplan, "We want to make sure that all Overwatch cosmetics come forward with you into Overwatch 2. So all of your progress matters. Nothing is getting left behind, no one is getting left behind."

We've also seen some new skins for characters returning in Overwatch 2. Here is a complete gallery of what we've seen so far:

Mythic skins

In addition to these skins, Overwatch 2 is also adding a new feature called "mythic skins" to the game. According to Overwatch director Aaron Keller, these skins are a tier above legendary skins, boasting dynamic visual effects and the ability for players to customize their appearance.

"With mythic skins, we've taken everything that we're doing to our legendary skins, and we're plusing it," Keller said. "We're taking it over the top. Mythic skins are customizable; you can change different, various parts of the skin and different looks for it. So for season one, we're premiering with our Genji mythic skin. He has different tattoos that you can swap on and off; different colors. He has different weapons that you can equip for him. And I think the coolest part about him is he's got this really cool mask covering his face, and when you activate his ultimate, the mask opens up and there's all these cool [visual] effects in there."

What Overwatch 2 means for current Overwatch players

In an effort to keep the Overwatch community united, Overwatch and Overwatch 2 players will be able to play the traditional PvP mode together. The original Overwatch will also receive new maps, new heroes, and the new competitive mode, Push. However, the new PvE elements will be exclusive to Overwatch 2.

Hero redesigns

Overwatch 2 is not being designed in a new engine, but it is a "greatly updated" version of the Overwatch engine. Overwatch 2 will have new HUDs for all heroes, and perhaps most importantly, redesigns for all existing heroes. The team wants Overwatch 2 to "have a new look and feel fresh and awesome," according to its BlizzCon 2019 panel.

Since then, we've gotten a couple of looks at ways heroes will be changed in Overwatch 2. Blizzard released a presentation detailing alterations to Sombra and Bastion. You can watch trailers running down the changes out below.

Sombra's changes will make her more aggressive, with her hacking ability cooling down every three seconds. Hacking will still briefly disable the abilities of characters it afflicts, but more importantly, it'll boost the damage they take by 50% for eight seconds, the duration of the hack. Her Ultimate is also changing so that it no longer affects shields, but instead damages enemies caught within it up to 40% of their total health. They'll also be hacked, making them susceptible to even more damage.

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Bastion's changes totally rework the robot, removing its ability to self-repair and its Ultimate ability of transforming into a tank. Bastion's alternate fire provides an explosive shell that's good for area denial, and its Ultimate now transforms it into an artillery cannon that can fire three explosive shells anywhere on the map. However, its sentry mode has been considerably reworked. Bastion can now move while transformed, turning the character into a moving gatling gun. While the ability also has a cooldown now, it's sure to be an essential tool for Bastion players.

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We've also received a brief look at changes to weapons for Mei and Winston. In a tweet, Blizzard showed off how Mei's blaster is being made deadlier but no longer freezing enemies solid, and demonstrated a sniper-like alternate fire mode for Winston's Tesla cannon.

Doomfist and Orisa have also undergone some changes, with Orisa receiving three new abilities and losing her character-defining Protective Barrier, making her more of a frontline fighter. Doomfist, on the other hand, is being converted into a tank, and has been given significantly more health and a new defensive ability called Power Block.

Potential Microsoft acquisition

In the midst of Blizzard's legal battle, a shocking announcement was made: Microsoft is purchasing the company. On January 18, the Xbox parent company announced its intent to purchase Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion, making the deal the biggest in gaming history and Microsoft the third-largest gaming company in the world. As of right now, the deal is still undergoing scrutiny, though it seems overwhelmingly likely the sale will be approved.

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer says that buying Activision Blizzard will help "accelerate" the company's plans for cloud gaming, as well as help bolster the value of Xbox Game Pass. Spencer also addressed Blizzard's reputation for misconduct and shared his desire to help turn things around, stating, "We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We're looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard."

If the deal goes through, it is reported that current CEO Bobby Kotick will be leaving the company.

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