Overwatch 2 has launched neatly into the post-Shadowlands pre-Dragonflight dwaal, filling the gap perfectly. But it’s really only a sequel in name - the gameplay is very similar, the heroes too - so the only really new things are a fine-but-not-amazing new game mode and the (admittedly rather consequential) removal of a tank from each team.

Despite being so familiar it’s still a riot to play once you settle in. And because it’s a refresh there are short queues for every role, even DPS, meaning it’s easy to squeeze plenty of games in. There’s enough of the joy still there to make it worth playing, although the new monetisation system and shooter over quirky focus means the game is walking a fine line.

Removing a tank has made the entire game far more offensively focused. Unfortunately that also means there seems to be even less teamwork (in Quickplay) than there was a week ago in OW1. This is exacerbated by the changes made to many tank skills and abilities to make them less tanky and more frontline wreckers - each match now feels like the dive compilations of yore are the only way to play. Orisa has gone from being a defensive shield bringer to being a hard-to-kill offensive juggernaut. OW2 puts a lot more pressure on the solo-tank, and because of the increased emphasis on offence most tanks aren’t bothering to tank: instead, they just get into the fight and wreak havoc - just like a DPS.

The game feels faster as a consequence, more chaotic, and getting a non-team team makes it almost impossible to win with any confidence. I cannot imagine what it would be like coming in as a new player - I find it more difficult now to predict what anyone is going to do and I’ve played since launch. No consolidating behind the tanks, far fewer safe zones, and a lot less structure. There seems to be more of an emphasis on solo heroics rather than team play, despite the fact that when you do play as a team the wins are far more achievable. I guess playing Competitive would solve some of that, but I don’t like the pressure that mode brings.

Blizzard also removed the scorecard commendations at the end of a match, which is a shame. Those felt like a fun way to reward good team players, and it was nice to be on the receiving end occasionally. Now it’s a personal rather than shared recognition. And I really miss the ability to give kudos to the enemy team - sometimes you want to congratulate the enemy for superior play. Perhaps the system was being gamed, or it felt too punishing?

I really don’t like the new unlock/xp Battlepass system, which keeps reminding you that you haven’t paid for a season pass. Levelling up and being ‘rewarded’ with a notification that you can’t use the reward without the pass is demoralising. Despite loot boxes being cursed, getting one each time you levelled up in OW1 was generally a fun thing. Blizzard have a right to earn ongoing fees for service, but it’s being pushed too hard. Let it be there, but don’t rub our faces in it.

I’ve played almost exclusively Mercy so far (my DPS and Tank skills having atrophied almost completely), and she plays just the same - reliable, not spectacular, but able to keep a team going in a bad situation. And quietly fun. Unlike showboat Moira whose ultimate still seems crazily overpowered, but maybe that’s just healer-jealousy!

It feels much more like a (significant) patch than a new game. The big unknown is how the promised PvE modes will play. Hopefully they won’t be dropped (it’s been very quiet on that front), and given the intensity of the PvP player base it’s hard to imagine PvE drawing in new players in large numbers. Then again it could turn out to be dipped in the same magic sauce OW1 was when it launched. Here’s hoping.

OW2 is still a fun game, still has some stellar moments of hero interaction (combo-ults or last second saves), but I still miss the OG version where stacked teams of Symmetra or all-tank madness meant each game was totally different, and would adapt majorly during the fight to counter the enemy team. Those days have gone (despite the arcade mode variant) and it really feels like balance is the be-all-and-end-all. Instead of heroes with incredibly diverse skills and crazy specials, it’s now a more traditional shooter where everyone is balanced to a competitive ideal.

And just like OW1, it’s still impossible (for me at least) to get a Play of the Game as Mercy. Reinforcing an under-threat point with a well-timed ultimate whilst downing two of the opposition team isn’t enough - a Bastion that plonked down and mowed down two people got Play instead. Sigh.