Images of Overwatch 2 agent redesigns of Mei, Tracer and Reinhardt
Images of Overwatch 2 agent redesigns of Mei, Tracer and Reinhardt

What we learned from the Overwatch 2 hero reworks and exhibition match

by Jessica Scharnagle

At the Overwatch League grand finals on Saturday, there were many things revealed about the game’s sequel, Overwatch 2. The halftime show featured a one-map exhibition match played by Overwatch pros from teams that were in Hawaii but had already been eliminated from the playoffs.

There is a lot to break down, and most changes have already been revealed, but the look and feel of the game is completely different and will likely have a plethora of changes before it hits players’ hands. What fans really got to see is how the OWL pros interpreted and implemented the new changes to the heroes and the new game mode.

Sombra and Bastion changes

Before the grand finals match started, developers gave a look at the Sombra and Bastion rework. Not only have their looks changed, but their abilities are very different in Overwatch 2.

Fans already found out about Sombra’s visual rework in June, but we now have details on what her kit will look like in Overwatch 2.

Game director Aaron Keller has said before that developers planned to reduce some of the crowd control in certain heroes, and Sombra is one of those heroes. Now when Sombra hacks her enemies, they will only lose their abilities for one second, but they’ll be susceptible to higher damage from Sombra, and it will reveal the hacked player’s whereabouts for seven more seconds to Sombra’s entire team.

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Bastion is also undergoing a huge change, the most surprising being that he is able to move while firing, but the ability to be in sentry mode now has a cooldown. He also had his self-repair removed, fire rate reduced by 50% and his damage falloff range increased. Bastion got a new ultimate, and the replacement for his self-heal, Tactical Grenade was added.

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Takeaways from the exhibition match

Fans got a good look at the PvP changes in February, but this is the first time anyone has seen professional Overwatch players get their hands on the new game.

The game was played on a new game mode, Push, which is set in Rome. Push mode tasks players with pushing a robot named T.W.O. along a track with multiple checkpoints. Whoever gets the robot farther, or to the end of the track, wins. Fans got a ton of new looks at the map through in-game observation, including a sweeping overhead view.

Image credit: Screenshot of Overwatch 2 exhibition match via Jessica Scharnagle

Of course, the most jarring and instantly noticeable change was the loss of one tank player. Overwatch 2 is to be played as a 5v5 instead of Overwatch’s 6v6. Also instantly noticeable was the changes to how the UI looked for the match.

The UI has been given a complete overhaul, with the weapon ammo, kit cooldowns, ult charge and health all given a new sleeker look. When a player kills an enemy, the notification is now much smaller. There is now also an audio cue for when a teammate is killed, like in the elimination arcade modes in Overwatch.

For those being healed by Mercy, players can now see where she is, how much health she has, and whether she is healing them or boosting them. There also are new screen animations that surround the player’s screen if Mercy is healing or boosting them.

Image credit: Screenshot of Overwatch 2 exhibition match via Jessica Scharnagle

The in-game sounds also have been enhanced. All of the sounds have been improved and tweaked in the game for a more immersive experience.

The Reinhardts in the match also were immediately identified as having the biggest impact with their changes. Reinhardt now has multiple Fire Strike charges and the ability to steer or cancel his Charge. The first thing that Keller pointed out after watching the match was “the tanks were even more effective than I was expecting them to be, especially on our push maps.”

One of the players in the exhibition match, Los Angeles Gladiators tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern, said during the Watchpoint pre-show “for me, it felt like every character was a DPS.”

What fans and the developers alike were able to get from this match was how professional Overwatch 2 would be played and how a coordinated team would treat the new Push mode. Keller said he was surprised at the routes the tanks took. Considering Rome is a map with a lot of off-objective teamfighting potential, the teams stayed pretty close to T.W.O.

Overwatch League will be played on a build of Overwatch 2 next year

It has already been confirmed that the Overwatch League will be played on a build of the sequel for the 2022 season, but Keller also confirmed that all 32 original heroes will be available for players, “and who knows, there might even be a few more,” he said in the post-exhibition match interview.

Although there was a bit of teasing about a release date, Keller was tight-lipped about when the game was coming out, or when the players would be able to get their hands on it. What Keller did say is that he felt the game was ready for the OWL players to start practicing on, which is a great indication that the developers are getting closer to a public beta date.

“I can’t talk about when the game is going to ship, but I think one of the really exciting things that is happening is that Overwatch League is going to be playing the Overwatch 2 build next season,” Keller said. “This is something that’s really exciting for us, to actually see this sequel, and that an early build of it is being played by the top players in the world. I know we can’t talk about the date, but the game is moving forward and it’s far enough along that we want Overwatch League playing it.”

Lead image credit: Activision Blizzard

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