Game On: Without its ‘Hero Mode,’ what’s the point of Overwatch 2?
Thu., May 25, 2023
Early last week, Overwatch executive producer Jared Neuss dropped the bombshell announcement that Overwatch 2’s “Hero Mode” was officially canceled. Although Blizzard had shared very little about the planned “player vs. environment” mode since its initial showcase at BlizzCon 2019, the news was met with shock and near-universal backlash from gamers and critics alike.
After all, these cooperative campaign missions, which were to play similarly to the likes of Borderlands or Destiny, was the entire reason for Overwatch 2’s existence. In 2019, Blizzard stated very clearly that the original, competitive “player vs. player” Overwatch would persist, and both holdout gamers and those who bought Overwatch 2 would still be able to play against each other.
Overwatch 2 was the “Hero Mode” – it was bizarre and suspicious when it abruptly launched in October without it – and now the whole reason for Overwatch 2 is gone. All of its additions were well within the scope of changes Blizzard had previously made to the original Overwatch: two new heroes were added to the roster, a new game mode was introduced, team composition was changed from 6v6 to 5v5 and a handful of new arenas made their debut.
If those changes had come in 2020 or even 2021, the community would’ve been happy – it would’ve been business as usual, since Overwatch received a steady volume of content updates for over three years after its initial release in 2016. But shortly after Overwatch 2’s announcement in late 2019, Blizzard shifted priorities and updates slowed to a crawl.
Seasonal events were mostly rehashes of previous ones, the last new hero was introduced in April 2020 and even cosmetic additions became uncommon. Worst of all for a competitive game, balance patches were few and far between, and the game suffered for it.
This continued for over two years until Overwatch 2 launched, entirely without the promised PvE component that had been Blizzard’s oft-cited excuse for the content drought. The original Overwatch was replaced outright by its “sequel” – updating the original game installed the new one. Truthfully, the series’ two-year drought ended with an over-glorified patch whose only substantial change was the shop.
Overwatch 2’s shop resembles that of Apex Legends, Fortnite and other heavily monetized games. Players can spend real-world cash on exclusive cosmetic items and quicker access to new heroes. In the original Overwatch, gamers could acquire everything through normal gameplay – and Activision-Blizzard’s biggest shareholders likely squawked when they noticed Epic Games made $5.8 billion off of the free-to-play Fortnite in 2021 alone.
Detractors quickly took to calling Overwatch 2 “the shop update,” and justifiably so. The only real comeback anyone had at the time was that Blizzard would add the campaign mode later down the line. Now that it’s been canceled, the truth is indisputable – Blizzard released Overwatch 2 to aggressively monetize Overwatch.
Game director Aaron Keller later penned a blog post apologizing for the “disappointing decision” and clarified that although the hero mode with its planned story beats, skill trees and new abilities was canned, the team would continue to work on small-scale cooperative experiences akin to the seasonal “Junkenstein’s Revenge” and “Overwatch Archives” events that came before.
So Blizzard plans to make more brief, deep-as-a-puddle missions like they did previously – over two years of development time, effort, and money have been unceremoniously flushed away – and Overwatch 2 exists purely for more aggressive monetization schemes. Overwatch 2 may very well be the most pointless sequel of all time aside from yearly sports releases like Madden and FIFA.
I’m ashamed to be a fan, and despite putting over a thousand hours of playtime into the original, I haven’t touched the series in over half a year. How could I? I spent countless hours unlocking every bit of content in Overwatch, and in Overwatch 2, the only way to acquire the vast majority of new cosmetics is with real money. No thanks.
In the meantime, if you’re on the hunt for a great cooperative, class-based first-person shooter I heartily recommend Deep Rock Galactic. Indeed, both games’ various online forums have recently become inundated with posts proclaiming they’ve dropped Overwatch 2 in favor of Deep Rock Galactic.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at email@example.com.
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