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Overwatch 2 First Impressions: 5v5 Is a Triumph

Bradley Long

If patience is a virtue, then fans of Overwatch are saints. Last month, over two years after the announcement of Overwatch 2 at Blizzcon 2019, the long-awaited sequel became a reality. With their first round of public beta testing, Blizzard is finally giving the world a taste of what’s to come for their tentpole shooter.

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The first Overwatch 2 beta has pumped life into the game after two dead years. (Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

So what exactly does that entail, and has the wait been worth it? For some, the beta seems a little light on new content. One hero and four maps isn’t exactly an abundance of new toys, especially when the original game has been all but abandoned for two years. Still, there will be more betas to come with more new content. For now, let’s examine what we do have, including the titanic shift to 5v5.

Addition by Subtraction

When it was announced that OW2 would be moving to 5v5 and rebalancing the game around having a single tank on each team, the reaction was mixed. Many players regarded the tank duo synergies to be a core part of the game. Others put faith in the devs to deliver faster, more fluid gameplay, with one fewer tank clogging the battlefield.

One week into the beta, it seems that faith is being rewarded. Overwatch 2 has maintained what made it a hit in the first place: frenetic gameplay that rewards cooperation to get the most out of every hero’s unique kit. At the same time, the game is leaning more into its shooter side, giving players more ability to pop off as an individual.

The most apparent impact, however, comes from the natural structure that Overwatch now possesses. With a single tank, there is always a focal point. Everything can revolve organically around the tank in a way that makes sense for every role. 

Tanks have been beefed up across the board to better withstand all the attention from enemies. Improved armor and the tank passive ability of crowd control resistance has made every tank feel like a raid boss. As a result, their role of making space for teammates is clearer and more rewarding than ever. 

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Overwatch 2 puts tanks at the forefront with new balance changes. (Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

For supports, only having one tank means there is an obvious place to focus their attention and healing resources. Having fewer teammates to heal simplifies teamfights and allows supports to be more creative with how they impact the game. Life is definitely a little tougher without a second tank to peel, but the devs have acknowledged this issue and are planning for future beta iterations.

Damage heroes are easily the biggest beneficiaries of 5v5 and the game’s new direction. Gone are the days of double shield comps or things like a D.Va babysitting the supports. Now, sightlines are more open, and damage dealers have more freedom of movement. Less CC means more chances to dive backlines for crucial picks.

All in all, this is the greatest triumph of Overwatch 2 so far. The goals laid out by the dev team for 5v5 have been met. The game feels more like a shooter than ever before. Shooting shields for days and being perpetually stunned were some of the biggest frustrations with the original game. Now, those moments are few and far between, and Overwatch 2 is better for it.

Sojourn Headlines New Additions

This has been a long time coming. Since her announcement in 2019, fans have eagerly awaited Sojourn’s arrival as Overwatch’s first black, female hero. Others have written more eloquently about why that matters, but it does serve as a milestone for a game that bills itself as joyfully inclusive. 

Even outside of those considerations, Sojourn is the first hero in two years, and the first of many that will round out the cast for Overwatch 2. Her kit immediately feels like it belongs with the new faster direction the game is moving. Her Power Slide is among the most fluid mobility tools in Overwatch, and her weapon is extremely satisfying and powerful in the right hands. 

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Sojourn brings a fast-paced, explosive playstyle to Overwatch 2. (Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Alongside Overwatch’s newest hero, there are a couple of major hero reworks that have shaken up the tank pool. Doomfist is now a tank, making him much more of a disruptor than the instant kill threat he was before. The change feels pretty natural and really allows Doomfist to lean into a brawling playstyle. 

Orisa has also received a massive overhaul. Her shield and Halt abilities have been replaced by a stunning javelin throw and a spinning lance attack that also blocks incoming damage. She’s also got a new ultimate, Terra Surge, which pulls in enemies before charging a massive slam for big damage. Overall, this is another huge success for the Overwatch team. Where once she was plodding and boring, now Orisa is truly a thrill to play.

The last of the new changes are the four maps, particularly the two for the game’s newest mode, Push. Both New Queen Steet and Colosseo were revealed previously, but the beta has given fans a chance to experience Push firsthand. The game mode really fits Overwatch 2, encouraging fights all over the map and providing numerous flank routes. Already, Push is a clear upgrade over the much-maligned Assault mode.

The Way Ahead

All things considered, this first beta feels like a success. The major changes to the game have largely hit the mark, the new maps are solid, and the excitement around Overwatch 2 is undeniable. Fueled by fans seeking beta access through drops on certain Twitch streams, Overwatch peaked with over 1 million viewers at the start of the beta. Despite the two-year content drought, fans were still clamoring to get their hands on the sequel.

Almost immediately, however, the numbers came crashing back to Earth. Now, the category hovers under 30k viewers most of the time. It’s not unexpected by any means, but it is something that could continue to hold Overwatch back as it tries to recapture the hype that has faded over the last three years.

The big question for Blizzard is whether that is even possible at this point. It will likely take the full release of the game, including the new PvE campaign elements, for the game to really break through to the mainstream again. News on that front is nonexistent at the moment, but it is the lynchpin for Overwatch 2 to succeed. 

Until then, the betas coming over the next several months will continue to provide insight into what the PvP side of things will look like. The devs already have a long list of improvements to make. Sound, lighting, and UI upgrades are all sorely needed in future updates, along with additional content and tweaks to the support role as a whole. 

Despite the problems with the first beta and the game writ large, spirits are high. Players that left Overwatch years ago are returning on the promise of a new and improved experience. This first beta shows that the devs have a strong grasp of what they want Overwatch 2 to be. Landing the ship won’t be a simple task, but for the first time in years, the Overwatch community can be hopeful about what’s to come.