Today we pay homage to the life of Overwatch 1, a groundbreaking hero shooter that debuted in 2016, bringing a whole new flavor to the genre and paving the way for the live service space. Overwatch consisted of carefully crafted team compositions selected from an ever-growing roster of free characters, but the October 4 release of Monitor 2 means the end of this game, literally and figuratively.
That day, Overwatch 2 won’t just replace the original game (after nearly 48 hours of shutdown, as Overwatch 1 will shut down on October 3rd) but will also bypass many of the features and gameplay aspects that made the game so unique and special. While that might just be symptomatic of any game’s sequel, and perhaps an exciting change for some (Blizzard’s Jon Spector claimed in a recent roundtable interview that the team has “consistently received feedback very positive” about all the changes), it’s not ideal for many Overwatch fans. With days to go, it’s time to give Overwatch 1 a proper eulogy.
Think back to when Surveillance 1 was first released on May 24, 2016. It charmed many of us with its heart energy on its sleeve, vibrant graphics, and unique specific heroes. The heroes’ drastically different vibes and personalities have spawned fan fiction both within the game’s established (and colorful) canon and outside of it. Its rock-solid gameplay seemed to improve with each change, and while new heroes might upset its delicate balance, Blizzard was always there, working to right the ship.
Players would eagerly await the announcement of new heroes that would be free for all of us, wondering how they would fit into the current meta, or if they would suit our own playstyles and team compositions well. The collective joy when Jeff Kaplan (affectionately known as “Papa Kaplan” among Overwatch veterans) revealed new healer Moira at Blizzcon 2017 seems impossible to replicate today.
I’ve said this so many times I’m afraid I’ll be taken as redundant, but: Overwatch 1 is a game about measures and countermeasures, about choosing intelligently from the hero roster in a way that suits both to your team and harassing the enemy squad. As such, it plays out like a game of chess if you drop some LSD before you sit down at the table, with even the most innocuous gaming decisions having far-reaching consequences over the course of a match. You’d be hard pressed to find another modern game that looks like Overwatch 1, and that’s why the removal of any chance of replaying it is so shocking to diehard gamers.
Turn around and face the strange
Blizzard was quick to say that Overwatch 2 is a very different game from Overwatch 1, which doesn’t help soothe the sting of the original game’s departure. Game director Aaron Keller repeatedly called Overwatch “fundamentally changed” during a June interview on the Overwatch 2 free pattern. Keller wasn’t just referring to the new battle pass model (which the team says is necessary to deliver the kind of content flow players have been asking for for years), but the gameplay as a whole. Many, myself included, worry that this change will shift Overwatch 2 toward FPS mundaneness and away from the approach that made it so endearing about six years ago.
It’s hard not to feel like Blizzard’s fundamental changes are a mark of its ignorance towards what made Overwatch 1 so special. Whether this was willful or accidental ignorance is impossible to say, but the past few months have been filled with conflicting stances and bold statements from the studio that seem to contradict the essence of the original game.
Asked about locking heroes behind a battle pass and how that would affect the natural ebb and flow of Overwatch matches, Blizzard was quick to say they have data suggesting players don’t switch not often between heroes.
“If you look at the data, on how often people switch heroes and how many heroes they typically play at once, the majority of our players are playing a relatively small number of heroes,” Keller insisted during of a roundtable interview on September 13. “And as players get to a higher and higher skill level, the pool of heroes they play actually shrinks because it takes a long time to get a hero good at playing at that level. .” Jon Spector doubled down on that statement by saying that “the majority of Overwatch 1 players have the majority of their playtime on two heroes or less. And you can get 99.9% of the playtime for the majority of our players.” with 12 heroes or less.” I’ve reached out and asked to see the data in question, but have yet to hear back as of press time.
And just a week after the team uniformly chastised the idea of the average player trading heroes, Overwatch 2 announced hero trading rewards. A developer blog revealed (opens in a new tab) that each hero will get a passive ability that grants 30% ultimate charge for swapping characters. This comes after the beta only assigned this buff to DPS characters. But it’s hard not to feel a little enlightened (or at the very least, confused), after all, we’ve been told the data suggests players aren’t trading heroes in Overwatch 1, so why would Blizzard give there a bonus to those who do it in Overwatch 2? If you want to encourage the swapping that you don’t think is happening, then why lock some heroes behind battle pass tiers – or, in the case of new players, lock most of them behind time to Game ?
New player problem
Blizzard is being honest in their desire to attract new players with the drastic changes coming to Overwatch 2. Looking at their existing character redesigns and their new character kits, it’s obvious the team is leaning more towards the FPS aspects. of Overwatch in an attempt to court gamers of today’s popular FPS shooters. Switching Overwatch 2 to a 5v5 model and removing a tank makes matches much more reliant on high damage per second output. After the first beta, I wrote that it sucks to be an Overwatch 2 support playerbecause the faster, deadlier matches and the lack of a second protection tank made my job much harder.
Keller’s recent remarks make it very clear that the days of tactics and counters in Overwatch 1 are long gone: “We’ve made changes to reduce the number of hard counters in Overwatch, we want the game to be a bit more organic, we want people to have more impact. But we also want them to have more freedom as to which hero they choose for a particular situation. And again, new Overwatch 2 players will need to play 100 matches to unlock each character. Again, the messaging around the sequel is confusing at best and deliberately obtuse at worst.
None of this changes the fact that Overwatch 1 will be laid to rest on October 2, and those of us who wish to continue playing the franchise will have to play its sequel. And while I enjoyed my time with the Overwatch 2 beta and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the full game to some degree, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the original title. After all, Overwatch was a live service game before the live service game boom, a hero shooter that treated its heroes like weapons instead of focusing on the details of weapon and gunsmith builds. Now these heroes are stuck behind a battle pass, their talents blocked until you play more of this newer, faster game – or pay.
May Overwatch 1 live in our hearts forever. After all, heroes never die.
Might as well check all the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass details in advance.
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