The announcement was in the air. And yet, we experienced a strong emotion when Overwatch 2 was finally officially revealed. Certainly, the shouts and cheers from the crowd that made the Anaheim Convention Center tremble helped to create a celebratory mood, and the announcement was the icing on the cake of a rather good convention, probably the best BlizzCon of the last five years.
So, after seeing the trailer and some gameplay, we rushed to the Overwatch area of the event, where we managed to experience the PvE component of this highly anticipated sequel. In fact, the choice to dedicate the BlizzCon 2019 demo to the non-competitive component of Overwatch 2 is more than reasonable; PvE is the real novelty of a sequel that seems to give much more space to the story and, in general, to the mythology of the Overwatch universe.
The level we played is set in Rio, Brazil, a city that - as expected - is presented here as both ultramodern and colourful. We are facing an invasion of robots in Lucio's homeland which, of course, we must stop at any cost. Our favourite rollerblading DJ joins Tracer, Reinhardt and Mei to fight the robotic threat, and that's how we discovered the first novelty of this new PvE mode: the characters are fixed for each mission.
In fact, at the beginning of the level, the group of players is asked to choose one of the four available characters, and there is no way to select others. It is a choice dictated by the strengthened narrative component, which implies the presence of a well-defined group of characters, introduced by the bombastic cinematics that the studio is known for. From this point of view, there is no doubt that the cinematic directors at Blizzard are working at the top of their game and are capable of creating exciting cut scenes where they are able to tell stories even in the face of rather action-packed sequences. In fact, the presence of these cinematics is one of the reasons why Overwatch has become Overwatch 2 - the new graphics engine introduced the technology necessary to create non-interactive sequences that we're told will play a huge role the PvE portion of the game.
After the engaging introductory movie, the player is asked to make a choice; we must decide which secondary ability to assign to our character. This is also a novelty because the characters will have passive abilities that determine some important changes to the way they play and it implies a certain degree of customisation of the hero. Tracer, for example, can activate a perk that reloads weapons when using a secondary ability or, alternatively, can upgrade her Ultimate. The player, therefore, must choose whether to make Tracer more effective in terms of DPS, or more useful during the critical phases of the game. This degree of character customisation - which also extends to PvP - really seems like a good way to encourage players to try every single Overwatch 2 hero, significantly prolonging the game's longevity.
Secondly, on the battlefield, it is possible to collect objects that will turn into abilities. For example, we can collect an instrument that generates a healing field similar to that of Soldier 76, or a Torbjörn-style turret; these skills have very long cooldown times but can prove to be crucial at certain times in the game. In fact, even though we played on the lowest difficulty of the two available, in some situations our group was put to the test. We believe that the Elite difficulty will challenge even the most close-knit groups of players.
These innovations surround the same gunplay as the first Overwatch; we didn't notice any difference in terms of the feeling of the weapons and the movement of the characters. Overwatch 2, in other words, is identical to the original game in many respects. Indeed, the developer seems to have retained the essence of what made Overwatch great, adding features that only seem to improve the final impression.
So, after having freed a night club and stopped a horde of robots on the streets of Rio De Janeiro, we boarded our spaceship and headed out to a compound where we faced a boss fight. At certain points, this phase reminded us (in a good way) of the raids in Destiny 2, and it was really fun to coordinate with our companions in order to stop a giant robot, while two of us attacked a nucleus to trigger an explosion in the compound and destroy the last remaining undamaged robots.
A final video left us with bated breath, and the level ended with a huge cliffhanger and a "to be continued" that left us with a desire to find out how the story will continue. It is not, however, an episodic campaign, and the developer has assured us that the missions in Overwatch 2 will all be available at the time the game is released and we will find a complete story at launch.
This part of the game, called Story Missions, is the counterpart to the Hero Missions, which are dedicated to the individual heroes of Overwatch 2 and which aim to deepen the lore of each character. These missions will have a high degree of replay value and will push players to discover the hidden side of each hero. A choice that, perhaps, will prompt players to look again at even their least liked characters and re-evaluate them.
Although it is too early to pass judgment on Overwatch 2, we can't hide our enthusiasm for the PvE component, which seemed like an inspired addition and was very fun to play. Blizzard strongly believes in Overwatch's lore, and with this second episode, the universe of this colourful shooter will become even more profound and intricate. We are, therefore, very happy with this first taste, and we look forward to finding out when Overwatch 2 will launch.