Everything we know about Overwatch 2 so far: PvE, new maps, hero changes and more
Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Here’s everything we know about Overwatch’s upcoming sequel, and why we think separating its PvP and PvE content is a good idea.
We’re entering our third year since Overwatch 2’s big reveal at BlizzCon 2019, and things are finally ramping up towards the game’s launch. We still don’t have a release date, but with a closed beta kicking off in April, it can’t be too far off now. That makes this a pretty good time to recount everything we know about Overwatch 2 so far, including all its gameplay changes and new content.
Here’s everything we know about Overwatch 2:
This is kind of a weird sequel
Overwatch 2 adds a ton of new content to the 2016 hit shooter, and that isn’t limited to PvP multiplayer content. The game is getting an all-new PvE story mode inspired by in-game seasonal events like Archives and Halloween Terror that pit players against AI bots. This story mode can be considered entirely separate from the game’s existing PvP content, consisting of unique progression systems that won’t carry over. You’ll be able to upgrade and alter Hero Ultimates in PvE for example, but not in PvP.
Overwatch suffered from a scarcity of content even before Overwatch 2 was announced, and that situation has only gotten worse since. The game began as a multiplayer game, so it’s fair to say that most players are looking forward to getting new PvP content above all. Thankfully, the wait is almost over. Overwatch 2 will launch with enough content to bring players old and new back into the fray: new maps, new Heroes, new game modes and lots of changes to an increasingly stale meta.
Here’s what separates Overwatch 2 from the traditional multiplayer sequel: all of its new PvP content is free for players who already own the first game. This means you won’t have to pay a cent for all the new heroes, maps, modes and reworks introduced to the competitive scene in Overwatch 2. This content will simply be a juggernaut of a patch to the first game, but you will miss out on graphical overhauls coming via the sequel’s new engine. The base game will look slightly worse, but the content drop will be the same.
Well, not exactly the same. The main thing you’re paying for with Overwatch 2, besides the graphical update using its new engine, is the PvE content. Until now, the game’s story has mostly played out via flashbacks, comics and cinematics all leading up to the broken-up Overwatch team finally reforming in the modern day. There’s a lot to look forward to now that this stagnancy is coming to an end. Characters who share complex histories with one another are finally meeting or reuniting in the face of a second Omnic War.
Overwatch 2’s new campaign is the first time this story has moved forward since Winston called the Overwatch team back together eight years ago. We’ll talk more about that campaign in a bit.
Five by five
The biggest PvP change by far is that Overwatch teams are slimming down from 6v6 to 5v5 matches. Teams in the base game currently consist of two Damage heroes, two Tank heroes and two Support heroes. One Tank is getting removed from the equation entirely, in an effort to streamline combat and allow players to keep track of matches more easily. It’s not so simple as just cutting a Tank from every team, however. Heroes across the board are going to need some rebalancing to keep up with this change.
In Overwatch 2, Tanks will be better classified as brawlers. They need a little damage boost to support an entire team on their own and survive, which means that most Tank heroes are getting changes that let them play more aggressively. When this change was first announced, Blizzard highlighted a few examples: Reinhardt can now cancel his Charge and has two Fire Strikes, Winston’s gun has an alternate fire mode and Zarya has two Particle Barrier and Projected Barrier charges. While not every Tank is getting more damage, most Tanks are getting more health to work with.
In-game maps are also changing a bit in accordance to the new team makeups, with extra cover objects scattered around objectives. We’ll have to wait until Overwatch League starts incorporating these changes to see the full impact of Overwatch 2’s new 5v5 teams, but we can generally expect Tanks to have more agency in combat now. Seeing as Tanks are currently the least popular Hero class in the game to use, this could be a good change.
Overwatch is getting a much-needed ping system! To lessen the necessity of using voice chat, Blizzard is adding a whole new ping system that functions very similarly to Apex Legends. Players will be able to call out enemies simply by pressing a button while they’re within your line of sight. The enemies’ position will then be clearly marked on the map, unless they leave the player’s line of sight. Expect a host of new voice lines to be added to the game with this feature, as Heroes now have to clearly call out other Heroes to their team.
Holding down the ping button will also open up a wheel that allows you to inform teammates whether you’re attacking, defending or need some help. These features are currently in the communication wheel already, but you’ll now activate a ping on your Hero by using them. Teammates can also respond to ‘Group up’ or ‘I need healing’ callouts using this system, allowing you to build up a rapport with your team without even having to touch voice chat.
In case a teammate’s pings start getting out of control, you’ll also be able to mute all their pings to prevent spam.
Hero changes/new heroes
Overwatch revolves around its colourful cast of playable Heroes, and that roster is expanding with the upcoming sequel. We haven’t had a new Hero added to the game since March 2020, which gave us Echo. The exact number of new Heroes available in Overwatch 2 at launch is currently unknown, but we do know the identity of Hero 33: Sojourn. The Canadian Hero first popped up during the Archives event Storm Rising, guiding players through a mission as part of the Overwatch team.
Sojourn is a Damage Hero who comes with a railgun, which has two firing modes. The railgun can be fired automatically or in more powerful single shots, somewhat like Widowmaker’s sniper - but with more on-the-fly damage. Her Ultimate ability acts as a personal buff, rapidly regenerating her ammo. Seeing as the single shots eat up a ton of ammo all at once, this Ultimate lets her dish out a lot more damage quickly. We don’t know much about her other two abilities, other than one of them possibly allowing her to slide across the ground using boosters. We've broken down everything she can do here.
Sojourn will be playable in Overwatch 2’s upcoming closed beta, so it’s only a matter of time before more information on the Hero comes to light. Expect the sequel to also feature more than one new playable Hero at launch, since Blizzard has hinted at dropping new Heroes in batches moving forward. Other Heroes will be getting big changes as well, and not just to fit the new one-Tank 5v5 team compositions. For example, Doomfist is switching from Damage to Tank in the sequel with retooled abilities. All Healers will get Mercy’s passive healing ability.
Sombra is also getting some meaningful changes that will let her be more aggressive in combat. Her hacking ability now has a three-second cooldown and makes enemies take 50% more damage for eight seconds. Her Ultimate will also damage enemies by up to 40% of their health. Bastion is getting overhauled too, with his self-repairing ability and Tank-transforming Ultimate ability disappearing completely. Bastion’s Ultimate ability now turns him into a mortar cannon that can rain down three explosive shells on the map. He can also move while in Sentry mode, which sounds like a nightmare, but keep in mind how vulnerable the robot now is without his healing ability. Still... a Gatling gun on the move? That will be quite the sight.
Mei also can’t freeze enemies anymore, which means a whole lot less frustration for players constantly getting sniped by icicles. As you can already tell, these aren’t just minor Hero changes meant to tweak the meta a bit. They’re major overhauls that are going to freshen up the PvP experience by making you play Heroes in new ways, and that’s exactly what we’d want from a sequel to Overwatch.
This is the big one: new maps. Maps are a big part of Overwatch 2’s new content drop, exploring more regions in the game’s futuristic vision of Earth. So far, these are all the new maps we know of:
Gothenburg is an Assault map based in Sweden, so of course, it has something to do with our favourite Swedish tinkerer. You’ll be able to find Torbjorn’s workshop in this idyllic seaside map, which somewhat resembles Rialto. While this map was originally revealed at BlizzCon 2019, its current state is unknown. In February 2021, Blizzard revealed that Two-Capture-Point Assault maps like Hanamura and Horizon Lunar Colony would be retired from Competitive Mode (this is already in effect), and no future Assault maps would be introduced to the game.
We haven’t seen Gothenburg mentioned since, so one should assume that the map is currently being reworked to be something other than an Assault map.
A new map set in Toronto, Canada is coming and it’s winter-themed. You’ll find lots of snow, maple trees, a hotel and a Tim Hortons rip-off cafe named Tim Fordsons, the authenticity of which we’re sure Canadians will appreciate. This is a Push map, playable in a specific new game mode that we’ll talk about in a bit.
For those with an eye for luxury, enter Monte Carlo. You’ll find this map positively littered with posh interiors (walls made of gold!), flying yachts, pools and racetracks. It’s a hedonistic wonderland so come on in, the water’s fine.
Rio de Janeiro
Here’s another map connected to one of Overwatch’s Heroes. The new Rio map is all about colourful buildings and good music. As you push a payload taking the form of a giant peacock, you’ll enter Club Sinestesia, a nightclub frequented by Lucio whenever he decides to drop a beat. There’s also a classy restaurant and for the first time, an explorable beach?
Perhaps the least surprising but no less welcome addition is New York City. Overwatch’s futuristic version of New York takes some familiar landmarks and remixes them with flying cars and new technology. You’ll find the Grand Central Station on this map, with paths that can take teams out to the streets for flanking or healing. You can also find a train, but navigating that cramped space during a big battle is going to be a nightmare - unless you’re Reinhardt, in which case you now have a whole lot of bowling pins lined up in front of you.
When in Rome, don’t forget to heal. This Push map features a stunningly recreated version of the iconic Colosseum along with sparkling fountains, beautiful sunsets, statues of ancient Roman gods and posters advertising a big competitive match-up.
We know very little about this map thus far, besides the fact that it’s set in India. Hopefully, more information will come in the leadup to Overwatch 2’s release. It should be noted that some of these maps will appear in both PvP and PvE modes, but they'll take slightly different forms. Maps will have weather effects and semi-destructible buildings in Story Mode, according to the sequel's original gameplay reveal.
New game mode: Push
Overwatch 2 is adding an entirely new game mode to PvP called Push. This will be playable in both Quick Play and Competitive, with unique new maps such as Toronto and Rome. Teams will start a match from opposite sides of a map, after which they will fight their way towards a friendly robot in the center. The objective is to ‘push’ the robot much like a payload, as the robot moves towards the enemy team’s side of the map. As long as the robot is in enemy territory by the end of a match, your team wins.
Here’s the important bit: everything we have listed above will be completely free of charge to anyone who already owns a copy of Overwatch. If you’re only interested in PvP multiplayer, your best bet is to just sit tight and wait for all this new multiplayer content to come flowing towards you. Blizzard recently announced that it would be ‘decoupling’ Overwatch 2’s PvP and PvE content, with PvP content now on an accelerated release schedule. This means that the sequel is basically getting delayed, with the paid PvE content making up the bulk of its launch content later on. The PvP content is now more than ever, just one big update to the base game.
Overwatch 2 is getting PvE Left 4 Dead-style story missions! These missions will be similar to the game’s Archives missions, with four-player teams fighting through a map of hostile Talon and Null Sector operatives. The Null Sector operatives are robots, seen in Overwatch’s Uprising event, while Talon operatives are humanoid with special abilities as seen in Overwatch’s Retribution and Storm Rising events.
The PvE content is spread across Hero and Story Missions. You play through Story Missions as you make your way through the campaign, while Hero Missions are more focused on replayability. In Hero Missions, you’ll also have access to a new Talent system that acts as a skill tree unique to each hero. As you progress through the Talent system, you’ll unlock perks that act as permanent ability buffs. Tracer might be able to damage enemies just by Blinking through them for example, while Torbjorn’s turrets can be equipped with flamethrowers.
You’ll also be able to pick up items on the fly, such as throwable grenades or barriers to place on the ground. These items come in different tiers of rarity. Each Hero is also getting visually redesigned for Overwatch 2 to better fit the game’s present-day setting. These are basically new ‘basic’ skins to add to your collection, but we can safely assume that many more Legendary and Rare skins are in the works for your favourite Heroes too.
This is a tricky one. Blizzard has yet to set a firm release date for Overwatch 2, but we now know that its PvP content will arrive sooner rather than later. The game enters its closed beta in April, which means that release day is not too far away now. Expect to play the sequel’s PvP content in Late 2022 at the earliest, and the PvE content to arrive sometime after that.
Overwatch 2 will launch on all platforms that support the first game, which includes the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Next-gen releases for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S have not been confirmed.