Sombra grins

When "Overwatch" was released in 2016, it introduced players to a vibrant world that fused cartoon-like visuals with a vibrant cast of heavily stylized characters, each of which bring their own playstyle and flavor to the team shooter. It quickly rose in popularity to become a premiere first-person shooter that supported its own professional esport following and a dedicated player base. "Overwatch" received frequent updates of new heroes, maps, and limited-time modes, and eventually a proper sequel was announced in 2019 with a flashy cinematic trailer. In the years that followed, the developers slowly peeled back the curtain to give players a peek at what the new era of "Overwatch" would bring.

It was eventually announced that the release of "Overwatch 2" would completely replace the original, shutting that game down while carrying over players’ progress. Since fans would no longer be able to return to the classic "Overwatch," concerns were raised about the possible positives and negatives that the sequel’s changes would bring with it. Now that "Overwatch 2" has been released, its best and worst changes have started to be seen.

BEST: New Heroes

Overwatch 2 Junker Queen

The lifeblood of "Overwatch" updates are new heroes that help keep the meta fresh by introducing new playstyles, mechanics, and options for team compositions. With the release of "Overwatch 2" players are being treated to three brand-new heroes that each bring new elements to their respective roles. This means that whether players prefer to play Tank, DPS, or Support heroes they have a new hero to experiment with and learn. Traditionally new heroes are introduced one at a time, so the addition of three brand new heroes is sizable addition to the game’s roster and is a lot for players to learn at once.

Each of the new heroes also bring some fun new combat abilities. Sojourn is a nimble DPS hero that has a unique charging mechanic that builds up a more powerful railgun attack with her primary weapon fire. Junker Queen is an aggressive tank that can heal herself by routinely damaging enemy heroes. Finally, Kiriko is a highly mobile support hero that is capable of cleansing negative side effects for allies as well as healing them. These three characters and new playstyles bring some really fun new possibilities to the battlefield.

WORST: Heroes in the battle pass

Overwatch 2 Kiriko

Getting new heroes is great, but one of the most controversial elements of "Overwatch 2" is that it’s locking new heroes behind its seasonal battle pass. The new game’s season one battle pass that has 80 tiers for players to level up through. Unfortunately, Kiriko, for instance, is locked behind tier 55 of the free version of the battle pass. If players don’t want to wait to unlock the new character, they can instead buy the premium version of the battle pass to unlock her right away. Again, Kiriko can be used without unlocking her while playing in Quick Play, but fans have voiced a lot of concerns with this new system.

Not only do some fans feel cheated by having content that was previously given to all players for free locked behind either a pay wall or dozens of hours of play, but it also brings up concerns regarding the game’s balance. A large part of competitive play in "Overwatch" and "Overwatch 2" is seeing teams properly building their compositions to counter an enemy squad or perform particular strategies. It’s hard not to feel like you have to routinely buy a battle pass to keep up with the pack.

BEST: Adding cross-play and cross-progression

Overwatch 2 Zenyatta Sigma Sombra and Sojourn

Cross-play has started becoming a more common feature through the games industry, which allows friends to play together regardless of their platform of choice. Although cross-play was added to the first "Overwatch" in 2021, "Overwatch 2" has launched with it fully supported right away. Players also have the ability to opt out of cross-play, in case they would rather only play with gamers who are using the same input methods as them. This helps console players avoid playing with PC players, who often have more precise aiming while using a mouse.

"Overwatch 2" takes things one step further, however, and also introduces cross-progression to the mix. This allows players to access their cosmetics and purchases despite the platform they use to log in and play. This means that players can play on PC when they are home, then take a Switch with them on the go — all while playing on the same account. For players who originally had multiple versions of "Overwatch" on different platforms, there is also an option to combine accounts, which means all those cosmetics that have been unlocked on each platform? Yep, now they’re all in one place!

WORST: Removing Player Level

Overwatch 2 Junk Queen Slamming Weapon

In "Overwatch," players leveled up their account as they completed matches and earned experience. Every time that players leveled up, they were reworded with one loot box and new borders around their profile picture in matches. With the transition to "Overwatch 2," however, Blizzard announced that it would be removing player account levels all together. The dev’s reasoning for doing so was announced to partly be to prevent toxicity in matches, but also to put more of an emphasis on a player’s battle pass level.

While cutting down on player toxicity is always a great goal, especially when it comes to competitive online titles like "Overwatch 2," some fans have voiced issues with this new approach. Dedicated players spent hundreds of hours playing the first "Overwatch," and felt proud of the unique profile borders that were unlocked by reaching higher levels. Many players strove to reach goals as high as 500 or even in the thousands, but now that achievement is being stripped from their profiles with the transition to "Overwatch 2."

BEST: New Maps and modes

Overwatch 2 Hanzo Lucio and McCree escorting

Over the years since the launch of "Overwatch," players have become intimately familiar with its list of intricate maps. Each map is finely tuned around one game mode, complete with unique paths and sight lines to support certain strategies and compositions. These map all offer a slightly different gameplay experience, and the release of "Overwatch 2" comes with eight new maps that each bring new environments and tactical options to matches. Given how much detail usually goes into "Overwatch" maps, the newest additions could also include pieces of the world and new information that players haven’t had the time to explore and discover yet.

Along with new maps, "Overwatch 2" also introduces a new game mode called Push. This game mode spawns both teams at the end of a path with a large robot at the center. Whichever team controls the robot can push it toward the other team’s barricade. The winning team is the one that "pushes" the team’s protective barrier the furthest distance. Push is the first new team-based mode that "Overwatch" has received in a long time, and the new experience that it brings to the series is an exciting addition. Even veteran "Overwatch" players have had largely positive responses to the new mode.

WORST: Waiting on PvE content

Overwatch 2 PvE robot enemies

Blizzard initially announced that "Overwatch 2" would offer an expansive co-op experience that pitted players against AI enemies. The developers stated that the PvE experience would also continuously add to the ongoing narrative of "Overwatch" and its world, fleshing out its characters in fun new ways. Interestingly, the mode was also said to feature a system that would allow players to upgrade and customize each of the game’s heroes with different modifiers, ability upgrades, and more. However, it was eventually announced that the PvE mode would be pushed back to 2023, meaning only the multiplayer aspects of "Overwatch 2" are available at launch.

The lack of PvE content at release has unfortunately added to the feeling from fans that "Overwatch 2" plays more like a big update for "Overwatch" rather than a proper sequel. "Overwatch" did feature PvE modes in seasonal events, which acted as either fun holiday-themed distractions — like Halloween’s Junkenstein’s Revenge — or filled in gaps in the game’s backstory. These modes were well received enough for players to want a standalone full PvE mode to play all the time. Having to wait for its arrival when the game is technically out already has proven to be extremely disappointing for players who hoped for something totally new out of the gate.

BEST: Hero Tweaks

Overwatch 2 D.Va

Alongside the addition of new players, the "Overwatch" meta is kept in a near constant flux due to frequent hero changes. Some heroes, like Symmetra, have seen huge changes over the years, and "Overwatch 2" brings with it a wide array of hero tweaks and overhauls. Like previous changes the scope of these vary widely. While some heroes got small balance adjustments, some got larger changes, like Doomfist jumping from a DPS hero to a Tank. These tweaks are necessary because of some of the larger changes to gameplay made by "Overwatch 2," but they also make some familiar heroes feel brand new again.

These changes are particularly welcome for some characters who have gone a while without seeing frequent playtime in recent seasons. Heroes like Bastion and Mei were drastically transformed to fulfill similar roles on the battlefield. The game also seems to be largely moving away from crowd control and stun-based hero abilities, like Mei’s power to freeze enemies or Brigitte’s shield charge stunning those it hits. Fans are largely still debating the impacts of these changes, but they will definitely change how players compose their teams in the future. And the fact that these adjustments can so drastically alter tried and true strategies is exciting.

WORST: The erasure of Overwatch 1

Overwatch Wrecking Ball

The day before the full launch of "Overwatch 2," the servers for the original game were shut down, and players bid farewell to "Overwatch." Players who had the first game had to download a large update that converted it to "Overwatch 2," while new adopters can only download the sequel from its first-party game launcher. It is not entirely unreasonable that Blizzard Entertainment did not want to support both titles and maintain servers for both. However, it is very disappointing that the "Overwatch" that fans know, and love is now gone.

Fans have voiced a lot of disappointment towards this aspect of "Overwatch 2," especially those who aren’t completely convinced by the sequel’s gameplay changes. Now, it is possible to recapture some of that old "Overwatch" feeling. It’s worth noting that players can set up six-player teams using custom game servers. Of course, those very players may have a hard time finding people to fill out their matches, and there’s no way to change the abilities of heroes so that they play the way they did when they were balanced for "Overwatch 1."

Maybe Blizzard Entertainment will explore a classic version of "Overwatch," much like the company did with "World of Warcraft Classic," or else make updates to the sequel that bring it more in line with the original. However, that’s just wishful thinking at this point. For now, fans are forced to move on to "Overwatch 2" if they want any "Overwatch" experience at all.

BEST: The move to 5v5 matches

Overwatch 2 Season 1 Genji Legendary Skin Reward

The most comprehensive change brought about by the release of "Overwatch 2" is its shift from teams of six players to teams of only five. This change not only removes one tank from both teams, but is also the primary motivation for many of the balance changes to heroes in the sequel. This massive change has sparked a lot of discussion amongst fans between whether it is ultimately better or worse for the game, with great cases being made for both sides.

One great aspect of the change is that it has made way for a range of new strategies and possibilities for players to figure out. Only having one tank means the removal of a lot of the more popular compositions from the first game’s metas. It should be very interesting to see how the new game’s meta shakes out as players get more comfortable with the changes. Some fans have also voiced praise for the switch to 5v5 because it enables players to feel like they have a greater impact on the battlefield. The smaller team size can help games to feel less chaotic, making it easier for players to keep track of everything and work together as the team-based game encourages them to.

WORST: The move to 5v5 matches

Overwatch 1 Cassidy Mei Baptiste

Although the change to 5v5 matches does bring some exciting new possibilities, it also carries some potential negatives. There are many concerns that fans have voiced regarding the changes. For one thing, reducing teams to one tank takes away many of the compositions that players liked using. Popular combos, like Zarya putting a shield on a charging Reinhardt, are now completely removed from the game (unless you’re playing in a custom game that allows for two tanks). The shift also requires all tanks in the game to be able to function completely on their own, effectively erasing the off-tank playstyle from team compositions.

Another large concern with the change is how future updates might impact it. Having only one tank on a team theoretically makes the game’s balancing a bit more vulnerable to unbalanced tanks dominating the meta when new characters are added. Some tank players are also concerned that they will be pressured by other players to only play the few tanks that are thought to be the best at the time.

It remains to be seen how "Overwatch 2" will be viewed by the fanbase now that it’s out for everyone, but some fans have gone so far as to say that "Overwatch" has lost something very special with the switch to 5v5.