The biggest new feature of Overwatch 2 is fully featured co-op PvE play, and making that work means changes are in store for the heroes we know.
Since the fundamentals of Overwatch were built for PvP, the team working on Overwatch 2 PvE is leaving no assumptions unquestioned. That goes for everything from user interface to sound design to camera movements. Making sure each character feels good when you're fighting AI instead of players is especially key, as Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan tells me at a preview event for the new Echo character.
"Winston's an incredibly fun character to play in PvP but in PvE he's currently not, because he just has a very low level damage over time attack and it's not super exciting," Kaplan says. "So we're starting to think about, if it was just a single-player game of Winston fighting robots, how do you make Winston feel amazing? It's really fun for us to revisit not just Echo, but every one of our heroes with that in mind."
Many games with both PvE and PvP elements, such as Destiny and World of Warcraft, try to make both sides feel as consistent with the other as possible. Overwatch 2 will not: "So far our philosophy is actually very different, and it's to tune PvE to feel great for PvE. What we don't want to do is have a character that works entirely [differently]."
Mercy will not be blasting robots with a shotgun. She won't even be "beaming people to death" in PvE modes, unless she unlocks that with some wacky talent. If you've played the first game's limited-time co-op modes, you've already seen a bit of that philosophy in action. Certain abilities have their damage adjusted in co-op, and the AI can even cheat in the player's favor by making everybody shoot at Genji as soon as he uses Deflect.
It's all about preserving the heroic fantasy, as Kaplan explains by way of a lackluster experience he had with Bastion's tank form in a recent playtest.
"I'm like, 'Look guys, the fantasy - what's gonna feel right - is I should be one-shotting all this stuff. I guarantee those robots aren't gonna go to the forums and complain about it. They're not gonna make posts that say Bastion's ultimate is way overpowered."
See what else is on the way with our guide to the upcoming games of 2020 and beyond.