Overwatch 2 launched a week ago, but if you're amongst the majority of Overwatch players, you probably haven't gotten much time to play it. Blizzard was hit with several DdoS attacks from October 4 until just as recently as late in the evening on October 10, which left many players at the mercy of lengthy queues and error codes. When you finally did get past the home screen, many reported issues with merging accounts and getting booted from games.
After several frustrating days where the game was unplayable, I managed to get a solid chunk of time with Overwatch 2 this past weekend. What I encountered was a lot of what I feared would happen as written in my Overwatch 2 review, and a few unexpected problems, along with confusing (and sometimes absent) communication from Blizzard. While there's no other game like Overwatch 2 at the moment, the litany of issues combined with some drastic changes makes it hard to be optimistic about its future.
For many, Overwatch 2 was unplayable for the first week post-launch. Attempts to log in on multiple platforms were met with queues that were thousands of players long, with many having to wait over an hour for that number to whittle down to zero. When it finally did, it often kicked you back to the start screen to re-queue again. I didn't get past the start screen until three days after launch, and I'm not alone in that regard.
When I finally managed to get into the game, I noticed my characters were curiously locked as if I was a new Overwatch player. I had all the skins I had earned for D.Va and other heroes, but couldn't play as them. Bizarrely enough, I could still play competitive mode, even though that's meant to be locked for new players until after they win 50 games. This issue was fixed within a day or so, but cropped back up again as recently as yesterday. Blizzard also had to remove both Torbjorn and Bastion from the game entirely after both characters displayed some game-breaking bugs - but didn't immediately announce they'd be removed, so players logged in and were initially confused that the two heroes were completely absent from the roster.
While the bugs, disconnects, and account merging issues are frustrating, Blizzard's communication has proven even more so. Despite having a direct line to PR and the devs, I struggled to get answers regarding my own experience with sever issues. It took Blizzard a day post-launch to offer an Overwatch 2 status update, and it didn't even acknowledge that some players had yet to get past the title screen at all. In-game updates throughout the weekend offered timeframes for server maintenance, but were also frustratingly vague - one promised players would be able to get back in if they were accidentally kicked during maintenance, but I never managed to make it past the title screen at any point within that window, and had nowhere to go for answers.
The social element
While I've spoken at length about how much the new 5v5 team composition lends itself to faster, more punishing play, it isn't until I get some proper post-launch time with Overwatch 2 that I discover more changes that feel antithetical to the original game's spirit. Looking for Group, a built-in matchmaking feature that allowed you to find players looking to play the same mode as you or those from similar backgrounds, is gone. That means that unless you can gather your existing online friends or some new IRL mates trying out Overwatch for the first time, you'll have to solo queue for games - which is always a crap shoot, but even more so in a game that's traditionally rooted in teamwork.
There's also very little opportunity to chat or endorse players at the end of every match. In Overwatch 1, you were given a handful of stats at the end of a match that showed off those with impressive kill streaks, high healing output, most damage blocked, and more. You could vote for one of the highlighted players; those with the most votes would get a little extra attention and satisfaction. This was a great place to give props to enemy players who performed especially well, or celebrate a great win by giving your DPS player all the props. It was during this time that you could also chat with your team for a few moments, giving you a chance to break down what worked and what didn't, or offer to squad up and keep playing together. None of this is available in Overwatch 2 - not only is the voting feature gone, but there is no post-game stat screen and an incredibly short period of time post-match that robs you of the chance to chat with your teammates.
You also can no longer endorse your teammates for specific reasons (Overwatch 1 let you endorse your squad members for sportsmanship, shot-calling, or being a good teammate), nor can you endorse enemy players. Throwing an endorsement to the enemy squad was a great show of sportsmanship after a particularly close fight, and giving your teammates specific endorsements let players communicate without having to actually use voice chat.
With endorsement, voting, and Looking for Group gone, Overwatch 2 doesn't give players enough tools to forge connections with new people or promote a healthy gaming environment. Instead, it feels like you're just meant to queue up alone in order to run lightning-fast matches with little downtime in between, and little to no opportunity to give props to your teammates or enemy players. It feels particularly soulless, and like it could potentially turn away new players to the series.
I prefer playing Overwatch 2 competitive mode, a historically toxic and occasionally frustrating game mode that hones in on the hyper-competitive aspects of the series - and it's rather rough in the sequel. Gameplay changes aside, the game's new ranking system leaves much to be desired. In Overwatch 2, you remain unranked until you get seven wins or 20 losses - whichever comes first. Your rank will only adjust after you get either one of those again, so I'm less-than-pleased when I win seven games in a row and am placed in Bronze 3, about as low as you can possibly go. This is due to the soft MMR reset that Blizzard warned players about, but it's still a bit of a shock - after all, I was a Platinum-ranked support player in Overwatch 1, so the adjustment is rather severe.
But the new ranking system appears to have another side effect: more quitters. While quitting will get you locked out of competitive play for a lengthy period of time (and eventually for good, if you quit enough), there's no rank punishment for quitting a game or two and getting dealt a loss. You'll need 20 of those to have any real effect on your rank, remember?
During the two days when I can actually play Overwatch 2, I encounter a competitive mode quitter every few matches on average. And when a player quits a competitive match, there's no backfill, so you'll have to play down a teammate.
If you want to quit rather than slog through a slower, unevenly matched battle, you have to wait for a timer to run out in order to avoid being penalized - if you quit after the timer runs out, you'll still get a loss, but won't face any game bans. As a result, I played nearly a dozen competitive matches where one player quit, and then 90 seconds later several more did, until all that was left were one or two frustrated players on each squad. It's important to note that, with so many players still getting disconnected from matches, there's no real way to know if the quitters are, in fact, quitting or are just getting booted off Overwatch 2's servers. But with fewer stakes in every competitive match, once one player falls, it's far more common for the entire team to collapse around them.
State of affairs
All of this makes Overwatch 2 an incredibly frustrating experience for a seasoned player, and likely a somewhat confusing one for newcomers. There are aspects of the sequel that seem tailored to hyper-competitive play, but no real way of connecting players within that sphere like there used to be. The changes to the ranking system also promote more toxicity in an already-toxic environment, which could further alienate new and returning players. And the litany of bugs, many of which rendered the game unplayable for days on end, aren't always clearly addressed by Blizzard, leaving so many of us in the dark.
Despite all of this, yes, I am still going to play Overwatch 2 - but that's because I have no other choice. Overwatch 1 is dead, but my love of hero shooters lingers, and I'm struggling to find anything to scratch that particular itch. Here's hoping that Blizzard can get through its pile of bugs and find ways to forge more connections in-game, because without these fixes Overwatch 2 could have a short shelf life - even with tried and true players like myself refusing to let it go.