The Overwatch 2 Halloween event is here, and with it comes the sequel's first attempt at PvE and its first collection of event-specific rewards and cosmetics. After Overwatch 2 launched earlier in October with myriad issues, a lack of communication, and lamentations about the cost of the battle pass and other cosmetics, there's a lot riding on Overwatch 2 Halloween Terror.
And while I can confirm that the new Junkenstein’s Revenge: Wrath of the Bride mode is more than just a simple reskin of the old, oft-repeated Junkenstein’s Revenge from Overwatch 1, it's impossible to ignore the state of the game's shop and skins. There's a stark difference between getting free event skins through playing (how Overwatch 1 handled things) and getting pricey event skins through paying. And unfortunately, it seems like the sting of the latter won't soften anytime soon.
A good kind of fright
Junkenstein’s Revenge: Wrath of the Bride is fresh and fun, which may surprise long-time Overwatch players. The original Junkenstein's Revenge was repeated ad nauseum with only slight adjustments since it first launched in 2017, and players were nervous that the new Overwatch 2 mode would be similarly recycled – especially when the trailer for the mode appeared to show old, or at least familiar, footage. But Wrath of the Bride is an entirely different beast, with multiple checkpoints laid out across a reworked Eichenwalde map, uniquely challenging bosses, and new gameplay elements that we've never seen before in Overwatch PvE.
Wrath of the Bride begins with you jumping into Eichenwalde as either Sojourn, Ashe, Junker Queen, or Kiriko. You have to immediately break down a barricade to reunite with your fellow survivors at the tavern, which is already a new kind of gameplay feature (and there are several). The mode is narrated the entire time and is occasionally in black-and-white, which adds a fun layer of immersion to the experience, and the characters chat back and forth about the spooky goings-on. Zomnics swarm you as you try and make your way to the castle to figure out what the hell is going on, and each section has a mini-boss you'll need to face.
The map is used to its full potential here, which is drastically different from the OG Junkenstein's Revenge that took place in the same damned Eichenwalde choke point. Easy little puzzles task you with exploring areas you'd normally only venture to for a health pack when playing traditional Overwatch matches, and the castle itself has been greatly expanded to include extra rooms filled with nasties waiting to attack.
There's also a few great jumpscares scattered throughout Wrath of the Bride that genuinely got me, which only made playing the mode more fun. Those jumpscares introduce the mini-bosses, which offer some great combat variety (the gargoyle Winstons are especially difficult, and when combined with a Symmetra are downright dastardly). And even though my first run had two quitters, forcing me and Kiriko to get through the mode on our own, there's definitely some replayability, especially if you want to keep climbing the difficulty ladder. Overwatch hasn't done anything like this before, so it's great to see the team experimenting a bit with its PvE format.
Scary stories to sell in the dark
But the scariest part of Overwatch 2's Halloween Terror event is the price of cosmetics. Old skins that were once available in free-to-earn loot boxes in Overwatch 1 are being hawked for close to $20, while some of the most sought-after skins can only be bought in bundles. The Defenders of the Castle bundle includes one of my favorite Symmetra skins and other Halloween-themed skins for Bastion, Sigma, and Winston. It costs 3,300 Overwatch coins, but since you can only buy Overwatch coins in groups of 500 ($5), 1000 ($10), 2,200 ($20), 5,700 ($50), or 11,600 ($100), you can't even buy the exact amount of coins needed for the bundle – you'll have to spend more.
The new Legendary Witch Kiriko skin featured in Wrath of the Bride comes in a bundle that'll cost you about $25 out of pocket (or 2600 coins), and you can't buy the skin separately. Confusingly, however, you can buy the new Legendary Junker Queen skin separately, but unless you've got the odd 1900 Overwatch coins lying around, you'll have to shell out at least $5 (if you have some coins) and at most $20 for it. And to make matters even more confounding, the Warlock Ashe skin from Wrath of the Bride is available in the shop in a 2200-coin bundle, while the Sojourn skin from the mode is nowhere to be found. Apparently, it was in the shop last week.
Then, there are the event awards, which are abysmal when compared to what Overwatch 1 players would get for playing during special events. Back then, you'd earn loot boxes just for signing in during an event and rack up even more as you played. Inside those loot boxes would be various cosmetics, coins, and occasionally one of the event-specific skins. If you played enough during these special events, you could easily get a handful of the skins just by sheer loot box luck and by earning enough coins within those boxes to buy them flat-out.
Overwatch 2 is nothing like that: the event-specific rewards are earned by completing specific challenges (not just playing matches or the new mode), and what you can earn is lackluster, to say the least. Weapon charms, sprays, a name card, some voice lines, and battle pass points – but not enough battle pass points to make a tangible difference in your progression (you can only earn enough to go up one tier). There is no way to earn skins through playing.
Halloween Terror is our first glimpse at what we can expect from the larger Overwatch 2 PvE experience that's set to drop sometime next year – and that glimpse is really promising. The new mode is inspired and the team is clearly taking risks, which is all we can hope for with a full-blown sequel promising a rich experience outside of PvP matchmaking. But the event also exposes the predatory monetization that myself and others have been worried about since Overwatch 2 was announced as a free-to-play title. The skins are expensive, the event rewards are weak, and grinding the new mode won't make you any real progress in the battle pass. Overwatch 2's free-to-play problems continue to haunt players.