Overwatch 2‘s rumored 2020 release date has come and gone, and players still don’t have the sequel in their hands. Announced at BlizzCon 2019, Blizzard has slowly released details about Overwatch 2, including showing off concept art for new maps and letting streamers sit down to play the game.
Although we still don’t have a release date or any concrete details on pre-orders, Blizzard has still revealed a lot about Overwatch 2, with even more details coming from the recent BlizzConline this February. Until the next event gives us new details to work with, here’s everything we know about Overwatch 2.
Before getting into everything we know, let’s set the stage. Above is the official Overwatch 2 gameplay trailer that covers some elements of the story and co-op, as well as introduces a new hero. Enjoy.
Overwatch 2 is, naturally, a sequel to 2016’s Overwatch. It’s not an entirely new game, though. In many ways, Overwatch 2 is a huge, stand-alone expansion for Overwatch. You don’t need the base game to play the sequel, but players with either version will play online together.
In short, Overwatch 2 expands the universe with PvE modes, adding some story-driven content to the game. From what we understand, this new way to play is exclusive to Overwatch 2. Everything else is shared between the base game and the sequel. All new characters, maps, and PvP modes will make their way to Overwatch, and players from both versions of the game will enter matchmaking together. We still have a lot of questions about how this will work, especially given that Overwatch 2 has some significant graphical improvements. Blizzard hasn’t said anything yet, though.
Blizzard announced Overwatch 2 in the opening ceremony of BlizzCon 2019. Although the development team showed off some new content, game director Jeff Kaplan said that he has “no idea” when it will release. At the time, Kaplan said that Blizzard doesn’t “have a date in a mind,” and that’s still true today.
Blizzard still refused to give us a firm release date for Overwatch 2 at 2021’s BlizzCon event. The only news we got regarding the game’s launch was confirmation that it won’t be coming this year. At the earliest, that leaves 2022 as the release year for the anticipated sequel, but that’s all the news we were given so far.
The latest scrap of official information we got came from a Q2 2021 earnings call from Activision Blizzard. In this call, it was said that Overwatch 2 had “passed an important internal milestone in recent weeks.” What the milestone was is anyone’s guess, but they finished up the topic of this game by stating, “After a great response to the recent community update, the team is looking forward to revealing more of the game in the coming months as they approach the later stages of production.” While specific release dates rarely come out of sales calls like this, often release windows are mentioned, such as what quarter or financial year a game will come out, but nothing of the sort was mentioned here.
Not long after the call, rumors came out that suggest Overwatch 2 won’t be coming out in 2022 either. Granted, these are rumors, so take them with a grain of salt. A leaker named Metro on Twitter claimed that, speaking to multiple people familiar with the development of the game, the game is taking longer than they initially thought. “From what I can gather a release in 2022 does not seem likely anymore. I hope this is false and I’m proven wrong.” He followed up this tweet with another stating, “That being said, if it turns out to be true, RIP OW no way the game will be alive for another year and a half without major updates.”
While these two bits of news may seem to contradict each other, Metro further elaborated on the situation during a livestream where he was quoted as stating, “From what I’ve gathered the (new) heroes are done mostly. They have a basic single-player campaign completely done, basically. They also have the (new) maps done for multiplayer. The thing they have not done is they did not consider anything in terms of reworking heroes.”
If that’s the case, then the team has potentially over 30 characters they need to rework and rebalance for Overwatch 2, which could make both stories make sense. The team may have completed the milestone of finishing up the new heroes, maps, and campaign, but are still a long way off due to having to rework all the existing heroes. Again, this is all speculation and rumors at this point.
Overwatch 2 gameplay
Although we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on Overwatch 2 yet, some players have. YouTuber ohnickel was allowed to stream nearly two hours of gameplay from the BlizzCon 2019 show floor. And, unsurprisingly, the game looks great.
During the 2021 BlizzCon event, we got a look at a new talent system that shows each character having their own abilities and skill trees to unlock. Odds are this will be specific to the PvE modes of the game, but it may show up in traditional multiplayer as well.
Outside of the new heroes and maps, gameplay will largely remain very familiar to anyone who knows Overwatch. Teams of heroes, now limited to 5 players per team, will go head to head in various game modes utilizing their various weapons, abilities, and ultimate abilities. Since the original game has to be compatible with the sequel, we don’t expect the base experience to change, but rather be added upon.
Overwatch 2 multiplayer: Cross-game play, loot boxes, and new game modes
Overwatch 2′s multiplayer PvP environment is simply an extension of the first game. When playing competitively, all players will operate in the same ecosystem, regardless of the game version they have. Blizzard will add new PvP content to Overwatch, creating a centralized system for all players.
We don’t know how this will look, however. You may need an external account, but that seems unlikely given Blizzard’s dedication to maintaining the current Overwatch ecosystem. We know that players with both versions of the game will play together. However, we don’t know if players on other platforms will play together.
This centralized approach also affects cosmetics. All of your cosmetics from the first game will transfer to Overwatch 2. Although Blizzard isn’t releasing any new heroes for the base game until the sequel launches, the cosmetic factory is still in full swing. Even now, you can rest assured that if you earn rewards from loot boxes, you’ll have them in Overwatch 2.
Overwatch has been at the center of the controversy surrounding loot boxes, though they may not be present in the second entry. In an interview with PCGamesN, Overwatch 2 game director Jeff Kaplan had this to say: “Well, we have made a lot of changes to loot boxes and how they work over the years, so we’re definitely open to change. Overwatch 2, in terms of business model, we’re exploring different options that move us away from loot boxes…” In the same interview, Kaplan mentioned a battle pass, though not as a direct replacement for loot boxes.
Overwatch 2 will bring a few new multiplayer game modes, but we only know about one: Push. Essentially, two teams each have a robot pushing a barrier to the other side of the map. If you push back the enemy team far enough, the barrier will move forward and vice versa. Push is a bit of a riff on Escort, except both teams have payloads they need to protect.
Frankly, it looks excellent. The focus on two central points opens up a lot of possibilities. Sure, you’re going to encounter a firefight around each barrier. However, you can use that to your advantage to hang back and attack from a different angle.
In a very controversial move, especially among the competitive scene, Blizzard has chosen to change one of the core dynamics of Overwatch in the sequel by reducing team sizes from 6 players to just 5. The game’s director, Aaron Keller, claims this change was to help simplify the game that can have “a lot going on” and make it easier for players to know what’s happening and what they should be doing. During a live stream, Keller said, “Overwatch has changed over time,” Keller said during the livestream. “We’ve gone from having no hero limits at all in the game, to having a hero limit. We ended up introducing a role lock over the course of the game. And we feel like this is the next step in the way that Overwatch ought to be played.”
Along with the change from 6v6 to 5v5, teams will also be limited to only one tank character per team. On this, Keller said, “Tanks can be problematic. A [damage-per-second] hero is simple — they’re shooting. But a tank has abilities that can be noisy, or when stacked with other tanks can cause problems for other teams to try to overcome and counter.”
Finally, besides just the addition of new maps to keep things fresh, Overwatch 2’s maps will also include a system called Environment States. This will give maps a new feel each time you play by implementing different weather effects and time of day. That means one match may see you playing a certain map during the night, or another during a snowstorm or desert map during a sandstorm.
Overwatch 2 single-player and PvE
Overwatch 2 will have new maps, heroes, and game modes. So far, we’ve seen one new hero and one new game mode, as well as distant screenshots for a handful of new maps. Above, you can see concept art for Rio, Toronto, and Monte Carlo. One other confirmed new map is called Gothenburg. As mentioned, all of these new additions will be retroactively added to Overwatch.
The only things that Blizzard won’t add to Overwatch are the PvE modes. There are two types of PvE missions: Story and Hero.
Story mode is, essentially, a co-op Overwatch 2 campaign. Players will join arms as various heroes from the Overwatch roster to take down the robotic Null Sector. Although we don’t know much about Story mode yet, we do know that you’ll be able to pick up items while you’re playing. Playing as Tracer, for example, you could pick up a barrier shield to protect you when bullets start flying. None of the items are exclusive to any particular hero, but they won’t carry over between missions. Each mission will also feature one of Blizzard’s excellent cinematics to lead you in and out of the mission.
Hero mode is a living PvE environment. The missions are designed for high replayability, allowing players to group up and take on the same swarm of enemies over and over again. These will be played across many maps, with unpredictable objectives and enemies thrown in each time you play. The main draw of this mode seems to be character progression. As you play Hero missions, you’ll earn experience for the hero you’re playing as, which unlocks modifiers for that hero’s abilities. Given how strict Blizzard is about competitive play, we suspect that these buffs are exclusive to PvE.
Pre-orders for Overwatch 2 haven’t gone live yet, at least not for most of the world. As of February 2021, the only retailer with Overwatch 2 pre-orders is GameStop Germany, which has the game listed at €70.77 (or around $86, given the current conversion rate). Don’t expect an $86 game, though. GameStop Germany also has pre-orders for Bayonetta 3 and Shin Megami Tensei V up for the same price, and neither of those games has pre-order listings elsewhere — or release dates.
Now that we know the game isn’t even releasing in 2021, odds are we’re quite a long way off from hearing anything about pre-orders.
Going backward, all Overwatch heroes will be in Overwatch 2. In the announcement panel, as well as several interviews, Kaplan has confirmed that they’re not cutting any characters from the roster, simply adding new ones. We’ll likely see some balance changes to account for the new heroes, but the roster is only going to grow from here on out.
It’s probably safe to assume Overwatch 2 will receive DLC over time, just like the original game. However, it probably won’t fit the mold of traditional DLC released for single-player games. As a “live” game, Blizzard will likely continue monetizing Overwatch 2 with cosmetics and in-game items, not expansions or map packs. Instead, Overwatch 2 will get that content for free, like the first game.
Overwatch continues to receive updates from Blizzard with new content, even four years after release. Players can expect that Blizzard will continue releasing that content for Overwatch 2.
Overwatch is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Blizzard confirmed in 2019 that Overwatch 2 is coming to every platform that currently supports the first game.
Given that Overwatch was released simultaneously on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in 2016, Overwatch 2 will likely launch on PC and consoles on the same day. We don’t know for certain that the game will come to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but it would be very strange if it wasn’t based on how long we still have to wait for it.
To those versed in Overwatch lore, Sojourn is a natural inclusion for Overwatch 2. She’s been featured in multiple cinematics for the original game and has roots dating back to before Overwatch’s 2016 launch. Michael Chu, lead writer of Overwatch 2, told PlayStation Blog that “she will be extremely important to the events that take place in Overwatch 2.” Still, we know very little about how Sojourn will actually play.
It’s pretty clear that she’s an Offense hero, though. In place of arms, Sojourn has two guns. One is clearly shown as an assault rifle in the gameplay trailer, though the other remains a mystery. For a briefing shot at the end of the trailer, it looks like a shotgun or maybe a grenade launcher, but it’s hard to say for sure. We do know that she’s Canadian, so we expect many of the story missions will take place on the Toronto map.
Finally, some characters are getting a facelift. Reinhardt doesn’t have a helmet anymore, Mercy got a haircut, and Lucio has glowing hair. So far, there are new character designs for Tracer, Mercy, Lucio, Reinhardt, Genji, Mei, and Winston, which you can find here. It sounds like all of the heroes are getting a graphical update, though.