Overwatch 2's future is looking bright without PvE
It’s been a rough day for Overwatch 2 fans. As many woke up to the news that Blizzard is changing the highly-anticipated PvE mode, some were already saying that it would signal the end of the successful FPS game. However, I’m not worried; it’s a good change.
While news is floating around describing how Blizzard has scrapped PvE and left the parts to rust, the truth is different. Blizzard isn’t ridding the world of an Overwatch 2 PvE mode, it’s simply changing what the end product will look like to better fit the atmosphere of the game, so the multiplayer shooter will likely remain on our best FPS games list.
“A clarification that I wanted to make is that, while we made the decision to cut Hero Mode + Talents, we have a lot of great PvE content coming this year”, executive producer of Overwatch 2, Jared Neuss, said in a tweet. So, instead of being cut, PvE modes will be changed into individual events, similar to the Uprising and Retribution missions in Overwatch.
“We have a whole new type of PvE content that we're releasing with our single-player Hero mastery missions”, Neuss said. “On top of all of that, we've got the start of our new story arc with new story missions, cinematics, and other lore content such as a lore codex.” So Overwatch 2 is still getting the lore dump it desperately needs, and players will get a form of PvE. All in all, it sounds like a pretty decent deal.
After taking a step back and reflecting on this news, I think that the original concept for Overwatch 2’s PvE mode would have done more harm than good to the FPS game, and, as a result, fans would have suffered.
“In the years following our announcement at BlizzCon 2019, we had a really large portion of our team working on the PvE side of that game”, the game director for Overwatch 2, Aaron Keller, said (via Gamespot). “I think players of our live running game could feel that because we eventually stopped making content for it”.
Towards the end of Overwatch’s life cycle, it felt as if changes were something of an afterthought: while the heroes kept coming, updates and extra content were few and far between. For example, Brigitte was added in 2018 and unfortunately did more damage than good thanks to poor balancing, but as the Blizzard devs were slow to patch the problems, it led to a mass exodus from Overwatch; even I couldn’t bear to play it for a while.
It felt like trying to repair a sinking ship. It wasn’t representative of the developers' capabilities and wasn’t fair to the fanbase that had invested so much time and love into this iconic game.
“I think the scope of the Hero Missions was really, really large, and what it was going to take to finish it was going to be a pretty remarkable, massive lift”, Keller said. “Even just a small piece of it, the talent trees: 40 to 50 talents per Hero, over 35 plus Heroes. You're looking at thousands of talents to make everything just to get the game out the door”.
Blizzard could have dedicated its time and resources to creating what would essentially be an entirely new game. Still, as Keller said, it would take a miracle to see it to the end without negatively impacting Overwatch 2’s PvP. Then fans would be left high and dry for who knows how long, and the sequel could have quickly fallen into the same state of disarray that the first game experienced.
Anyway, it’s not like fans are struggling for content. Blizzard has done a remarkable job of providing experiences that were simply not possible in Overwatch. Seasons, events, and Battle Passes keep getting better and better, with Season 6 looking like the best yet. There's a new support hero, two new maps with Flashpoint, a lore codex, and even a PvE event, all coming up too.
Walk before you run
However, all this great content on the horizon doesn’t mean Overwatch 2 is without fault. There are other problems that Blizzard should address before it even thinks about doing a PvE mode.
Overwatch 2 is predominantly a PvP game, that’s what it was marketed as, and that’s why fans are currently playing it (there isn’t any other option). However, multiple elements of the PvP have been less than ideal, and the state of competitive Overwatch 2 can be turbulent be it caused by unbalanced matchmaking or confusing MMR which has promoted and demoted people randomly.
This isn’t a loss, it's simply a change in direction
There’s also the balancing between heroes that seems like it stands on a knife edge. Roadhog had his day in the sunlight terrorizing everything within his hook radius. At the same time, Mercy’s mobility has been a controversial topic for many fans who feel like trying to kill her is like trying to catch a fly in the dark. Tweaking each of the 37 heroes, and counting, even slightly creates a butterfly effect that could end up opening a pandora's box of problems, which is pretty terrifying.
The Battle Pass also has the capacity to improve. This is a major selling point for Overwatch 2, and purchasing the premium plan costs fans $10 / £8 /AU$15 per season, which isn’t cheap. The rewards need to be more varied and desirable for this price instead of keeping the best products locked away in the shop, costing players even more money. Blizzard can also learn from other Battle Pass models like that of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 which provides players with coins that can be used to buy the next season’s Battle Pass.
All in all, there are plenty of aspects for Blizzard to work on and improve as it is without having the additional stress of a standalone PvE mode. I’d rather have less content built to a higher quality than more mediocre content. Furthermore, thanks to the new events I’ll likely spend just as much time playing PvE as I would in comparison to PvP. This isn’t a loss, it's simply a change in direction.