Announced earlier today at Blizzcon, Overwatch 2 will come with a new story-driven PvE game mode, which are 4 player co-op modes with a specific selection of heroes and cinematics to drive the story.
This new mode obviously builds on the success of seasonal PvE modes like Junkenstein’s Revenge, Uprising, Retribution, and Storm Rising, and Overwatch 2’s new PvE mode features two types: Story Missions and Hero Missions.
We tried out the demo at BlizzCon, where we got to play a story mission set in Rio de Janeiro, featureing Reinhardt, Tracer, Mei, and Lucio.
After you’ve selected your character you’ll be able to choose a talent. There are three tiers of talents, selectable at level one, 10, and 20. Here’s what Tracer’s talent tree looks like:
There are also some gameplay differences when playing co-op mode. In the case of Tracer, she gets a larger clip, and her ultimate, Pulse Bomb, does way more damage.
I picked Mei for the mission, and in co-op mode, she freezes enemies a lot faster, and they stay frozen for longer. The co-op buffs may seem minor, but they make your character feel a lot more powerful. Mei freezes enemies almost instantly and, combined with her Shatter talent, can instantly destroy groups of them at once.
Mei’s level one talent lets you choose between Shatter, which makes frozen enemies shatter upon death, dealing damage around them, or Cold Snap, which freezes nearby enemies when your Cryofreeze ends.
At level 10, Mei can choose between Hypothermia, which makes Blizzard instantly kill frozen enemies under 200 HP, or The Snowball Effect, which lets you move during cryofreeze, knocking down enemies.
At level 20, Mei gets Frostbite, which makes frozen enemies take increased damage, or Polar Vortex, which makes Blizzard cover a larger area and ignore line of sight.
Unfortunately, I remained at level one for the entire mission, so I wasn’t able to test any of the later talents. You’ll have to play through missions repeatedly if you want to max out a character. By the way, talents and hero levels are only for PvE gameplay — they won’t be active in PvP.
The mission starts with a short cinematic showing Lucio meeting the Overwatch team. He offers to escort them out of the city, which is currently under attack from Null Sector.
The mission progresses in a linear fashion with waves and waves of mobs coming at you. There are way more enemies than the existing PvE missions, but your buffed up co-op abilities make them easy to deal with.
The UI has also been updated, and looks cleaner and more streamlined. Hopefully, the PvP mode UI will also be updated in a similar fashion.
In co-op gameplay, you’ll also have an extra Item ability to play with. At the start of the mission, this Item slot is empty, but you’ll quickly find loot boxes that drop items.
Items are reusable abilities with a lengthy cooldown. I saw a Healing Station that essentially works like Soldier 76’s Biotic Field, but with a larger area of effect, a Corrosive Grenade that deals AoE damage and also debuffs any enemies hit, making them take more damage, an Armored Turret similar to Torbjorn’s turret, and a Barrier Fence, that creates a circular barrier with huge HP, similar to Reinhardt’s barrier, that you can use to surround your team.
Items come in common, rare, epic, and legendary quality, with each tier getting progressively better. For example, the common Corrosive Grenade makes enemies take 30% more damage, while the legendary version deals more damage and makes enemies take 60% more damage.
You can only carry one item at a time. If you pick up a new item, you’ll drop your old item.
The mission proceeds through a nightclub and onto the streets and eventually onto the beach where you get picked up by Echo, the new robot member of Overwatch. She flies your squad up to the Null Sector command ship where you’ll face even more bots as you fight towards the ship’s control room.
The control room section was a little tougher, with stronger enemies that deal more damage, including a huge turret-like robot that will absolutely shred you. If you run out of health, you’ll be incapacitated, which means you can only slowly crawl around on the floor until a teammate revives you.
Awaiting at the end of the level is your goal: the Null Sector control core. The core itself has a huge health bar and is protected by swarms of enemies. Each time you knock off a chunk of the Core’s health it will retreat into the ground, where you’ll be unable to hit it.
Eventually, a huge boss robot will show up. In my session, the boss actually seemed pretty undertuned because we were able to blow it up in less than 30 seconds thanks to a legendary Corrosive Grenade.
Once the boss is down, you can destroy the core. After doing that, the entire ship starts to self destruct. You’ll then have 90 seconds to race back to the entrance, where an ending cinematic will play, ending in an ominous cliffhanger.
While I really enjoyed the story mode and all of the new PvE-only elements it brings with it, I’m not sure how much replayability it has. The linear design and enforced hero choice make it a little restrictive and the level will basically play out exactly the same every time.
Fortunately, PvE mode will also include Hero Missions. While I didn’t get to play one of these, Overwatch lead designer Jeff Kaplan revealed at the Overwatch developer panel that these missions have been designed to be “deeply replayable”.
That’s thanks to three factors: Varied locations, which will take players across the entire spectrum of Overwatch maps, constantly changing objectives, so you’ll never have to repeat the exact same mission twice, and different enemy groups, so you won’t always be fighting against Null Sector or Talon troops. You’ll also be able to play Hero Missions with any character on the roster.
Overwatch 2 does not currently have a release date, however, it is expected to launch sometime next year on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.