While gamers are used to learning about delays — sometimes delays that seem endless — for upcoming titles, it seems like Blizzard is going in the opposite direction for the release of its upcoming standalone sequel, Overwatch 2. Last week, Blizzard announced the game was being played in an alpa test reserved for Blizzard employees, Overwatch pros, and other “select” groups. Contrary to what the developers said last year, Blizzard is now saying they expect to launch the Overwatch 2 beta in late April.
Aaron Keller, Overwatch game director, spoke about what players can expect in a video posted last week. Among other things, Keller talks about the development team’s hope to make sure Overwatch 2 gets in players’ hands sooner than expected and apologizes for some of the failings he cops to. You can watch the video below.
Keller says Blizzard is “decoupling” the PVP and PVE aspects of Overwatch 2 so that the more competitive elements of the sequel will be playable sooner. Meanwhile, developers will continue to work on the cooperative and single player elements of the game. Keller also admits that since his team began developing Overwatch 2, players have suffered because of the developers’ singular focus. Communication to the players about the progress of the sequel has been scarce, and the live Overwatch game has fallen by the wayside while the developers put everything into the follow-up. Keller promises changes, particularly on the communication front. As with all promises, time will tell if it holds true.
As Polygon notes, Blizzard’s new timetable for Overwatch 2 could significantly push up the game’s release date. The company initially said to expect the beta to launch some time in the second half of this year, meaning the full game launch wouldn’t come until 2023. An April beta, on the other hand, means Overwatch players could very well expect to see the sequel’s full launch some time this year. Players interested in participating in the closed beta can sign up at playoverwatch.com.
Overwatch 2 will introduce the first new playable character to come to the game in what’s been almost two years — Sojourn, a damage dealer. The character has appeared in Overwatch games and media before, but the sequel will mark the first time she’s been playable. Along with new heroes, the follow-up will include redesigns for older characters. The game’s site offers examples of this — showing comparison shots of the heroes Lucio, Mercy, Reinhardt, Winston, Tracer, Genshi, Mei, and Widowmaker before and after their upcoming Overwatch 2 revamps.
At BlizzCon 2019 (via Polygon), the company debuted a new game mode that will be introduced with Overwatch 2 — the Push mode. The new multiplayer mode will be similar to Escort, with teams looking after a robot that is pushing a metal barrier across the map. Unlike Escort, however, the robot in question doesn’t offer any healing to players and leaving the robot on its own for any length of time is much more hazardous.
In spite of last week’s announcement, it remains to be unseen exactly how Overwatch 2 will be impacted by Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The news of the sale hasn’t stopped Blizzard from making big announcements, including for a new survival game and their announcement date for the next World of Warcraft expansion. Whether or not Microsoft will go along with all these big plans remains to be seen.