Season 2 of Overwatch 2 arrives tomorrow, and it's a bigger deal than it may sound. Overwatch 2 may have marked the beginning of a slightly jarring shift towards the free-to-play model for Blizzard's venerable hero shooter, but it's the release of Season 2 where players will get their first taste of the pace and quality at which future content will be released under the new regime.
I got to spend a few days exploring the new changes that Overwatch 2's second season will bring around this time tomorrow, and I've come away feeling a little torn. On the one hand, the brand new additions - the new Tank, Ramattra, and the new Shambali Monastery map - are gorgeous, intriguing, and enjoyable. On the other, the balance changes to existing heroes really don't seem to have done much to rebalance the most overpowered heroes in the game, which has left me feeling a bit frustrated.
To its credit, there's quite a lot to talk about with Overwatch 2's Season 2 changes. To help make it all a little more digestible, I've divided my thoughts into the following sections.
Ramattra: A complex Tank in both lore and playstyle
Where to begin with Ramattra? The new Season 2 Tank is available in the same way as Kiriko was for Season 1: you can play Ramattra for free at tier 55 of the free Battle Pass, or you can unlock him immediately by purchasing the premium Battle Pass. Is he worth the wait? I'd say so, yes - but don't expect him to top the meta just yet.
To no one's surprise, Ramattra looks and feels magnificent in-game. At any given moment he looks (and sounds) simultaneously stoic, majestic, enigmatic, and intimidating - particularly in his hulking Nemesis Form. Ramattra's being called a Tempo Tank, because his two forms allow him to switch quickly between offensive and defensive play, thus controlling the tempo of a teamfight. And it did feel a lot like Reinhardt in some ways. I'd play quite defensively and cagily at first, placing down barriers and using my primary fire beam's lack of damage falloff to burst down smaller enemies at range. When I saw an opening, I'd activate Nemesis Form and push hard to make use of those precious 8 seconds of increased damage and armour. It's a delicate balance, and one which can easily result in death if you get it wrong.
In play, my first impressions are that he requires some very careful timing and adroit juggling of abilities to use effectively. It makes me think that there'll be lots of people in the first couple of weeks of Season 2 proclaiming either that he's totally overpowered or completely useless. I bet when the dust clears, the answer will be somewhere between the two.
When I managed to use his abilities at the right times during a teamfight, I could mop up without any real trouble. But I also felt very squishy for a Tank, with no mobility and no self-healing or overhealing abilities to speak of. He's gonna need some serious pocketing by a dedicated healer in order to go toe to toe with more survivable Tanks like Roadhog, Orisa, and Reinhardt. I see a lot of potential in Ramattra (and I mean, god, if people can make S1 Doomfist look overpowered then they can do the same with anyone), but I also didn't see anything to make me think he'd be truly overpowered. If anything, I reckon he'll be slightly lower down on the Tank tier list than the major players.
Shambali Monastery: A literal uphill struggle for attackers
I'm really enjoying the look of the new Escort map, Shambali Monastery. The snowy mountainous backdrop and the austere warmth of the lamp-lit indoor areas give the map a different kind of vibrancy to other Overwatch maps. As for how it plays, I can't help but feel a little concerned. It's fun, for sure. By design, it's a snaking path upwards from the attacker's spawn to the payload's end point at the top of the map, and the whole map is filled with surprise pathways and flanking opportunities. I just wonder if it's a little too weighted in the defenders' favour.
One of the first things I noticed when I booted up the map in a Custom Game was how wide open it was at certain points. It almost feels like the kind of three-lane map you might find in CSGO or Valorant at times, with various paths leading to balconies and walkways that give the defending team some amazing vantage points from which to rain hell down on the enemeis pushing the payload.
The path snakes from left to right but always continues to rise upwards in a gentle slope. Aethetically, it's wonderful, and different, and fascinating. And I think if there is an advantage to the defenders, it'll be a subtle one - easily overcome by differences in skill and teamwork. After all, the attacking team can just as easily use those extra pathways to flank and take down the defenders. Or the presence of so many different vantage points might lead the defenders to split up more than is good for them, giving the attackers a clear path through which to steamroll up to the top of the mountain.
Still, I found myself glad each time I was a defender, and a little rueful each time I was an attacker on Season 2's lovely-looking new map.
Hero balance changes: Sojourn and Kiriko still reign supreme
This is the bit that I found pretty underwhelming. It's no secret that the meta in Overwatch 2's first season was dominated at pretty much every level by Sojourn. Her ridiculously powerful Railgun allowed her to one-shot-kill most smaller heroes with a single hitscan click, and there was really no downside to the rest of her kit to help balance things out. Finally a nerf has arrived, lowering the Railgun's alt-fire damage so that at full power it still leaves a Soldier (for example) with a tiny amount of health, rather than killing him outright. Thing is, that's just not enough. Sojourn charges up her alt-fire by shooting enemies anyway, so more often than not she's already using her alt-fire on damaged targets. That Soldier is going down regardless of this small change.
Similarly, Kiriko has received a "nerf" that I really don't think goes far enough. Kiriko's Ultimate, Kitsune Rush, is by most accounts the most powerful Ult in the game right now, and it's almost entirely down to the vast increase in attack speed that the ability provides to teammates. Imagine my happiness at the prospect of some Kiri nerfs, and then my dismay as I realised that, as far as I can see, all that's changed is that the Ult no longer increases movement speed and cooldown speed as much as before. These weren't what made Kitsune Rush powerful!
A smattering of other tweaks add some fairly inoffensive changes to the hero roster. Ana's Sleep Dart now has a slightly (1s) faster cooldown. Bastion gets his (rubbish) Ultimate a fair bit quicker than before. Symmetra can't fire for as long with her primary fire, but her turrets deal a bit more damage. The prize for most pointless change of all has to go to Mercy, whose secondary weapon now has 25 shots instead of 20. Woo-fucking-hoo.
At least Doomfist has got a decent buff. His punch now actually deals damage, he charges up faster using his Power Block, and he gains more Overhealth with damage dealt using his abilities. All this together made him seem quite a bit stronger than he did in Season 1, so tomorrow will be a good day for Doomfist mains.
Battle Pass, Skins, and Theme: Greek Mythology is a winner
As well as the various changes to the hero and map roster, Season 2 brings with it a new Battle Pass inspired by Greek Mythology, and a number of Legendary skins (and one Mythic skin) that look suitably Olympian in nature. Flicking through the Battle Pass rewards a couple of the skins seemed a bit naff, but I have to admit the Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon skins look pretty bloody fantastic.
I'm also digging the new player titles that we'll be able to earn after maxing out Season 2's Battle Pass:
Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to try out any of the new and upcoming limited time modes that Blizzard are planning to release across December and January. We know that Winter Wonderland and Year Of The Rabbit are returning, and a new Battle For Olympus mode is also starting in January, which seemingly gives heroes new godlike abilities to play around with.
Overall my sneak peak at Season 2 left me excited to play more in my goal to reach Titan before Season 3 comes around. Ramattra is a complex machine, and I find it quite hard to pin down his effectiveness in different situations, but I'm very happy to have such a well-designed and characterful new hero as part of the roster. Ditto with Shambali Monastery, which despite my misgivings about its balance, I'm still itching to dive back into and discover its hidden depths, because I'm sure they're there.
It's just a bit of a shame that I really don't see the meta changing that much from Season 1. Sojourn and Kiriko are still gonna run rampant, despite their meagre nerfs. I guess we're all just gonna have to grit our teeth and bear those Railguns and Kitsune Rushes for another Season.