The firstcame to a close on Tuesday, May 17, capping off three weeks of frenzied hero-shooter action. It was my first hands-on experience with the game, and the first anyone had really seen of it since the PvE demo at BlizzCon 2019 when .
Two and a half years was a long wait, but the change to 5v5 injects the game with a more exciting pace, removing one tank from the lineup and opening up the battlefield to allow for bigger plays. Overwatch is at its best when the game feels dynamic and borderline frantic, and the beta surely delivered on those elements.
Overwatch's Twitter account teased info about the next PvP beta, saying we'll learn more during an Overwatch 2 event on June 16. While we wait for developers to tell us what's in store, let's talk about the changes that should be in the next Overwatch 2 beta.
1. More new characters, especially supports
The Overwatch 2 developers said that the first PVP beta was intended to test balance and stability, particularly for 5v5 and the new Push game mode. In that context, it makes sense that we only got one new hero alongside a handful of reworks. But the next beta is the perfect time to bring in more heroes.
The support role in particular could use more heroes. In role queue games with the current roster, the single tank player has nine heroes to choose from, the two damage players have a buffet of 17 heroes, while two support players have to fight over a meager selection of seven heroes. That means tank and DPS players have about nine heroes per player to choose from, while supports are stuck at less than half that.
More than half my time in the beta has been spent on support, and while I've generally had a blast, it does feel disappointing to watch the other roles get new heroes and significant reworks while the support heroes mostly get smaller tweaks. Adding new characters to the roster, especially in the support role, will give players more to sink our teeth into and will help sell Overwatch 2 as a genuine sequel.
2. Ranked mode
Ranked games are the lifeblood of most modern shooters, and the next Overwatch 2 beta desperately needs some ranked gameplay.
Because there are no stakes in quick play, players aren't incentivized to get particularly sweaty with their mechanics, strategies, etc. And while that makes sense for an initial stability test, the next beta should include competitive gameplay to test how the game plays when something's on the line. The first few weeks of Overwatch League season 5 gave us some insights, but only for players at the top of the skill pyramid. What happens when the rest of the player base has something to play for?
The developers' week one blog noted the community's desire for a ranked mode and said the devs left it out of the first beta to focus on stability and faster queue times and because they were overhauling the ranked system (Apex Legends just did the same). Let's hope that means a reworked ranked mode is on the table for the next beta.
3. More answers for mobility heroes
Overwatch 2 significantly toned down crowd control mechanics, moving most of them to the tank role, leaving heroes with high mobility to run rampant in games. In Overwatch League matches played by professional Overwatch players, mobility heroes have gotten extremely high pick rates.
Winston and Doomfist dominate the tank role, thanks to their ability to leap through the air and disrupt enemy teams. In the damage role, Soldier 76, Genji and Tracer can navigate the chaos of a team fight and quickly take down targets with their abilities. And Lucio has proven a very popular support pick, able to speed along walls and apply pressure from seemingly nowhere.
The developers already added a knockback effect to Zenyatta's melee attack to help him survive when characters (sometimes literally) jump on top of him. I'd like to see more creative solutions like that to keep the Overwatch speedsters in check.
4. Scoreboard changes
Overwatch 2 added a brand-new scoreboard, where players can see the eliminations, assists and deaths from players on both teams, as well as the amount of healing and damage done by each player. It's been one of the most talked-about UI changes in the beta, with some fans excited about the transparency and others claiming the numbers aren't a helpful assessment of gameplay and will only increase toxicity in games.
The one thing almost everyone can agree on: Regardless of the scoreboard, design could be improved. Right now, hero portraits are on the very edges of the screen, making it difficult to compare team compositions at a glance. It would be helpful to move those portraits closer together so players could quickly see how their team matches up against the enemy's.
Overwatch has always been a game about intangibles, so any scoreboard is going to fall short of the things that really determine who wins and loses: good positioning, smart ability use and cooperating with teammates. But if the new scoreboard is committed to transparency, it would be helpful to add damage taken and healing received; two stats often tracked in competitive scrims to help teams refine strategies.
5. Continued communication and balance patches
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Overwatch 2 beta has been the consistent communication and balance patches from the developers. So far, the devs have put out blogs after the first and second week of the beta, responding to feedback and outlining intentions. Some of those intentions showed up in patches to the beta, showing the devs' commitment to staying engaged with the community.
Please keep that going.
Overwatch's biggest stumble was going too long without talking to the community through developer blog posts and videos, leaving players feeling like they weren't being heard or cared about. Given what we've learned about the environment at Activision Blizzard, that's less surprising in hindsight. But I really can't overstate how encouraging it is to see those blog posts saying "we hear you on this point," especially when the follow-up is a balance patch to address it.
If Overwatch 2 wants to compete with other live-service shooters like Apex Legends, Valorant and Destiny 2, the people behind the game need to continue communicating to its players on a regular basis. If they do, I think they'll win back a lot of former fans and win over plenty of new ones.