Hands-On With Overwatch 2: Invasion's Fun New Hero and Game Mode
I got early access to season 6 of Overwatch 2, including the new support hero, the new game mode and the long-awaited story missions.
Adam BenjaminManaging Editor
Adam Benjamin has helped people navigate complex problems for the past decade. The former digital services editor for Reviews.com, Adam now leads CNET's services and software team and contributes to its game coverage.
ExpertiseOperating systems, streaming services, mobile apps and first-person shootersCredentials
Adam has been covering streaming services since 2013 and wants to help people navigate the subscription creep in their lives.
Overwatch 2 launched in early access last October, but the new season, titled Overwatch 2: Invasion, is arguably the game's biggest and most pivotal moment. This season brings the long-awaited story missions to Blizzard's popular online shooter, alongside a new hero, a brand-new permanent game type, hero mastery missions and updates to the training range. It's the biggest influx of content since the game launched, and it's a great starting point for new players.
I got to talk to developers and try out all the new modes in a test build ahead of launch, and while it didn't feel like a completely new game, there were a ton of new toys to play with, including several features that should help ease new players into the game. Whether you're a veteran or a newbie who's interested in the Overwatch story, here's everything you need to know about the new season of Overwatch 2.
Overwatch 2: Invasion adds three story missions to the game, locked behind a $15 Invasion Bundle, which also grants you in-game currency worth $10 -- conveniently, that's exactly enough for the seasonal battle pass that immediately unlocks the new hero. Once unlocked, you'll be able to play through the game's first three missions on four different difficulties. The missions themselves tell the story of what happens after the unofficial reunion of Overwatch in the Zero Hour cinematic.
The opening and closing cut scenes are great content for lore-obsessed fans like me who've been waiting years for a proper Overwatch story, but the gameplay itself largely felt repetitive outside of a few sequences. The second story mission, set in Sojourn's home town of Toronto, felt noticeably more engaging from both a story and gameplay perspective, while the other two felt more like extended versions of the Archive PVE events. All three had moments that felt genuinely cool, but if you're primarily here for the gameplay instead of the story, these missions might not be worth the $15 cost of entry.
The biggest concern for me is replayability: When I asked the developers what elements they put in the game to encourage players to keep playing these story missions, they pointed to different dialogue combinations depending on which heroes you chose. While it can be fun to hear how Reinhardt responds to situations compared to Winston, I'm not sure that will be enough to keep most players coming back. Adding achievements or unlockable cosmetics like titles and player icons would go a long way toward keeping players engaged with the game mode.
New support hero: Illari
Season 6 also adds a new hero to the game's support roster: Illari, the solar-charged supersoldier from Peru. She brings a new healing mechanic to Overwatch in the form of a deployable healing pylon that will heal a visible ally in small bursts. Illari can also heal other heroes with her secondary fire, which is a short-range beam that operates on a limited resource, similar to Moira's healing.
Illari's real weapon is her ultimate, which launches her a short distance in the air as she loads up her weapon with a concentrated burst of sunlight. While you're in the air, you can fly in any direction, and you can fire a single bright projectile that will pass through enemies, deal a small amount of damage, slow them and temporarily mark them. Enemies that die while marked will explode, dealing damage to nearby enemies, who may also explode, dealing additional damage to nearby enemies, leading to a chain reaction that lights up the kill feed and probably makes the enemy team jump into match chat to complain.
Illari brings a very different play style than our last new hero, Lifeweaver, with his "wait and react" defensive style. That was deliberate, according to the developers. Piero Herrera, one of the hero designers who worked on Illari, told me, "The main pillar of the design was that we wanted to create an attack-centric support … [with] lots of aiming mechanics." The healing pylon makes it easier to pull away from your team without depriving them of resources. Just know that your healing resources with your secondary fire are very limited. You won't be able to sustain your team through a fight just by healing them -- instead, you need to weave in full-charge primary fire to end the fight faster.
Illari's design feels similar to Baptiste's in that it seems to reward players who are able to manage both tasks in the middle of a fight. I found the most value with her when I could set up my healing pylon somewhere hidden from the enemy team and focused on pressuring down enemy supports with occasional bursts of healing for my team. I enjoy that kind of gameplay, and people who've been looking for a more mechanically involved support should have fun with Illari.
New game mode: Flashpoint
Flashpoint tasks players with capturing multiple objectives across large maps. Each map has five control points, which unlock one at a time, starting with the center point. The first team to capture three points wins the map.
In media interviews ahead of launch, I asked the developers how they designed Flashpoint maps for different types of team compositions -- would there be a mix of close-range points and long sightlines? Daniel McGowan, principal environment artist for Blizzard said, "[Players] are going to get a really cool variety of gameplay types within a single experience," with some capture points being more favorable to closer-range brawl compositions while other points or areas between points might favor long-range sniper heroes.
That vision matched my experience. Flashpoint enters the game with two maps: Suravasa and New Junk City. Suravasa, set in India, features more tightly packed objectives, whereas New Junk City (set in the heart of Junkertown, Australia) generally has more open layouts. But both maps had a mix of tight and open spaces, not to mention changes of elevation and other nuances that give players a chance to master maps by learning their layouts in detail.
That mastery will be difficult, but immensely valuable. When I played in early access, Flashpoint felt a lot more skirmishy and unpredictable than other game modes: Some fights will happen on the objective, but many will happen just outside the objective, or in transition between the last point and the next. You have to be ready for fights to happen anywhere and at any time. Players who learn the maps and the strongest positions at different locations will have an advantage over those who just roam around.
A great time to join the fight
Invasion is a great starting point for new players, thanks to the variety of new content being added, like the first hero mastery missions (for Mercy, Reinhardt, Sojourn, Tracer and Winston) and the addition of target practice to the training range, not to mention story missions. Players subscribed to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate -- CNET's Editors' Choice for best content deal in gaming -- can get the New Heroes Starter Pack for free. It grants immediate access to the six heroes added since the start of Overwatch 2:
Junker Queen (tank)
As a result, Xbox and PC players will have the best options for jumping in for the first time, but players on PlayStation or Switch aren't that far behind. Overwatch 2 is free to play on PC (now available on Steam), PS5, Xbox Series S and X, and Nintendo Switch.