Overwatch 2’s canceled PVE mode is a big disappointment

Overwatch 2's canceled PVE mode is a big disappointment 1

When Overwatch 2 was first announced, I had good reason to be excited. I always enjoyed the series’ first installment, but I always wished there was more to it. As someone who’s not a skilled competitive player, I wanted more ways to interact with the shooter that didn’t just involve me going on big losing streaks. So I was elated when Blizzard announced it would bring a full PVE mode to the sequel. Finally, I’d have a way to get invested in the world and characters of Overwatch and progress through a solo campaign while doing it.

It turns out that dream was a fantasy. In a recent interview with Gamespot, game director Aaron Keller revealed that plans for the mode had been scrapped. Overwatch 2 would still get some story content bundled in with new seasons, but the grand vision for a Hero mode with its own skill trees was no more. Not only that, but plans had changed a year and a half ago — something that was never communicated to fans when the game’s multiplayer component launched last October.

That leaves Overwatch 2 in an awkward spot, as the incomplete version that launched last year now appears to be the final content suite after all. And while I’m sure some competitive-focused players won’t care too much, the fiasco has fully eroded my already tenuous relationship with the hero shooter. I’m not sure I’ll ever return to Overwatch 2though perhaps that’s an outcome Blizzard has ultimately made peace with too.

A mutual break-up

When Overwatch 2’s multiplayer component launched, I felt like I had to play a game of “Spot the Difference” to figure out what was new. The sequel got an upgraded art style, a few new characters, and a change to team sizes, but all of those changes felt like updates that could have been applied to Overwatch. Granted, some of its balance tweaks were a much bigger deal for fans who’d sunk hundreds of hours into the game so far.

The only major change from a casual perspective was its pivot to a free-to-play format, which brought a season structure and a paid battle pass to the game. That would replace its predecessors’ loot box system, which would be a positive step on paper. However, that would wind up raising pay-to-win concerns as new heroes were locked behind paywalls (or unrealistically long grinds to unlock them naturally).

Genji slashes a robot in Overwatch 2.

As an outsider who only enjoyed Overwatch on a casual level, that left me feeling a little cold on its October release. While I played a few enjoyable rounds the first few days it was out, I quickly resolved to circle back to the game in a proper way once Hero mode dropped. My hope was that I could hone my skills there and that would in turn make me a better competitive player. It’s a similar approach that I took with Destiny originally, getting the hang of its controls in strikes and raids before testing my skills in the Crucible.

What I didn’t know was that Hero mode was never coming at all – but Blizzard did. In the GameSpot interview, Aaron Keller outlined some of the troubles Blizzard faced with trying to develop a live service game as intricate as Overwatch. In order to avoid a situation where multiplayer suffered as the team worked on PVE, the plans for Hero mode changed. “It was about a year and a half ago that we made the decision to really shift strategy,” Keller tells GameSpot. “That’s when we rapidly shifted the resources on our team to work on launching Overwatch 2and that’s what came out last October.”

I can’t help but feel a little disappointed, and I’m sure a lot of players in my boat are too right now. Though what stings isn’t so much that the mode was scrapped. Features are walked back in games all the time; it’s a normal part of game development that I’m used to. Rather, it’s a little shocking to learn that plans for the mode had already been scrapped long before the multiplayer launched. Considering that I planned to play PVE to sharpen my skills, I had been tempted to start investing in season passes to make sure I wasn’t missing out on content I’d want in PVP when I gained the confidence to start it. Thankfully I didn’t make those purchases, but I’m left wondering how many people did under false pretenses about the game’s future.

Mercy and Winston standing side by side

All of that has broken my trust in Overwatch 2 to the point where I’m not likely to return to it again — and I imagine that the team at Blizzard may have expected that. The shift away from a dedicated PVE mode seems to indicate that Blizzard is doubling down on the bought-in competitive community rather than trying to entice casual players like me. There will still be some story missions included in future seasons, but those will be more of a side-activity than a primary mode.

In that sense, I can appreciate that Blizzard has made the kind of decisive stance the wishy-washy sequel has been lacking since its launch — even if it should have been made much sooner. Players in my situation needed clarity into whether or not the sequel would cater to their more casual desires. It simply won’t be a game for me, especially considering I have no interest in spending money on it. Both Blizzard and I will be better off in that mutual break-up, I’m sure.

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