Opinion: Why I Want an Overwatch Story Campaign More than Overwatch 2
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in June, but we’ve repromoted it and updated sections of it in time for Blizzcon.
For a game I still spend up to 20 hours a week playing, I’ll be the first to admit that Overwatch does have its problems. Yes, the inherent problems of balancing a 30-plus character hero-shooter roster plague it, the issues of its loot box culture are well documented, and not all are onboard with the new role lock system. None of these, however, affect my enjoyment of Overwatch enough; it’s still my favourite game.All of these issues fall to the back of my mind when I’m in the heat of battle in Ilios or trying to push the payload through the winding backlot of Hollywood. These locations have provided me with some of the most fun I’ve had over the past 3 years, but sadly this is all that they remain to me – locations. There is no sense of history to them; I am not tied to them in any way beyond the fact their geography is burned into my brain. With news of an announcement of the next iteration of Overwatch appearing imminent, it got me thinking about what I would like to see from it.This is why I desire a PvE (playing against CPU controlled enemies rather than other humans online) Overwatch game more than I do an “Overwatch 2”. I would find it frustrating if Blizzard introduced a whole new set of characters and maps without even delving into the history of the ones that already exist. I have always thought an Overwatch Netflix series would be the perfect way for these stories to be told, but with the recent news a new Overwatch game is on the way, I can’t help but hope it is campaign driven. We recently learned that Blizzard consider Overwatch’s story to be built like the MCU. Are we about to enter phase 2?
Before Overwatch was even launched we were treated to several animated shorts, promising roundly developed characters with rich backstories. Things started strongly with Winston’s “Recall”, then came the Widowmaker and Tracer duel in “Alive”, promptly followed by my personal favourite “Dragons”. Post-launch, though, these extended nuggets of lore have been produced more sporadically. For years we have been teased an Overwatch story, but in reality they’ve only been drops in the ocean in the Overwatch universe. There just doesn’t seem to be a grand plan when it comes to threading story into Overwatch as it exists now. I thoroughly enjoyed the short story “Bastet”, which told of Ana and Soldier 76’s time in Anubis together, but it would have been so much more satisfying if it was in the context of a larger story.
The now-titled Archives events that roll around once a year give us a taste of what Overwatch PvE could look like. While these 15-minute long missions basically serve as a quick way to earn loot boxes, they least attempt to develop the characters. True, they may just take the bare bones of Left 4 Dead’s horde mechanics and dress them in an Overwatch skin, but if you offered me a fully formed campaign based around this, I would welcome it.Obviously, Blizzard would have to introduce more variety in gameplay to weave in amongst the many hours a story campaign might require, and that would be a big challenge. After all, the reason why Overwatch is so good in the first place is it nails a single gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more. The newly released Workshop is an excellent way for Blizzard to see what modes and styles of game players are gravitating towards, which could be moulded into a future iteration of Overwatch. This “create your own game mode” area full of creator tools has already spawned some fan favourites that have been introduced into Overwatch’s Arcade rotation, albeit if these are only PvP focussed as of now.
The truth is, Overwatch’s current gameplay loop – capturing points and moving payloads with teammates – is as satisfying a video game experience I may ever have had. Yet, I still crave story, and want to know more about the characters I have grown to love so much. The thought of hour-long co-op story missions excites me. The thought of creating a strike team of D.Va, Reinhardt, McCree and Mercy and finding out what the core central conflict is in Overwatch appeals to me greatly. I don’t want an Overwatch 2 with another dozen heroes and another handful of maps. True, introducing a new style of gameplay will prove a big hurdle if a fully-fledged Overwatch PvE was to come to fruition, but it’s hardly the highest one Blizzard will have had to jump over in recent times.
Simon Cardy is a Video Producer for IGN in the UK, and still nothing quite gives him the thrill of a Dead Eye quintuple kill. Follow him on Twitter.