Overwatch 2’s Invasion event, which goes live today, is the game’s biggest update since penciling in the “2” in October of last year. The event, which coincides with season 6 of the battle pass, offers a new hero, a new game mode, and, perhaps most importantly, new story missions that, for the first time, advance Overwatch’s story. And while I appreciate and enjoy all the new coming to Overwatch 2, I can’t shake the feeling that this all feels too little and too late.
Flashpoint is Overwatch 2’s newest game mode. Teams fight to control one of five points spread out equally on maps that are the largest in the game. Each point unlocks sequentially, and once a team reaches 100 percent control, the next point unlocks. The first team to three points wins.
That’s… all I can really say about it, as it doesn’t feel productive describing what it feels like to play. Firstly, my experience in early access was just custom games filled with bots and is, therefore, not really representative of what live matches will feel like. Secondly, it’s just the control game type on a much larger map. Instead of fighting for control of one point, resetting, and fighting again, you do all that on the same map — no resets.
Flashpoint is Overwatch 2’s newest game type after Push was introduced at the game’s launch as a replacement for the Assault game type. Because Assault was unfairly reviled, Push didn’t have to be much to make players happy again. But even with that low bar, Push seemingly hasn’t really succeeded in the court of player opinion. If one team gets an early lead, it’s really difficult for the opposing team to make a comeback, leading to demoralizing blowouts. So while Flashpoint’s been in development for a while, its addition to the game comes at a time when it feels like it’s meant to respond to the disappointment surrounding Push. But with Flashpoint’s simplicity and its similarity to an existing game type, it doesn’t work for me.
Flashpoint’s high…er point, though, was playing as the new support hero, Illari. She’s a powerful, offensive healer who didn’t feel intimidating to learn like Lifeweaver was. I’m a support main — my job is making sure my teammates don’t die. So while my role is vital, it typically goes uncelebrated in a match in favor of the big team wipes tanks and damage heroes do. Not so with Illari. Her presence in a match is much more pronounced than other healers because she’s so offensively stacked in addition to her healing.
Illari feels similar to but much more powerful than Moira offensively and with respect to her healing output. In addition to her secondary fire being a direct healing beam, Illari can also place a powerful healing turret anywhere on the battlefield. With precise placement, Illari can keep her team healthy in the middle of an intense fight while also putting out enough damage to turn the tide of battle.
Her ultimate, Captive Sun, which lets me fire these big concussive shots that not only slowed my enemies but also made them explode, is my favorite ultimate in the game. Now, is that because using it netted me a triple kill, winning me play of the game, which is exceedingly rare but very prestigious for a support player? Sure. But let’s not split hairs here. Also, Illari’s llama pajama skin is so stinkin’ cute, giving me yet another reason to love her.
The Invasion event also has three story missions, which are meant to essentially restart Overwatch’s story that began with the “Recall” animated short released in 2016. Winston, in the face of the danger posed by the evil shadow organization Talon and a brewing robot uprising, sends up a beacon to rally former Overwatch operatives to combat these looming threats. Seven years later, the “Zero Hour” animated short that arrived with Overwatch 2 shows some of those heroes finally answering that call. Now, with the Invasion event and its three story missions, we get to see the events that happen immediately after Winston gets the gang back together.
The story missions take place either in totally new locations like Gothenburg or in places familiar to players but have been remixed into an entirely new map like Toronto and Rio de Janeiro. Remixing is actually a big theme for the story missions, as each is essentially a remixed version of a typical Overwatch game type with some extra bells and whistles. In Toronto, your team has to defend locations and prevent them from being overrun by hostiles, kind of like playing a Control match. The Rio de Janeiro mission reminds me of Deathmatch, requiring players to simply kill everything that moves, and in Gothenburg, you escort a payload.
There are other elements to the missions that introduce variety and prevent them from being straight-up story-driven reskins of Overwatch matches. I really enjoyed how, in the Rio mission, you had to fight against a huge boss robot that required a bit of actual strategy to defeat beyond just shooting it in the face. The Gothenburg mission also has a fun, if frustrating at higher difficulties, tower defense moment in which you deploy and repair turrets to assist in protecting a giant cannon.
In the story missions, you don’t have access to Overwatch 2’s full roster; you’re instead made to choose between a handful of characters that are present for that particular part of the story. I didn’t think I’d like that aspect because I have my roster of comfort heroes, and I stick with them. I played Lúcio in the Rio mission and Baptiste in Toronto. But for Gothenburg, I was forced to pick from a slate of characters I never use. Since I’m a support main, I chose Brigitte, and I hated her. Deploying her shield and swinging her flail around just didn’t jive with my style of play, and I was having a crappy time playing the mission. On a whim, I changed to Bastion, and my entire outlook transformed. His kit has changed significantly between original Overwatch and now for the better. As a support main, I’m generally good at keeping other people healed, but I tend to neglect my own health bar. In Overwatch 2, Bastion’s old self-healing ability has changed to a sticky grenade launcher that I had no problem managing. And, of course, it’s always gonna feel good to transform into his turret mode to mow down enemies as a sentient minigun. After all these years and being set in my ways, I appreciated that Overwatch still had some surprises for me in unlikely hero choices.
The missions’ story elements, however, are just okay. Though these missions are brand new and put characters in new situations with new people they are meeting for the first time, I didn’t really feel like the story itself was doing anything new, especially with respect to the characters. We’ve already seen how these characters interact with each other from the voice lines we hear at the start of each match. But because those conversations happened in the primordial vacuum of the spawn room, they aren’t canon. We’ve heard Lúcio and Reinhardt share tons of cute moments talking to each other in spawn rooms, but because they haven’t officially met in the game’s canon, when they do in the Rio mission, they don’t know each other at all, and it feels jarring.
The missions’ story elements, however, are just okay.
These missions are square one for Overwatch’s story, so they’ve become square one for the characters, too. Because of seven years of essentially no story that wasn’t just flashbacks, the game has to officially and explicitly state information that we, as players, have already come to understand. From cinematics, we already know Reinhardt hates omnics. From his older voice lines, we also already know that he’s working on that prejudice. But the game has to explicitly spell all that out because it hasn’t officially been able to until this point. That’s not wholly bad, as it means that we finally have the chance to see things we’ve only heard referenced in voice lines — like the contentious relationship between Zenyatta and Ramattra — directly addressed and enshrined in canon. But before we get there, we have to wait for the game to catch up with all the world-building.
That’s unfortunate because I return to this game over and over, specifically because of the characters. I want those interactions. I want to see their relationships develop. The characters have been Overwatch’s one shining highlight in the midst of its sad-to-watch decline. I had hoped the missions would offer me some new nugget to latch onto, and it didn’t.
I love the idea of Overwatch, but the game itself? Not so much anymore.
To be clear, the story missions aren’t bad! They’re actually a pleasant, if ho-hum, experience, exacerbated by the fact I was playing with bots. But three 20–30 minute missions that essentially repackage the typical Overwatch quick play experience in admittedly gorgeous, new locations is a tough buy for someone looking to fall in love with the game again, especially since you have to pay an extra $15 for it.
I have a unique and complicated relationship with Overwatch. I love what the developers have done with the game’s characters, story, and its overall aesthetic. But when it’s time to actually play the game, I balk and look elsewhere for entertainment. I love the idea of Overwatch, but the game itself? Not so much anymore.
I’ve long been the kind of player who values story over all other elements in a game. So when PvE was announced, I was jazzed because I love this game so much. It is so special to me as a person and a journalist that I hoped adding the one thing I care about the most would be enough to win me back. But as we know, PvE isn’t happening anymore. A lot of lapsed players like myself pinned their hopes on PvE, and when that went away, their hope for the game died with it. But I held out, believing that losing whatever PvE was going to be would be okay because I was still getting story missions. But now that they’re here, I’ve come too late to the realization that story missions just aren’t enough. They need something more. That feels bad to say that because I don’t know what more is, and it seems unfair to ask for more from a development team that’s been through and done so much already.
To reiterate, I don’t think any of Invasion’s many new offerings are bad or of poor quality. If you enjoy Overwatch and don’t have the kind of emotional investment I have in the game, then this will be a great addition — if you can stomach the price tag.