I’ve been working through the five stages of grief ever since Overwatch 2 was announced. At first, I was in denial when I heard it was going to be a run-of-the-mill free-to-play game with battle passes and expensive cosmetics. Once I got to play it, I became angry at what Overwatch had become. The bargaining phase began soon after, when I decided that the revamped seasonal events were going to deliver the rewards I used to get from Overwatch. Now that Halloween Terror has started, I’m officially depressed. Overwatch 2 is not a sequel, it's a storefront, and it’s designed for customers, not players. The final stage is supposed to be acceptance, but I don’t think I can just accept what Overwatch has become.
I loved seasonal events in the original Overwatch. Not only were the special game modes fun, but grinding levels to unlock limited-edition skins was always a great motivator to get back into the game. During the event, regular loot boxes were replaced by special ones that were guaranteed to include at least one event cosmetic. My friends and I loved opening the boxes we earned in hopes of finding our favorite new skin, and even if we didn’t get lucky, we’d always spend the credits we earned on the last day to unlock the must-have items. If it was a particularly special event, as Halloween Terror often was, I never minded throwing in $10 or $15 to open a few extra loot boxes and increase my chance. I only ever got all of the new skins during an event one time, but even when I only got a few, I was never disappointed.
The days of earning event skins are over. If you want to celebrate the holidays with the Junker Queen’s new Executioner skin, Sombra’s Bride of Junkenstein skin, or any of the other new offerings, your only option is to pay cash for them. Individual Legendary skins are about $20 while the bundles – which are the only way you can get Kiriko’s Witch skin and Moira’s Banshee skin – are even more. Grinding quickplay, ranked, and even the new Junkstein’s Revenge: Wrath of the Bride game mode will not get you any closer to unlocking these holiday cosmetics. Play to earn is almost completely dead in Overwatch 2.
There is still the old challenge system, which offers a few rewards for playing the seasonal game mode just like it did in the original Overwatch. If you finish all 24 challenges you can earn a charm, a name card, two sprays, seven voice lines, and 10,000 battle pass XP, or one full level. These rewards don’t compensate for the loss of loot boxes, they’re just a small incentive for completionists that want to find the easter eggs and pursue the highest difficulty settings in the new activity.
This isn’t just less rewarding than the first Overwatch, it’s less rewarding than virtually every other game. Even Halo Infinite, for all its flaws, offers a mini battle pass during seasonal events so players can earn cosmetic rewards for free. Apex Legends is notorious for hosting expensive collection events, but it still has ways to earn cosmetics for free through Apex Packs. Blizzard has bungled this so bad that the best-case scenario is the return of loot boxes. Imagine that.
For what it’s worth, Wrath of the Bride is a cool game mode. It plays more like Archives than the old wave-based Junkenstein’s Revenge (which you can still play during the event) but it has a great story and the same classic monster movie aesthetic. You should play it, especially if you want a little taste of what Overwatch 2’s story mode could be, but there’s just no incentive to grind it out like we would in the original Overwatch.
For most, all the Halloween Terror experience will amount to is logging in to get the free Cursed Captain Reaper skin and Health Pack charm, a single run through Wrath of the Bride, opening up the shop to see what’s new, feeling sad, and logging off forever. I had hoped that the new revenue model would mean bigger, more rewarding events, but that was naive. Overwatch is now for paying customers only. As a dedicated Overwatch player with thousands of hours played, that’s a tough deal to accept.
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