Overwatch 2’s ambitious hero mode scrapped to focus on live game

Overwatch 2’s long-awaited hero missions PvE mode is no more. In a developer livestream, game director Aaron Keller said that the team is canceling the game’s PvE-based hero missions in favor of continuing on with seasonal, story-focused events.

When Blizzard first announced Overwatch 2, the developers teased that the game would have two PvE campaign modes adjacent to its traditional competitive modes.

In the presentation announcing Overwatch 2 during Blizzcon 2019, former game director Jeff Kaplan spoke of hero missions and story missions that encompassed the game’s PvE elements and drove the game’s narrative. Story missions would be like the story-focused events the original Overwatch already had. Players would group up and fight against AI-controlled enemies instead of teams of other players. These kinds of missions would either cover Overwatch 2’s overall story the way Uprising, Retribution, and Storm Rising dug into events in original Overwatch or be fantastical side stories outside Overwatch canon like the Halloween event Junkenstein’s Revenge. These story missions would also be seasonal, rotating out every few months.

Hero missions, however, were presented as this always-available, always-replayable mode that featured talent trees that would grant different buffs to heroes, giving this part of the game more RPG-like qualities.

“With everything we’ve learned about what it takes to operate this game,” said executive producer Jared Neuss. “It’s clear that we can’t deliver on that original vision for PvE that was shown in 2019.”

After Overwatch 2 was announced, the game entered a kind of “dead zone” where no new content was being released save skins and rehashed holiday events. Even though a new game was forthcoming, players started disengaging from original Overwatch. Ahead of the game’s release in 2022, Keller put out a video promising a steady cadence of releases and new content so players would never again have to wait years between new heroes or events.

In an interview with GameSpot, Neuss and Keller went into detail about the reasons for hero modes’ cancellation, talking about how it would’ve taken pulling developers off the live game in order to create hero mission PvE as it was originally conceived and how that wouldn’t square with the team’s commitment to keeping the game fresh and exciting.

In reality, what we were looking at was running two separate games at the same time with a set of heroes as the piece that is shared between two of them. And as we started to get further and further into it — obviously our players could realize that we were pulling focus away from the live game — but it just didn’t look like there was a definitive end date in sight where we would finally be able to put that stamp on [it], or that end date was years away and it no longer felt like we could be doing that to our players, or we could be doing that to the live game that we were running. And that’s when we took the moment to shift strategy and put everything into the live game.

Losing hero missions is a big bummer, but Overwatch 2 PvE isn’t totally gone. Story missions have been traditional events within both games, and the developers shared that Overwatch 2’s first big story event is coming in season 6.

Additionally, the livestream wasn’t solely focused on PvE. Neuss and Keller also shared the rest of the 2023 road map featuring new support and tank heroes, the return of the Summer Games event, and the equally anticipated arrival of the creator workshop.

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