Overwatch released in May 2016, and the various changes Blizzard has made over the past four years have altered how it feels to play. While it’s remained true to its frantic, team-oriented DNA, players have watched elements of its original concept slowly fade away. Several of its original 21 heroes have undergone fundamental reworks that change how they operate entirely, not to mention the 11 new characters added to its roster. While ongoing support and a steady trickle of new heroes isn’t exactly something to complain about, I’ve found myself losing interest as Overwatch strays further from its original form.
It’s easy to look back on something fondly and ignore all its faults. While Overwatch wasn’t in a perfect state at launch, its heavy TF2 energy and varied roster was close. Most characters—bar Symmetra and Torbjörn—were viable options with powerful abilities. Matches felt exciting and more chaotic as there were fewer restrictions on who you could play as, or how your team had to be structured. There was more freedom to play and switch between characters as you pleased. Even early competitive seasons felt flexible.
There’s no doubt that some balance changes and updates have improved Overwatch, but I really miss the anarchy of its opening months. Heroically flying in to resurrect an entire team during overtime as Mercy, dashing across large portions of the map without touching the ground as Genji, and landing a cheeky scattershot with Hanzo are just old highlight clips now. Sure, some of these abilities were a bit too strong, but they all fed into a chaotic formula that has been dialed down along the way. There’s no denying that new characters have introduced fresh frustrations, such as Sigma’s double barrier capabilities with Orisa, but these are nowhere near as fun to pull off.
The introduction of Overwatch’s Arcade mode was a step in the right direction for embracing crazy, haphazard fun. Mystery Heroes and Quick Play Classic capture the essence of the hectic scramble to push payloads and capture points, without feeling too bogged down in the meta. I’d love to see Blizzard fully lean into that raw, casual appeal even further and introduce a full Classic mode to Arcade, stripping the game back to its core 21 heroes and their original abilities.
While I imagine a vanilla Overwatch mode would be difficult to actually implement—as we’re so many balance patches into the future—I’d love to hop back into a slice of Overwatch’s past just to see if it really was as fun as I remember. Its lengthy queue times have been long enough to push me towards other multiplayer games in recent years, and I think a classic mode would primarily appeal to players with a similar mindset who have taken a break from it. Hypothetically this would reinvigorate its popularity as players that have moved onto other games would be inclined to return to test their skills.
The chances of a classic mode coming to fruition are slim, and I’m sure there’s a list of reasons why it isn’t practical, but it’s great to dream about. This topic rears its head in the community every so often and, with Overwatch 2 in the works, it feels as though we’re moving even further away from the original formula. It would be nice to revisit its launch build, even if it were just as a temporary mode.