Why Team Fortress 2 Is Thriving While Overwatch 2 Is Dying

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Highlights

  • Team Fortress 2’s simple design prioritizes cooperation, while Overwatch 2’s complexity divides and frustrates its players.
  • Team Fortress 2’s Permanent PVE mode (Mann Vs. Machine) is far more successful and engaging than Overwatch 2’s paid wave-based mode.
  • Team Fortress 2 offers better customization options with cosmetics available right off the bat, while Overwatch 2’s cosmetics are hidden behind paywalls and require extensive grinding.

These days, Team Fortress 2 is synonymous with gaming culture. It has blossomed into this monolithic phenomenon that continues to age like fine wine, with a massive player base to this day. Then in the other corner you have Overwatch 2, which may still be up and running, but is experiencing a dwindling playerbase, as well as picking up the title of ‘most negatively reviewed game on Steam.’ Let’s dive into why one game is thriving, while the other is dying.

Released in 2007, Team Fortress 2 is a team-based first-person shooter with a funky, cartoony artstyle. Overwatch came out in 2016, with its sequel released in 2022. Both games have the usual team-oriented modes, like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Escort the Payload. While these are standard team-shooter fare, they differ in that Team Fortress 2’s simplistic design prioritizes cooperation, while Overwatch 2’s complexity divides and frustrates its players, further alienating them with constant character buffs and nerfs.

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A Permanent PVE Mode

Team fortress 2 seal-3

Team Fortress 2 features a PvE mode called Mann Vs. Machine, where you face off against waves of robots. PvE was available in Overwatch 1, but only as a seasonal event. There were plans to add a permanent PvE mode in Overwatch 2, where you could level up your hero and gain new abilities, but this idea was scrapped. PvE was made available in a separate battle pass that costs $15, but it’s only a downgraded mode with no character progression like the original idea.

Furthermore, Team Fortress 2’s execution of a PvE mode is far more successful. Mann Vs Machine mixes up enemy types, with tanks, giant robots and special robot classes being used to spice up gameplay. Overwatch 2’s PvE is just a wave-based mode where the same enemy type rushes you, with no specialised forces to make you think on your feet, like invisible one-shot backstabbers or high HP tanks that required full team firepower. For a paid mode, it’s really not good enough.

Another edge that Team Fortress 2 has over Overwatch 2 is in the way of customization. Now, cosmetics in an online game are important, letting you distinguish yourself with style, whether that be through emotes or, most importantly, hats. In Overwatch 2, many cosmetics are hidden behind paywalls, or require extensive grinding of daily tasks just for you to acquire enough coins to buy a bundle. Even the in-game currency is sold in a bundle, and the coins rewarded to you are pitiful.

The constant push-and-pull of changing hero playstyles has left players feeling alienated.

Not helping matters is that once you’ve grinded your XP high enough to level up, all you get is a boring wall spray you can paste in a match which will only be looked at for a split second. More interesting aspects like character skins and heroes are only available via the premium battle pass, which costs $10 as a one-off purchase.

On Team Fortress 2’s end, cosmetics are available right off the bat (provided you have the cash for them). They can be bought on the Steam marketplace and unlike Overwatch 2, they can all be bought in bulk or individually. You can even upgrade your free account to a premium account with the most minimal purchase from the in-game Mann Co. store. This grants you an extended item inventory, as well as being able to trade items.

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The More Things Change…?Overwatch 2

This brings me to the gameplay and updates that these games have seen over the years. Ever since the original Overwatch, Blizzard has been constantly tinkering: buffing and nerfing different classes. At one point, Mercy’s Ultimate could revive every fallen hero in a certain area in Overwatch 1, but now it’s just a flying ability while her revive ability is single-use and tied to a cooldown meter in the sequel. Another case in point is Roadhog, whose ‘one-shot hook’ combo was nerfed to the point of me barely able to put a dent in any other hero. This constant push-and-pull of changing hero playstyles has left me—and other players— feeling alienated, as it’s difficult to keep up with who is buffed and nerfed.

Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, remains blissfully unchanged for the most part. Not one of the classes has changed since its release in 2007. This lack of constant class changing makes it approachable for new players, who don’t have to keep track of who is stronger or weaker, and also speaks to the game’s solid core balancing. The classes all counter each other in a satisfying rock-paper-scissors way: the Heavy is headshotted by the Sniper, who is backstabbed by the Spy, who is uncovered by the Pyro etc. This simplicity outshines Overwatch 2’s constant rebalancing of classes, where your favorite Hero could be weakened with any update, or have their ability replaced, forcing you to rethink your strategy.

TF2’s lack of barriers is why it continues to prosper to this day, while Overwatch 2 continues to decay. Activision tinkered Overwatch and Overwatch 2 into oblivion—from the constant class changing to their iffy free-to-play model—alienating more and more players while TF2’s unchanged base game remains as healthy as ever.

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