Unpacking Overwatch 2’s Chilly 3rd Season: No More Mr. Ice Guy:

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Overwatch 2 is three seasons in and doesn’t plan on losing any footing with fresh content for online players. The game’s rebirth in October 2022 also signified a stark departure for a premium online shooter acquired by select fans. Instead, Overwatch 2 opens the floodgates of its frantic team-based bullet hell to all players. The third season aptly continues a model for free and paid content to keep players refreshed. Ahead of the launch, CGMagazine had an opportunity to unpack the new season with developers looking to expand Overwatch 2 in colour palette and variety. 

Season 3 of Overwatch 2 adds a new pipeline for free and premium awards. Ninja healer Kiriko will be treated to a mythical skin designed from the Japanese goddess Amaterasu. The skin also throws in variations, including costume themes for the moon, sea and storm (each with its own unique visual animations). 

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The pass also tops off rewards for logging in. Free players will get an added 10 tiers and 1500 credits to use for its hero gallery. Fans of the first Overwatch can also access almost all 300 Epic and Legendary skins offered from special events. These would also be added to its Hero Gallery with a price reduction from 1900 to 1500 credits (essentially awarding one Epic of Legendary skin by logging in). 

Streamer mode will also be getting protective settings to let content creators hide their tags. Called “Streamer Protection,” battletags for all players can be hidden for privacy from the social options in settings. 

Doomfist, the damage-turned-tank hero, is the latest collaboration with Blizzard and the One Punch Man anime franchise. Players will inevitably see character Saitama in the form of a premium skin for Doomfist, complete with a red arm and majestic yellow suit. 

The third season is headlined with Antarctica, Overwatch 2’s latest destination for a new control map that brings in some colder weather to gamers indoors. Players are braving the icy elements with enemies vying to capture control points across a sprawling tundra. 

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“One of the things we normally do, especially from an artistic perspective, is we choose the overall colour or material that we’d like to see more often in a map. In our case, it was ice,” said Dion Rogers, art director for Overwatch 2.  

According to Rogers, the team challenged themselves with their first control map for Overwatch 2 using ice as a basis. Antarctica takes players out of more urban-based battlefields for an “organic” take on covers, higher ground and tunnels, he added. 

For Rogers, bringing the concept art to a working level forced the team to design flexibly. This required Antarctica to reflect less man-made city infrastructure in outdoor sections, while players can still enjoy Overwatch’s familiar sci-fi settings within the science facility where Mei lived. 

“Antarctica is a very organic map for us. It’s uneven from the shapes, its curvatures, the caves and the ice,” Rogers said. 

Rogers cited Route 66, a map from the original Overwatch based on Road Hog that blended both natural and man-made environments. Season 3 of Overwatch 2 designs a “modular” level that features more rocks for cover and winding caves, he added.  

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Antarctica takes a few notes from this hybrid design for high and low vantage points. Control areas are randomly scattered to encourage indoor and outdoor clashes. Of course, this requires teams to hold off or invade spots to gain points. This is also one of the first control maps made for Overwatch 2’s 5v5 layout – something developers adapted with tighter design. 

“It’s something that we have to keep an eye on now because the game plays differently with one less tank and them having generally less barrier health,” said Trey Spisak, level designer for Overwatch 2

Teams with one less tank means damage and support players will be more relied on. According to Spisak, Antarctica features more “verticality” to let players weave to balconies and cliffs before making their way through a corridor. Once the tank’s barrier is depleted, teams could be caught up in a hail of gunfire where the only way out is through. But the new control map gives players a chance to head upstairs to navigate a bit closer to the control point. Winston, DVA and Reaper mains get chances to lay the damage down these claustrophobic pathways to push through. The more mobile Genji, Tracer and Reaper players could take advantage of these tighter control points for close-quarters damage, according to Rogers. 

“On the icebreaker point, your classic ground on the boots team might do a little bit better because there’s not quite as much verticality around the control point in the entire map. Compared to something like our sub-level control point which is underground and has a huge amount of verticality.” 

Overwatch 2 level designer, Trey Spisak 

One big challenge included making the map versatile for tanks, damage and supports while keeping up with performance. Antarctica balances models for snow and ice, which were taxing to render, Spisak added. 

The map doesn’t just blend a frozen, barren glacier laced with death, but it’s embedded with a desolate Overwatch research outpost players first saw in Mei’s “Rise and Shine” animated short. The map even goes beyond Mei’s facility with a stranded ship packed with lore nuggets. 

Antarctica adds a brand-new chapter to what lead narrative designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie calls a “future history document.” The fictional lore bible ties Mei’s backstory into the map in ways that can be discovered by stopping and smelling arctic air. Without too many spoilers, the Mei-driven map shows players what happened to an Overwatch research team that once roamed around Antarctica.  

“Why did no one ever come to rescue them? That’s sort of a sad question. But the answer is, is that Overwatch tried. What’s exciting about this map is you get to see a huge part of the story that we’ve never talked about before as shown,” Jurgens-Fyhrie said. 

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The icebreaker ship players will be shuffling through will also play a part in Mei’s story. According to Jurgens-Fyhrie, the rescue vessel failed to save her team. Through an entire Omnic Crisis and Overwatch disbanding, the ship and facility were literally frozen in time. 

In a somewhat requested feature, the Antarctica map also features penguins observing players. The native, stoic and flightless birds are a rare NPC featured as an organic part of season 3’s new map. 

“We have penguins on this map. It was vital to the team’s happiness. The penguins had to be included,” Jurgens-Fyhrie said. 

The third season of Overwatch 2 will launch as an update for all platforms on February 7. 

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