There's a story in Overwatch. It isn't rammed in your face, it doesn't get in the way of the action, but it is there. I didn't know much at all about it after 20 hours or so of playing but now I do, I wanted to share it with you, because knowing a bit more about adds a certain je ne sais quoi. It's cool, all right?
The game takes place in a fictionalised version of Earth 60 years into the future.
Overwatch was an organisation formed by Earth's United Nations 30 years earlier. I say "was" because it was destroyed, torn apart by allegations and in-fighting and eventually an explosion at the Swiss headquarters that reportedly killed two of its founding and leading members, Gabriel Reyes and John "Jack" Morrison, and maybe Ana Amari, Pharah's mother. Overwatch was disbanded and declared illegal, and all agents associated with it scattered to the wind. That was six years ago.
But once upon a time Overwatch was great, held aloft and cheered around the world. It was a super-team created to end the Omnic Crisis - omnic robots turned bad (or was it robots awakening from slavery and rebelling?). For years the omnics had served humans, churned out by huge omnium factories, but something went wrong just over 30 years ago. God programs - AI super-brains - took over the omniums and turned omnics against humans, equipping them for war, and the Omnic Crisis began.
The omnics had taken over most of the world but with the help of Overwatch they were eventually beaten, forced back into submission, although a religious omnic off-shoot was formed called Shambali that claimed omnics had souls, and crusaded for equality with humans. An era of peace was ushered in and Earth's champion Overwatch prospered for 20 years under the command of Morrison, expanding its influence and numbers all over the world.
But in the six years since Overwatch disappeared, tensions have risen between human and omnic, stirred by Talon terrorist attacks - particularly the assassination of Shambali leader Tekhartha Mondatta by Widowmaker. But Talon has also been attacking old - not quite dormant - Overwatch outposts hoping to steal data and whereabouts of all old operatives. These attacks were led by mysterious and merciless killer Reaper, but were thwarted by Winston, a gorilla scientist who refused to let Overwatch go. It's Winston who illegally reconnected the Overwatch network, and it's he who issues the Overwatch Recall - calling back into service all agents - upon which the game begins.
Who are the characters in Overwatch?
Broadly, the goodies associated with the organisation Overwatch are: Soldier 76, Ana, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, Mercy, McCree, Winston, Genji, Tracer and Mei. Pharah never worked for Overwatch but wanted to and her mother did.
The baddies working against Overwatch are Reaper and Widowmaker [and now Sombra], although Roadhog and Junkrat are also considered baddies but with their own chaotic crime-spree of an agenda. Symmetra can also be considered a baddie, although she has nothing to do with Overwatch and she appears to be questioning her conscience.
The roaming outliers are everyone else.
[New entry] Orisa: name, Orisa, age, one month
Orisa was created by 11-year-old Efi Oladele after a Doomfist attack on Numbani. The OR15 robots that were supposed to protect Numbani, didn't, and were either destroyed by Doomfist or decommissioned following the attack. Using salvaged and auctioned parts, Oladele built Orisa to stand in their place.
Orisa has no affiliation to Overwatch nor Talon but is inextricably linked to Doomfist, who we expect to be unveiled next.
Sombra: name, unknown, age, 30
Finally, Sombra. But who is she? Her name is unknown. Could she have a tie to one of the existing characters, or a character from Overwatch lore? Is she that girl, Alejandra, from the Hero animated short as people suspected? No, she isn't - she can't be because of the ages involved. Sombra is 30 years old and Alejandra is probably no older than 10. But the events of the animated short cannot have occurred more than six years ago because Soldier: 76 was still John "Jack" Morrison more than six years ago. Overwatch was still around.
Sombra grew up an orphan of the Omnic Crisis. She was born the year the Overwatch organisation was formed, so would have known of them well. The Overwatch website tells us she had an affinity for hacking and soon discovered information was power. She ran with the Los Muertos gang in Mexico but was caught in the spider's web when she uncovered a global conspiracy and the attention turned to her. She went into hiding, went overground, got augmented, and re-emerged years later as Sombra. Exactly how she ended up working with Reaper and Widowmaker and Talon is unclear, but their attacking LumériCo in Mexico meant they shared a common goal. Nevertheless, she has ideas and motivations independent of theirs. What exactly she wants remains unclear.
Ana: name, Ana Amari, age, 60
She was presumed dead, but she's back, and she's the first new character to be introduced to Overwatch after launch. Ana Amari is Pharah's mother and a founding member of Overwatch, having been recruited for her near peerless marksmanship skills. She served as second in command to Morrison until she was shot and blinded on a hostage rescue mission by Widowmaker - someone Amari once knew as Amelie Lacroix. That near-fatal mission is the focus of Ana Amari's Overwatch comic Legacy. Did you know that Ana has one cybernetic eye that makes her vision six times better than yours our mine?
Ana went underground following her reported death, hiding even from her daughter, it seems. But we don't know much about where she rehabilitated nor who she had contact with while she was there. We do know, however, she couldn't sit by and watch the world fall apart and the people she cared about suffer - so she picked up her rifle and rejoined the fray.
Soldier 76: name, unknown, age, unknown
Despite being classified as officially unknown, Soldier 76 is totally John "Jack" Morrison, the 20-year leader of Overwatch. "They thought I died; part of me did," he says in the Soldier 76 Origin Story video (which shows a picture of the original Overwatch team). These days he fights as a masked vigilante hunting those people who brought Overwatch down.
But once upon a time he was a plucky young upstart, a top-secret augmented soldier drafted into Overwatch alongside his augmented soldier buddy, Gabriel Reyes. A lore article on the Overwatch website tells us Reyes initially led the group but it was Morrison who shot to prominence and became Overwatch's first official commander, creating a rift between the two soldiers in the process. It was that rift that led to the fight between them that caused the explosion in the Swiss Overwatch HQ.
Given that Overwatch was formed 30 years prior to the game's present day, Morrison would be around 50 years old today.
Reaper: name, unknown, age, unknown.
It isn't explicitly confirmed anywhere but Reaper must be Gabriel Reyes - there's even a Blackwatch Reyes skin for Reaper included in the Origins edition of Overwatch. Blackwatch was the covert arm of Overwatch.
How Reyes turned into Reaper is unclear. It's speculated that Reaper may the failed product of genetic alteration - perhaps a procedure needed to rescue him after the Swiss Overwatch HQ explosion. Whatever happened, his body's cells can now simultaneously decay and regenerate at super speed, hence his ability to turn into mist.
Reaper appears to be working for terrorist organisation Talon and hunting Overwatch agents. It's not clear what his bigger plan may be.
Reinhardt: name, Reinhardt Wilhelm, age, 61
Reinhardt was one of the original Overwatch strike team, a decorated German giant of a soldier living by a knightly code, fiercely loyal and not afraid to speak his mind. But he got old, and he was forced to take mandatory retirement from Overwatch and watch from the sidelines as it imploded from within.
Reinhardt didn't sit back and watch the world crumble, though. He travelled the world with his Crusader armour vowing to fight evil wherever he found it. One such adventure is featured in an issue of the online Overwatch comic.
Torbjorn: name, Torbjorn Lindholm, age, 57
Another member of the original strike team, Torbjorn was an engineer responsible for most of Overwatch's arsenal. Before Overwatch he built things for the Ironclad Guild - things like huge omnic Titans meant for building skyscrapers. But when the omniums went rogue those Titans were re-equipped - re-equipped for war. Torbjorn joined Overwatch as a way of putting things right, and when it disbanded he tried to stop his creations falling into the wrong hands. It's on one such mission we find him in his comic strip, Destroyer.
Widowmaker: name, Amelie Lacroix, age, 33
Amelie was once on Overwatch's side, married to Gerard Lacroix, who led operations against Talon. In response Talon had tried to assassinate Gerard several times but all attempts had failed, so one day it changed tack, kidnapping Amelie instead. When Overwatch found her she appeared unscathed, but two weeks later she killed Gerard in his sleep. Talon had neurologically reprogrammed her and completed the process when Amelie fled back to the terrorist organisation following her husband's murder.
Now Widowmaker is a remorseless killer. She appears in the Alive animated short assassinating Tekhartha Mondatta, leader of the Shambali order that preach equality between human and omnic. It was to the Shambali that Zenyatta once belonged.
Zenyatta: name, Tekhartha Zenyatta, age, 20
Zenyatta was one of a collection of outcast omnic robots who experienced an awakening and reprogrammed themselves, living in a monastery deep in the Himalayas. The Shambali, as they're known, sought to heal the wounds of the Omnic Crisis and bring humans and omnic back together. Their message was embraced by millions and they became celebrities, but one monk disagreed with the fame: Zenyatta. He thought the way to repair problems was not preaching but interpersonal relations, and so he wandered his own path. And it was on this path he met and mentored Genji.
Genji: name, Genji Shimada, age, 35
Genji was the younger son of the master of the criminal Shimada ninja clan in Hanamura. But he didn't want the life of his family and became a kind of playboy instead. When his father died his older brother - only bloody Hanzo! - took the reins and was forced by the clan elders to bring his younger brother in line. The recently released Dragons animated short, which tells the story of Genji and Hanzo, changes the story slightly to say the two disagreed about the direction of the Shimada empire following their father's death, but the outcome is the same: a fight broke out and Hanzo was forced to, he thought, kill his brother Genji.
Overwatch rescued Genji and brought him back to life as a cyborg, using him as a tool to bring down the Shimada empire, which he did. But afterwards Genji, at war with his half-robot existence, left Overwatch searching for meaning in the wider world. He found Zenyatta, and through him found peace.
Hanzo: name, Hanzo Shimada, age, 38
Much of Hanzo's story is wrapped up in Genji's, of course. But after the fight Hanzo did not stick around the rule the Shimada empire but instead left it, stricken with grief and guilt after he believed he had killed his brother. Falling back on the only thing he knew, he wandered the world as a warrior, seeking to restore his honour and put the ghosts of his past to rest.
Mercy: name, Angela Ziegler, age, 37
It was Dr. Angela Ziegler who rescued Genji and brought him back to Overwatch to be rebuilt. She was head of medical research, having been snapped up for pioneering a breakthrough in nanobiology. She disagreed with Overwatch's militaristic approach but used its resources to build her winged Valkyrie swift response suit that she uses today. When Overwatch dissolved she continued her life-saving work around the world.
McCree: name, Jesse McCree, age, 37
McCree was once an outlaw running with the Deadlock Gang, trafficking illicit weapons and hardware throughout the American Southwest. But Overwatch busted the Deadlock Gang and McCree faced a choice: rot in jail or join up. He chose the latter and over time began to see it as a way to make amends for his sins. He joined the covert Blackwatch team led by Reyes but when the infighting began he walked away.
He's a gunslinger for hire today, an outlaw with a cigar still righting wrongs where he can - such as on a hypertrain attacked by Talon soldiers with Blackwatch training. This is what happens in the McCree online comic on the Overwatch site.
Winston: name, Winston, age, 29
Winston, a gorilla, grew up on the bloody moon! He was a genetically engineered gorilla testing prolonged habitation in space, and he developed mentally much quicker than the other gorillas there. He was taken under the wing of scientist Dr. Harold Winston as a result, whose glasses and name he later took for himself. You see, the other gorillas grew restless and eventually mutinied, killing the scientists there and claiming the colony for their own. Winston escaped by building make-shift rocket and flying to Earth - as one does - and he found a new home in Overwatch.
He's presented as the leader of Overwatch today, and he's more than a little reminiscent of big blue clever-clogs Beast from X-Men, but I won't go there. Winston is the focus of the Recall animated short which takes place at old Overwatch outpost Watchpoint: Gibraltar, a map in the game.
Tracer: name, Lena Oxton, age, 26
Tracer, from London cor blimey, was the youngest person ever inducted into Overwatch's experimental flight program. She was hired to pilot the time-travelling Slipstream jet but during its inaugural flight it malfunctioned and disappeared. Tracer was assumed dead - but reappeared months later, albeit changed, drifting in and out of time, a living ghost unable to maintain solid form. But Winston helped her out, invented the chronal accelerator to stabilise her and that she wears today. When Overwatch collapsed she fought wrongdoing still.
Mei: name, Mei-Ling Zhou, age, 31
Mei, a peerless climatologist, was employed by Overwatch to carry out research at eco-Watchpoints around the world, to try and discover the true cause of the world's environmental destruction. She was at Watchpoint: Antarctica when a polar storm hit and cut the Watchpoint off from the world, and as supplies dwindled there was nothing left to do but enter cryostasis. Years later the cryogenics chamber was discovered and Mei was the only survivor, but when she awoke, Overwatch was no more.
Bastion: name, SST Laboratories Siege Automaton E54, age, 30
Bastion units were used against humans in the Omnic Crisis, and to devastating effect - have you been on the receiving end of a Bastion turret attack? Therefore, humans can't stand the sight of Bastion units, and when the Omnic Crisis was over they rounded them up and destroyed them. Except one of them - one that lay damaged and rusting in the wilderness. Years later it awoke, its combat programming all wonky, and it showed a great interest in the nature around it. This wandering David Attenborough of the robot world is of course the Bastion we know and hate today.
Bastion now has an animated Overwatch short focused on his awakening in that forest near the castle of Eichenwalde. The cardinal bird is called Ganymede by the way.
D. Va: name, Hana Song, age, 19
D. Va is a former professional StarCraft gamer! How about that? There she was, world champion, when the South Korean government came knocking and enlisted her into the mobile exo-force of the Korean army (MEKA). The government needed people to pilot mechs to fight an omnic monstrosity that would rise out of the sea and attack every few years. The mechs used to be piloted by drones, but the drone network had been destroyed, and so with few places left to turn to, pro-gamers seemed like an attractive replacement bet.
Pharah: name, Fareeha Amari, age, 32
Pharah always dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother and joining Overwatch, but the group dissolved before she got the chance. A decorated member of the Egyptian army, she joined private security company Helix Security instead. Helix was contracted to defend artificial intelligence research at the Giza Plateau, and it was working for Helix she received her iconic Raptora Mark VI combat suit.
There's a Pharah online comic that follows her on a mission to Anubis - where lurks a God program AI - where things go a bit wrong. It's in this comic she talks about her eye tattoo she calls Udjat, the Eye of Horus. "My mother had one. After... what happened, I got it to honour her memory." So it's speculated that Ana Amari, Pharah's mother, may have died in the Overwatch Swiss HQ blast.
Roadhog: name, Mako Rutledge, age, 48
Mako, a giant of a man, lived relatively calmly in the Australian Outback until he was forced out of his home when the government gifted it and the surrounding lands to omnics after the Omnic Crisis. The peace the government had wanted instead gave rise to rebellion, and the Australian Liberation Front blew a fusion core at the omnium factory that levelled everything for miles around.
Mako's Australia became an apocalyptic, irradiated, lawless wasteland - sounds a bit like Mad Max doesn't it? - and he began to change. He put on a mask to breathe and hit the highways on his chopper, and his humanity faded with his name.
Junkrat: name, Jamison Fawkes, age, 25
Junkrat was twisted by the same omnium blast, surviving in the harsh wasteland as a scavenger of wreckage, a bit like Rey from Star Wars, although he's hardly Jedi material now. It was while scavenging the omnium ruin he hit discovered a valuable secret, but in doing so became a target for everyone else. So he made a deal with the biggest, scariest guy around to protect him in exchange for a 50/50 share of the spoils. That bodyguard was Roadhog.
Today Junkrat and Roadhog are on a world tour, a crime spree of insane proportions, levelling everything in their path. One of their adventures is covered in an Overwatch comic.
Symmetra: name, Satya Vaswani, age, 28
Satya was plucked from extreme poverty by southern India's Vishkar Corporation for her potential ability to manipulate hard light. The Vishkar Coporation intended to create new self-sustaining cities following the destruction wreaked by the Omnic Crisis. Utopea was its crowning creation, a city created by hard-light that could be manipulated and changed in seconds by Vishkar architects. Isolated and lonely, Satya became among the best of these architects.
But Vishkar saw even greater potential in Satya and sent her on secret missions under the moniker Symmetra as it sought to expand its influence around the world. It's for this reason Vishkar ends up in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, attempting for force itself upon the people there - something Satya believes is for the greater good but begins to question in her online comic. It's also Vishkar being in Rio de Janeiro that brings Lucio to the fore.
Lucio: name, Lucio Correia Dos Santos, age, 26
Lucio grew up in Rio. After the Omnic Crisis his city was in ruin and he turned to music as a way to uplift the people around him. He became an underground legend - but then Vishkar moved in. It promised improvement but instead exploited locals and enforced strict laws. Lucio had had enough. He stole Vishkar sonic technology used to suppress people - go Lucio! - and modified it to do the opposite: encourage people. He led an uprising that sent Vishkar packing, and his profile - and music sales - skyrocketed as a result. He now plays to packed stadiums around the world while using his influence for good. What a nice chap.
Zarya: name, Aleksandra Zaryanova, age, 28
Finally there's Zarya, one of the world's strongest women, from war-ravaged Russia - one of the only countries to defeat the omnics and shut down the omnium before Overwatch was created. She took to weightlifting and bodybuilding as a way to have the strength to protect her family and people, and was spotted by Russia's athletics programme as potential star. She joined them and her profile rose, and she bench-pressed and deadlifted her way to the world championships, where she was expected to smash long-standing records. But on the eve of the tournament a Siberian omnium went rogue and attacked, and Zarya, a symbol of strength, rushed home to bolster the defence.
That was a lot of information wasn't it? There's a rough timeline of events on posted on the Overwatch subreddit by DragonhandX that helps with the understanding.
I'll be updating this article as and when new things happen that require it, but for now, that's more or less it. I'm fascinated to see how the Overwatch story ebbs and flows in the coming months and years, and whether Blizzard will push present day events on - somehow - or instead work on backfilling histories and motives and so on. Tricky when you need a 'present' for everyone to play in. But I like how Blizzard is doing it so far; I really appreciate crumb-trails of information and digging to uncover them. Adds a bit of mystery.
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