Being a Blizzard game, there is no shortage of lore in the upcoming first-person shooter Overwatch. While there are no plans to include a campaign in the game, every character and map is dripping with detail. The developers have built a vividly realized world for players to stage their battles in, which they plan to explore further with a series of digital comics and animated shorts that will be released for free in the future. Until then, this guide will take you through everything there is to know about the world of Overwatch and its vibrant inhabitants.
The largest inciting incident in the history of Overwatch was the robot uprising known as the Omnic Crisis. Highly intelligent machines called omnics rebelled against their creators, resulting in a massive war. It was a global crisis with every nation having to stand against the robot rebels in their own ways. Dreadful warmachines like the Siege Automaton E54, or “Bastion” unit (pictured above), wrought destruction across the world. Fortunately, the crisis is already long over by the time Overwatch takes place and humanity has already won the war against the machines thanks in large part to the efforts of one team…
The next thing you need to know about Overwatch is, well, Overwatch. The organization that the game is named after was formed in response to the Omnic Crisis and involved talented soldiers from around the world. Not every country participated in the Overwatch program, such as Russia deciding to focus on defending its own, but several nations from around the world contributed to the organization. Among Overwatch’s founding members were Gabriel Reyes, Jack Morrison, Reinhardt Wilhelm, Torbjörn Lindholm, and Ana Amari, with Lena ‘Tracer’ Oxton, Winston, Angela ‘Mercy’ Ziegler, Mei-Ling Zhou, Genji Shimada, and Jesse McCree joining over the years. Ana’s daughter, Fareeha ‘Pharah’ Amari, was well on her way to following in her mother’s footsteps, but before she could officially join came the point where things fell apart.
For as optimistic as many of its agents were, Overwatch was far from ideal and there were plenty of shadows looming over the organization’s history. McCree, for example, was originally a member of the Deadlock Gang and only joined Overwatch after he was arrested and offered a deal if he worked for their covert division, Blackwatch. Worse yet, Reyes and Morrison were subjected to super-soldier experiments that left their minds warped. As a result, Reyes became the ruthless mercenary Reaper and Morrison became the vigilante Agent 76.
After 20 years of service, Overwatch was disbanded by higher command. The closure was abrupt and many mysteries still surround what events took place behind the scenes. Overwatch’s members all went their seperate ways after its disbanding, but several of the organization’s frontline agents still want answers on why Overwatch was shut down.
It should be noted that, while the characters Zenyatta, Lùcio, and Bastion are featured in the above group shot, none of them were ever officially affiliated with Overwatch.
Each nation had its own way of responding to the Omnic Crisis. Both South Korea and Russia decided to fight metal with metal, each developing their own lines of piloted mech suits independently from the Overwatch program. Initially, South Korea’s MEKA program, short for Mobile Exo-force of the Korean Army, used remote-controlled drones to battle the rebel omnics, but this proved inefficient when one particularly powerful omnic appeared.
A giant omnic capable of adapting itself after every battle emerged from the sea and posed a constant threat to to the Korean coastline. MEKA would beat back the monstrous machine, but never manage to finish it off. Eventually, the omnic found a way to disrupt the long-range controls of the drones and a more direct approach was required. It was at this point that the drones were converted into piloted mech suits, but finding suitable pilots to handle the complex controls and keep up with the omnic’s adaptive intellect was difficult.
In a bizarre twist, the South Korean government turned to their professional gamers to command these mechs. Their ability to quickly strategize made them the perfect pilots to combat the towering omnic. Their most famous agent is Hana “D.Va” Song, who had earned recognition early on as the youngest Starcraft XI world champion (yes, that is actually canon). Her work with MEKA has garnered a special amount of notoriety as she actually streams her battles online for her adoring fans to watch.
Australian Liberation Front
One of the most devastating effects of the Omnic Crisis was the destruction that occurred in Australia. After the war, the world governments offered control of the continent of Australia to the surviving omnics in the hopes of establishing peace. Obviously, the Australian citizens weren’t happy with the deal as many were displaced by the influence of omnics. One of those displaced citizens was Mako “Roadhog” Rutledge and he and many others were not going to take it lightly. The Australian Liberation Front was formed in response in the hopes of taking back their land by any means necessary, ultimately leading to an attack on an omnic manufaction site called an omnium. The conflict caused a massive explosion that turned Australia into a twisted, irradiated wasteland. Those who had the misfortune of being raised in this twisted landscape, such as Jamison “Junkrat” Fawkes, had their minds and bodies warped by their unforgiving environment and were forged into some of the fiercest scavengers and mercenaries in the world.
The Omnics weren’t completely wiped out by the end of the Omnic Crisis. Many survived and some even sought new meanings in their lives. The most important Omnic figure post-crisis is Monyatta, the founder of a religious movement called the Shambali. Inspired by Buddhism, the Shambali formed their own monastery in the Himalayas to meditate on the meaning of artificial life. They were mostly isolated from the rest of the world, only communicating on occasion to deliver speeches of peace, but one of their members, Zenyatta, felt that the only way to heal the wounds left by the war was to travel out into the world and interact directly. Zenyatta now wanders the land alone and offers aid to any he feels needs it.
With the Omnic Crisis over, man and machine have taken steps towards peaceful coexistence. The greatest beacon of this is Numbani, a city built in the Nigerian savanna where humans and omnics live together as equals. While Numbani has prospered, it remains the only city of its kind at the time. The war may be over, but there is still a lingering atmosphere of resentment against omnics for the destruction they once caused. As a result, Numbani is often the target of anti-omnic terrorist attacks. One infamous figure in particular has a complex history with the city…
Discussing Doomfist is a little complicated as he is actually a legacy hero. Much like how Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Damian Wayne are all Batman’s trusty sidekick named Robin in their own right, Doomfist is a name passed down across three different people. They’re tied together by their use of a powerful gauntlet that was used as the focus in the debut trailer. Numbani has an exhibit dedicated to Doomfist’s legacy, labeling the three of them as “savior”, “scourge”, and “successor” in order.
Little is known about the first Doomfist, but the reverence that Numbani shows for him suggests that he was a champion for omnic rights. The second Doomfist is a known criminal who regularly threatens Numbani. He was defeated in a battle with Winston, but there’s always a chance that he’ll be back. With the third, we know absolutely nothing and the position may not have even been filled yet. With the alternate costumes in the game, it’s possible we’ll see all three appear as playable variants of the same character in the future.
Horizon Lunar Colony
Robots aren’t the only things that decided to rise against humanity. A research station know as the Horizon Lunar Colony was established on the moon and used gorillas as test subjects. The experiments rapidly mutated the gorillas to the point that they achieved a level of intelligence to match humans. One young gorilla took a particular interest in human science. He was raised by a scientist named Dr. Harold Winston and his eyes shined with the potential that knowledge and research offered. However, the rest of the gorillas weren’t exactly fond of having their genes tampered with and revolted. The gorillas successfully took control of the entire colony and forced humanity to abandon its lunar research. The one young gorilla was able to construct his own rocket and make his way to Earth. He gave himself the name Winston in honor of his mentor and became one of the top scientific minds within Overwatch.
Organized crime is no less an issue in the era of Overwatch as it is today, and the Shimada Clan is a prime example. Originally formed in the feudal age as an organization of ninjas, the Shimada Clan is now a powerful yakuza gang. The leader’s two sons, Hanzo and Genji, had great expectations placed on them to carry the clan’s future. The elder Hanzo sought to prove himself an ideal heir with his diligent approach and cold demeanor, but Genji lavished himself with his family’s wealth and influence. His flamboyant attitude was deemed unacceptable and Hanzo was order to bring his brother inline. Eventually, their arguments led them into a heated duel of blades. Hanzo had won, but he had left his brother near death with serious wounds, even thinking he had killed him on the spot. Wracked with guilt, Hanzo swore off the sword and stepped away from the Shimada Clan in order to rethink his life.
Little did Hanzo know at the time that Genji was still alive and it was thanks to Overwatch agents that had been tracing their actions. They found him clutching to life and Mercy was able to bring him back from the brink by using cybernetic prosthetics. Genji was reborn as a cyborg and was offered a chance to join Overwatch and help bring his clan to justice. Vindictive, Genji agreed and even personally led the raid that left the Shimada in shambles while Hanzo was away. Now it remains to be seen whether the two brothers will be able to come to terms or if their battle to the death shall start anew.
The Shimada Clan may have been disbanded, but the terrorist organization Talon still poses a major threat. Talon is the definition of ruthless and nothing serves as a greater example of their cruelty then the origins of their top assassin, Widowmaker. Once, she was Amélie Lacroix, wife to Overwatch agent Gérard Lacroix. Gérard had been a thorn in Talon’s side for years and decided to hit him where it hurt most. Amélie was abducted by Talon, but Overwatch was able to rescue her.
Unfortunately, they did not suspect what Talon had done to her in the time she was held hostage. Talon had subjected her to neural torture in order to break her will and transform her into a sleeper agent. Two weeks after being brought home, she assassinated her own husband and returned to Talon. They only experimented on her further, slowing her heart rate to rob her of any remaining humanity. Her blue skin tone is a direct result of the extreme measures Talon took to warp her into their ideal killer. Amélie Lacroix is long dead and a soulless monster is all that remains in her place.
The Vishkar Corporation is the most polarizing organization in the world of Overwatch. Following the Omnic Crisis, Vishkar rose as a herald of reconstruction. The company specializes in hard-light technology to swiftly rebuild cities. Their home country of India was made especially prosperous through their efforts, with the new city of Utopaea being founded entirely by Vishkar. They are also responsible for the rags-to-riches story of Satya “Symmetra” Vaswani in particular. Once it was discovered that she was a prodigy with Vishkar’s hard-light architecture, she was plucked from a life of poverty and molded into one of the company’s top representatives.
However, while Symmetra was enjoying Vishkar at its most ambivalent, Lúcio Correia dos Santos saw them at their most totalitarian in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro had suffered serious damage from the Omnic Crisis as well, and Vishkar promised to change the city for the better. While buildings were repaired, Vishkar had installed itself as an unofficial government and enacted strict policies over the citizens. Lúcio, a local DJ raised in the favelas, sparked an uprising against Vishkar and stole their sonic technology to be reworked into a tool of resistance. His music speaking out against the injustices of Vishkar has made him a worldwide celebrity, including a great deal of popularity in Numbani.
With that, it’s time to wrap up this excursion into the world of Overwatch. We could delve into the origins of Tracer, Zarya, or a few other characters we didn’t get a chance to bring up, but this should be enough to give you a wide picture of the world that this excited title is set in. If you have anything that you feel was left out, please be sure to let us know in the comments below.