Overwatch is Blizzard’s own unique take on the FPS genre, and is definitely nothing like Battleborn, whatever you might hear to the contrary.
While the game’s story and general background is hardly central to your enjoyment of the game, knowing a little bit more about what exactly is going on in Overwatch really adds something to the game’s colouful world and cast of characters.
So let’s jump right in as I attempt to talk you through it.
The History Of Overwatch
Overwatch takes place in a fictionalized version of future Earth. I suspect this is mostly because the real version of future Earth has yet to happen.
As is so often the case with science fiction set in the future, humans and robots (known as Omnics) co-existed together. Or more accurately, robots served humans. Predictably, things got a bit Skynet, and this peace didn’t last.
This period of time is referred to as the Omnic Crisis, when the Omniums (basically Omnic factories with AI superbrains) went rogue and began producing militarized robots to rise up and overthrow the humans. Cool, right? Well, not for the humans.
Enter Overwatch, a peacekeeping task force of elite soldiers from around the world, hand picked by the United Nations.
Their job was to save Earth from those naughty Omnics, and they nailed it. Over the next 30 years, Overwatch grew to be a respected organization, made up of the world’s top soldiers and scientists.
Sadly, as time went on, accusations of human rights abuses and internal conspiracy tore the organization apart. Eventually, an explosion at their Swiss headquarters reportedly killed two of its founding members, Gabriel Reyes and John “Jack” Morrison, along with Pharah’s mother, Ana Amari.
Overwatch was declared illegal, and all remaining agents went their separate ways.
In the six years following the end of Overwatch, tensions appear to have risen again between humans and Omnic.
It doesn’t help that Talon – a terrorist organization that Overwatch used to fight – are stirring up trouble and provoking further tensions through acts of, well, terrorism.
But Talon have other, more nefarious plans. They’re attacking old Overwatch outposts in the hopes of stealing data and discovering the locations of old Overwatch operatives. These attacks are led by Reaper, a guy with an obvious villain’s name. Look at him below. EVIL.
Luckily, these attacks are stopped by Winston, a gorilla scientist (awesome) who believes that Overwatch should still be around, to the point where he illegally issues the Overwatch Recall and summons all agents back into action.
If you couldn’t guess, that’s where the game begins.
The Good Guys
As you’ve probably gathered by now, there are a shit ton of characters in Overwatch. Some are good, some are bad. All of ’em are genuinely interesting, with rich histories and back stories that I’m now going to butcher by attempting to briefly explain.
The heroes associated with Overwatch are Soldier 76, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, Mercy, McCree, Winston, Genji, Tracer and Mei.
Solider 76 is in fact John “Jack” Morrison, the leader of Overwatch who everyone presumed dead in the explosion years ago. Similarly, Reaper is assumed to be Gabriel Reyes (the other guy in the explosion). Check out Soldier 76’s origin below.
Reinhardt and Torbjorn meanwhile, were members of the original Overwatch strike team. The former is an awesome German soldier with a code of honour, while the latter is an engineer behind the majority of Overwatch’s colourful arsenal.
Then we have Genji (pictured below). Genji is a cyborg ninja who was rescued and souped up by Overwatch, who enhanced his body and augmented his already awesome ninja skills in exchange for help.
Moving on, Mercy is head of medical research. She rescued Genji and brought him back to Overwatch to be rebuilt. When the team was disbanded, she continued doing good around the world.
McCree was once an outlaw who ran with a gang that got busted by Overwatch. Faced with a choice between joining them or rotting in jail, he decided to join up. Mercy and McCree are below. Can you guess which is which?
Winston – the wicked sick gorilla scientist – who grew up on the moon. That’s where gorilla scientists grow up, see. Think Beast from X-Men and you get the idea.
Rounding out the team, we have Tracer and Mei. Tracer you’re probably most familiar with from promotional images (and the infamous butt pose controversy), while Mei is a climatologist who was forced into cryogenic sleep. When she awoke, Overwatch was no more.
The Bad Guys
Moving on, let’s tackle the villains of Overwatch. Generally speaking, the main bad guys are Reaper (who I’ve covered) and Widowmaker.
Widowmaker was once a part of Overwatch, but was kidnapped by Talon and reprogrammed to assassinate her husband.
Things kind of went downhill for her from then on, as you can imagine. There’s another animated short below that sums her story up nicely.
Then there’s Roadhog and Junkrat, who don’t have anything to do with Talon, but are bad guys with their own crazy crime-spree agenda. Everyone needs a hobby, after all.
Roadhog is a giant of a man who lived in the Australian outback, till the Omnic crisis eventually led to his home being turned into a lawless, Mad Max style wasteland, courtesy of an Omnium explosion.
Junkrat was caught in the same blast that destroyed Roadhog’s home. While scavenging through the ruins of said Omnium, he came across a valuable secret that turned him into a target. He employed Roadhog as his bodyguard as a result.
That, by and large, covers the broad strokes of Overwatch. There are characters and moments I haven’t had a chance to mention, but rest assured that they’re all as fleshed out and interesting as the ones I’ve already talked about.
For now though, you know the history behind the Overwatch organization, and the main contenders in the battle – Go forth and enjoy, chums.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.