Overwatch continues to be a huge success story, adding piles of free DLC, including heroes like Sombra and Doomfist. But what is the backstory behind the universe the class-based phenomenon takes place in?
Here's everything you need to know about Overwatch's story (so far).
Overwatch's universe is a colorful, vibrant place, filled with detail and mystery. Players in-game experience this universe by fighting in maps that take place all around Overwatch's vision of Earth, 60 years in the future. But while this world may appear as a multi-cultural, futuristic utopian society in-game, the lore behind this universe tells us the tale of the struggles humanity faced, and still faces, even to Overwatch's present day.
To see how this world became the way it is, we have to go 30 years prior to the universe's present day — to the start of a series of the greatest breakthroughs in technology mankind had ever experienced.
A golden age of technological breakthroughs
Around 2040 (no official dates have been given by Blizzard) humanity began to make astounding advancements across all fields. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, citizens around the globe were enjoying luxuries such as flying cars, teleportation, and automated robotic assistance. Military forces received extensive upgrades to body armor protection and weapons — energy shielding and laser-based weaponry became a common sight. But perhaps the most significant breakthrough of this apparent golden age was the development of artificial intelligence, or AI.
Using humanity's heavy advancement into robotics, humanity's best technological minds put the newly-created AI into humanoid robotic bodies, and thus, the omnics were officially created. Omnic creation facilities, called ominums, were built throughout the world to spread omnics across the globe.
Omnics in society
Recognized officially as a sentient species equal to humans, omnics were given rights by governments worldwide. It seemed that the omnics would truly manage to achieve equality with humans. However, that was not entirely the case.
Anti-omnic groups rose up, arguing that the omnics weren't real people and that they didn't deserve rights like humans. While these movements had an impact, the majority of the world stood alongside the omnics, and as a result the omnics continued to prosper in harmony with humanity.
The Omnic Crisis
The lasting peace between omnics and humans ended abruptly when the Omnic Crisis began. It is not known why the omnics began to rise up against humanity, though some speculate it's a response against the anti-omnic groups. This terrible time of death and destruction started when ominums around the globe began to churn out thousands upon thousands of militarized, versatile omnics called Bastions.
Bastions were the mainstay of the omnic armies and had the ability to transform into a mobile Recon mode (pictured above), a stationary Sentry mode (armed with a large rotary machine gun), and a long range explosive-firing Tank mode. They are, for many, a reminder of the Crisis.
The dangerous capabilities of Bastion omnics, paired with the fact that they were being produced by the millions around the globe, put the entirety of the human military on the back foot within days. Humanity clung together as one for survival, making the robotic armies fight for every single inch of ground. But it wasn't enough.
The ominums began to create even more devastating omnics, ranging from gigantic siege platforms to nimble, agile aircraft.
The creation of Overwatch
With humanity slowly running out of soldiers, weapons, ammunition and other provisions worldwide, and the ominums creating deadlier and deadlier types of omnics, the United Nations quickly came together in a conference to decide what their plan of action would be.
After much deliberation, Gabrielle Adawe, the secretary general of the UN, founded the famous elite task force organization known as Overwatch.
Overwatch was quickly supported by the rest of the global community, and the best soldiers from across the world all united under its banner. Overwatch quickly became the most effective fighting force that humanity has ever created. Overwatch's leader was Gabriel Reyes, a decorated US combat veteran and member of America's highly successful soldier enhancement program. Serving as his right hand man was Jack Morrison, another member of the enhancement program and a close friend of Reyes.
Overwatch, as the UN hoped they would, defied all the odds and managed to infiltrate and disable the ominums, ending the production of omnic soldiers and halting their advance on the human populous. But the equality and prosperity the omnics once held in society was now shattered.
Omnics around the globe were shunned, denied rights, and deemed as a danger to society, even if they were peaceful. This resulted in an era of social tension between human and omnic. Regardless, though, Overwatch had saved the world. As humanity began the process of rebuilding after global warfare, Overwatch pledged to protect the world from all threats, at all costs.
The aftermath: Overwatch and Blackwatch
Following their success in halting the Omnic Crisis, Overwatch was showered with love and praise by the rest of the world. The task force received monumental amounts of funding, and this allowed the organization to branch out into several fields. Indeed, what was once simply a military task force now expanded into medical technology, climatology, space exploration, cutting edge engineering, and everything between.
In addition to this, Overwatch also formed a secret special operations division, Blackwatch. This department of Overwatch operated outside of the public eye, allowing Overwatch the freedom to partake in covert ops.
Overwatch and Blackwatch together kept the peace for years. While Overwatch worked with the public to advance and improve security, medicine, and the preservation of the Earth, the Blackwatch division began to do covert ops work against terrorist organizations such as Talon or the Shimada Clan, actually managing to destabilize and destroy the latter.
As the world licked its wounds following the Omnic Crisis, Overwatch was there to ensure that humanity would be ready for the next threat they faced.
While to the public eye Overwatch was a stable, dependable organization, the people were not privy to the tensions that went on behind the scenes.
For his service in the Omnic Crisis, the UN gave Jack Morrison the first official command role of Overwatch. This angered the previous stand-in leader Gabriel Reyes, who was upset that he had been overlooked for the role. The friendship between the two became strained, with Reyes eventually breaking it off due to the animosity he felt about the situation.
As time went on, many humans began to feel sympathetic towards the peaceful omnics in society. They sided with the omnics, arguing that the Crisis was over, and that the poor treatment of the omnics was racist.
The success of these movements varied depending on the region. For example, omnics continued to be shunned in Russia, while in Africa they were once again becoming integrated into society. Overall, the attitude towards omnics by humanity was slowly becoming positive again.
Following the tensions between Morrison and Reyes, many people in the global community began to feel that Overwatch was now a shadow of its former self, and that it was too big for its own good.
Many argued against the UN policy of giving Overwatch free reign to operate where and when they choose.
Over time, the situation got worse and worse. As global media reported on these claims, Overwatch's reputation plummeted following accusations of incompetency and corruption, and while they still continued to serve as the world's protectors, they did so amidst criticism and suspicion from the global community.
Overwatch's last major operation
Seven years before the present day, an omnic militant group called Null Sector invaded and systematically took over London. Their goal was to use London's citizens as hostages to force the UK government to return omnics their rights and freedoms that had been lost after the Crisis.
Anticipating their intervention, the Prime Minister of the UK made Overwatch intervention in the matter illegal due to the current controversies regarding the organization.
However, Jack Morrison knew that the citizens of London needed Overwatch's help. Choosing to ignore the Prime Minister's prohibition, he sent a four-man strike team deep into London in order to thwart Null Sector's legion of omnic troops and save the city's inhabitants from more potential harm.
This team was successful, and London was saved. However, the global community was dumbstruck by the fact Overwatch had chosen to ignore governmental directive. This led to Overwatch's reputation deteriorating even further.
Two years after the attack by Null Sector, the existence of Blackwatch was leaked to the public by an unidentified source.
News of a covert ops division that operated outside of the public eye set Overwatch's critics in a paranoid frenzy. Overwatch (Blackwatch, specifically) was accused of human rights violations, torture, and even outright assassination. The tension surrounding the controversies had reached a breaking point, and the UN moved to investigate the claims. However, before Overwatch was investigated, their headquarters in Switzerland was unexpectedly destroyed by a large explosion.
Reports say the cause was a deadly confrontation between Reyes and Morrison. Both were presumed dead to the public, though Reyes would go on to become the Talon member Reaper and Morrison would become the vigilante Soldier: 76.
The Petras Act, and the end of Overwatch
Following the destruction of the Overwatch HQ, the International Justice Commission, a branch of the UN, signed the Petras Act into law. This law made any Overwatch activity illegal worldwide.
This took away Overwatch's ability to operate at all, and because of this, the once-famous organization was now forced to dissipate shamefully. This marked the end of Overwatch.
In the present day, five years after Overwatch's disbandment, its agents are scattered throughout the world, each of them doing their best to help society from the shadows. With the Petras Act still in effect, Overwatch has no chance of officially returning.
However, after Reaper and several Talon operatives attempted to infiltrate Watchpoint: Gibraltar and obtain the Overwatch agent database, ex-Overwatch member Winston made the decision to initiate a recall of all Overwatch agents and reactivate the organization's communications network. He did this because he feels the world still needs Overwatch's help, even if they don't want it.
Reaper — formerly Gabriel Reyes — became an operative and officer of Talon's ranks since Overwatch's disbandment. Together with agents Sombra and Widowmaker, Reaper and the rest have Talon has risen to become a feared terrorist force with no Overwatch present to challenge the organization.
Recently, Talon broke one of their council members out of prison: Doomfist. With Talon now at full strength, they are devising a plan to plunge the world into conflict.
Second Omnic Crisis
The ominums in Russia have begun to once more create militarized omnic forces. It is unknown why specifically only this region's ominums went rogue, but a likely reason is due to the unusually harsh treatment of omnics in Russia.
Currently, Russia is successfully holding off the omnic legions, albeit at a great cost.
What does the future hold?
There is potential for both a bright and a dark future within the world of Overwatch, and only time will tell if Overwatch — as well as society itself — can heal, defeat the forces of Talon, stop the Second Omnic Crisis, and return the global community to its former golden age.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.
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