Overwatch’s story is scattered. Aside from an opening cinematic of bumbling gorilla Winston wondering how to reassemble the scattered crew of Overwatch, everything embedded in the lore has been buried since launch.
To learn more about the eclectic band of Overwatch heroes and their origins, players have to read web comics, watch animated shorts, read Blizzard website-bound biographies. What’s been missing in Overwatch the game itself is that very lore, that world-building. Something that gives players a reason to be invested in the characters they go to battle for.
Luckily, Overwatch’s latest event Uprising is a step forward in amending that oversight. The event plops you straight into Overwatch history as flagship character Tracer embarks on her very first mission seven years ago. We venture into a King’s Row unlike the one we’ve skipped across in the past. A King’s Row that’s brighter, but is now being torn apart by evil omnics (robots). Hundreds have been left dead in the passing destruction, and many more displaced. Massive turrets perch themselves on monuments all across the map. Omnics of all varieties, from little raptor-like omnics to the ever-familiar Bastions and Orisas (here, OR-14s), seek to destroy the Overwatch foursome.
It’s up to Tracer, Reinhardt, Mercy and good ol’ Torbjorn to hack the terminals that control the immense turrets. After that, they must undertake the familiar task of escorting a payload to break into a power station. And from there, take down the devilish OR-14s to stop King's Row’s further destruction. The mission, a PvE event, sets Tracer off to battle AI-controlled omnics alongside the others.
The group banter as they shoot down the purple robots. Mercy babies Tracer a little bit. Torbjorn annoys the rest of the crew even more. The whole match feels alarmingly different. (Especially when instead of respawning like usual, another player revives you from where your corpse lays.) But still, it manages to feel lively, like Overwatch.
As I accidentally dunked hours into Overwatch’s PvE event last night (playable both in its intended story-driven form, and a choose-whatever-hero version), I found myself wishing for more like it. Something unlike the PvE of the past, the thematically great but repetitive Junkenstein’s Revenge. But other bite-sized PvE events like Uprising, ones tethered to a hero’s own growth of sorts.
I imagined some possiblities. Like maybe an esports competition gone awry due to an omnic attack, leaving a competing D.Va no choice but to hop into her mecha. Or a mission between Reaper, Sombra, and Widowmaker, like in the animated short. Overwatch is as enjoyable as it is in large part because of its diverse, varied characters. But with their story beats so scattered in outside sources, some players inevitably remain in the dark about the tales behind the characters they main. With more story-driven events, Blizzard can add a bit more color to the already colorful world they've created.
I hope Uprising is a signal for what players can expect of future events. Overwatch's events have stood as collectathons for covetable cosmetics: of fancy, rare skins, highlight intros, and emotes. For the modes tied to events, they were often the most negligible aspect. Lucio Ball was a tired Rocket League knock-off. Junkenstein’s Revenge, while the best of the others, grew inevitably repetitive after a few plays. Mei’s Snowball Offensive was not great. Year of the Rooster’s Capture the Flag resulted in far more draws than wins or losses. Events were all about the skins. But Uprising has flipped that, with its best aspect squared onto its temporary mode and not on its hard-to-attain skins. Hopefully the next event is a clean combination of both. (Sorry, I still find Uprising's skins to be terribly bland.)
P.S. Have y’all seen that D.Va highlight intro? I already set a reminder in my phone to buy it with coins on the last event day if I don’t get it within a loot box before then.