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Well, Overwatch 2 fans, four years after they were first announced we finally have the FPS game’s long-awaited Invasion story missions that launched on August 10. Sure, they’re carrying the baggage of their $15 price point, Blizzard’s gutting of its wider PvE suite, and all the bad vibes from how the company has awkwardly turned the franchise into a live-service model with grindy battle passes and ridiculous monetization…but the missions are actually pretty good. And they are, finally, moving the story forward with significant strides after years of crawling at a painful, glacial pace for the past seven years. For long-time fans, there’s some pretty great moments in these first three missions. Let’s spotlight a few.
Ever since Blizzard revealed Overwatch 2’s story missions at Blizzcon 2019, we’ve been stuck with a major cliffhanger. The first mission, “Resistance,” sees Lúcio, the medic, DJ, and all around vibe of a support hero, plummeting to his supposed death after failing to reach Overwatch’s escape shuttle as the team evacuates from an exploding Null Sector ship. Lúcio is quick on his skates, but isn’t quite able to make it to ship as it’s escaping and everything is blowing up around him. Mei calls out his name as he starts to fall, then Brigitte, equipped with her flail, extends its chain to pull the hero to safety like a knight in shining armor. There wasn’t any real expectation that Lúcio would’ve died here, as he’s still obviously in the game, but he’s been, falling over Rio’s skies for four years on repeat in my mind. Luckily, Brig swoops in and saves the day. Queen shit.
While it isn’t quite the cinematic catharsis as seeing the new Overwatch squad reunite in the Zero Hour reveal trailer from Blizzcon 2019, which still stands tall as an all-time Overwatch moment, seeing the team’s next generation finally come together at Watchpoint Gibraltar, the old team’s original base of operations, is enough to make a long-time Overwatch fan’s heart explode. This moment is the convergence of two groups: Winston’s originally recalled heroes, and Cassidy’s new recruits he rounded up in the New Blood comic series. Baptiste, D.Va, Zarya, and Pharah joining the old heroes lets us finally see the team together outside of PvP matches.
It’s fascinating that some of the best moments in Overwatch 2’s story missions are tinged with a relief that they’re finally happening when, eventually, the honeymoon phase will end and give way for more concern and criticism. Because while I was absolutely caught up in the moment, seeing a cast of over a dozen heroes finally come together under one roof reminds me there is almost no chance Overwatch 2’s story mode can possibly spotlight them all. It’s natural in an ensemble cast for some characters to sway in the background while others get the starring roles in the play.
Overwatch 2 does give each hero some dialogue during missions that can vary depending on your team’s composition, but by and large, each mission feels pretty much focused on a handful of characters while the other heroes are there to quip and look pretty like they’re in an Avengers movie. But with a cast of over 30 heroes, there was never going to be a version of this narrative that gave everyone equal time on the stage, so I’m curious to see who the Overwatch 2 story missions are really “about” moving forward.
After “Resistance” is cute and saccharine with the heroes of Overwatch celebrating their reunion and dishing out their best one-liners while fighting through an army of killer robots, mission two, “Liberation,” deals with the nuances of these heroes’ relationships. With that in mind, there aren’t many who have a more conflicted opinion about Overwatch than Sojourn—she left it after testifying that the organization should disband
Before she can unpack all that, we get an adorable scene of her and Winston hugging. Cassidy tries to spoil the moment by asking where’s his hug, but Sojourn and Winston’s hug is a heartwarming moment. Enjoy that warmth before the Toronto snow and horrifying story beats freeze everything over.
Overwatch 2 is often touted as a bright, hopeful version of humanity’s not-too-distant future, but its dark turns are pretty damn horrifying. The Null Sector invasion is led by a group of synthetic omnics fighting against humanity that has long treated them like second-class citizens. This is the second time the omnics have fought humanity, but they have a few new tricks in their arsenal right now, including what the team calls “Subjugators.” These omnics target robotic citizens and fit them with a cranial device that, well, subjugates them. They’re essentially put into what most easily be compared to a synthetic coma. Not dead, but completely unresponsive, and according to Torbjörn, their memory banks seem to be wiped in the process.
The first time you encounter one of these things is on a subway ride in Toronto—you see an omnic trying desperately to get into the shuttle as the Subjugator subdues him. Sojourn reluctantly says they can’t help him, but he’s hardly the only omnic who’s been outfitted with the Null Sector device. Throughout the rest of the mission you come across entire rooms of subjugated omnics laying lifeless across the floor. Like a night of competitive Overwatch 2 play, the story missions are also full of man-made horrors beyond comprehension.
At the end of the Toronto mission, Sojourn tells Winston and Cassidy she can’t come back to lead the new Overwatch team, and that they need to be looking for Jack “Soldier: 76” Morrison. Cassidy says Jack is off searching for ghosts, and isn’t joining their cause. We don’t see Soldier at all during the first three missions, but I appreciate Blizzard for throwing this Soldier main a bone, a reminder that you hear me and you see me. Let me have this, okay?
Thus far, a lot of Overwatch 2’s story missions have been centered around the heroes just being jazzed about getting back together, but Sojourn’s hesitance to come back is some of the first friction the group deals with as it tries to rally against the Null Sector invasion. Sojourn’s relationship to the Overwatch name is complicated. She was originally a member of the Canadian military but was eventually brought into the Overwatch fold. As Overwatch lore tells us, she was one of the people who testified against the outfit and ultimately helped lead to its original dissolution after accusations that the group had become corrupt and was no longer serving humanity. Soldier: 76 has never quite forgiven her for it, but she’s still steadfast in her belief that it was the right call.
That is made all the more apparent when Winston and Cassidy plead for her to come back and lead the team in Soldier’s stead. But she’s not having it. She thinks Overwatch lost sight of its original goals at protecting greater civilization, and isn’t about to get dragged back into it. However, there are still signs she’s the person the team needs right now, because while they have heart, they clearly need someone to rally them and keep them in check.
This is best captured in a brief moment between her and Reinhardt, who carelessly tries to remove one of the Subjugator devices from an omnic’s head by force. Just as it becomes clear that this might do some damage, Sojourn intervenes and tells him that just because he wields a hammer doesn’t make every problem a nail. Reinhardt shows his whole prejudiced ass when he says the omnic is “just a machine,” but Sojourn stands her ground and tries to put things in perspective for him. Omnics are people, and that’s just the beginning of Overwatch 2’s story missions starting to reckon with the clear civil rights allegories it illustrates with the omnic storyline.
In an effort to learn more about the Subjugator devices, Reinhardt and Brigitte take one of the affected omnics to Torbjörn’s shop in Gothenburg. As the mechanic father/daughter duo works on the robot to try and figure out what they can do to help, Reinhardt makes more callous comments about the omnics. Hell, some of them could probably be considered microaggressions in the Overwatch universe like “can’t you just restore [his memories] from a backup, or something?” He also nearly attacks Bastion, the omnic hero who is now living with Torbjörn in Sweden, without a moment’s hesitation thanks to his ingrained prejudices.
Some might defend Reinhardt’s robo racism because he was a veteran of the original omnic crisis, but don’t give me that “he comes from a different time” nonsense because motherfucker’s been alive all the years since. He has lived in a time where humanity and omnics are co-existing. Luckily, after pushback from Brigitte and Torbjörn, it seems like Reinhardt is starting to see the errors of his ways. But I’m watching you, old man.
Up until this point, most of what Overwatch 2 and its predecessor have shown of character relationships have been solely relegated to pre-match banter. We definitely get a sense of some relationships through these, whether they be friendly like Lifeweaver and Baptiste’s playful flirting, or adversarial like Sombra and almost everyone. But if you haven’t been reading the comics or other external media, you don’t get to see these heroes interacting, so he lower-stakes moments of Overwatch 2’s story are welcome additions to its character development. Watching Brigitte and Torbjörn get to be a father and daughter working together in his shop is super sweet, especially when he calls her “Sparkplug.” It’s adorable.
One of the core themes of Overwatch 2 is passing the torch to the next generation. A lot of the heroes Winston and Cassidy bring together weren’t part of the original organization, yet they believe in what it initially stood for. But some of the old heroes have other priorities. Soldier: 76 and Ana are looking into the shady antagonistic faction Talon who seems to be manipulating Null Sector from behind the scenes, Reaper is part of that group and has turned against Overwatch entirely, and Torbjörn tells Reinhardt he can’t join because he has a family to look after. He looks on at Brigitte and reflects on how far she’s come as a combatant and medic, and tells Reinhardt it’s her turn now.
One of the last scenes in Overwatch 2’s first wave of story missions is a flashback between the omnic monk Zenyatta, the Null Sector leader Ramattra, and Mondatta, an omnic leader who was killed in Widowmaker’s Alive animated short. Ramattra is shown talking with his comrades as he leaves the Shambali Monastery in search of a future for the omnic race in the face of discrimination at the hands of humanity. Mondatta assures him that humanity may not understand them, but they are on the same journey to enlightenment and greater understanding as the omnics are. Ramattra’s not immediately convinced, which is why he’s leaving to find a new perspective. As he goes, Mondatta once again expresses his hope for a peaceful co-existence between humans and omnics, only for it to be juxtaposed by a clip of his assassination at the hands of Widowmaker. It’s a significant moment, because it shows Zenyatta and Ramattra are two contrasting visions of the world with their dead mentor at the center. Given where this scene goes, I’m really interested to see how Zenyatta and Ramattra clash in future missions.
After Zenyatta finishes reflecting on Ramattra’s departure, we see him in present-day sitting alone and meditating. Then we see Talon’s hacker extraordinaire Sombra and Widowmaker approaching him, with the latter radioing to someone that they’d found the omnic sage.
Anyone who’s played the original Overwatch’s Archives missions knows they likely want to bring Zenyatta back to Talon headquarters as a bargaining chip for Ramattra. Talon’s entire mantra is stoking conflict, all under the guise of strengthening humanity and that has extended to manipulating Null Sector and Ramattra. Given the omnic leader’s relationship with Zenyatta, it makes sense that he’d get pulled into this one way or another. Just what Talon has planned for him isn’t clear yet, but seeing Talon characters is exciting because they’re not really present in these first wave of missions. Given the story Overwatch 2 is telling, we probably won’t be playing as characters like Sombra and Widowmaker, and instead facing off against them as the conflict unfolds. But as a Sombra fan, I’m very much looking forward to her appearance in the next wave of story missions.