Hi! It’s Annie!
I know, I’m not usually the one who posts about video games, but it’s really hard for me to not like this one. I should preface this by saying, I haven’t actually played Overwatch before. I’ve been watching more and more of the professional Overwatch league over the past couple years, especially the ‘Philadelphia Fusion’ despite the fact that I live in California. (Poko is amazing, if you haven’t watched him play I would recommend looking it up even if you don’t like E-Sports.) I’m still a newbie to E-Sports, but I’m trying to learn! But even more than that I’ve been fascinated with the animated shorts Blizzard posts on and off on Youtube. Overwatch isn’t really a plot-based game, but Blizzard Entertainment still does all they can to give their playable characters as much story as possible. In fact, if you watch all of the Overwatch shorts together, it is actually around the length of a full animated film. All this is on top of the short descriptions of backstory Blizzard already gave us. So today I decided to count down my top ten characters in Overwatch just based off of the story we’ve been given of them so far. I would also talk about the best to play, but I’m definitely not experienced enough for that, so this’ll just be story based! Also note that the shorts released so far have focused more on the good guys than the villains of Overwatch and not every hero has been featured prominently in a short. Ready? Game on!
Reaper appears in several shorts as a shadowy figure, mysterious and lethal. You don’t know much about Reaper, but that’s because you aren’t supposed to. All we really know about him is that he used to be the leader of Overwatch and now he wants to kill everyone he ever worked with. Nice, right? Reaper features prominently in the short ‘Recall’, where he attacks the base Winston is stationed at and causes Winston to call all of the former members of Overwatch back. He also leads many of the other villains in the short ‘Infiltration’ where we get a good idea of just how great he can be at leading a team. Whether it’s for a good cause or a…. not so good cause. Reaper is an intimidating presence wherever they use him and part of that is because of his mystery. Unfortunately, that also has the side effect of the audience not actually knowing a whole lot about him, which is why he made the list but is so low on it. But it can’t be argued that he isn’t a scary villain.
If Reaper is basically the leader of the terrorists, Widowmaker is is his right hand woman. Widowmaker was once a good woman married to an influential agent of Overwatch. Then she was kidnapped, had her will broken, was basically brainwashed, and sent back looking as normal as ever. No one had any suspicions of her until she killed her husband. Widowmaker has since turned into a remorseless assassin and a formidable foe for Overwatch. Widowmaker features in the short ‘Infiltration’ where she is mainly just shown carrying out the mission with everyone else. Her character development doesn’t appear until the short ‘Alive’. This short involves Tracer attempting to stop Widowmaker as she carries out a highly influential assassination (Zenyatta’s brother) while Widowmaker ruminates on assassins being called emotionless. Widowmaker concludes this short by thinking that her only true emotions come from her kills. She strikes me as the most heartless character in Overwatch, and really she’s supposed to be. Her ruthlessness is why so many people, even the ones who have barely looked into Overwatch, know the name Widowmaker.
It can be argued that Tracer is the face of Overwatch. Her spiked hair and orange gear have become an iconic look for the game as well as her British accent and just generally cheery attitude. She was by far the youngest to be introduced into the Overwatch program when she first joined. After a while her ability to time jump cost her her regular life as she kept jumping between basically being a ghost and being anchored to everyone else. Still, she kept a positive outlook on life. This is probably why ‘Alive’ was such an interesting short to feature Tracer. Tracer begins the short in her regular cheery and almost over-confident mindset. When Tracer is prevented from jumping back to stop the assassination, we see her general outlook on life fall to bits. I’m all about happy endings, I hate movies with unhappy endings for the most part. But I have to admit that there is something so interesting and important in seeing a hero fail. Watching Tracer flail to find some way to prevent something that’s already happened that she would generally be able to prevent is heartbreaking. The animation on her face is heartbreaking. This is really what we needed to see to make Tracer feel more dynamic. Tracer is also in ‘Zero Hour’ quite a bit, but this is just her doing her regular hero stuff. Though her regular hero stuff is always fun to watch anyways!
Mccree only appears in one Overwatch short, this one being ‘Reunion’. This is one of the shorts that feels a bit more detached from the other ones, but this is still one of my favorites. McCree has always been a bit of a lone wolf, so the detached feeling really does fit his character. In this short we see McCree do what he does best, be a badass and take down people who stand in the way of his view of justice. McCree was an outlaw for a time before joining Overwatch, but after the end of Overwatch his faction turned to less than savory practices. Though McCree left and has been alone since then, he hasn’t lost any of his sense of humor. McCree keeps his emotions close to the vest, but he comes through when it counts. He is also voiced by the amazing Mathew Mercer and is just one of the most fun characters to watch do anything. I’m disappointed it isn’t high noon while I’m writing this.
Sombra was orphaned and left feeling like the world could not care less about her or her people. After she was forced to delete all traces of her former life, she re-emerged as Sombra, an expert hacker and manipulator. This is definitely on display for everyone to see in ‘Infiltration’. While this short also features both Reaper and Widowmaker, somehow the standout here is Sombra. Instead of killing the target, Sombra decides to “become friends” with the target, gaining her team a powerful political official in their fight against Overwatch and everything good. While Reaper remains a mystery and Widowmaker was brainwashed, Sombra’s vialliany comes from a very real and understandable place. She’s the type of villain that you can’t help but like because of her charisma and kind of agree with because she’s got a point. Her being so understandable and likeable somehow makes her almost scarier than the others in a way.
5. Soldier 76
I think we’ve all already accepted that Solider 76 is basically everyone’s Dad. Soldier 76 is another character that’s a bit of a mystery, but we do have a bit more information on him than Reaper. Soldier 76 is a vigilante and a former member of Overwatch who has, since the falling of Overwatch, sought to shed light on the mysterious happenings behind the shut down of Overwatch. We see him featured most in the short ‘Hero’ where he doesn’t even appear until half way through. What do we see him doing here? Vigilante work and saving a little girl. Exactly what we would expect the Dad vigilante to do. Soldier 76 has never shown his face, but the warmth that this character exudes is present even without having animated facial expressions. Soldier 76 isn’t known for being particularly cheery, but people rely on his nobility and warmth to find hope again. Thanks Dad!
Genji’s short was probably the first thing I watched that made me fully aware of Overwatch. ‘Dragons’ is Genji confronting his brother Hanzu, who believes he killed Genji a long time ago. Genji grew up in a rich crime family and lead a playboy/ninja lifestyle while maintaining a certain distaste for his family’s business. When his brother wanted him to take more of a part in the crime business and he refused, Hanzu lost it and almost killed Genji. Brotherly love, am I right? Genji was reconstructed into a ninja cyborg by Overwatch who greatly needed his help and he has since been taking down his family’s crime business while trying to find his humanity again. Just how far Genji has come since his playboy days are very present in the short with him and his brother. He is given the chance to take revenge on his near death and instead tells his brother that life has more uses for him and leaves him alive. These kinds of revenge stories are my favorite and this is also one of the more cinematic of the shorts. Watching this one is really like watching a small movie and that alone makes Genji that much more interesting.
Poor Mei. Mei was a scientist for Overwatch who travelled to Antarctica during a severe storm with several other scientists. In a last effort to survive each scientist entered cryo-sleep, and only Mei ever woke up. ‘Rise and Shine’ first starts out as if it will be really cute. Mei is an adorable and happy individual who wears slippers and you can’t help but love her. Then it suddenly turns as Mei discovers over the course of the short that all the other scientists are dead. Mei did not deserve this and your heart breaks for her as she suddenly begins to sob. While many characters have tragedy in their bios, you actually see Mei’s tragedy in her short. Mei shows herself to be resilient and determined as she sees to her own rescue and is shown to be an incredibly helpful presence in ‘Zero Hour’. You just wish she could have gone through a little less.
Winston probably has one of the most fleshed out backstories. Winston began as a regular baby gorilla who showed incredible brain power. He was raised by a scientist named Harold Winston in a lunar colony in space. Winston became smarter than most humans with his advanced understanding of science. Unfortunately, the other gorillas in the facility killed all of the scientists and Winston took the name of his now dead caretaker and went down to Earth to join Overwatch. Why are all these backstories so sad??? Winston is the main character who is responsible for getting Overwatch back together, partly because he misses everybody so much. Really, he’s just a big softie. Much of Winston’s story is shown in ‘Recall’ via flashbacks when Winston isn’t being attacked by a vengeful Reaper in the present. But, let’s be honest, Winston is way too happy to be calling Overwatch back considering the threat. Still, Winston is one of the characters in Overwatch with the biggest heart and he’s always down for a good fight, like in ‘Zero Hour’. You can’t help but love this giant gorilla.
I should prelude this by saying that I am, in fact, very biased. D.Va is my favorite Overwatch character, which you may have inferred by me talking about Poko earlier in this post. I actually dressed up as D.Va for Halloween this year, though nobody really saw it because I was just at home. ‘Shooting Star’ is another short that is a bit detached from everything else, but I like this one for the full story. Some shorts feel like parts of a story while others feel like their own side story. This is one of the stories with the most complete arc. This one and ‘Dragons’ are probably my favorite Overwatch shorts. They felt like they could easily be full movies. D.va is a former E-Gamer who was drafted into the military because of her reflexes while playing, making her perfect to pilot a mech. She’s also one of the youngest members of Overwatch. This short follows her and her friend Daehyun as D.Va learns that she doesn’t have to put all the pressure on herself and that it’s ok to ask for help sometimes. Not only is this short action packed, but it’s message is one that everyone needs to hear at some point in their lives. Also, I love literally anything that shows a female character doing something that’s seen as traditionally male; like D.Va fixing her own mech.
I think we can all agree that at this point, Overwatch needs a full length movie. We would all watch that. But until then I’ll keep watching the Overwatch league and re-watching the hour and a half of shorts that we’ve been given. I really don’t want to admit to how many times I’ve watched ‘Shooting Star’ at this point. I also really want to see more of all of these characters as well as characters we haven’t seen a whole lot from yet. Mercy seems to be a character in particular who is crying out for her own short. There’s just so much material here! I know it’s been a couple years since they last put out shorts, but I still hold out some hope! GG!
See you across the pond!