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The Entire Overwatch Story Explained

After nearly a year of being left in the dark by Blizzard, "Overwatch 2" is finally out. The free-to-play sequel has replaced the original "Overwatch" as a continuation of the game modes, maps, and characters — all while adding a few new additions to the mix. The launch of "Overwatch 2" got off to a rocky start gameplay-wise, but the lore that has served as the backbone for the "Overwatch" story is still intact. In the years since the original game's release in 2016, there have been dozens of "Overwatch" comics, blog posts, and short films that have contributed to telling the story outside of the multiplayer focused title. 

Despite the plethora of unique heroes and locations that have been added to "Overwatch" throughout the years, each element fits into an overarching story. You just have to do a little legwork to put it all together. Luckily, there are dedicated "Overwatch" players who love to pour over the tie-ins and analyze all the supplemental material that's out there. This is a concise and detailed timeline of the entire "Overwatch" story. 

A golden age: The story before Overwatch

Our story begins in the somewhat near future. Humanity is in the midst of a technological golden age. Among our more notable achievements are the fact that we have managed to put a science lab on the Moon to genetically engineer super-smart apes. Meanwhile, back on Earth, we've also managed to master artificial intelligence, giving rise to an entire race of machines called Omnics, who  revolutionize humanity's manufacturing potential and make our economy rich beyond our wildest dreams. Things really kick into high gear after a megacorporation called Omnica gets involved.

Thanks to a now fully automated manufacturing process and the production of new, self-sufficient, and self-improving algorithms for those automated creations, omnic construction basically jumps into light speed, necessitating a new type of superfacility, called an omnium. One is installed on every continent on Earth, and they're pumping out omnics like crazy, which, for Omnica, is basically a license to print money. Everything seems to be just fine and dandy. For a moment, at least.

The Omnics revolt

As expected, nothing good can last forever. In the case of humanity's snazzy Moon colony, the super-intelligent apes apparently got super tired of being experimented on, taking the colony for themselves. Only two creatures manage to get off the Moon: a peaceful ape named Winston who wanted no parts of the revolt and builds a DIY rocket to get him back to Earth, and a genetically modified hamster named Hammond, who hitches a ride on Winston's rocket. It's a mess.

Despite the great space experiment ending in chaos, that's nothing compared to what goes down on Earth. Omnica's omniums start malfunctioning, to the point where it becomes impossible to meet the company's manufacturing goals. Add in a few corporate fraud charges, and the company is donezo shortly after. 

The company, but not the omniums, though. After some time, the omniums reawaken, and start pumping out new hostile omnics. Specifically, the new E54 Bastion unit, which is basically just a heavy machine gun on two legs. Needless to say, humanity doesn't deal very well with this, and begun the omnic crisis has.

Genji dismantles the Shimada Clan

You either love or hate the robot ninja Genji, depending on if you are playing him or playing against him, but it's hard to deny his origin story is one of the best in "Overwatch." For centuries, the Shimada Clan of ninja ran a vast criminal empire out of the city of Hanamura. In the years prior to the Overwatch project going public, Genji's father Sojiro Shimada was leader of the clan. When Sojiro died unexpectedly, Genji's brother Hanzo was put in charge of the Shimada family. 

As Hanzo led the Shimada clan, he was encouraged to train his brother to either help rule the clan with him, or else take his place in the event of his death. Genji rejected this future, so the two brothers had no choice but to the fight to the death. Victorious, Hanzo began to regret killing his brother and that guilt forced him to leave the Shimada Clan for good. What Hanzo didn't know is that Genji survived. 

Rescued from the verge of death by Overwatch, Genji has a change of heart and becomes one of the good guys. Working together with Overwatch, Genji took down the Shimada clan once and for all.

The founding of Overwatch

At first, every country has their own special approach to the crisis. In Russia, another omnic manufacturer called Volskaya Industries starts producing massive piloted mechs to defend Moscow. In Germany, a group of the country's best soldiers form the Crusaders, combating the omnic threat with massive suits of armor and powered medieval weaponry. In the good old US of A, scientists go the Steve Rogers route and implement a Soldier Enhancement program, in an attempt to beef up some troops capable of handling the omnics single-handedly. 

Sensing that maybe they'd have more success working in tandem, the United Nations proposes the formation of a strike team where the international community pools its collective resources and best soldiers to fight the omnics. 

And thus, Overwatch is formed. The US's first super soldiers, Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes, are chosen to lead, with Egyptian sniper Ana Amari, Swedish engineer Torbjorn Lindholm, and German Crusader Reinhardt Wilhelm working under their command.

Overwatch ends the Omnic Crisis

Striking hard at the Omnics' command structures and seats of power, Overwatch is enormously successful worldwide. After a series of daredevil raids across the globe, the Omnic Crisis is declared over, with only one surviving Bastion unit unaccounted for. With the crisis over, Overwatch transitions from a wartime squadron into an international team of heroic peacekeepers.

The first order of business is recruitment, which results in, among others, combat medic Angela "Mercy" Ziegler, ace pilot Lena "Tracer" Oxton, and good old Winston signing up for duty. From there, Overwatch experiences a massive expansion in scope. Brand new bases are established on multiple continents. The organization's sworn duties branch out into multiple facets of every day life, including counterterrorism, disaster recovery and rescue, and scientific advancement. To the general populace, the organization begin to be seen more and more as heroes, representing all that is best in humanity (and, yes, obviously, gorillas too). 

The dark side of Overwatch becomes Blackwatch

Things aren't all hope and rainbows, however. As Jack Morrison begins to overshadow Gabriel Reyes as Overwatch's de facto leader, Reyes finds himself transitioning to the shadows as the leader of Overwatch's covert ops branch, Blackwatch. From there, he recruits some folks willing to get their hands a little dirtier for the good of humankind. Specifically, former Yakuza member and cybernetically enhanced ninja Genji Shimada, former Deadlock Gang member and professional cowboy Cassidy (formerly known as Jesse McCree), and shunned geneticist Moira O'Deorain.

As it turns out, Blackwatch comes around at just the right time, becoming a crucial tool in the fight against Talon, a ruthless new terrorist organization who seem to have some sort of vested interest in restarting the Omnic Crisis and don't have many problems killing civilians. And so, while Overwatch displays a bright and shiny face to the world, Blackwatch acts as its bloodier hand, performing assassinations, kidnappings, and torture in the name of world peace, often in defiance of the governments they operate under, which leads to quite a few complaints of sovereignty violations by the group.

As important as Blackwatch's work is, it doesn't stop Reyes from feeling the pangs of resentment as Jack Morrison takes all the public adoration while he does the dirty work. Naturally, that's a problem waiting to happen.

Overwatch takes losses

Anyone doing good on a worldwide scale can expect to make sacrifices along the way, but Overwatch pays for its success in huge ways over time. For starters, after trying and failing multiple times to kill one of Overwatch's high ranking agents, Gerard Lecroix, Talon decides to take a different tack, kidnapping and indoctrinating his wife, Amelie. Soon after her return, Amelie murders Gerard in his sleep, returning to Talon soon after and becoming a sniper named Widowmaker. Among other atrocities, she takes Overwatch founder Ana Amari out of commission by shooting her in the eye during a raid

The hits keep coming, though. A malfunction during an experimental test flight causes Tracer to become fully untethered from time and existence itself until Winston builds the poor girl a device to keep her literally grounded in reality. A devastating polar storm cuts off one of Overwatch's Antarctic Watchpoint bases off from all communications and assistance, forcing all the scientists to go into cryostasis to survive.

The King's Row Uprising

Built on the backs of Omnic labor, the London neighborhood of King's Row is a breeding ground for tension between humans and Omnics. This tension comes to a head when an Omnic terrorist group called Null Sector starts a hostage situation at King's Row, in an event that would later be known as the King's Row Uprising. Taking hundreds of prisoners and setting London ablaze, Null Sector presented a threat to global peace and security. Even so, the British Government forbade Overwatch intervention. Jack Morrison had a different idea in mind. 

In defiance of the gag order, Morrison sends Tracer, Mercy, Reinhardt, and Torbjörn to intervene and stop Null Sector. After 28 days the Overwatch team, alongside Blackwatch agent Cassidy, takes the fight to Null Sector. This large scale conflict puts the world on the verge of another Omnic War. This tragic event is the catalyst for the first dissolution of Overwatch, what happens next is what truly dooms the organization.

Operation Retribution

After the Uprising, Talon sends an agent to sneak in and plant a bomb in the Blackwatch base in Rome, leading to the death of many organization members and the destruction of the building. Blackwatch gathers intel on the current Talon leader, Antonio Bartalotti, and sends a team to infiltrate his home in Venice, Italy. Promising to keep the mission discreet, Reyes joins Genji, Cassidy, and Moira on the assault on Bartalotti's mansion in order to kidnap the Talon leader. 

Once the squad breaks in, Bartalotti teases the team members and preys on their high-strung and revenge-driven minds. Without warning, Reyes shoots and kills Bartalotti during this encounter and the team is forced to go loud, revealing the identity of Blackwatch to the public. Overwatch's involvement in the Talon leader's death was made public, which led to a final splintering between the two groups. 

Later, Blackwatch would attack the Overwatch base in Norway, but Morrison kept his knowledge of who perpetrated the attack a secret in order to try and salvage the reputation of Overwatch.  

The fall of Overwatch

Once the Blackwatch cat is out of the bag, the public starts demanding serious answers. The UN then steps in, starting up an investigation into both groups' activities. The investigation doesn't get too far, though: a huge ideological argument between Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes in Overwatch HQ in Switzerland culminates in a massive explosion that utterly demolishes the facility, leaving Morrison and Reyes presumed dead. 

The UN calls the catastrophe an accident, but the public learns different. They learn a lot of things in the wake of the explosion, actually, and as a result of it all, the Petras Act is passed by the United Nations. Overwatch is disbanded, its heroes scattered to the four winds, all further operations are considered illegal and punishable to the fullest extent of the law. And so, the age of heroes comes to a messy end, not with a whimper, but with a bang.

The story continues on after Overwatch

A few months after Overwatch is disbanded, several decommissioned Overwatch facilities are broken into by a masked individual with "speed and strength beyond anything 'a normal person' should be capable of." Equipment is stolen, most notably a prototype pulse rifle. After that gets swiped, suddenly, Overwatch's most prominent enemies start turning up dead. The culprit, as it turns out, is Jack Morrison, now calling himself Soldier 76 and still indulging in some of his old habits.

He, unfortunately, isn't the only one. Shortly after Overwatch goes belly up, Gabriel Reyes hooks up with a now fully discredited Moira O'Deorain, who subjects himself to her genetic experiments, looking for a way to take his abilities to the next level. What they come up with is a gift and a curse: Reyes' cells decay and regenerate at a hyper-accelerated rate, allowing him to become incorporeal at will. Calling himself Reaper, he joins up with Talon and aids them in tracking down and taking his revenge on all of his former Overwatch allies.

The next generation of heroes

Though, Overwatch may have officially been dissolved, their heroics wind up inspiring an entire generation to stand up for what's right. In Rio de Janeiro, when the Vishkar corporation attempts to gentrify the city, a DJ from the favelas, Lucio Correia dos Santos, steals some of their sound amplification technology and mods it as weaponry to help his people fight back. In the wake of their victory, he becomes a superstar in the music world.

In a similar vein, when South Korea experiences its own special omnic problems, the country winds up hiring pro gamers to pilot mech units. The best of the bunch, Hana Song, takes on the screen name D.Va and goes on to become an international celebrity

Some former Overwatch agents, like Morrison, couldn't let go of the life. Specifically, a sniper named Shrike starts making coordinated hits against Talon in Egypt, and after finally being confronted by Soldier 76, she reveals her identity: Ana Amari, unbeknownst to her daughter Pharah, who has also gone on to become a soldier

The Australian Liberation Front

An entire world away, in Australia, the journey of Roadhog and Junkrat begins. After the Omnic War, the Australian government displaces thousands of locals by giving their land to the Omnics in an attempt at reparations. Mako Rutledge is one such native who rebels and helps to form the Australian Liberation Front, a group that goes on to clash with the Omnics. An attack by the ALF on an Omnium facility leads to a nuclear explosion that destroys and irradiates the land Mako once called home. Discouraged and displaced in a world gone full "Mad Max," Mako puts on a mask and takes up the moniker of Roadhog. 

In Junkertown, Australia Roadhog first encounters Jamison Fawkes, who goes by the name Junkrat. The devious junker convinces Roadhog to become his bodyguard in exchange for a share of the profits from Junkrat's crimes. After being kicked out due to stealing the Junker Queen's money, the duo wanders the Outback before deciding to go on a globe-trotting crime spree, ultimately leading them to Overwatch and battlefields like Sydney and King's Row.

The Assassination of Tekhartha Mondatta

High up in the Himalaya mountains, a group of spiritual Omnics established a Monastery. This existential sect of synthetics began to call themselves the Shambali. Led by Tekhartha Mondatta, this group of Omnics believed in creating a world of equality for humans and Omnics. This group includes Zenyatta, who was one of the first to join the Shambali, but eventually left to pursue his own path. During the King's Row Uprising, Mondatta was one of the hundreds taken prisoner by Null Sector, only to eventually be rescued by Overwatch in the classified events of that mission. 

Seven years later, Tekhartha Mondatta was delivering a speech to a crowd when he was assassinated by none other than the sniper Widowmaker, who was working for Talon at the time. Mondatta is honored at King's Row, the place of his final speech, with a large statue built in the Shambali leader's likeness. Violence and riots break out in the aftermath of the assassination.

Winston recalls Overwatch, setting up the current story

This brings us to the events of the first "Overwatch." The world hits a new level of chaos. A second Omnic Crisis begins in Russia. Terrorist attacks are widespread in the US and Europe. The world's climate is going haywire. Gang violence is common

It all comes to a head after Winston, still keeping the home fires burning at Overwatch's outpost in Gibraltar, is attacked by Reaper, who's attempting to steal a list of remaining Overwatch agents. While Winston manages to fight him off, it's the last straw for the big guy. Winston sends word out to all remaining Overwatch agents, issuing an emergency recall back into duty. Almost immediately, Tracer, Torbjorn, Genji, Mercy, McCree, and Reinhardt respond. And they're far from alone. In particular, though, the second the recall notice goes out, the cryostasis locks in Antarctica are released, and climatologist Mei-Ling Zhou — sadly, the only survivor — immediately rededicates herself to Overwatch's work on the environment.

Word eventually gets out to the rest of the world when Reaper and Widowmaker attempt to steal a gauntlet belonging to one of Talon's leaders, Doomfist, from a museum. Tracer and Winston stop the heist, but the surveillance footage leaks, letting the world know that heroes are still out there, and the world needs them more than ever.

Overwatch reformed: The story continues

That's just an overview of the big touchstones in "Overwatch" lore, but it's far from being the full story. Overwatch being revealed to the world kickstarts a new golden age of heroes and villains. Talon recruits the genius hacker Sombra from the Los Muertos gang, but she may have her own agenda. When Torbjorn Lindholm gets called back to duty, he stops his daughter from following him out the door,  but she ends up becoming the dedicated "squire" for her godfather Reinhardt instead. One of Tracer's first missions after the recall pits her against Widowmaker, attempting to assassinate an omnic leader trying to broker peace. Tracer actually fails that one

An attack on an airport in omnic/human utopia Numbani spurs inventor Efi Oladele to create the protection robot Orisa. The world's strongest woman, Aleksandra Zaryanova, is recruited by Volskaya to help defend Russia after Talon attempts an assassination. Meanwhile, Winston's stowaway buddy Hammond is still in Australia, making a name for himself in combat, under the name Wrecking Ball

The list goes on. The world of Overwatch is ripe with tiny stories of heroism, justice, and villainy. And it's far from over. With every new hero released and new comic drawn, we get a little farther.

Leading into Overwatch 2

With "Overwatch" firmly behind us, we are now living in the world of "Overwatch 2." In the events leading into the sequel, Cole Cassidy receives a call from Ana Amari to meet up in Cairo, Egypt. He convinces her to return to Overwatch as all the other heroes have been recalled. Ana accepts, but only under the condition that Cassidy take up the mantle of new leader of Overwatch. Naturally, this leads the beloved cowboy on a mission to get the team back together. 

Simultaneously, Null Sector returns with one of their biggest terrorist attacks yet. After going dark for seven years, the extremist group invades Paris and launches an attack on the city's police and civilians. When Tracer, Mei, and Winston find themselves backed against a wall in a battle against an Omnic titan, things seem doomed — until the rest of the new Overwatch crew swoops in to save the day. This team now forms the brand new Overwatch. 

And that is where players find our heroes at the beginning of "Overwatch 2," following a group of rag-tag heroes trying to protect the world and keep the peace. Sounds like a good place to start fresh.