Imagining Overwatch’s Single-Player Campaign

I think by now it’s well known I’m disappointed by Blizzard’s decision to not include story content in Overwatch. The animated shorts and comics are fun, but they’re far too brief and far too scattered to be satisfying.

Art of the cast of OverwatchThinking of what a single-player Overwatch campaign would be, I was surprised how quickly I was able to come up with the structure and content for an entire campaign. Obviously actually building and implementing such a thing would be much more challenging, and it does at least show how much potential the story of Overwatch represents.

I thought my ideas were worth sharing, if only as a potential conversation starter.

Introduction/tutorial:

The game begins with a short tutorial sequence set some years in the past. Players take the role of of Overwatch commander John Morrison (Soldier: 76 using a modified version of his Origins skin) and witness the fall of Overwatch as the conflict between Morrison and Gabriel Reyes spills over to consume the entire organization.

This is followed by some exposition showing the dismantling of Overwatch and the world’s slide into chaos without its guidance.

Overwatch reborn:

The game then skips ahead several years and places players in the role of Winston shortly after the events of the Recall short. Winston has reactivated Overwatch’s agents, but they have been scattered, and now he must assemble them.

Tracer, a playable character in Blizzard's new Overwatch shooterHis first task is to join up with his closest ally, Lena “Tracer” Oxton, in London’s King’s Row. Like most campaign maps, this heavily reuses assets from the multiplayer map, but has its own unique layout tailored to the campaign.

The forces of Talon dog Winston’s steps, but he succeeds in collecting Tracer.

Their next task is to recover the two remaining core Overwatch team members, Angela “Mercy” Ziegler and Torborn Lindholm, who have been working on new technologies in a lab on the Mediterranean coast (a map using assets from Watchpoint: Gibraltar). A lab accident complicates matters, but in the end, Mercy and Torborn are successfully recruited. During this sequence, players control Tracer.

Assembling the team:

The core team is re-established, but Overwatch will need far more people if they wish to bring peace to the world again. At this point, the campaign becomes much more open, with a structure similar to StarCraft II or the Mass Effect games. Players are presented with a wide variety of missions that they can complete in whatever order they choose.

Each mission is a fairly involved process, potentially featuring multiple maps and significant gameplay and story content. Players can tackle each mission as any hero they have currently unlocked, and will unlock more as they complete missions. Each mission also has regular checkpoints that allow for hero-swapping. Each hero’s talents will have a use at some point, though some may have more applications than others. Healers will likely see the least use, but there are occasional NPC escort missions where a healer’s abilities can shine.

Tracer and Widowmaker in the Overwatch cinematic. A ship is bornFor story reasons, Reaper, Widowmaker, Junkrat, and Roadhog cannot be unlocked for normal mission play, but the campaign features short interludes that allow players to take control of them for a time, offering their perspective on events.

The story plays out much the same regardless of the player’s current hero. Characters not physically present contribute dialogue via radio.

Each mission also features optional but plentiful collectibles that unlock new lore tidbits and credits that can be spent on cosmetic unlocks, just like those earned through multiplayer play. A full campaign playthrough with all collectibles earned should give enough credits for two to three legendary skins, or a variety of lesser unlocks. Any skins, no matter how they are earned, can be used in the campaign.

Some collectibles can only be accessed by certain heroes, encouraging replayability. For example, picture a credit cash atop a tower that only Pharah can fly to.

Most but not all missions reuse assets from the multiplayer maps. Where the story requires it, the campaign ventures to regions not yet included in multiplayer.

Mei being adorable in OverwatchThe missions for this sequence are as follows:

  • Rumours swirl of a planned Talon attack on a massive eSports competition in Tokyo’s Hanamura district. Overwatch must enlist the aid of one of the competitors, the world famous Hana “D.Va” Song, and mysterious vigilante Hanzo Shimada to prevent countless civilian deaths.
  •  Rampaging machines in Russia threaten to spark a second Omnic Crisis. Overwatch ventures into the frozen tundra, where Aleksandra Zaryanova leads the fight against the machines. Events take a surprising turn when the Omnics threaten a lab run by former Overwatch scientist Mei-Ling Zhou.
  • Seeking to ease tensions between humans and machines, Overwatch travels to the Shambali monastery in Nepal to seek the wisdom of Tekhartha Zenyatta and Genji Shimada. Heroes are encouraged to face their inner demons, providing unique visionary scenarios tailored for the player’s chosen hero.
  • Former agent Jesse McCree alerts Overwatch of a Talon plan to recover superweapons left over from the Omnic Crisis. To thwart them, Overwatch must venture into the ruins of the Australian outback and contend with mercenaries Junkrat and Roadhog. Along the way, the agents encounter a curious Bastion unit left over from the Omnic Crisis who agrees to assist Overwatch in order to see more of the world.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, tensions threaten to boil over between the locals, led by musician and activist Lucio Correira dos Santos, and the Vishkar Corporation, represented by Satya “Symmetra” Vaswani. Resolve the conflict between those two disparate individuals to earn their assistance for Overwatch’s cause.
  • Former agent Reinhardt Wilhelm sends a request for aid from deep in the deserts of Egypt. Though Overwatch no longer entirely trusts their former comrade’s state of mind, they answer his call, discovering that he has found a unlikely protege in Fareeha “Pharah” Amari, the daughter of an Overwatch agent. Together, they have been tracking a mysterious individual known as Soldier: 76, but Talon’s agents have dogged them every step of the way…

The grand finale:

A shot of the African Numbani map in OverwatchOnce all the recruitment missions are complete, a final, linear series of missions brings the game to a climax.

Overwatch has succeeded in halting many of Talon’s insidious schemes, but the terrorists are far from finished.

The African city of Numbani stands as a shining beacon of hope to the peoples of the world, a beacon that Talon is determined to snuff out. Raiding a local museum with the aid of their Junker allies, Talon recovers several powerful artifacts from the Omnic Crisis and prepares to use them to destroy Numbani. The united agents of Overwatch must race against time to save the city, and perhaps the world with it.

* * *

By the way, if anyone would reading this has Overwatch, I’d consider it a favour if you could share a link on the official forums. I’m not arrogant enough to think Blizzard will use any of my ideas, but I am arrogant enough to think it might at least stir some interesting discussion in the community.

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7 thoughts on “Imagining Overwatch’s Single-Player Campaign

  1. If Overwatch had anything even remotely similar to this, or any sort of gameplay beyond a team vs team arena battle, I would’ve heavily considered picking it up. But, since that’s all it is… I’ve passed. I’m generally non-competitive, and so I avoid PvP. It’s too bad that PvP’s the game’s only trick. Glad it’s fun for those that play it, though.

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m just not skilled or competitively minded enough to find much value in the game’s PvP. I’d settle for a decent co-op mode at this point — I like a lot of things about the game, just not its purely PvP nature.

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