Beyond Uprising: Why Overwatch Needs a Single Player Mode and Doesn’t Have One Already

The Uprising event dropped us into the actual lore and story of Overwatch. The overwhelmingly positive reception to that inspires hope for such content later.

How Overwatch's story mode could be even more amazing than a mere patch to the game

Overwatch has been one of Blizzard’s biggest success stories and more impressive considering it rose from the remnants of a scrapped MMO. While it’s one of the most casually played games right now and the competitive scene is thriving, players like myself are more drawn in and continue to adore it because of the characters, story, and world it creates. The Omnic Crisis, the rise and fall of Overwatch itself, Soldier 76’s continued fight against injustice, the assassination of religious leader Mondatta, Winston illegally reinstating Overwatch, Sombra stumbling upon a sinister hitherto unnoticed conspiracy with ties to every organization in the world, all of this despite having no proper story mode or single player experience.

That’s not a criticism, it’s actually a fairly impressive feat of trans-media storytelling that we can read and interpret a cohesive narrative with dozens of characters and multiple timeline points through short animation videos, website bios, and scattered items on maps. An example of this in my own experience was reading Winston’s bio of how he was adopted by a kindly scientist on the moon but all of the human staff were killed by his fellow gorillas and he escaped to Earth. Then I re-watched the cinematic trailer and noticed Reaper crushing Winston’s glasses was what sent him flying into a rage. I inferred that those glasses were the last thing that he had of his adoptive parent and that’s why crushing them drove him to such a rage. Alas, the recall animation came out and proved this assumption correct and went further to show Winston inherited his name and worldview from his father as well as his glasses. That’s not to boast on my ability to spot threads though, that’s complimenting how consistent the characterization is and how committed the writers are to match up the disparate pieces of information.

For instance, Symmetra is the loyal employee and asset of the Vishkar corporation. Who have done rather shady business in the name of building a better future for humanity. Whether the upper echelons believe that or if it’s just good PR is up in the air but Symmetra herself is someone who actually does want a better future for humanity and believes structure and order are the ways to achieve it. In contrast Lucio is a freedom fighter DJ who stole sonic technology from Vishkar after they secured a contract for the favela he grew up in and started to run it like a police state. Between his newly acquired tools and the popular support of his fans, he drove them out. Both Symmetra and Lucio interact with each other if both of them are played on the same team and their comments to each other are mutually hostile. Despite neither of them meeting in any material outside of the game itself, this comes across as natural based on who these characters are.

The lore of Overwatch is amazingly rich and followed by so many. All despite none of it being playable until Uprising gave us a canon event mode. Even still, I think it should get a proper single player experience.

Why no story mode to begin with?

Would you believe that this has a pretty good story? And one you might not notice?

For many games, the omission of a single player campaign would be a pretty damning sin. So even if the characters are good and the story is there, why did Blizzard choose to leave such a seemingly vital thing out? Well, as for why it’s not as big a problem, once again, the story is there for those who want to know it, we just have to look for it. Given that story hounds like myself love digging around in lore and coming up with theories, this isn’t asking more than a player base would normally do. Doom (2016) had a similar approach to story that took advantage of games as an interactive medium. The story details were in hologram recordings, logs, and such but they weren’t required for the player to sit down and watch them. You decided how invested the main character was in the events going on around him.

Overwatch has done something similar. The game itself doesn’t come packaged with a mode dedicated to a narrative that you play through no, but who these characters are, what they want and why, what is the actual organization of Overwatch, how did this future come to be, all of these questions have readily available answers but they aren’t required to know how to play the game or the individual character mechanics. So, the game kind of gets away with this by presenting the narrative in a non-traditional manner.

In addition, while Uprising was fun and immersed us in a time when Overwatch was still active as well as give us a kind of extension to Tracer’s origin story, it was just one mission. According to Jeff Kaplan, it would take far more than an event or two for a campaign mode.

“A campaign would be phenomenal, I think a lot of us can see what that might be like in our engine and in our game . . .but making an entire campaign is the same effort as making an entire game. It’s not just a feature that we can patch in some day.”

That being said though . . .

Uniting new and old members to make Overwatch could be a story unto itself.

Overwatch campaign game? Shut up and take my money!

If Blizzard did decide to sell a separate game with its own development cycle that would tell a complete story and that was it, I would buy it and I believe it would be a tremendous success given how ravenously the fanbase demands such a thing. Even now, story and campaign mode is a thing that is demanded or asked why it’s absent by new players and old alike. Look up any of the animations on YouTube inevitably there will be demand for making a full movie out of the property.

While I’m sure the story will progress at some point, as it stands a full game could be a good way to at last kick off the plot. Yes, yet another amazing thing Overwatch gets away with is that nothing really hasn’t happened yet but still keeps people interested. The story proper begins with Winston activating the recall protocol and starting up Overwatch again after its been shut down for a period of time, everything else is backstory.

So a potential game could be about this new Overwatch, recruiting new heroes like Lucio and D.Va while discovering the truth behind the original organization's downfall. Overwatch operating again has massive implications from what we know of the world and characters so there is plenty of places to take an extensive, globetrotting campaign. The more focused approach could even offer advantages of linearity. Which sounds like a weird sentence to some but hear me out. The maps as they exist in the base game have to offer many heroes advantages. Secret paths for Tracer and Reaper to flank, choke points for Bastion and Torbjorn, and useful walls for Hanzo to scale and Lucio to grind along. It’s not perfect, but the maps aren’t tailored to a specific character.

If a campaign game was made with basically the same first person shooter angle and the basic kits not significantly altered, individual characters could have levels actually made to exploit their skills, tools, and powers. Pharah could have a derelict shipyard off the Somalian coast with large gaps to fly over while blasting pirates out of the water. Reinhardt could be fighting Talon agents in Malaga, Spain where the narrow streets would make his shield and charge very useful. Different missions playing as scripted characters to make them and Overwatch feel both badass and a necessary force for good.

It would almost be fitting to go this route since Blizzard did the same thing but in reverse for Warcraft. That went from a series that told its story in focused campaigns and then became a world spanning epic (in more ways than one) in an entirely separate game that expanded the lore and fanbase. Overwatch could follow the opposite course. It’s established the world, major characters and factions and already has a passionate global fanbase. Making a standalone spin-off to tell a guided narrative that players experience individually could offer something similar the first Avengers film. We already know and love these characters, let’s make them a team and give them something heroic and uplifting to accomplish together.

Call me an idealist (I take it as a compliment) but I think Overwatch has the potential to tell a powerfully uplifting story. The word itself hasn’t really been used in most of the material outside of the variant “hero” but Overwatch is at its heart, a superhero shooter. First of all, why hasn’t anyone done that before now? Second of all, there are many people today who need heroes to give them hope and set an example. While I do think some of the panic and despair expressed today by many is just people being alarmist, the world still has its problems and anything that can get more people out there trying to fix them is a good thing. Books can do that, movies can do that, video games can do that, Overwatch can do that.

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Professional Paladin, Paragon till death, writer of tales where evil gets its teeth kicked in, I play games where there are wrongs to be righted and bad guys to be fought.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RPG
Top 3 Favorite Games:Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance , Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake

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