Since it launched back in 2016, Overwatch has been incrementally expanding its universe, adding new characters and locations over the years, expanding the lore with each update. Blizzard refers to these past events as the Overwatch Archives.
Periodically, Blizzard drops new cinematics and comics, focusing on one (or a few) characters, adding context to who they are and what they’re fighting for in Blizzard’s unique world of heroes and villains. That said, while Overwatch 2 will feature story missions to tie things together, Blizzard has never outright given players a proper timeline of events. Sure, they might have released a short “previously on” trailer when OW2 was announced at BlizzCon 2019, but that glossed over a lot. To give you the fullest picture possible, here’s a look at the story of Overwatch (so far) prior to the events of the upcoming Overwatch 2.
Overwatch: The Story So Far
Click through the gallery above or scroll down the page for the full story!
The Omnic Crisis
Overwatch’s story begins with the Omnica Corporation, a massive tech company which began manufacturing robots known as Omnics to help aid society and the economy. They built a number of state-of-the-art manufacturing plants, called Omniums, in various locations around the world. One of their most popular models created was the “Bastion” unit, utilized as a “peacekeeper” and renowned for its unique ability to transform between its Recon, Sentry, and Tank modes. However, after multiple facilities ran into manufacturing problems and as the Omnica Corporation being investigated for fraud, the Omniums were forced to shut down.
Years later, multiple Omnium facilities mysteriously sprang back to life and began manufacturing Bastion units with the intention of destroying humanity. They amass an army and begin their global assault, starting with Russia. As a means to defend their country from the invading Omnics, Volskaya Industries developed the Svyatogor, a giant human-piloted mech.
As other nations were similarly invaded and attacked by the Omnics, they were forced to respond in kind as well. The United States secretly began the Soldier Enhancement Program, which modified their existing soldiers into elite mercenaries. The two most notable test subjects were Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes, who will eventually become the Overwatch characters known as Soldier: 76 and Reaper, respectively.
Germany responded with the Crusaders, an elite force of soldiers known for their heavy suits of armor inspired by knights, and large weaponry such as hammers and maces. Their forces were led by Balderich von Adler and his apprentice, Reinhardt Willhelm. After a catastrophic battle in Eichenwalde, von Adler falls, handing over the reigns to young Reinhardt. Von Adler’s suit of armor can still be seen in the castle’s great hall.
Meanwhile on the Moon, the Horizon Lunar Colony is creating genetically modified animals as a means to test long-term habitation in space. One of these, a young ape named Winston, is born. Eventually, the apes began revolting against their captors, killing all of the scientists in the process. Putting his genius-level intellect to use, Winston creates a rocket to escape the Moon and head to Earth. A hamster named Hammond hitches a ride back, as well. The other lunar apes remained on the moon, because apparently they like it there.
The Rise of Overwatch
As Omnic forces continue dominating the world, the United Nations proposes the Overwatch Strike Team, initially made up of Jack Morrison, Gabriel Reyes, Ana Amari (a deadly sniper from Egypt), Reinhardt Wilhelm, Torbjörn Lindholm (a weapons Engineer from Sweden) and a still-unknown individual named Liao, with Reyes acting as the team’s first Strike Commander. Together, they finally began achieving success, pushing back Omnic forces for the first time thanks to their internationally united effort. After a few years, the Omnic Crisis is declared over.
With no impending danger, Overwatch becomes a peace-focused organization, with Jack Morrison taking over in place of Reyes, who has taken up new responsibilities. They recruit Lena “Tracer” Oxton and Dr. Angela “Mercy” Ziegler to the cause, as well.
Gabriel Reyes joins a newly formed covert organization operating under the Overwatch banner called Blackwatch with other members, including Jesse McCree, Genji Shimada, and Moira O’Deorain. They are deployed to fight against Talon, a new-risen terrorist threat that appears interested in starting another Omnic Crisis.
Reyes, along with the other members of Blackwatch, head to Italy in a covert operation to kidnap one of Talon’s leaders, Antonio Bartalotti. Reyes, against his better judgment, ends up killing Bartalotti, ultimately exposing Blackwatch to the world.
Meanwhile, another terrorist organization known as Null Sector emerges in London, comprised of Omnics rebelling against society after facing persecution following the Omnic Crisis. They launch a surprise attack on King’s Row, taking hostages and killing hundreds of people in the process. Against the orders of the British Prime Minister, Morrison deploys Overwatch agents Tracer, Reinhardt, Torbjörn, and Mercy to stop the Null Sector forces, where they are ultimately successful.
The Fall of Overwatch
Once the public became aware of Blackwatch’s extra-legal activities, an investigation is ordered by the United Nations. Morrison and Reyes find themselves at odds with one another, and their argument ends in an explosion at one of Overwatch’s headquarters where both men are presumed dead. Overwatch is disbanded, many of its former members return home, and any further action by Overwatch is considered an illegal act.
In the weeks after, several former Overwatch facilities are broken into by a mysterious individual who steals various weapons and equipment, including a prototype pulse rifle. The thief becomes a vigilante, taking down many of Overwatch’s former enemies single-handedly, and ultimately reveals himself to be Jack Morrison – who is somehow still alive – now operating under the name Soldier: 76.
Reyes, meanwhile, also survived the explosion and, with the help of the genetic engineer Moira, is brought back from the brink of death. However, the procedure leaves him, quite literally, a shadow of his former self – able to temporarily render himself incorporeal. Really leaning into his new goth vibe, he joins the evil Talon organization in hopes to take down the former members of Overwatch and begins operating under the name Reaper.
A second Omnic Crisis breaks out in Russia, and begins spreading across the world, which begins to fall into chaos. Reaper breaks into Overwatch’s Watchpoint facility in Gibraltar and attacks Winston while trying to obtain the list of all former Overwatch members, whom he plans to seek vengeance on because… he’s … jealous? We aren’t 100% sure, honestly – Reaper’s past is probably the biggest grey area in the OW canon.
With events coming to a head, Winston issues an emergency recall to Overwatch’s agents. Tracer immediately responds to his call, followed afterwards by Mercy, Genji, Torbjörn, Reinhardt, and McCree.
Talon agents, led by Reaper and master sniper Amélie Lacroix (AKA Widowmaker) break into a museum attempting to steal a gauntlet belonging to one of their leaders, Akande Ogundimu – better known as Doomfist. Tracer and Winston foil the heist, but the footage is broadcast to the world, proving not only that heroes are back, but necessary during these troubling times.
That brings us to present day, where Overwatch and Talon are at war with one another, while the ongoing Omnic Crisis takes place around the world. The first cinematic for Overwatch 2 reveals Winston and the gang taking down a giant Omnic in Paris, and confirming in the end that Overwatch is back.