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OverwatchOct 11, 2019 5:00 pm CT

Winston’s Recall ties together the Overwatch universe — and could set the stage for Overwatch 2

We don’t have a lot of time, so I want to cut to the chase: despite what Overwatch the game would have you think, Overwatch the franchise has a story to tell. If rumors of Overwatch 2 are to be believed that story is going to become important very soon, and the most important element to start with is a monkey scientist with a plan.

The story of Overwatch the franchise told over the last 3+ years has its foundation set firmly within the story of Winston’s Recall. Whether it’s the people Winston wants to bring back to the Overwatch organization to save the world or the rising threats that Overwatch is needed to stop, the Recall is the thread that holds them all together. After the last three years of all of that table-setting, now is the time for that story to move forward. But why here and why now? The main reason is because for the vast majority of the cast, all of the bases of who and why have been tied together. Now we know the situation, so now we’re ready to go forward.

When I was studying creative writing in college, a complaint I often heard during workshops was that some stories wasted a lot of time on exposition before the plot really started up. The prescription to remedy that was simple: ask yourself “what change causes this story to start now?” Writer and educator John Gardner suggested that the disruption of the common order — like a stranger coming to town or a person going on a journey — served well as that change, and that’s where you should start from the very first line.

Begin a story from the beginning

To a great extent, that’s why the Recall short is the real beginning of the story of Overwatch. The short features both a stranger coming to town — Reaper — and a person going on a journey — Winston, on his journey to reform Overwatch. It’s the perfect place to start the story, since it catalyzes everything that comes after. Going through each of the cinematics in order you can see how that thread expresses itself, and provides a link through all of the exposition of where everyone is in this world.

  1. Alive: Tracer attempts to protect Mondatta from Widowmaker but fails. 
    • Tracer responds to the recall signal almost immediately after Winston sends it.
  2. Dragons: Genji reveals his identity to Hanzo, warning him of a coming conflict. 
    • Genji is a former Overwatch agent and worked alongside Winston, implying he too received the signal from Recall.
  3. Hero: Jack Morrison as Soldier 76 inspires Alejandra to fight for a better world just as Overwatch once did.
    • Even though everyone thinks Jack is dead — and even if Jack himself doesn’t think he’s a hero — he still is.
  4. The Last Bastion: A Bastion unit awakens to follow its prime directive to attack Stuttgart, but ultimately rejects it.
    • This is less connected to Winston’s Recall, but characterizes the original Omnic Crisis itself via Bastion’s flashbacks, as well as Bastion itself as someone independent of its programming. Winston’s fears of a second Crisis are emphasized more by seeing what the first Crisis was like firsthand.
  5. Infiltration: Sombra sabotages an assassination attempt on Katya Volskaya in order to blackmail her into a “friendship.”
    • This establishes Talon as the antagonist to the Overwatch team, as well as the disposition of Russia in this world.
  6. Rise and Shine: Mei awakens and escapes Ecopoint Antarctica in order to answer Winston’s Recall.
    • The recall signal is what caused Mei’s pod to awaken her, and is what drives her to get out of the Ecopoint.
  7. Honor and Glory: Reinhardt reflects on the death of his mentor, who had originally been called to help form Overwatch. 
    • Brigitte’s attempts to dissuade Reinhardt reference Winston’s Recall, though ultimately it appears that Reinhardt intends to answer. 
  8. Shooting Star: D.Va fights against an unexpected assault by the Gwishin omnics against Busan.
    • Like The Last Bastion and Infiltration, this is more about establishing an otherwise disconnected character (D.Va), her enemies (the Gwishin), and South Korea’s disposition in the world.
  9. Reunion: McCree shows up to interrupt the Deadlock Gang’s latest heist, which was more than Ashe expected.
    • It would be enough if this was just a showcase for Ashe, Bob, and McCree himself, but it also introduces Echo and situates her as someone McCree believes Winston needs on his team. The urgency of why McCree came to get Echo — to send her to Winston in his stead — helps solidify the importance of the recall.

Where do we go from here?

We’ve gone almost a year since that last cinematic, which was released at BlizzCon 2019. In that time, we’ve received two short stories — Bastet and What You Left Behind — which did similar work to situate characters and places in the world. Ana & Jack worked together to take down Hakim, and Baptiste abandoned Talon. After the events of Baptiste’s story, there’s a new urgency about Winston’s Recall — it established that Talon knows about it, and Overwatch agents are at risk. Baptiste goes to help by informing Mercy, and he calls in some aid from Sombra to do it. 

The story of Overwatch is slowly coalescing around the Recall. All of the pieces are in place to let us know where the whole cast is as the Recall is issued, so that we can move forward. Yes, this is without getting into the comics that have similarly situated heroes in various places or the origin stories of all the expansion heroes added since the game’s launch mostly because, y’know, we’ll be here all day if I go into all of that. 

At the end of the day, this has all been setting the stage for Winston to finally say, “I’ve got my team, and it’s time we started doing something about all of these problems rising up in the world.” That’s a very key place for us to be going into Overwatch 2 — whatever form the rumored upcoming sequel takes. 

Where do we go from Winston’s Recall? I imagine with BlizzCon bearing down on us, we’re about to find out.

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