Overwatch's core team-based multiplayer combat has never really made sense within the universe's sprawling narrative about the rise and fall of the global peacekeeping group, but one fan has a theory about how Overwatch 2 will fix the series' most egregious plothole: Why are the heroes and villains of Overwatch always fighting? Does anybody even answer Winston's impassioned call to bring the heroes of Overwatch back together?
Redditor u/minastirith97 posted a theory to the r/FanTheories subreddit Sunday suggesting that all of the countless rounds King’s Row games were all just a simulation so that the Overwatch crew could face off against the nefarious forces they’ll encounter in Overwatch 2. Seldom do video games offer thoughtful explanations for why characters fight one another to the death, but this redditor's explanation is even more nuanced than something like the Destiny franchise, where Guardians fight and kill one another in the Crucible only to get resurrected by their magical robots called Ghosts.
"Could it be possible that the first game is about the heroes in simulated training for what's to come?" they ask. "Honing skills that might have been lost over those years would be important before facing the massive threat suggested from what we've seen so far."
The crux of the Redditor’s argument reflects upon why the first Overwatch never had a main campaign or story mode. Despite an opening cinematic where Winston sends a message recalling former Overwatch members back into active duty, the first game never following through on that plotline. We see the lead-up to Winston's message in Blizzard's "Recall" animated short and it wasn't until more than three years later in the real world that we saw the team unite to defeat a Null Sector attack during the Overwatch 2 cinematic trailer.
Blizzard has opted for a piecemeal storytelling approach through events like Archives that let players experience “moments from Overwatch's past.” There's also a series of short videos detailing different characters' backstories. The game’s multiplayer focus never reflected the rich lore of the universe.
"In terms of the story, heroes trying to kill each other doesn't make much sense," the redditor writes. "But when looking at it more in context, what better way to prepare for the worst than go up against those considered to be the best?"
The endless number of multiplayer matches that we've played for almost four years could have just been the characters experiencing simulations as they train for the war that'll be presented in Overwatch 2's story, so in a way, Overwatch may have actually happened within the broader narrative. The cast could have been familiarizing themselves with their old battle techniques, which they’re able to further develop in Overwatch 2 in the sequel’s story-based, player-vs-environment (PVE) missions.
The Overwatch 2 gameplay that Blizzard showed off revealed a Hero Progression menu, which lets players level up their favorite characters and boost their skills with deadly “Talents,” offering a variety of ways to customize the characters. Is this the Overwatch team unlocking their true potential after their lengthy hiatus?
The Inverse Analysis
Overwatch has been criticized greatly for being so loosely tied together narratively, so it’s in dire need of some kind of explanation. This new theory seems like the perfect thing.
A big twist like this would explain the repetitive nature of Overwatch’s multiplayer gameplay and the surprise might even serve to get more gamers interested in the lore. Sadly, there’s no real evidence to suggest that Blizzard is planning to make the story go down like this, so this feels like little more than a fun thought experiment.
Based on how the company has handled Overwatch’s story in the past, don’t be surprised if they just ignore the first game’s implications to lore and made Overwatch 2 the story-based title that it’s been drafting through all of the Archives events. That would essentially make the original an introductory sandbox for the Overwatch universe, therefore making the sequel the more definitive storyline Blizzard wants to roll with.
There’s always room for surprises, but online multiplayer games should invest more ideation into explanations like this.