Even with Overwatch 2 on the horizon and the recent departure of its lead writer, on Wednesday Blizzard Entertainment revealed Echo as the next playable hero coming to Overwatch. A character who first appeared in the 2018 animated Overwatch short titled "Reunion," Echo will be the 32nd playable character in the game.
Following some teases earlier in the week, Blizzard Entertainment released an origin story trailer for Echo today, clarifying the character's history and confirming her to be Hero 32. The trailer shows Dr. Mina Lao's life flashing before her eyes as she dies from an explosion, but it conveys the sense that "Echo" carries on her legacy. On some level, it sort of seems like Echo is Lao, or at least a transhumanist equivalent of her digitized consciousness.
The reveal trailer features no gameplay, and we still don't know the scope of Echo's abilities. Blizzard has confirmed an overview will be live-streamed on Thursday, March 19 at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Who is Overwatch's Echo?
The developer's official description of the characters says that Echo is "an evolutionary robot programmed with a rapidly adapting artificial intelligence," and the story trailer makes it seem like Echo may have been modeled after Dr. Lao's own consciousness.
For those not as familiar with the lore of Overwatch, Dr. Mina Lao is a scientist that helped create the Omnic robots who rebelled against humans in the Omnic Crisis. The organization Overwatch rose to prominence by helping win that conflict for humanity. Dr. Lao died in an accident, but the reveal trailer makes it clear that Lao's legacy and personality seemingly live on in Echo. In the "Reunion" short released during Blizzcon 2018 that unveiled Ashe, Echo was first introduced as Ashe's captive rescued by McCree in present day, making it clear that she might play a major role in the plot of Overwatch 2.
This major reveal was teased for several days prior to the announcement. The first was a tweet featuring a short entry log from Dr. Lao. The short post recounts how her Athena prototype has been deemed a success before contemplating if A.I. can still be considered alive. Dr. Lao believes that they should be, and pledges to "show the world a better way, before it's too late." A video was later uploaded to Overwatch's Twitter showing an experiment that goes wrong, directly leading into Echo's reveal trailer.
What are Echo's abilities in Overwatch?
There's no indication about how Echo might function in-game, but in the Overwatch 2 reveal video (included below) Echo is seen flying at rapid speeds and shooting energy blasts down upon foes. Unlike Pharah, who merely rocket boosts upward and then glides with little pulses, Echo will seemingly be able to fly, a first for Overwatch. Her blasts initially seem to liquify Omnics that she shoots with a kind of plasma, but then they explode. Could her primary fire function similarly?
Echo certainly doesn't look like a Tank by any means, so she'll probably wind up as a Support or Attack Hero. At this point, Attack seems far more likely.
When will Echo be added to Overwatch?
Even though Echo has been officially confirmed, Blizzard Entertainment has not yet revealed when exactly Echo will be added to the game. Normally, Blizzard will add a character to the Public Test Region (PTR) on PC when they are announced, and then they're added to the game on consoles a few weeks later. (The number of weeks varies, but Overwatch characters tend to release about within a month or so of their reveal.
Barring any unforeseen hiccups, Echo will probably be added to Overwatch sometime in April 2020. She'll probably be added to the PTR after the "Echo: First Look" livestream on Thursday, March 19 and then go live on consoles early in April, but again, that's pure speculation.
The Inverse Analysis
It's a bit surprising to see Overwatch get another character before the release of Overwatch 2, but the more the merrier — especially when we still have no idea when the sequel will be released. As Dr. Lao and Echo are fairly important to Overwatch lore and may play a major part in the sequel's story, it makes sense that Blizzard wants to add Echo to the game before the sequel releases. Having a new character should also keep the competitive community lively coronavirus impacts esports around the world.