Like many other poor souls before me, I have fallen victim to the allure of Blizzard’s latest game, Overwatch. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a huge fan of videogames but I had never gotten into playing online largely because my experiences with Left 4 Dead had led me to believe that all online players are morons or jerks. Certainly an overgeneralization but I will say the number of fun strangers I’ve met via online gaming is extremely limited. Enter Overwatch. While there might be a lot of hype surrounding the game, it’s reputation is well deserved. It’s easily the best team-based game that I’ve ever played and the story hidden among the maps is surprisingly compelling. Overwatch is the story of a team of heroes who have been called back into action after having been disbanded years before. While the crisis which originally brought them together may be in the past, the world is still in need of heroes so the genetically engineered gorilla scientist Winston brings the team back together, along with some new members and old enemies, to protect the innocent. Overwatch does not have a campaign to play through so the story as the players know it is largely derived from the animated videos that Blizzard created to promote the game and introduce the characters and the little hints laid throughout the various online multiplayer maps. Which is what makes Overwatch so perfect when it comes to expansion in the graphic novels and assorted other connected material. While I generally do not have a particularly positive opinion of comics and books based on games, I made an exception this week and read Dark Horse’s six issue Overwatch digital comic series. The series is written by authors Robert Brooks, Andrew Robinson and Micky Neilson and illustrated by artists Gray Shuko, Jeff Cruz, Bengal and Nesskain. It is one of the few examples where the comic actually adds to the game instead of being filler to make some extra money off of the game’s reputation.
Overwatch is set in a not too distant future in which technology has not only sent mankind to the stars (even setting up a moon base), but also led to the creation of artificial intelligence known as the omnics. When the omnics rose against their creators (don’t they always?), humanity was in deep trouble. Their advances in technology couldn’t help against the AI menace and so they were forced to put together a strike team of the best of the best in order to survive. Overwatch was the result. Despite generally being lauded as heroes, Overwatch had a shadowy, covert wing known as Blackwatch and the latter reputation for dark deeds eventually came back to haunt Overwatch. The team was disbanded and it was not until Winston called them back decades later that the heroes worked together once again. In the digital comic series, Dark Horse and Blizzard give readers a look into the pre-game activities of some of the heroes including gangster-turned-gunslinger Jesse McCree, the giant knight in shining armor Wilhelm Reinhardt, questionable anti-heroes Roadhog and Junkrat, Indian hard light engineer Satya Vaswani (AKA Symmetra), Egyption commando Fareeha Amari (AKA Pharah) and engineer Torbjorn Lindholm. Each issue has the hero (and int he case of Roadhog and Junkrat, heroes), working to solve an issue related to their various backgrounds before the game Overwatch actually begins. Each gives insight to the characters so that readers can understand more of their personalities and motivations.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, Overwatch is one of the few game-related series that I think actually adds something for readers. Whereas series like Mass Effect give you little side stories related to the characters, they don’t reveal anything you don’t already know. Because so much of the lore of Overwatch isn’t detailed in the game but merely hinted at, the comic series is able to expand on the characters and give you a better sense of them than you can get just playing the game. The stories are very short, just little snippets of action and character intrigue but I really enjoyed all of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed all of them almost equally, with perhaps Symmetra’s story being my favorite. Not all of these characters were as good as you’d expect from how they play and Symmetra’s story was intriguingly dark. The artwork is a good match to the story, pretty but not so gorgeous as to distract you from the story.
The Dark Horse Overwatch series is one that I’d largely recommend to those that have gotten sucked into playing the game. While it could be enjoyable on its own, it won’t have the same meaning and could be confusing if you’re not familiar with the basics of the game’s story. If you have gotten into playing the game however, the comic series is a great look into the background of the some of the game’s most intriguing characters and I’d highly recommend checking it out!