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Overwatch's New Character Highlights the Shooter's Brilliant Storytelling

News Bot Jul 15, 2016

  1. News Bot

    News Bot Chaos Immortal

    Overwatch can be wild, hectic, and abrupt. It's a multiplayer shooter with cowboys and ninjas and gorillas inclined toward scientific advancement. But amidst the crack of gunpowder and flash of neon powers, there is a story being told. It's pervasive but subtle. It's unobtrusive, yet it's unfolding in every match you play. And Ana Amari, Blizzard's first addition to the original cast of heroes, is a firm reminder of the effective narrative at hand.
    Whether you realize it or not, Overwatch is fleshing out a detailed world around you, telling a story through its mise-en-scène: machinery lies dormant in snow-swept factories. A dropship's navigation display highlight conflicts around the world. The spent arrows of a past feud pepper the walls of Hanamura.
    But this is just Overwatch's stage. What about its actors? Here, too, Blizzard finds ways to convey relationships and power dynamics without cutscenes or walls of text. "I have the upper hand this time, master," Genji mutters after defeating Zenyatta, his mentor, and the one who taught him to find peace with his new cyborg form. "I am victorious this time, brother," he tells Hanzo, the sibling whoseruthless attacks necessitated the augmentations in the first place.
    This dialogue lends more weight to certain encounters. There's a troubled past behind Genji's steely facade, and even if you're not listening for the clues, you'll likely hear them after playing enough. Blizzard nudges you just enough to further mold its world, without ripping you from it to do so.

    This is why character skins are so sought after--rare ones are coveted because of their creative detail. Some show you a brother before he became a machine. Others remove the mask of a nameless soldier. Many offer color variants on your favorite heroes, the ones you've grown attached to, become comfortable with, developed a muscle memory for.
    Which is all to say that Overwatch's story is great not just because of its content, but how it's told. Yes, if you want to know more about Zarya or Mercy, you can analyze their biographies on the Overwatch website. But if you avoid the deeper pieces of lore, Overwatch's story still accomplishes exactly what it needs to: it builds a world without halting the action, mechanics, and overall sense of fun.
    That's why Ana is such a seamless addition to Overwatch's world. Her origin story is that of a mother coming out of retirement to protect the ones she loves, and those she deems just--especially her daughter Pharah, the security chief and member of the original Overwatch cast. If you've used Pharah's ultimate ability Barrage--or suffered on the receiving end--you're probably familiar with the power's tagline: "Justice rains from above!" If you've played as Ana and had the chance to cancel Pharah's ultimate with your sleep dart, however, pay close attention to the response: "I think justice could use a little nap."

    This exchange speaks multitudes about the mother's relationship with her daughter. Pharah is dutiful and zealous. Ana is intimate but fair. Pharah's Barrage ability is geared toward destruction, while Ana's sleep dart is meant to pacify.
    That's another thing about Ana: her abilities themselves display motherly qualities. Her sleep dart cancels destructive enemy attacks that could otherwise prove fatal to her teammates. Her biotic grenade and rifle can do damage, but they're also useful for healing her allies in moments of duress. Then there's her ultimate Nano Boost: it increases a teammate's movement speed, attack damage, and damage resistance. It represents the impact of a protective, inspiring, encouraging mother.
    So with Ana, Blizzard found ways to develop her character not only through dialogue and art design, but also her abilities themselves. This is true with most of Overwatch heroes: Widowmaker's sniping prowess demonstrates a cold, calculated demeanor. Tracer's time-warping matches her impetuous disposition, and the monk Zenyatta's powers provide a tranquil calm for his allies. Ana is another stark example of this seamlessness between characterization and playstyle.
    Lastly, Ana is an important addition to the overall diversity of the Overwatch character pool. There are few mothers in video games, and even fewer presented as such badasses. Ana, however, is a hooded sharpshooter with a biotic rifle and an eye patch. I'm not a mother, and likely never will be--but I imagine that many mothers playing Overwatch may feel a stronger connection to the shooter now that Ana is around.


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