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A guide to the first 12 characters in Blizzard's Overwatch

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At BlizzCon today the team at Blizzard Entertainment unveiled their newest property, the online multiplayer shooter called Overwatch. Instead of introducing classes however they introduced characters. Each one had a distinct personality, and it was hard to overlook their international flair. Let's break them down.

Tracer

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First up was Tracer, dressed in yellow and sporting an impish English accent. She played a strong role in the introductory video that announced the game on stage today. In the gameplay montage that followed she showed off the power to quickly teleport herself forward, and could also rewind herself back. She used the later talent to move away from contact and approach a bottleneck in the map a second time.

The former Overwatch agent known as Tracer is a time-jumping adventurer and an irrepressible force for good.

Lena Oxton (call sign: "Tracer") was the youngest person ever inducted into Overwatch's experimental flight program. Known for her fearless piloting skills, she was handpicked to test the prototype of a teleporting fighter, the Slipstream. But during its first flight, the aircraft's teleportation matrix malfunctioned, and it disappeared. Lena was presumed dead.

She reappeared months later, but her ordeal had greatly changed her: her molecules had been desynchronized from the flow of time. Suffering from "chronal disassociation," she was a living ghost, disappearing for hours and days at a time. Even for the brief moments she was present, she was unable to maintain physical form.

Overwatch's doctors and scientists were stumped, and Tracer's case seemed hopeless until a scientist named Winston designed the chronal accelerator, a device capable of keeping Tracer anchored in the present. In addition, it gave Tracer the ability to control her own time, allowing her to speed it up and slow it down at will. With her newfound skills, she became one of Overwatch's most effective agents.

Since Overwatch's dissolution, Tracer has continued to right wrongs and fight the good fight wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Symmetra

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Symmetra came next, with an Indian accent and long black flowing hair. She worked with energy weapons, but was also able to create wall-mounted turrets out of thing air. Lastly, the dropped a teleporter that allowed allies to stream into her location and join the fight.

Symmetra literally bends reality. By manipulating hard-light constructs, she crafts the world as she wishes it to be, in hopes of engineering a perfect society.

Following the Omnic Crisis, the Vishkar Corporation of southern India began the laborious process of creating new, self-sustaining cities to house the nation's displaced population. One such city, Utopaea, was created using radical hard-light technology that enabled its architechs to shape the city's streets, utilities, and living spaces in the blink of an eye.

After she was identified as one of the few capable of becoming a light-bending architech, young Satya Vaswani was plucked from extreme poverty and placed in the care of Vishkar's architech academy, never to return home. Isolated and lonely in her new life, Satya immersed herself in her education and training. She quickly grasped the applications of the technology and was one of the top students in her class. Satya approached hard-light manipulation differently than her peers, with their more procedural, mechanical constructions, instead weaving her constructs in the motions of the traditional dance of her homeland.

Though she was one of Utopaea's top architechs, the Vishkar Corporation saw far greater potential in Satya's abilities. Giving her the moniker "Symmetra," Vishkar sent her on clandestine missions around the world to uphold its corporate interests and expand its influence into other countries.

Symmetra believes her actions serve the greater good in society. But there are times when she wonders whether the control and order she desires are truly best for humanity.

Pharah

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Pharah came next, bounding across the field of play and then hovering over it for a time. Her profile made her look very much like a Gundam, especially when she launched a barrage of missiles from her shoulder and leg-mounted batteries racking up multiple kills. She then received just about as much damage as she put out, enduring a hail of fire from a rotary gun before going down.

Fareeha Amari's commitment to duty runs in her blood. She comes from a long line of highly decorated soldiers and burns with the desire to serve with honor.

As a child, Fareeha dreamed of following in her mother's footsteps and joining the global peacekeeping force, Overwatch. She enlisted in the Egyptian army, and her dogged persistence and tactical prowess caused her to rise up through the officer ranks. She was a courageous leader and earned the loyalty of all who served under her. With her exemplary record, Fareeha was well placed to join the ranks of Overwatch, but before she had that opportunity, Overwatch was disbanded.

After leaving the army with a commendation for distinguished service, she was offered employment with Helix Security International, a private security firm contracted to defend the artificial intelligence research facility beneath the Giza Plateau. The top-secret facility was touted as vital to the safety of not only the region but countries across the globe. Fareeha gladly accepted the choice assignment and received training in the Raptora Mark VI, an experimental combat suit designed for rapid mobility and devastating firepower.

Under the call sign "Pharah," she works to safeguard the AI installation. Though she mourns Overwatch's passing, she still dreams of fighting the good fight and making a difference on a global scale.

Hanzo

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Hanzo came next to the front lines, a lightly-armored ranger class he looked like a refugee from Azeroth with a futuristic compound bow. He scampered up walls to a higher perch without ropes, using his bare hands to cling to shear surfaces. Channeling the "eyes of the dragon" he was able to spot enemies through obstacles.

Mastering his skills as a bowman and an assassin, Hanzo Shimada strives to prove himself as a warrior without peer.

The Shimada family was established centuries ago, a clan of assassins whose power grew over the years, enabling them to build a vast criminal empire that profited from lucrative trade in arms and illegal substances. As the eldest son of the family's head, Hanzo was bound by duty to succeed his father and rule the Shimada empire. From a young age, he was trained for that responsibility, displaying a natural aptitude for leadership and possessing an innate understanding of strategy and tactics. He also excelled in more practical areas: he was a prodigy in martial arts, swordplay, and bowmanship.

Upon the death of his father, the clan elders instructed Hanzo to straighten out his wayward younger brother so that he, too, might help rule the Shimada empire. When his brother refused, Hanzo was forced to kill him. This act broke Hanzo's heart and drove him to reject his father's legacy, ultimately leading him to abandon the clan and all that he had worked so hard to attain.

Now, Hanzo travels the world, perfecting his skills as a warrior, attempting to restore his honor and put the ghosts of his past to rest.

Reaper

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Reaper is the name of a darkly cloaked, masked adversary. He had two massive pistols that he wielded akimbo, and drifted through combat amidst a myst of black smoke that seemed to hide his movements as he engaged multiple targets.

Some speak of a black-robed terrorist known only as the Reaper. His identity and motives are a mystery. What is known is that where he appears, death follows.

The Reaper is an extremely volatile mercenary, a ruthless and remorseless killer responsible for terrorist attacks across the world. He has fought in many armed conflicts in the last decades, showing no loyalty to any cause or organization.

Survivors have described a black shadow ghosting unscathed through the most hellish battlefields. The few bodies recovered of those he kills are pale, empty husks drained of life, their cells showing signs of intense degradation. It is possible that he is a byproduct of failed genetic alteration which forces his cells to simultaneously decay and regenerate at a hyper-accelerated rate.

Those attempting to track his movements have begun to see a pattern in his appearances. They believe that Reaper is hunting former Overwatch agents and systematically eliminating them.

Winston

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Winston, a bespectacled ape dressed in heavy white armor, let loose with a short series of electrically charged melee attacks.

A super-intelligent, genetically engineered gorilla, Winston is a brilliant scientist and a champion for humanity's potential.

The Horizon Lunar Colony was established as a first step for humanity's renewed exploration of space. Among its residents was a group of genetically enhanced gorillas that were intended to test the effects of prolonged habitation in space.

One gorilla displayed such rapid brain development from the gene therapy that he was taken under the wing of Dr. Harold Winston, who taught him science and inspired him with tales of human ingenuity. The young gorilla passed his days assisting with the scientists' experiments, watching the distant blue world outside his habitat window, dreaming of the endless possibilities that awaited him there.

But his life was thrown into chaos when the other gorillas led an uprising, killed the mission scientists, and claimed the colony for their own. Taking on the name of his beloved human caretaker, Winston built a makeshift rocket and escaped to Earth. There he found a new home with Overwatch, an organization that represented everything he had come to admire about humanity. Winston was finally able to live up to the heroic ideal that had been instilled in him.

Now with the fall of Overwatch, Winston has gone into seclusion, once again cut off from the world he believes in, but longing for the days of heroism to return.

Torbjorn

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Torbjorn, a dwarven engineer, dropped armor buffs while he assembled powerful defensive turrets and shield generators. In his final moments on screen he turned bright orange, and seemed to be filled with the power of molten metal.

At its height, Overwatch possessed one of the most advanced armaments on the planet, which could be traced to the workshop of an ingenious engineer named Torbjörn Lindholm.

Before the Omnic Crisis, Torbjörn had gained notoriety for designing weapons systems used by countries around the world. However, his belief that technology must serve a better vision for humanity put him at odds with his employers, who desired to control his weapons using networked computer intelligence.

Torbjörn had a deep mistrust of sentient robotic intelligence, and while many of his peers wrote this off as paranoia, his worst fears were realized when the robot populations of the world turned against their human creators during the Omnic Crisis. Because of his engineering genius, he was recruited to join the original Overwatch strike team, and his many inventions proved integral to ending the crisis. In the years that followed, Overwatch became an international peacekeeping force, and Torbjörn remained a critical resource for all of its technological needs and signature weapons systems.

But in the aftermath of Overwatch's fall, many of Torbjörn's weapons were stolen or stashed away around the world. Feeling responsible for his creations, Torbjörn is determined to stop them from falling into the wrong hands and wreaking havoc on the innocent.

Bastion

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It was quite a surprise when one of those turrets turned out to be another character named Bastion. This robot was able to change like a Transformer from an emplaced gun to a full-fledged playable character with a submachine gun.

Once a frontline combatant in the devastating Omnic Crisis, this curious Bastion unit now explores the world, fascinated by nature but wary of a fearful humanity.

Originally created for peacekeeping purposes, Bastion robot units possessed the unique ability to rapidly reconfigure themselves into an assault-cannon mode. But during the Omnic Crisis, they were turned against their human makers, forming the bulk of the omnics' rebel army. Following the resolution of the crisis, nearly all of them were destroyed or disassembled. To this day, Bastion units still symbolize the horrors of the conflict.

One unique Bastion unit, severely damaged in the final battles of the war, was left forgotten for over a decade. It lay dormant, exposed to the elements and rusting while nature slowly reclaimed it. Overgrown with vines and roots and nested upon by small animals, the robot sat inert, seemingly unaware of the passing of time. That was until one fateful day, when it unexpectedly reactivated. With its combat programming all but lost, it instead displayed an intense curiosity about the natural world and its inhabitants. This inquisitive Bastion unit set out to explore its surroundings and discover its purpose on a war-ravaged planet.

Though "Bastion" appears to be gentle—even harmless, at times—its core combat programming takes over when the unit senses danger, utilizing its entire arsenal to eliminate anything it perceives as a threat. This has led to instances of conflict with the few humans it has encountered, and has driven it to avoid populated areas in favor of the wild, uncharted regions of the world.

Mercy

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Adding to the flying units was Mercy, and angelic medic with feathery wings. Her "healing stream" brought players back to full health from a distance, and even raised them from the dead. She was no slouch in combat either with a single, powerful pistol.

A guardian angel to those who come under her care, Dr. Angela Ziegler is a peerless healer, a brilliant scientist, and a staunch advocate for peace.

Ziegler rose to become the head of surgery at a prominent Swiss hospital before pioneering a breakthrough in the field of applied nanobiology that radically improved the treatment of life-threatening illnesses and injuries. It was this expertise that attracted the attention of Overwatch.

Because her parents had been taken by war, Ziegler was opposed to the organization's militaristic approach to keeping global peace. Ultimately, she recognized that Overwatch offered her the opportunity to save lives on a much larger scale. As Overwatch's head of medical research, Angela sought to leverage her work for healing in frontline crises. The result was the Valkyrie swift-response suit, which Ziegler herself piloted on many Overwatch missions.

Despite her contributions to Overwatch, she was often at odds with her superiors and the organization's overarching aims. When Overwatch dissolved, Ziegler dedicated herself to helping those affected by war.

Though she spends most of her time caring for the broken and dispossessed in crisis areas around the world, Dr. Ziegler can be counted on to don her Valkyrie suit whenever innocents are imperiled.

Widowmaker

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Widowmaker is the sniper class. Lightly armored, she seemed to rely on maneuver. Her grappling hook shot let her move above the fray on the ground, where she zipped from one overlook to another. She appears to have an ability much like Hanzo’s that lets her see through walls.

Widowmaker is the perfect assassin: a patient, ruthlessly efficient killer who shows neither emotion nor remorse.

It is believed that in her former life, Widowmaker was married to Gérard Lacroix, an Overwatch agent spearheading operations against the Talon terrorist organization. After several unsuccessful attempts to eliminate Gérard, Talon decided to change its focus to his wife, Amélie. Talon operatives kidnapped her and subjected her to an intense program of neural reconditioning. They broke her will, suppressed her personality, and reprogrammed her as a sleeper agent. She was eventually found by Overwatch agents, apparently none the worse for wear, and returned to her normal life.

Two weeks later she killed Gérard in his sleep.

Her mission complete, Amélie returned to Talon, and they completed the process of turning her into a living weapon. She was given extensive training in the covert arts, and then her physiology was altered, drastically slowing her heart, which turned her skin cold and blue and numbed her ability to experience human emotion. Amélie was gone.

Now, Widowmaker is Talon's most effective assassin, feeling little save the satisfaction of a job well done.

Zenyatta

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Zenyatta is a yogi-like character who floated over the ground, launching energy balls from his bare hands. At one point he sprouted multiple phantom limbs to strike the pose of Kali, the Indian goddess of destruction.

Zenyatta is an omnic monk who wanders the world in search of spiritual enlightenment. It is said that those who cross his path are never the same again.

Years ago, following the Omnic Crisis, a group of outcast omnic robots experienced what they described as a spiritual awakening. They abandoned their preprogrammed lives to establish a communal monastery deep in the Himalayas. After many years of meditation on the nature of existence, they came to the belief that they were more than artificial intelligences and that, like humans, they possessed the essence of a soul.

Recognizing the spiritual equality they held with humans, the monks, led by the enigmatic robot known as Tekhartha Mondatta, sought to heal the wounds caused by the Omnic Crisis a generation earlier and bring humans and robots back into societal harmony. Their message was embraced by millions around the world, and they became global celebrities.

But one monk, Zenyatta, disagreed with this new direction. He believed that the way to repair the problems between humans and omnics was not through dogmatic teaching but through interpersonal connection and engagement.

Ultimately, Zenyatta followed his own path. He chose to leave the monastery and wander the world, helping those he meets to overcome their personal struggles and find inner peace. But, when necessary, he will fight to protect the innocent, be they omnic or human.

Reinhardt

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Finally came Reinhardt. Towering over the other characters at the same scale as Winston, the heavily armored creature swung a massive war hammer and seemed to glow with an unearthly light. He was able to steamroll other players, stunning them and taking them out of the fight. Later, he took up the charge with a tall, wide shield projected in front of him.

Reinhardt Wilhelm styles himself as a champion of a bygone age, who lives by the knightly codes of valor, justice, and courage.

Over thirty years ago, Overwatch was founded to counter the threat of the robot uprisings around the world. Reinhardt, a highly decorated German soldier, was inducted as part of the original Overwatch strike team that put an end to the Omnic Crisis. After the conflict's resolution, Overwatch grew into a global institution, keeping the peace in a war-torn world. Reinhardt proved himself to be one of its most stalwart champions.

Reinhardt's unique ethics and larger-than-life persona earned the admiration of his peers and superiors alike. Never afraid to speak his mind, he was Overwatch's most vocal supporter and, when necessary, its harshest critic, providing a constant reminder that Overwatch was meant to be a force for good.

Having served into his late fifties, Reinhardt was faced with mandatory retirement from combat operations. Despondent about being removed from active duty, Reinhardt feared that his days of purpose and glory had ended. As times grew darker and Overwatch came under suspicion of corruption and sedition, Reinhardt could only watch as the cause he had dedicated his life to defending surrendered in disgrace.

Though Overwatch was eventually disbanded, Reinhardt was not content to sit idly by while the world fell to disorder. Once again donning his Crusader armor, he has vowed to fight for justice across Europe like a knight of old, defending the innocent and winning hearts and minds with the promise of better days to come.