The Overwatch community was taken aback yesterday by the introduction of a new character to the series’ lore: Efi Oladele, an 11-year-old scientist from Numbani. Although many speculate that Efi could be the game’s 24th playable character, fans have also dug up plenty of evidence that she’s not the new hero — but the creator of them.
The character — or thing — that’s actually playable may be one that fans have glimpsed several times before, according to several pieces of evidence dredged up by Reddit users. The popular fan theory goes like this: New hero Efi invented a spider-like, quadrupedal tank that players will control, and it’s the same one that’s made a few appearances in videos and concept art.
The first time we saw the so-called spider mech was in an early mockup of Overwatch’s cast. It’s hiding in the back right corner behind several other prototype heroes, many of whom didn’t make it into the final game.
The four-legged robot appears again in the original Overwatch cinematic trailer as a statue among those of other heroes.
Not only was it rendered in this animated video, but it appeared again in May 2016. In Overwatch’s pre-launch teaser, the mech is seen briefly, right in the thick of the action.
Even after the game came out and there was no spider tank in the roster, the character kept appearing. Months later, an animated video introducing the game’s heavily teased newest hero, Sombra, hid a reference to the mech once more. A robot with four legs is seen among several other icons in a very brief moment of the cinematic — including a node containing the Numbani flag insignia, seen to the left of it. (There’s also the Doomfist gauntlet, found on the Numbani map in-game, to the right of the mech node, implying they’re all connected somehow.)
It’s definitely curious that this character keeps appearing in Overwatch-related material without even making it into the game itself. Still, it’s largely flown under the radar until now, with rumors ramping up in the last few weeks in particular.
A post on 4chan earlier this year claimed to leak several upcoming events and new content for Overwatch, including the Lunar New Year event and more focus on Mei. Among the details, though, was the note that the fan-favorite, heavily mythicized Doomfist character wouldn’t be the game’s next fighter. Instead, it would be “a female omnic [the race of robots in Overwatch] quadruped codenamed ‘Anchora.’”
A campaign celebrating the Lunar New Year was Overwatch’s first seasonal event of 2017, so the anonymous poster got that part right. Still, it’s hard to buy leaks like these without any credible sourcing — but Efi’s debut on the Overwatch news hub definitely gives fans more reason to believe that Anchora the spider mech is coming.
“I want to create things that make our lives better,” Efi told Atlas News, Overwatch’s in-game news service. “And someday, my dream is to build something that can keep us safe, like the new OR15s! I think that would be great."
That sounds like a tank, fans think. And what looks like a tank? That quadrupedal mech who may or may not be named Anchora and may or may not be playable. This statement alone has many Overwatch players sure that Efi is developing the game’s next fighter, not the new playable hero herself.
While Efi would certainly make for a cool playable character, based on what little we know of her, there are other reasons for players to believe she’s merely part of the actual new hero’s reveal. She’s very, very young, and lead writer Michael Chu confirmed on Twitter that the interview published yesterday is set during the game’s present day. That means there’s no chance she’ll be aged up to make her more of an appropriate fighter to join and take on much older, mature heroes.
@Jalen_Nelaj That date is just our "real world" publish date. The interview takes place in the present day of the OW timeline.— Michael Chu (@westofhouse) February 21, 2017
Even Jeff Kaplan, the game’s director, hinted at the rampant, wide-ranging theories during a talk at DICE 2017 today. He showed an old piece of concept art in which a very similar, four-legged, spindly creature is front and center, shooting lasers at the other heroes. It doesn’t look quite like the mech that’s become the center of all the theories, but Kaplan outright warned Reddit users that “the hero in the center is not the hero that you think it is.”
The short version is: This is just another day in the theory-obsessed Overwatch community — and Blizzard Entertainment is likely not going to give us the whole story for some time.
Update: After publication, Jeff Kaplan clarified his comments about the game’s new hero. Efi will play a part of the next playable character’s story, he told us, but said that character has not been confirmed.