As any frequent Overwatch player can tell you, we’re currently in the middle of an Overwatch event. This means everybody gets new skins, new emotes, and new sprays, if that’s your thing. Unlike Overwatch’s other events, Uprising focuses on what the core game has stumbled around since launch: the story of the Overwatch team and the world they live in.
To clarify, there is established lore for Overwatch. Unfortunately, it’s only available through external forms of media, such as comic books and animated shorts. While these are pleasant to watch and read, anyone who only plays the game will miss out on almost any form of plot Overwatch has. Outside of the title screen video and some random lines of dialogue, there is no story in Overwatch’s base game.
Uprising sets out to change that, with a new mode that lets players live out an Overwatch mission in London from before the main events of the comics and shorts. For the first time, Overwatch as a game is willing to give players a closer look at the world in which players endlessly slay one another in, which is a fantastic step in the right direction. As Reinhardt, Mercy, Torbjorn, and Tracer, you’ll run around King’s Row (the level set in London) fighting off malicious omnic droids, who are launching a full scale attack on the area in an act of war. Guided over your communicator by the younger versions of Soldier 76, Reaper, and Ana, you learn about the world as you save London from ravenous robots.
The whole mode feels like a “4-D” theme park ride you would find at Disney World and the like: you go to a number of points to carry out a simple but fun task, guided by the characters you know as they address you personally. Like a ride, it’s a short romp that’s fun for its duration, but not worth doing more than a few times. Herein lies the biggest problem that Uprising is faced with, in that it’s only fun the first couple times. The single round that makes up the round drags on and feels a bit too long, especially when the story-based version of the mode limits you to one of four characters. Each character has a clearly set role on the team, meaning there’s little to no variety in Uprising’s gameplay.
Granted, for an event, it’s a fun mode to try, but future attempts at story-telling have to be more robust if Blizzard wants Overwatch’s story to be viewed seriously by the general gaming audience. While the shorts and comics are great, one simply can’t expect all fans to garner the entirety of the game’s lore from external sources.
Overwatch has a great deal of potential in its story, dealing with themes of justice, equality, and authority, with characters of every type on every side of morality. The backstory of Overwatch is practically a sandbox full of toys for Blizzard to do what they wish with, but their reluctance to properly use these tools constantly seems to chain Blizzard down. So, while Uprising is the best use of this setting so far and a great first step for future story content, Bilzzard will have to up the ante if they want to keep single-player and narrative-focused players around in the future.