A new year is upon us, and so too is a new cycle of Overwatch content.
Our good friend Jeff Kaplan from the Overwatch team was kind enough to post his ‘Happy New Year’ development update, whetting our whistles with some nondescript Overwatch news, and some loosely detailed goals of what to expect in 2018:
The drool-worthy deets from this particular update however, was definitely the extremely vague mentions of ‘Hero 27’, where master Jeff manages to speak about the character for a reasonable period, whilst saying absolutely nothing.
No mention of pronoun, no mention of role – just the mention that “We think the hero is gonna be awesome” and “We think the hero is going to be needed”.
The mention of “We think the hero is going to be needed” is an interesting one, if only because the Overwatch team has a reasonably good record of releasing characters that affect the current metagame. At a time when healers were being stacked in a big way, Ana was released with an anti-healing ability. At a time when barriers were starting to dominate, Moira was released with a Barrier-piercing ultimate ability.
But what of the current meta? Heading into Season 8, we aren’t seeing any exceptional gimmicks rising. No dependence on one single aspect of the game, such as shields/healing/AoE damage – but one thing does seem to stand out.
Characters currently considered ‘High Tier’ favour some speed options, hardly surprising given the pressure to meet objectives quickly, and return after death. Seeing Mercy, Lucio and Winston as top tier, and Soldier 76/Junkrat as highly picked damaged dealers does paint a picture of teams that have reliable damage and lots of movement, particularly in a vertical sense.
Does this mean that Hero 27 may feature some slows in their kit? Perhaps some form of immobilising tether? Right now the most effective slow applicator in Overwatch is Mei, with her Cryo-gun applying a stackable slow, until it outright immobilises and stuns the target. However this is a very close range, high risk role for a player to take. Not surprising that Mei is actually considered to be at the lower tier with the current state of play – she just has too much aggressive damage to contend with at that range.
The mention of a tether is an interesting one – If only because Blizzard are known to take inspiration from their other titles when it’s deemed appropriate. The Butcher within Heroes of the Storm does indeed have an effect that can trap an enemy player, by way of a short wind up AoE zone, that will shackle any enemies unfortunate to not get out in time. This shackle is graphically represented as a literal chain to a post, with players still able to move their character – but never beyond the maximum reach of the chain. Could we see such an ability making an appearance in Overwatch? The act of being slowed is not a fun one in any game, but being able to move (albeit in a smaller area) could possibly be a compromise to keep player control, while still limiting it to the benefit of the enemy team.
But who is Hero 27?
There is a lot of buzz amongst the Overwatch community as of late that we might be meeting someone named ‘ARES’. The reason for this being a fairly innocuous joke dropped during a recent holiday stream, where thousands of people watched Jeff Kaplan sit in front of a roaring fire for hours on end.
Among the many jokes, extended periods of awkward nothing and the odd physical gag, he at one point took the time to address a Youtuber famous for making Overwatch Developer parody videos and offered the following words:
Orca, Killer Whale, Gratuitous.
At a glance, an oddly aquatic theme – but Reddit was quick to notice that the final character of each word did end up spelling A.R.E.S, which could very well be a hint towards the next character.
History wise, Ares is the Greek god of war. From an Overwatch perspective, this isn’t a wholly unbelievable development, as an omnic AI named Athena already exists, and serves as the games announcer. She was also a fairly titular character in the original Recall short. Players have actually expected for Athena herself to become playable at some point, but this could be a genuinely interesting swerve.
The Greek flavour also extends a little further than just dealing with the pantheon of Greek gods – Many moons ago several credible news sources actually confirmed that a greek voice actor has been working with Blizzard, yet no Greek character exists at this time.
There is also a healthy amount of chin rubbing to be extended towards the idea of Athena existing as a friendly Omnic AI, where Ares could possibly represent a more malevolent one. The Overwatch comics have actually dealt with ‘evil’ omnic AI’s – particularly one that was referred to as a ‘god’ AI that existed in Cairo. This could be foreshadowing for such a character, as that same AI demonstrated the ability to control lesser Omnics and attack the forces that were trying to shut it down. Couple this with the upcoming annual ‘Uprising’ event (mentioned in the above developer video) that pits players against enemy Omnics, we could see an event that either teases the character – or wholesale reveals it.
It’s a fun bit of speculation to be sure – none of this is even remotely confirmed, but half the fun of new Overwatch heroes is the slow burn to realise who they are – and for the theorycrafters – to see how right they may have been.
So, let’s hope we see a robotic god of war that chains people to posts and yells at them in a Greek accent.
One can only dream.