It’s like Christmas, except it’s August and Santa is actually several talented people on a stage. Gamescom’s Overwatch presentation has come to a close, and what an excellent showcase it has been. Three reveals for the price of two (though, one reveal isn’t exactly a Gamescom special announcement)! Bargain.
Eichenwalde – The Turning Point of War.
We’ve known about this snippet of medieval Germany for a few days now, though we now know a little more about it. For example, we know there is an exciting, totally not at all terrifying, fall-to-your-death spot that was implemented to make the match exciting at a crucial point—entering the castle itself.
The fight for the future returns to Eichenwalde—a new Assault/Escort map revealed today at gamescom 2016!https://t.co/1ApP6IurtP
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 16, 2016
The narrow bridge looks to make attacking teams work together so that sly little Lúcio on the defence won’t easily thwart all your solo pushing efforts. Not to mention, the verticle aspects of the map mean that watching for snipers above will be crucial! It’s going to be like Snakes and Ladders, except the snakes are death and the ladders are probably staircases.
But, that’s not all we’ve been told. We now know the lore behind this town, and why the Overwatch heroes have travelled there. So I’ll leave the map discussion to my colleague, Sara W (Writer/Contributor), so give her article a read.
The Crusaders – Hammer Down!
As much as I want to move on to the meat of this meal, the juicy steak that is The Last Bastion, I do have to talk about one more thing quickly; Reinhardt’s fellows. Known as The Crusaders, these righteous men (and women?) stood as the protectors of Germany in the Omnic War. Steadfast, these hammer wielding soldiers fought valiantly against the automaton abominations, assisting the German military as much as they could. They put their hearts and souls into their duty, lay their lives on the line to hold back the threat of the encroaching robotic army.
And who, you ask, led these power-armour clad knights? Reinhardt? No.
Say hello to Balderich von Alder, the deceased leader of The Crusaders. Reinhardt’s mentor took his last stand in Eichenwalde’s castle, in a bid to defend German citizens from the omnics. He was successful, his efforts shifting the tides of war, giving his life for his countrymen. In doing so, he became a hero to his country, and perhaps to the whole world. It is because of this brave soldier that we find ourselves in Eichenwalde; to retrieve his armour.
Why? Well, why wouldn’t you want to return the body of one of the war’s greatest heroes to his countrymen? To give Balderich a true resting place, to display his armour for the world to see and admire … or maybe, just maybe, it’s so that a certain beloved, jolly Overwatch agent can wear it?
“And this is armour is so cool looking, and we have sent you all the way to recover, that we couldn’t help but give it to you as a new legendary Reinhardt skin.” —Aaron Keller (Assistant Game Director)
That’s a bit grim, Reinhardt. I hope you cleaned out those decomposing Balderich body bits thoroughly before putting that on!
The Last Bastion – Bweep bwoop, tweet tweet!
It was then that Jeff Chamberlain (VFX Supervisor) and Ben Dai (Overwatch Project Director) took centre stage, to discuss the newest addition to Overwatch’s series of animated shorts, The Last Bastion.
We were told that choices define us, that we make them every day. And that our robotic, bird-loving friend, made his own choice. With a roar from the crowd, the short began and let me tell you, I teared up a little bit. If you have not watched The Last Bastion, then go ahead and do that now. I’m going to prattle on about it for a few paragraphs because oh my goodness, it made for incredible viewing.
We start by watching Ganymede, Bastion’s feathered friend—and somewhat his mentor in nature and life—constructing a nest on a pile of metal, an offline robot: Bastion. The curious little bird then demands (probably) that the omnic wake the heck up, each peck resulting in an empty tink tink. Of course, Bastion activates! Huzzah! He stands slowly, and it seems his programming is quite in tact, because a map appears. It seems to be leading him somewhere distant, beyond the vibrant, verdant forests.
Watching what is essentially a robotic oblong with arms, legs and a huge gun walk around, discovering the world, is oddly endearing and sweet. He passes through the lush environment of spectacular colours, catching glimpses of the blue sky through emerald canopeis. We even get to see Eichenwalde itself through a break in the trees. We watch as Bastion discovers water and his own reflection, as he witnesses Ganymede eat a caterpillar (in confused surprise), and offers his feathered companion a stick to finish the nest that rests on Bastion’s shoulder. I was reminded of Disney’s version Bambi, half expecting him to befriend a soft-hearted skunk and an excitable little bunny.
But the echoing ratatata of a Woodpecker sets our beloved omnic into a panicked frenzy of sentry-mode bullets, a clear link being drawn to his reaction and PTSD, spraying mercilessly into the forest.
It gives us an incredible insight into Bastion; he feels. Emotion are human things, or so we believe, and to see something so inhuman-looking giving off these feelings is heartbreaking. We can sympathise, even empathise, with this outdated machine. He seems sad as he turns to march away, his shoulders lowered and his head hung.
I have to say to the Overwatch team that this particular sequence? This is what set me off. This is what made me well up with tears and blubber like a two-year-old child who dropped their ice cream.
A sad little robot, all alone in the world.
When he begins to cross the open grassland, stumbling into a fellow, fallen omnic, Bastion reaches out to his once comrade. To understand what happened. It is then that we are given a flashback into what happened here, so close to Eichenwalde, all those years ago.
Internal conflict is shown by the colours on Bastion’s … what is that even, his eye? His face? Whatever it is, the flickering of blue versus red is easily compared to good versus evil. Where there is little hope for our friend as he begins his battle march, gun readied, Ganymede appears. It seems he hasn’t given up on his walking perch/friend. He places a tiny twig upon Bastion’s arm, taps it and then says “hey you jerk, remember when you broke my house? Time to fix it.” … Uh, probably.
Choices. Choices define us, we make them every day. They make us who we are, we pick who we want to be as we grow, as we learn. And how does this link to Bastion? Because Bastion can make this choice too, he can define himself as different; he is different. Life beyond violence and death exists. We simply need to choose to follow that peaceful path.
He plucks up that tiny twig, such a fragile little thing, and places it on his shoulder. Blue. Oh god, I have never been happier to see the colour blue. There’s a touching little moment where the tiny green bird expresses his enthusiasm, fluttering around and around his perch pal, causing a dizzying little spin, before leading the omnic back into the unnamed forest of Germany. Finally, our friend Bastion, a robot built for nothing but war, feels friendship. And he feels at home.
Cue everyone crying, yelling at each other for daring to ever say that Bastion is annoying.
What Can We Take Away?
Overwatch has given us more than just a game. It has given us a story, one full of exciting and unique characters, with a potential for growth and development with every patch. It has given us characters we can relate to, be it an adorable robot or a cuddly, talking gorilla.
Overwatch has given us more than a game. It has given us an experience. Having seen what the creative team can do and give us, I can honestly say I am excited to see what the future holds.
Anyway, I’m off to the desert to fight Ben Dai (Overwatch Project Director) for that adorable Ganymede plushie. ‘Til next time!