As a player and lore enthusiast of both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, I have decided to revive the Overwatch character lore threads after a discussion with the wonderful
/u/Subsourian. This thread will be dedicated to Aleksandra “Zarya” Zaryanova, Overwatch’s shield maiden and one of Heroes of the Storm’s Support heroes.
Previous lore threads here
A briefing of Overwatch’s timeline
Thirty years before the current date of the game itself, Overwatch’s Earth was embroiled in a robot war called the Omnic Crisis. Omnics are robots originally designed by the Omnica Corporation, meant to be mass produced in factories called Omniums, to achieve economic equality. Unfortunately the corporation never delivered on its promise, as it was shut down after accusations of fraud and other problems. The Omniums were also closed down.
It came as a surprise to all when the Omniums suddenly reactivated, started producing weapons-grade robots and marched against humans in a worldwide war. It was implied that powerful AIs called God Programs were involved in starting the war, however the true extent of their influence is unknown.
Among the robots created, the most popular model was the SST Laboratories Siege Automaton Model B73 – known to most Overwatch players as Bastion units. The OR-14 model that Orisa is based off of is a later model created by the Omniums in response to human resistance (in
Russia was one of the first countries to be affected by the Crisis. Their initial response was to create giant human-piloted mechs called Svyatogors (in
) to combat the Omnics. Even then, the destruction spread through the entirety of Russia and devastated the country.
As the Omnic Crisis spread to the rest of the world, other countries were forced to come up with their own solutions to fight the murderous robots. The United States launched the Soldier Enhancement Program to create super soldiers with the intent of fighting the omnics – and it was this program that created Soldier: 76 and Reaper. Germany created the Crusader unit, a battalion of giant men wearing powered armor and equipped with rocket-powered hammers and energy barriers in the style of ancient knights – and Reinhardt was a member of this team.
It eventually became clear that the nations simply cannot fight off the omnics on their own. A joint combined effort between countries was needed.
And thus Overwatch was born, as a small elite strike team consisted of six members: Gabriel Reyes, Jack Morrison, Reinhardt Wilhelm, Ana Amari, Torbjorn Lindholm, and Liao. Their goal was to perform surgical strikes against the Omniums and direct the combined forces of the world in that effort.
And it succeeded. The Omnic Crisis ended with humanity claiming victory against the omnics.
However, the damage was done. The whole world was in ruins, with some countries like Russia and Australia suffering the most. Omnics still continued to exist, and hatred against them still continued.
After the end of the Omnic Crisis, Overwatch was converted from its small strike team to a global peacekeeping force under the jurisdictions of the UN, with Strike Commander Jack Morrison and Captain Amari as its leaders… and a covert ops division known as Blackwatch, led by Commander Gabriel Reyes.
Lena Oxton (Tracer) was a member of Overwatch, and Genji Shimada was a member of Blackwatch.
Overwatch was operational for twenty years, as internal conflict and disagreements of the international community about its purpose fractured the organization. It came to an end when the Swiss headquarters at Zurich was destroyed in an explosion, implied to be a battle between Strike Commander Morrison and Commander Reyes, with the following Petras Act putting an end to all Overwatch related activities. The various members dispersed, with most of them returning to normal civilian lives; some continued to fight their own personal battles against the evils of the world.
Without Overwatch, conflict between humans and omnics intensified and the world was on the verge of a Second Omnic Crisis after the omnium in Russia suddenly reactivated – again. Eventually the gorilla scientist Winston, formerly a member of the organization,
and deal with the new threat.
The world could always use more heroes.
Life and history as we know it
Twenty eight years ago, Aleksandra Zaryanova was born in a remote Siberian village at the front line of the Omnic Crisis. She grew up surrounded by the ruins of the Omnic Crisis, the Russians having defeated the robots and shut down the local Omnium without much help from Overwatch. As she grew up seeing her people’s devastation by the omnics, she eventually developed a hatred for them and swore to gain the strength to help her people recover.
She eventually went into sports as a bodybuilder and weightlifter, and was identified as a potential star to represent Russia in the international championship and shatter long-standing world records.
But fate had other plans. On the eve of the tournament, the Omnium in Russia suddenly reactivated and launched an attack against Zarya’s home village. She wasted no time in withdrawing from the competition and rushed home to enlist in the Russian Defense Forces – sacrificing personal fame in the name of national security.
Now she serves – a symbol to some, a stalwart fellow soldier to others. But for Aleksandra, it is a chance to use her great strength to protect the ones she loves.
During her tenure in the Russia Defense Forces, Zarya was called upon by Katya Volskaya – CEO of Volskaya Industries (and also the announcer of Volskaya Foundry) – to hunt down the hacker Sombra, who has blackmailed Volskaya into giving her favors by using her daughter. After a long trek around the globe, Zarya managed to locate Sombra in Dorado with the help of an omnic hacker named Lynx Seventeen. They fought and Zarya got the upper hand, but then she was forced to let Sombra escape when she rescued a hacked Lynx from a collapsing building.
The encounter greatly shook Zarya’s personal beliefs, as she started questioning her hatred of omnics and also refused the offering of friendship from Katya Volskaya after Sombra revealed the truth about the technology used by Volskaya (they were made by omnics).
This comic revealed Zarya’s rank in the Russian Defense Forces is sergeant.
She participated in an operation against the Russian omnics during Christmas.
In Heroes of the Storm, Zarya does not possess regenerating shields as part of her health bar like her Overwatch appearance – as health regenerates on its own in this game. The regenerating shields instead went to Fenix.
D: Energy – Zarya does not employ Mana or resources other than cooldowns to cast her abilities. Instead, she has an Energy meter that is charged by absorbing damage using her barriers and boost her damage output (and activates certain talents). This passive is lifted verbatim from her Overwatch appearance.
Zarya’s personal armor and gloves channel energy from the damage absorbed by her personal barriers into her particle cannon to feed its power, increasing its damage output (and its size with To The Limit). She can be seen reloading the cannon when she leaves combat as part of an idle animation.
Q: Particle Grenade – Zarya’s particle cannon, named Avenger, was originally a weapon mounted on an armored car. It can fire an energy beam as main fire (used for her auto attacks), or lob explosive grenades as its alternative fire (with Q). In Overwatch each grenade consumes 20 ammo, and the cannon has a clip of 100 ammo – which means that you can fire a maximum of 5 grenades before needing to reload, providing the basis of Particle Grenade’s 5 charges in Heroes of the Storm.
W: Personal Barrier – Zarya surrounds herself with a three-second shield that absorbs damage and converts it into energy to boost her attacks. Her barrier retains most characteristics from Overwatch, with the notable exception of innate cleanse which she can talent for with Unstoppable Competitor at 13.
E: Shield Ally – Zarya projects a three-second shield onto an ally. A notable divergence from its Overwatch appearance is that in Overwatch, her Personal Barrier has a longer cooldown than Projected Barrier – but here it’s the opposite (with Personal Barrier at 10s and Shield Ally at 12s). The barrier also lacks its innate cleanse, but can be talented into with Cleansing Shield at 16.
R1: Graviton Surge – Zarya launches a slow-moving projectile that creates a field sucking enemy heroes into its center. The Heroes of the Storm version is inferior to the original inspiration, as the Overwatch version deals damage and prevents enemies from escaping its area of effect as long as it is active. It is just as good for setting up combos with mages and other AoE hard hitters… if you can land it into the enemy team.
R2: Expulsion Zone – A new ability exclusive to Heroes of the Storm, Zarya instead creates a field that deals damage and knocks enemy heroes out of it. It is likely inspired by Zarya’s ability to manipulate gravity fields as shown in Graviton Surge – she simply reverses its functionality to create the new heroic.
Together We Are Strong: This is Zarya’s quote when she spawns in Overwatch. Also encompasses the general gameplay strategy for Zarya – she is at her best when having companions to employ Shield Ally on for energy, and does not perform well alone.
Maximum Charge: Zarya announces this line when she hits maximum energy capacity in both games. If you hear this from the enemy Zarya, run – a fully charged Particle Cannon is going to give you a world of hurt.
I Am the Strongest: One of Zarya’s Overwatch voice lines and her home screen quote is “I am the strongest woman in the world”, referring to the fact that she currently holds the female deadlift record for the Overwatch world at 512kg.
Give Me Twenty: One of her voice lines in Overwatch, as well as a taunt here, is “Get down, give me twenty”. A reference to her military and athletic background (20 pushups amirite?)
Hit Me: One of her Personal Barrier quotes is “Don’t be shy, hit me!”. Another one – only available with the Totally 80s skin equipped in Overwatch – is “Hit me with your best shot!”
Unstoppable Competitor: Zarya may no longer be a professional athlete, but that does not stop her from being competitive. In good spirits, that is.
Endurance Training: A reference to her military background. Gotta have some (okay, a lot of) endurance to lug that cannon around for hours on end.
Born in Battle: One of her move quotes and Overwatch voice lines is “I was born in battle!”. Zarya was born at the end of the Omnic Crisis and saw the robot war destroying her home, and Sergeant Aleksandra Zaryanova was born when the Russian omnium attacked her village.
Gravity Kills: One of her quotes when she kills someone trapped inside a Graviton Surge.
Most of Zarya’s unique conversations with other heroes are simple curiosity, as Overwatch’s …oddities… are quite tame comparing to what the other universes can offer.
Lunara: “Does it hurt being part deer?” / “You are the meanest deer lady I’ve ever met.” Dryads are half-human, half-deer daughters of Cenarius, the demigod of the Night Elves. They are mostly peaceful creatures that keep to the forest, however the War of the Ancients saw them fighting at the front alongside the Kaldorei as anti-magic specialists. Lunara on the other hand is definitely not a nice dryad by a long shot.
Abathur: “Ugh, this weird slug man is on my team.” Abathur was weaved as a “brood of one” by the Overmind for the purpose of managing Swarm evolutions, and is similar to a slug in terms of appearance.
Murky: “Ha! A fish-man! I love it!” / “I do not know how to respond to that… No? Yes? …Maybe?” Murky is a murloc, a species of amphibious bipedal race living on the edge of water bodies. They speak their own language called Nerglish, which is passed down only orally and incomprehensible to strangers.
Overwatch heroes: “Good to see you on my side. This will be easy.”/ “We have combat experience that cannot be faked.” / “Tracer? What is an Overwatch agent doing here?” Zarya grew up during Overwatch’s heyday, and it is likely that she knew of them from reputation.
Robotic/cyborg heroes: “I have destroyed more of your kind than I can count.” As a combatant of the Russian Defense Forces against the Russian omnium, destroying omnics is just another day in the job for Zarya. Her hatred of omnics even extends to cyborg heroes like Genji, though she has started to question this view in Searching.
Sonya: “Hmm. You look like you could be some competition. Wonderful!” / “Hah! I like this one.” Zarya was a competitive athlete, and she still seeks to challenge other people’s strength. In Overwatch she offers to arm wrestle a friendly Reinhardt and teased about going easy on him because it was his birthday (maybe…)
Stukov: “Good to meet someone from the motherland in such a foreign place.” / “Comrade? For someone from the future, you are quite stuck in the past.” Both are Russian, both are soldiers, and both came from Earth. It’s also worthy of note that Zarya is really the only hero Stukov has unique positive interaction with; he uses generic positive greeting for a Raynor on the same team.
Also did Zarya just call Stukov old fashioned? He’s just trying to be polite…
/u/Subsourian pointed out in his Stukov skin and responses thread, “comrade” is a term of endearment commonly used during the USSR or in the modern Russian military. Given that both Stukov and Zarya are soldiers in their respective worlds (him a vice admiral and her a sergeant), his use of “comrade” is context appropriate. But apparently Zarya thought StarCraft Russians don’t use it anymore. Or something.)
Tychus: “Nice mini-gun! What do you say you let me give that thing a try sometime?” Both of them use heavy weapons, and both have been compared to Team Fortress 2’s Heavy Weapons Guy in some aspects. Tychus’ minigun was outright stated to be inspired by Heavy’s minigun, no less. (thanks Subsourian!)
Generic positive: “We all have our jobs to do.” / “Be sure to stretch before engaging in rigorous physical activity.” / “Just like in training. Visualize, then execute!” These are Zarya’s possible non-map specific quotes before battle in Overwatch.
Overwatch hero takedowns: “Who needs Overwatch? We will protect ourselves!” During the Omnic Crisis, the Russians managed to fight off the omnics and shut down the omnium without much assistance from Overwatch. With the Siberian omnium suddenly reactivating again and Overwatch disbanded, the Russians have taken to the battlefield with new Svyatogor mechs from Volskaya Industries to defend their home once again.
StarCraft heroes: “What is this, science fiction?” As StarCraft is an actual game in the Overwatch world (Hana Song/D.Va was the reigning champion of Wings of Liberty for three years straight before she was recruited to MEKA), Zarya views the StarCraft heroes as from a science fiction. Also a bit of hypocritical humor, as Overwatch itself is also science fiction – to us.
Anub’arak: “Almost as big as Siberian beetles. Eh, almost.” A joke on how Crypt Lords (which Anub’arak is one) look like giant beetles. Do we want to know the size of Siberian beetles in the Overwatch world? Probably not.
Tracer: “Not fast enough, Tracer!” Tracer’s main gimmick in both games is to outmaneuver enemies with her speed. Zarya, being an auto attack hero, does not really have a problem shooting Tracer down – and her barriers can absorb Pulse Bomb blasts.
Undead heroes: “It’s like I’m in a zombie movie! (laughs)” Undead heroes are not a thing in Overwatch (no, Reaper doesn’t count – guy never died in the first place).
“What? What are you doing? Stop poking me! Why do they even allow this?” Poke quotes are not a thing in Overwatch, obviously. Zarya is not used to being poked.
“Strength is a gift to be shared. The strong must protect the weak. And together we will do more than just survive. We will be victorious!” Zarya’s personal philosophy in a nutshell. Notably this put her at odds with the terrorist organization Talon, whose leader Doomfist thinks that conflict is essential to forcing evolution and improvements of the human race by weeding out the weak.
“I have sacrificed a great many things to protect the people I love. And I would do so again, without hesitation.” She gave up a life of fame and fortune to become a soldier, and the Reflections comic showed that instead of taking a holiday break she instead spent it on fighting at the front.
“Have you noticed you can’t jump in the Nexus? That’s odd, right? Gravity must be very strong here.” Self-explanatory.
“Some day I’d love to be in a second person shooter. “You fire your particle grenade at the bad guy.” “You see them explode.” “You flex.”” Zarya is quite confident in herself and frequently make boasts that show off her strength.
“I am the strongest woman in the world! Well, my world, at least… this one has some… competition. Just what I needed!” Yrel, Sonya and Johanna, among others. Mostly Sonya, if the interaction quote is anything to go by.
“In Mother Russia, this joke is tired of you!” Classic Russian Reversal.
“Who watches over Overwatch? Several regulation boards. Not everything is a silly joke. Deal with it.” A reference to Watchmen comics. Also Zarya may have a sense of humor, but she is also a consummate professional soldier.
“With guns like these… (smooch, smooch) Every fight is a gun fight!” A reference to… you know, that other definition of guns. One that Zarya has plenty of.
Move: “Da.” ("Yes.") / “Tak tochno.” ("Affirmative.") / “Acknowledged.” These are her acknowledge quotes from Overwatch.
Attack: “I will break you.” / “I was born in battle.” Both are Overwatch voice lines.
Viewed in shop (owned): “Don’t just stand around. Do something.” A possible pre-match voice line in Overwatch.
Lock-in: “Zarya, ready for duty.” Announced when someone in your team swaps to Zarya in Overwatch.
Compliment a kill: “You are a credit to the team.” A reference to Team Fortress 2. A possible voice line when a Heavy uses a teleporter is “Engineer is credit to team!”, and the fact that both Zarya and Heavy are husky Russkies lugging around giant guns aren’t lost on people.
“Well done.” / “I knew you could do it.” Also complimenting kill lines from Overwatch.
Respawn: “I will never surrender.” / “Preserverence is the key.” / “Nuh-uh, I am not a good loser.” Her respawn lines from Overwatch.
Taunt: “Get down, give me twenty!” / “Peace through superior firepower.” / “I want to hug you like big, fuzzy Siberian bear.” Voice lines from Overwatch.
Cyberdemon: “Reverse engineered from Overwatch’s cyberization techniques, the Jigoku battle armor offers most of the benefits of cybernetic augmentation without requiring invasive surgery.” The only currently-known recipient of Overwatch’s cyberization technology is Genji Shimada, and thus this skin bears a similarity to Genji’s standard looks. With the release of Caldeum Complex skins, the Cyberdemon skin line is confirmed to be part of the Jigoku Corporation alongside Speed Demon Lucio and Cyber Oni Butcher.
High Gravity: “The Tobelstein Reactor is an emergent technology, and its full potential has yet to be tapped. Rumor has it that the Gravitic Harness is the next great advancement in energy projection.” Non-Russian speaking players often mishear her Graviton Surge voice line as “I’m going for the Tobelstein!” (the actual line is “Огонь по готовности!” – “Fire at will!”). Blizzard decided to run with it and made Tobelstein the name of the reactor in Zarya’s particle cannon. It was also referenced in Overwatch as one of the things to get in Efi’s checklist, although it was misspelled there.
Thunder Guard: “Armed with their Mjolnir Cannons, Zarya Aleksdottir and the Thunder Guard serve as the Midgard megalopolis’ last defense against the Jotunheim Republic and their frost golem army.” A reference to Norse mythology – Midgard is the realm where humans live (like Sanctuary in Diablo), Mjolnir being Thor’s hammer and Jotunheim is the realm of the frost giants.
Last but not least: Music
Zarya’s home screen music is a remixed version of Volskaya Industries theme in Overwatch.
Thank you for reading, and let me know if I missed anything!
Source: Original link
© Post "Aleksandra Zaryanova – Character, Abilities, Talents, Interactions and Skins Lore" for game Heroes of the Storm.
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