So this is a verbose timeline of the history of Overwatch, which should include all of the major story milestones noted in in-gamer events, cinematics, comics, and short stories released so far. It's important to point out that several stories may happen simultaneously or within the same general period, but my chief intent with the order here was to demonstrate that events involving particular characters take place in a discrete order, and that in turn lets us extrapolate a general order of when these stories take place.
One obscure element that requires being called out is this: Olympia Shaw's report on the history of Overwatch, while staying vague on exact numbers, does a good job of putting certain events into context with one another, as a way of setting the stage for the release of the game. This is why elements such as the events of Shooting Star are placed where they are in the timeline, since the implication is that several events that Shaw refers to all happen within a relatively short time period.
The Omnic Crisis: Defunct omniums reactivate, spawning an endless army of AI-driven machines intent on destroying humanity for unknown reasons. Different nations respond in different ways to combat the omniums, but these efforts are unable to shut down the omniums permanently.
- Germany creates the Crusaders, a group of warriors in rocket-powered armor and hard-light shields who can go toe to toe with the omnics’ mass-produced Bastions and OR-14s.
- The US creates an enhanced infantry program, pumping a cocktail of chemicals and other treatments that give their soldiers enhanced durability, improved regeneration and stamina.
- Russia fights using mostly conventional means, but also begins to produce giant piloted mechs called Svyatogors to overwhelm omnic opposition.
- Without the vast resources of the developed world, poorer island nations in Latin America form the Caribbean Coalition to use unconventional tactics against the omnics.
- As a last-ditch effort, Australia drops a nuclear missile on the omnium in the Outback. While this mostly disables the omnium, it falls to outlaws and renegades living in the Australian bush country (who came to be known as “Junkers”) to invade the omnium and fully deactivate it, which they then claim and repopulate as Junkertown.
- Korea uses smaller, more maneuverable mechs, along with a rotating roster of pilots, to combat the constant adaptation of the Gwishin omnics. Over time, this MEKA squad would come to be treated as national celebrities, with the severity of their job downplayed in exchange for their star appeal, as a way to avoid public panic.
Rise of Overwatch: Overwatch forms, at first covertly and later openly, as a UN-backed special task force oriented around dismantling the command-and-control structure of the various omniums.
- Morrison and Reyes, both products of the US’ enhanced soldier program, are brought on board as field commanders.
- Amari, an expert Egyptian sniper, takes a senior position as a tactical advisor.
- Balderich, from the Crusaders, is invited to join Overwatch. Reinhardt Wilhelm goes in his stead after Balderich is killed fighting omnics in Eichenwalde, and later takes on a role as a strike team leader.
- Torbjorn Lindholm, formerly of the Ironclad Guild and one of the designers of the SST E54 Bastion (in addition to other omnic or super-robot designs like the Titans), joined the team as an engineer and technical expert.
- Liao’s expertise and origins aren’t specified, but it’s reasonable to assume that they are Chinese in origin.
Morrison, Amari, Reyes, Reinhardt, Torbjorn and Liao were the central actors of this effort, all bringing with them their own expertise. This ultimately brings the Omnic Crisis to an end, causing Overwatch to transition into a worldwide peacekeeping operation.
- One particular Overwatch action during the Crisis involves the containment of the god AI Anubis, sealed within a “temple” in Cairo.
Operation White Dome: Ana, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, and Emre Sarioglu are dispatched to deal with a pocket of omnic resistance. The team is ambushed, Torbjorn loses an arm, but Reinhardt saves him. Reinhardt apparently earns the options to name Torbjorn's upcoming child.
Escape from Horizon: On the Horizon Lunar Colony, a team of scientists genetically modify various animals to experiment with the possibilities of off-world living. Many of these animals express advanced intelligence. Ultimately, some of the animals lead a revolt, using deception to trick the scientists into an airlock and expelling them into the vacuum. However, not all of the specimens are in agreement with this plan: Winston, a gorilla who considered the lead scientist his foster father, modifies an escape pod to allow him to survive re-entry to Earth. He is ultimately discovered by Overwatch, who bring him in and aid in maintaining his genetic treatments in exchange for his services as a scientist.
- Hammond, an oversized non-verbal hamster on Horizon, attaches his own makeshift vehicle to Winston’s craft. He breaks away from Winston’s craft during re-entry and crashes in the Australian Outback. Making his way to Junkertown, he creates an identity for himself as a demolition derby mech pilot named Wrecking Ball, using his vehicle as the basis for the mech.
Ecopoint Antarctica: With resupplies delayed due to extended weird weather phenomena, the staff of the ecopoint put themselves in cryo-stasis to ride out the storm.
The Passing Dragon: Shimada Sojiro, head of the Shimada criminal family, passes away, making his elder son Hanzo the new head of the clan. As his first order of business, Hanzo is directed by the other clan elders to straighten out the frivolities of Genji, his younger brother. This escalates into a duel between the two, where Genji is critically wounded, and believed dead by the clan and Hanzo.
- Hanzo abandons the clan, wandering the world in search of redemption, but making annual visits (as infiltrations) to Shimada Castle to pay his respects before the family shrine in atonement for Genji’s death.
- Genji is rescued by Overwatch, who agree to save his life and restore his body using cybernetics in exchange for information about the Shimada clan’s dealings and his service. Genji accepts, but soon finds that he has a great deal of trouble accepting his semi-robotic body, leading to a great deal of rage and self-loathing.
- Reyes sees Genji’s hotheadedness and cold-bloodedness, as well as his master-level skills at ninjitsu and stealth, as assets for his Blackwatch team, which Genji accepts a spot on.
The Deadlock Gang: Founded by Elizabeth Ashe partly as a surrogate family and partly as a gang of thieves, the Deadlock Gang made a name for themselves with audacious heists in the American Southwest, evading capture at every turn. Among the founding members was an expert marksman and natural-born outlaw named Jesse McCree.
- Ultimately, Overwatch is called in to address the issue of the Deadlock Gang. Reyes infiltrates the gang, but ultimately opts to recruit McCree into Blackwatch rather than turning him over to the law. McCree accepts. Ashe and the rest of the gang escape.
("8 years ago") Retribution: A new Overwatch base in Oslo, headed by Gerard Lacroix, is bombed shortly after opening, killing several and injuring many others, including Lacroix. The perpetrator is believed to be Antonio Bartolotti, a businessman with extensive high-ranking connections and a known association with Talon. Morrison OKs a Blackwatch mission to Venice to extract Antonio for interrogation. However, Reyes makes a snap decision to execute Antonio instead, shooting his way out of Talon's hideout with Moira, Genji, and McCree in tow. The incident creates a lot of bad press for Overwatch, as Antonio was effectively murdered by UN-sanctioned agents. The power vacuum created by Antonio's death results in a shake-up among Talon's leadership, allowing Vialli to orient the organization around making money, Akande Ogundimu to supplant Akinjide Adeyemi as Doomfist, and Maximilien to advance to the inner council.
- Somewhere after this point is when Moira's experiments are deemed unethical by Overwatch, and she takes her skills elsewhere. Later, she's publicly made Minister of Genetics in the science haven Oasis in the Arabian desert, while covertly she offers her services to Talon and eventually gains a seat on their inner council.
Project Slipstream: Experiments with a prototype high-speed jet go sideways, causing the pilot, Lena Oxton (callsign Tracer) to become unrooted from time. Winston builds a chronal accelerator that allows her to control this effect to some degree.
The Cairo Incident: Little is indicated directly, but it's described as a situation in which a large number of people were in need of medical aid and were unable to receive it promptly, being described as a humanitarian crisis. Director Petras also promised a full investigation into the murder of an Overwatch official.
- It's somewhere in this period that Gerard Lacroix is murdered by his wife Amelie, who had been brainwashed by Talon. She is also modified by Moira to drastically slow her heart-rate and suppress her emotions.
The Japan Incident: "Blackwatch under scrutiny after complaint from Japanese government" is one of the headlines right before the King's Row operation.
("7 years ago") King's Row Uprising: The omnic terrorist organization Null Sector take as hostages the omnic spiritual leader, Tekharta Mondatta and the mayor of London, as well as a large number of other civilians. (McCree and Reyes provide reconnaissance for the mission despite being deactivated after Venice.) The UK government insists on managing the situation internally and sternly denies Overwatch clearance to act against Null Sector. Oxton, having switched from test flight to field ops, advocates for going in anyway, as it's the right thing to do. Morrison dispatches a strike team led by Reinhardt, with Torbjorn and Mercy as support and Tracer as a location expert. The mission is a success, with Null Sector's area defenses disabled and the hostages rescued.
"Legacy" – Morrison leads a team to extract a group of scientists held hostage by Talon. While providing sniper support, Ana engages in a duel with a talented Talon sniper. Ana damages the sniper's helmet, revealing it to be Amelie Lacroix. As Ana pieces together that Amelie must have been the one who killed Gerard, Amelie gets off a shot that destroys Ana's right eye. As she recovers, she decides to keep her survival a secret, and goes off the grid.
Disassembly: After a mission he’s leading goes poorly, Reinhardt is forced to retire from combat missions, ostensibly due to his advanced age. None of his colleagues within the organization, particularly Torbjorn, are happy with this decision.
"Storm Rising" – Against the backdrop of Hurricane Fernand advancing on Havana, Cuba, Sojourn advises getting a bead on Maximilien, who is using a local rum distillery as a front for Talon's operations and money laundering. Tracer leads a strike team of Winston, Genji, and Mercy to investigate, with the objective being to find evidence that would authorize them to pursue Akande. (OUTCOME UNCLEAR)
Doomfist Captured: Winston, Genji and Tracer engage in a street battle against Akande, with Winston overpowering him. Doomfist is ultimately imprisoned in a Helix Securities penitentiary.
- Mercy departs from Overwatch, citing disillusionment with the organization’s leadership.
- Echo is secured by the US military for unknown reasons and put in cold storage. McCree, for some reason, acquires her activation key.
("6 years ago") Fall of Overwatch: The Swiss headquarters of Overwatch is destroyed during a brawl between Morrison and Reyes. Both are presumed dead.
- Reyes assumes the moniker of Reaper, joining Talon and eventually becoming a part of their inner council.
- Morrison, disillusioned with what Overwatch became and his own failures as a leader, spends time recuperating, ultimately deciding that the world still needs saving from villainous actors. He begins stealing arms and equipment from abandoned watchpoints (as well as some maintained by Helix) and begins a one-man war.
- Destroyer: Torbjorn leaves Overwatch in disgust, making a personal mission out of dismantling creations of his that were weaponized during the Crisis or afterwards by malicious actors.
- Dragon Slayer: Reinhardt travels around the European countryside, fighting against injustice where he can find it. Brigitte, Torbjorn’s daughter whom Reinhardt named, accompanies him as an armorer and sidekick.
- Winston remains at Watchpoint Gibraltar, monitoring goings-on in the world while being unable to take any action to assist.
- McCree lives a fugitive life, wanted for his crimes while part of the Deadlock Gang AND for crimes he committed as part of Blackwatch. At some point he loses his left arm, which is replaced with a cybernetic.
- Genji wanders the world, still in search of harmony with his cyberized body. He meets Zenyatta and studies under him in Nepal, coming to terms with his new form.
- Many of the active security jobs managed by Overwatch fall to private security companies like Helix Securities. This includes the containment of the Anubis AI and the supermax prison facility where Akande is held.
- In the absence of Overwatch, and marketing somewhat on her mother’s ties to the Egyptian military, Fareeha Amari, Ana’s daughter, works her way up the ranks of the Helix organization.
- A Better World: The Vishkar Corporation, an architectural firm headquartered in the Indian tech haven of Utopaea, is initially turned down for a reconstruction development in Rio de Janeiro. Satya Vaswani (codename: Symmetra), an advanced hard-light architect for Vishkar, is tasked by her colleague Sanjay Korpal to investigate the local developer who received the winning bid. When she finds nothing of value that would help to break down the deal, Sanjay detonates explosives in the developer’s building, ruining the developer’s possibility of fulfilling the bid AND setting off a destructive fire in the nearby favelas.
- Sanjay is another secret member of the inner council of Talon.
- The father of Lucio Correia Dos Santos was employed by Vishkar and helped pioneer some of their hard-light applications. Ultimately, Dos Santos grew disillusioned with the company and left.
- Wasted Land: In the Australian Outback, Mako Rutledge meditates on the falseness of Junkertown as both a reflection and parody of normal society. By chance, he’s pulled into a conflict between Jamison “Junkrat” Fawkes, a half-crazed demolitions expert who is something of a braggart, and servants of the Junker Queen, who is irritated with Junkrat for running his mouth too many times. Rutledge, who is known to the Queen’s men, is ultimately provoked to intervene on Junkrat’s behalf. Finding him honest (either despite or due to his obvious insanity) Rutledge accompanies Junkrat in exile from Junkertown.
Recall: Fed up with the rising threat of a new worldwide crisis, Winston launches a new satellite into orbit to enable the dispatch of an agent recall, effectively reactivating Overwatch agents in violation of the Petras Accords. While Athena initially convinces Winston not to do it, Reaper, along with some Talon henchmen, break into the watchpoint with the intent of extracting the database of Overwatch agent identities. After driving off Reaper, Winston sends the recall signal, and reconnects with Tracer.
- Reaper escapes with a partial list, allowing him to assassinate some extant Overwatch agents.
Rise & Shine: Winston's recall signal prompts Mei's release from cryo-stasis in Antarctica. She discovers, to her horror, that the other scientists all died due to failures in their cryo-tanks. But the many years of weather data recorded by the ecopoint's sensors suggest a major ecological problem, and Mei commits herself to escaping Antarctica and rejoining Winston in Overwatch to report the problem.
- On her way back, she rescues a nest of endangered arctic wildlife, which gets international attention. Winston then enlists Mei to visit other deactivated ecopoints to collect their data in order to explore the ecological crisis that Mei is concerned about.
Other world events happening around this time involve Lucio fighting against a corporation’s exploitive use of local land (which may or may not coincide with him stealing back some of his father’s tech from Vishkar), and D.va’s rise to prominence as the new superstar of the MEKA squad. (Shooting Star).
- Going Legit: Junkrat and Rutledge (AKA Roadhog), having established themselves as rambunctious criminals, are hired by the head of Hyde Global and told to rescue his employees from a group of crazed omnics who have taken over one of his warehouses. The duo arrive to learn there are no employees, the security drones aren’t malfunctioning, and that they’d clearly been double-crossed by Mr. Hyde. They return to Hyde’s building, tie Hyde to it, and then blow up the building while ziplining away.
- Mission Statement: A notable incident in Pharah’s record was her response to the Anubis AI nearly breaking its containment, seizing control of nearby omnic security drones. While her squad commander and several squadmates were killed in action, Pharah succeeded in quelling the uprising and securing Anubis.
- Train Hopper: McCree has stowed away on a hyper-train which comes under attack by Talon, who are apparently after some item being transported under heavy guard on the train. He eliminates the initial wave of attackers, but knows Talon will use more indiscriminate means to get what they want, so he boots the item off the train. The thankful passengers agree to let him relax on the train for the last few minutes before he has to continue evading the law.
- Honor and Glory: Reflecting on the battle of Eichenwalde, where Balderich gave his life to save Reinhardt’s and set him on the path to Overwatch, Reinhardt chooses to answer Winston’s recall signal, despite Brigitte’s misgivings. Consequently, Brigitte is inspired to refine her own armor and take up arms herself alongside Reinhardt, acting more as a squire than merely his armorer.
- Baptiste Augustin, a former combat medic with the Caribbean Coalition, becomes disillusioned with Talon, his present employer. He leaves the organization, eliminating any pursuers sent by Talon to either bring him back or eliminate him, and busies himself as a mercenary healer.
- “The Archaeology Plot”: A mysterious benefactor appears to be behind recent excavations and studies at Petra, Ayutthaya, and Ilios. Additionally, there is suspicion that Talon is interested in stealing artifacts from these locations.
The Last Bastion: In the depths of the Black Forest near Stuttgart, an SST E54 Bastion unit that malfunctioned and failed to deploy during an omnic assault on the city suddenly reawakens. Initially the Bastion appears intent on following its programming and marches to Stuttgart, but ultimately decides to disregard its directive and remain within the natural world.
- Binary: A village in Sweden is shocked to learn that a Bastion unit has been sighted in the area. Torbjorn appears, pressuring the townspeople to let him deal with the Bastion, but the local chief of police insists on accompanying him. Torbjorn deduces that something is off about this unit, as it is violating programming directives he knows the unit should have, since he designed it. He compels the Bastion unit to accompany him (while subduing the local policemen who want to destroy the Bastion) and heads off with the omnic in tow.
Alive: Mondatta returns to speak in King's Row, again advocating for peaceful coexistence between omnics and humans. Despite Tracer's efforts, Widowmaker succeeds in assassinating Mondatta. This was something she apparently did of her own volition, which ultimately impressed Talon's leadership.
The Museum Heist: Winston and Tracer intercept Reaper and Widowmaker as they break into the Overwatch museum, intent on stealing the gauntlet of Doomfist. The Talon agents escape empty-handed.
Dragons: Hanzo makes his annual return to Shimada Castle to pay his respects to his dead brother. Genji, however, appears, dueling Hanzo under the guise of an assassin before revealing his identity. Hanzo is incredulous at the cyberization of Genji’s body, but Genji deflects that discussion to advise Hanzo that a new conflict is rising, and which side he chooses to fight on will be important.
Hero: Morrison follows a lead to Dorado, investigating the shady operations of the Lumerico power company. While there, he learns of the actions of a violent street gang called Los Muertos. At one point, he assaults a number of Los Muertos gang members in the middle of transporting weapons. A civilian (Alejandra) is caught in the crossfire, however, preventing him from being able to pursue the gang members.
Infiltration: Vialli orders a hit on Katya Volskaya, head of Volskaya Industries, a primary provider of Russia’s Svyatogor mechs, since Volskaya refuses to deal with Talon. Reaper, Widowmaker and Sombra are dispatched for the job. Widowmaker is about to take the shot when the security alarm goes off, prompting Reaper to go on the offensive. He’s pinned down fighting against a new prototype mech, prompting Sombra to finish the job. Sombra corners Volskaya in her secured office, and then reveals that she set off the alarm herself, wanting to take the opportunity to establish a friendship with Volskaya. This is actually blackmail: Sombra had uncovered that Volskaya was acquiring key tech for her new mechs from omnics, and threatens to go public with it, which would ruin Volskaya and her company. Volskaya submits, and Sombra withdraws, saying she’ll be in touch and then lying to the other two Talon agents by saying that Volskaya escaped.
- Reaper knows that Sombra sabotaged the operation.
Old Soldiers: Morrison follows another lead to Cairo, suspecting he’s found the location of a sniper called Shrike, who has a substantial bounty on their head. He assaults the compound of a known criminal and arms dealer named Hakim, who is offering the bounty, as an attempt to draw out Shrike. Unexpectedly, he encounters Reaper, who was there collecting information from Hakim about the Anubis facility for Sombra’s analysis. Reaper and Morrison fight, with Shrike appearing to assist Morrison, as well as revealing herself to be Ana Amari. Amari gets a look behind Reaper’s mask and sees the results of his cellular deterioration.
- Bastet: Ana retreats with Morrison to her hideout in the Necropolis to tend his wounds from the fight with Reaper. Morrison admits he can’t actually fight his war alone and wants Ana’s support. Ana agrees to do it on the condition that they dismantle Hakim’s operation in Cairo first.
Masquerade: Akande breaks out of the Helix supermax, and is picked up by Reaper. Reaper catches him up on current events up to this point. Accompanied by Sombra and Widowmaker, Akande meets with Maximilien, but is faced with an assassination attempt by Vialli. Akande then proceeds to Venice for a meeting of the Talon inner council, meets with Vialli (who states that the assasination attempts were strictly business) but Akande throws him off a bridge.
- At some point after this, Akande assaults the museum in Numbani and steals back the Doomfist. In the process, he tears through the OR-15 omnics commissioned as the city’s defense force.
- Efi Oladele, a young inventor who had recently received a grant from the Adawe Foundation, witnesses the aftermath of Doomfist’s attack. She decides to use the grant to purchase the materials she needs to modify and upgrade an OR-15 to better respond to an attack like the one Doomfist launched on the city. Dubbing this omnic “Orisa” she begins to go about educating it on defending Numbani in place of the failed OR-15s.
Searching: Volskaya calls in renowned Olympic weightlifter-turned-soldier Aleksandra Zaryanova, directing her to hunt down Sombra and bring her in. Zarya travels first to Numbani to be partnered with an omnic hacker, Lynx Seventeen, which initially causes friction, as Zarya actively dislikes omnics. Over a period of weeks Zarya travels the world, finally pinpointing her quarry in Dorado. Via a brute force method (which ultimately works when she encounters Alejandra, who claims to know Sombra) they corner Sombra in a warehouse. She disables Lynx, reveals Volskaya’s secret to Zarya, and then blows up the warehouse, forcing Zarya to choose between saving Lynx or pursuing Sombra. Zarya chooses the former, having come to respect Lynx. She breaks ties with Volskaya, though agrees to keep her secret for the good of the country, and returns to her military duties.
- Among the locations Zarya visits while searching for Sombra are London (where tensions with omnic residents are still high), Lijiang (where omnics are part of the service workforce), and Hanamura (where her racism against omnics, who are more accepted in Japan, may have cost her information leading to Sombra).
Reunion: McCree interrupts the Deadlock Gang as they pull a heist on a US military transport train carrying arms and ammunition. It’s also carrying a crate containing the omnic Echo. After an altercation, McCree subdues the Deadlocks and reactivates Echo, directing her to join Winston in his stead. McCree, meanwhile, steals Ashe’s hovercycle and rides off to settle some other unfinished business.
Please let me know if you think any critical details are missing, or if I mischaracterized any particular events. Most of this was drawn from memory.
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