Overwatch

Lore Discussion: How much “super” in this “cyberpunk superhero” universe?

Overwatch10 - Lore Discussion: How much "super" in this "cyberpunk superhero" universe?
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I once read Overwatch being described as "bright cyberpunk superheroes by Pixar." It's…rather fitting. So let's talk about the "superheroes" part! Just how "super" is the superhero setting of Overwatch? Obviously, for the most part most of the heroes are what you'd call "street" level in Marvel: guys like the Punisher, some with minor superpowers, and maybe the level might include Cap, but he (like Spider-Man) often punches above his weight class both literally and figuratively due to his experience. Generally, it means your heroes and villains who tend to operate on a citywide or regional scale, and not so much planetary beaters like the Avengers, or cosmic heroes like the real heavyweights.

We don't have much in the way of feats so far. Just some videos and comics. The videos are pretty good, but don't tend to show us much above, say, the level of most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not counting Thor or Captain Marvel, and probably Iron Man). Here are a few of the more prominent examples of "powered" characters, and then afterward we can look at some of the tech of the setting.

Doomfist: An awestruck kid claimed the gauntlet had the power to "level a skyscraper." Based on what we've seen, this doesn't seem an exaggeration. He was able to send Winston flying hundreds of feet with one punch (that wasn't even as hard as he could hit). He could grab a car and throw it well over hundred feet with ease. Punching the ground shattered the road and created a huge shockwave, and again this didn't seem to his full strength. He was able to react to Tracer, who seemed to be blinking around him at superhuman speed, with enhanced reflexes befitting a "comic book-level martial artist" type. Even without his gauntlet, he punches through a six-inch thick concrete wall when it comes time to break out of confinement.

Doomfist utterly schools Genji (who has superhuman reflexes in his own right), Tracer (enhanced speed and reflexes combined with ability to zip around by miniature time warps), and Winston. It's only when Winston goes into Primal Rage, further enhancing his low-level superhuman strength (on account of being a huge gorilla) that Doomfist suffers defeat.

Reaper: Regenerative abilities let him recover from injuries that would kill normal humans. He was incinerated seemingly into embers by Winston, and later escapes in his smoke-like form. He seems able to take on this state at will for an indeterminate amount of time. Now, whether he actually absorbs energy from living things to heal himself or that is simply a gameplay conceit, he can definitely heal very fast. It's possible he can't be killed by anything short of complete cellular dissolution. He also seems to be able to take quite an inhuman beating even before this point, enduring attacks from giant robots, for instance. Reaper's physical power seems to come from both the "Soldier Enhancement Program" as well as whatever the hell Moira did to him on top of that. More on that below.

Tracer: Demonstrates heightened reflexes. Superhuman? Hard to say. Definitely world-class athlete level, though, on top of the Chronal Accelerator, control of which allows her to "blink" short distances through time. Effectively, this lets her "teleport" short distances, though it seems unlikely she can actually move through solid matter unless she had visited it before, since she can also rewind time for herself in short amounts. It's not a spatial teleport but a temporal one, if that makes sense. Fighting and piloting skills are top-notch.

Widowmaker: "Enhanced" by experimentation to be immune to cold temperatures and, presumably, cold-related conditions like frostbite and stuff. I don't think she'd survive absolute zero, of course, but cold temperatures such as found on Earth don't seem likely to affect her. It's possible she could walk naked (relax, people) in the Antarctic and not suffer ill effects from the cold. This chilling effect on her physiology enhances her sniping ability by keeping her pulse calm and her nerves unnaturally steady. Her training is top-notch, allowing her to easily defeat multiple armed bodyguards and even take on heroes such as Tracer.

Solder: 76: His "super-soldier" enhancement is stated to augment his healing abilities. Not nearly as extreme as Reaper's but enough to let him keep going and recover faster than normal humans. The "Soldier Enhancement Program" is stated in "Fading Glory" to grant the recipients (notably, Soldier and Reaper) superhuman attributes. "Military scientists shaped Morrison and other inductees into the perfect soldiers, blessed with superhuman speed, strength, and agility. " We aren't shown the exact level of these abilities, but it's safe to say that it doesn't allow them to outrun or bench press cars. Probably more along the lines of movie Captain America, with "low-level" feats of superhuman strength, durability, running speed, etc. He's also incredibly skilled in the arts of battle, and a capable leader.

Genji and Hanzo: The Shimada brothers have a lot of abilities that are superhuman but considered fairly low-tier compared to actual superpowers, much like most comic book martial artists. They can scale walls and leap across gaps that would put the finest parkour artists to shame. Heightened, if not superhuman, reflexes. And, of course, they can both summon spiritual manifestations of their warrior spirits in the form of elemental dragons. I mean, this is straight-up mysticism right here. Even in a setting with nigh-magical cybernetics and hard-light tech, there's no such explanation for this. It's implied to be your typical martial artist "chi-based" powers. I mean, energy literally erupts from Hanzo's arm tattoo as he channels the ability.

Genji also does the "ninja vanishing into smoke" thing, and again, this doesn't seem to have any tie to his cybernetics. It's very much the "anime-style ninja" power. It's possible he has this as a full-on superhuman chi-based "I can vanish into smoke and leave a feather/log/whathaveyou" behind type vanishing/teleportation ability. That seems to be the implication.

Genji states that he has trouble keeping up with Tracer, which must mean her own speed and mobility must be pretty impressive in an "in-setting" sense, considering he's superhuman himself. Makes her almost like a low-level speedster.

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Interestingly, Genji and Hanzo are the only two thus far shown to have full-on mystical-type abilities. Almost everything else in the setting is science-based, or simply just "comics supers universe-style ignoring of physics," but in their case, the powers are explicitly supernatural. This makes me wonder if there are more like them. Zenyatta may count….

Zenyatta: Zen's orbs channel "omnic energy," which has a power to both heal and destroy. Omnics are, themselves, apparently robots with "souls" (I thought I read this somewhere but can't verify it right now), as they can dream and not just understand but, in Zen's case, wield powers based on esoteric understandings of the universe. Zen's powers could all be explained by pure technology (sufficiently advanced!), but his mastery of esoteric mental and spiritual concepts cannot, and thus it seems possible his abilities are as chi-based as those of the Shimadas.

Cybernetics: The setting features impressive cybernetics. Doomfist's gauntlet is one example, enhancing his strength and capable of generating destructive energy sufficient to level buildings. Many of the heroes feature some form of cybernetic enhancement, whether full-on limb replacement or, perhaps, just a sort of "exosuit"-style cast. McCree, for example, has a cybernetic left arm. This doesn't seem to afford him nearly the power that Genji's cybernetics do, or Doomfist's gauntlet, but we can probably assume some form of low-level physical enhancement. He doesn't really need it for shooting skill, of course.

Genji is perhaps the most prominent example, being more machine than man, now, at least physically. Presumably his cybernetic body, in addition to allowing him to live, features enhancements to his already impressive speed and agility, making him the rival of the likes of Tracer (and surpassing Soldier).

Cybernetics in the Overwatch universe have advanced applications and, while not subtle, seem to be very effective and relatively commonplace.

Hard-light and laser tech: Energy weapons are very powerful in Overwatch. Characters like Zarya are able to use them to create energy-absorbing force fields and massive particle cannons. Symmetra can shape "hard-light" constructs (a very comic book thing itself) and form intricate objects as well as project powerful force fields. This ability seems to be rare one, as it requires the will of a user to form usable tools and weapons from the potent "hard-light" technology.

Weapons like this, combined with cybernetic enhancements, make a lot of the "un-powered" heroes of the game very dangerous in themselves.

Advanced Healing Tech: This is where things get weird (though not by supers universe standards, really). Healing tech in the setting is very advanced, to the point that special gadgets like Lucio's sonic tech (created by the Vishkar Corporation) can actually ease pain and heal wounds. The extent to which Lucio can heal outside of gameplay conceits is currently unknown, but it seems that the sonic technology can, at the very least, speed up recovery of minor wounds.

More advanced healing tech includes Ana's biotic rifle, which injects a biotic solution that provides rapid cellular regeneration. Similar technology exists with Soldier's biotic field, for instance, and Baptiste's weapon. This seems to be capable of fairly drastic regeneration, though it can't restore life to the slain.

For that, we go to Mercy's repertoire of fantastical technology. Angela Ziegler is such a master of medical technology that she appears to have halted her own aging, and also created the Valkyrie Suit, which is an immensely potent suit. This suit is not unlike the powered armor of an Iron Man-type hero: with it Mercy can fly, it increases her durability, and her staff is able to channel healing energy or power into her targets. How she heals exactly is difficult to say; a stream of pure biotic energy (whatever that is) or something nano-based, I don't think it's been stated. I believe it to be "biotic" based on the blueprints for Ana's rifle, but what "biotic" even is here is vague.

She can even restore the recently slain to life, so needless to say her ability to regenerate cells and restore proper function is almost limitless. Mercy doesn't go around resurrecting every person in the world who dies, so presumably there is some limit to it. Whether it requires her to invest her own energy into it, or it's a function of the Valkyrie suit which runs on limited energy reserves, or there's simply a time limit to how long her target can have ceased function before she can't heal them anymore, we don't know. She doesn't seem to be able to fully restore a body from nothing, as evidenced by Genji's extensive cybernetics. Though Genji was heavily damaged and Overwatch didn't seem to get him the very moment he was hurt, so he endured grievous injuries for at least some time before Mercy saved him.

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So there is just a start to the discussion! What do you all think? The Overwatch setting is definitely a superheroic one, though it seems to be a relatively tame one compared to the big guns like the Marvel or DC Universes. In this way, it's a little closer to the MCU, being slightly more "grounded," though still bearing its fair share of fantastical tech and powers. We don't have anything on what you'd call the "cosmic" tier like even MCU Thor and Thanos and the like, but still some pretty impressive stuff.

What do you guys think? Do you want to see the setting get a little more gonzo, like traditional supers settings? Do you just want more lore as far as describing what tech and powers can do? Trying to extrapolate from gameplay is generally not useful—for instance, none of Soldier's "superhuman strength, speed, and agility" are on display in actual gameplay. Doomfist's vaunted ability to smash buildings might fail to even kill a "normal" dude like Junkrat if he's slightly out of range.

What we could really use is an animated series, a comic series, a lore/setting bible, anything like that. It'd help quite a bit, plus it would be interesting to a lot of us, I think!

Be sure to comment what the list above is missing, or what you think about the various feats, abilities, limits, and lore of the setting.

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