The hidden lore of Overwatch’s maps

It’s easy to think Overwatch doesn’t have a story. If you aren’t reading the comics, watching the short movies, or studying the character bios, there isn’t much storytelling happening during combat. Without a campaign, the only place lore is doled out is through the occasional voice interaction before a match begins. But there’s actually a ton of lore crammed into the game; it just takes some effort to understand.

Overwatch has story hidden all around its maps, but it’s incredibly easy to miss. Despite Blizzard saying many times over that the events and result of a single match in Overwatch are not canon—otherwise those three McCrees getting mowed down by two Bastions wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense—the lore behind each map definitely is. Most maps have a small story pressing the action forward, whether you know about it or not.

First, if you need a primer on what’s already happened in the Overwatch world, Blizzard released an awesome recap of the story so far. Now here’s what’s going on behind the shooting.


The Shimada compound is the large building in the background.

Where it is:

Hanamura, Japan. The ancestral home of the Shimada crime family, of which Hanzo and Genji are the heirs.

What’s going on:

The exact going-ons of the Hanamura map aren’t entirely clear, but a lot can be inferred from the animated short Dragons. The shrine that makes up the B point is inside the Shimada’s compound, and is actually a memorial for Genji, who people believed was killed by his brother Hanzo. In reality, Genji was brought back from the brink of death by Mercy and given a cybernetic body.

Genji's sword, and evidence of his fight with Hanzo in Dragons.

Although Hanzo had since abandoned the Shimada clan, Genji swore to dismantle his family’s criminal organization. His backstory says he completed his mission while he was still an agent of Overwatch, and the map has battle scars from the Dragons short still present in the shrine, so the timeline is hard to pin down on this map. Whatever is specifically going on, it’s some sort of assault on the Shimada crime family’s compound—potentially to retrieve Genji's sword, which is also seen in his room on the Nepal map, but more on that later.

Things to look for:

Keep an eye out in the shrine room for ninja stars and arrows used during the Dragons short. During the beta, these didn’t appear until after the animation was released. 

The mural of two dragons, one green and one blue, above B point is also a direct reference to Genji and Hanzo.

On the attacking side, the Hanamura arcade is dense with easter eggs and references to other games, but a poster of D.Va on the wall was actually the first time we saw her, before she was even announced.

Temple of Anubis

Where it is:

The Temple of Anubis on The Giza Plateau in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt.

What’s going on:

This isn’t just a battle for an archaeological site. Hidden within the Temple of Anubis is the entrance to a top-secret underground facility that does research on artificial intelligence. Quarantined there is the Anubis A.I., one of a series of artificial intelligence programs referred to as the “God Programs”. Pharah’s comic Mission Statement explains that the God Programs have the ability to take over and control any operating system, including omnics—sentient robots created by humans, now fighting for equal rights.

The facility is sneakily hidden under this heavily modified, shiny pyramid.

It’s speculated that these God Programs may have been one of the causes of the Omnic Crisis—a massive war between humanity and omnics and the spark for the creation of Overwatch—in the first place, and also that Winston’s computer program (and the game’s announcer) Athena might be another one of them—based solely on also being named after a mythical god. It’s unclear which side on the Temple of Anubis map is trying to stop Anubis and and which wants to take advantage of it, but either way this is one of the higher stakes battles in the game.

Things to look for:

There aren’t many important plot points hidden around the temple, but you can find the symbol of Warcraft’s Horde hidden among the hieroglyphs.

Volskaya Industries

Bet you never noticed that giant half of a robot staring down at you before.

Where it is:

A Volskaya Industries factory near St. Petersburg, Russia.

What’s going on:

This map plays host to an assault on one of Volskaya Industries’ Syvatogor mech factories. Each country faced the Omnic Crisis in its own way, and Russia’s way was building giant, human-piloted mech suits.  A second Omnic Crisis is now on the rise, and the Omnium in Krasnoyarsk, Russia—a self-sustaining omnic factory—has somehow been reactivated. 

Inside the factory behind the final point, you can see more complete mechs.

The Second Omnic Crisis is still in its infancy, but Russia has been hit the hardest so far, and Volskaya Industries has kicked Syvatogor production back into high gear as a result. You can see the factory, the heart of which is the map’s final point, is still pumping out battle suits during the fight. Whether the attacking side is working for the omnics or someone else is unclear, but the defending team seems be trying to protect the factory at all costs.

Things to look for:

All the giant robots! Seriously, for being giant robots, they are surprisingly easy to miss. Keep your eyes peeled, especially at the first point, and you’ll be surprised how many are closer than you think.

Also keep an eye out for murals and images of Zarya, who is hailed as a hero in Russia.

On the next page: Payload maps - Dorado, Route 66, and Watchpoint: Gibraltar...

Page 1: Capture maps - Hanamura, Temple of Anubis, and Volskaya Industries

Page 2: Payload maps - Dorado, Route 66, and Watchpoint: Gibraltar

Page 3: Hybrid and Control mapsHollywood, King's Row, Numbani, Ilios, Nepal, and Lijiang Tower

Tom Marks
Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.