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Old 01-11-2019, 05:27 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Invisibility Thoughts on Bastet

Bastet, the new Overwatch short story by Micheal Chu, is an interesting beast—perhaps most of all because it exists in the first place. Remember, almost all Overwatch story thus far has been done through in-game flavor text, comics, and short films. Prose fiction opens up a whole new window on the world, one through which we can get to know the characters in a far more intimate way than we could otherwise. More on that in a moment.

First, the bad: “Bastet” reinforces “Old Soldiers,” a piece of overdramatized contrivance I’d been trying to forget. It’s not that the comic was poorly written; it was simply the folly of having all the “dead” characters discover each other at the same time. It’s a situation that calls for gradual reveals to preserve the surprise. By dumping them all at once (in the middle of a fight, no less), it robs us of the chance to have Soldier: 76 say, “Doesn’t anybody stay dead anymore?” This is essential because a) his voice is perfect for it, and b) if you’re going to lean so heavily on the shocking survival trope, somebody has to Hang A Lampshade On It.

Anyway, the good: “Bastet” builds on something that came before—a first for Overwatch. Not only that, but it has a direction to go forward. Think about it: Jack and Ana could have any number of adventures in virtually any place. They’ve got great chemistry too, that whole “mom and dad of Overwatch” dynamic introduced in “Uprising.” Who do they meet next? Take your pick, but it’s sure to be both fun and thoughtful. All in all, “Bastet” is written well enough to redeem its predecessor. Maybe that’s why Chu did it.

While there’s not much new information in the story, there are a few points worth noting. For one thing, we now know Mercy is working in Cairo—though whether that means a follow-up Bastet Pharah story would canonize “Pharmercy” remains to be seen. *shudders* While it was mentioned in an out-of-universe discussion before, Jack Morrison is now unequivocally confirmed to be gay. There were also a few names mentioned in passing that may become relevant, like this Dr. Faisal who’s been the go-to archaeologist in a number of places.

However, the big question is what “Bastet” heralds for the future of the franchise. Comics have been the medium for story delivery thus far, aside from the annual animated shorts at GamesCom and BlizzCon. Yet, comics were all but absent from 2018. What comics were produced shifted from having fun with the characters to hyping new content—which was mostly okay thanks to the remarkably consistent quality of the tie-ins. I couldn’t help but wonder if the creative team had been shifted to other properties, or if something big was cooking in the back room. There have, for example, been rumors of an Overwatch TV show that was held up because Blizzard insisted on keeping creative control. Are they finally ready to move?

Well, probably not. “Bastet” is a sea change in style, but not of direction. It’s still a one-off story focused primarily on character exploration. While it did build on previous content, that could be just as easily explained as Chu knowing he flubbed the story the first time and using the promotion to fix it. Comics are hard (as I keep saying), and the change of medium had the side-effect of allowing the situation to be experienced from the inside out rather than the outside in. That’s important because absence of action in “Bastet” wouldn’t work as anything else.

Nonetheless, welding Ana and Jack together is still a change of state. Future stories will inevitably bring more changes, and that puts a clock on how long the “world without a story” paradigm can continue. Simply put, stories are structures. Structures collapse without a plan. Plans require forethought. Therefore, it’s imperative that someone in Irvine be keeping track of all this, if not plotting it out. If not, by the time a direction does emerge, the writers will be hemmed in by a mountain of inadvertent changes in stories like this one. It’d be a shame if the starting point for some future development had to be “abrogate everything and start over.”

EDIT: After watching the Story and Lore Developer Live Stream, I’m confident Blizzard’s story process is up to the task. Let’s hope there will be more such discussions—and for more than just WarCraft.
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