Overwatch’s newest hero, revealed just a few days ago, has been a presence in Blizzard’s hero shooter for nearly five years now. As the disembodied voice of Junkertown’s ruler, she’s only been seen, officially, in scraps of artwork. But Junker Queen was finally, fully, and thoroughly revealed on Thursday, and she’ll be playable later this month when the beta for Overwatch 2 goes live.
Blizzard fleshes out the Queen’s backstory in a new cinematic, “The Wastelander,” the first new short film for Overwatch in years. The lore trailer tells the story of a girl exiled from Junkertown who returns to face the King in a Thunderdome-esque battle, with the spoils being rulership. But it appears Junker Queen will rule benevolently, rallying the citizens of Junkertown to build a strong community in Australia’s irradiated wastelands.
“They’re probably wondering what sort of changes I’ll make,” Junker Queen says, standing over the defeated King in the final moments of her cinematic. “Well, buckle up. They’re about to find out.”
Junker Queen — real name Odessa “Dez” Stone, and voiced by actor Leah de Niese — is a spicy new addition to Overwatch’s tank lineup, unlike any other hero in the game so far. She’s unquestionably tank-sized; Junker Queen stands an imposing seven feet tall. And she’s hardy, in her back story, her personality, and in her role on the battlefield. But setting her apart from the armor-clad and shield-bearing remainder of Overwatch’s tank lineup, Junker Queen is fast and in-your-face, blurring the line between a tank, damage, and support character. She charges into battle, can heal herself, and can even boost her allies’ health and movement.
“One of the coolest things about Junker Queen is that she’s unique, in that she makes the rest of the team deadlier,” said Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie, lead narrative designer and writer on Overwatch 2.
She both epitomizes Overwatch 2’s new approach to tanks and helped guide the design team’s philosophy to make the game’s bruisers more aggressive as Blizzard reworked Overwatch’s meta.
“We had been experimenting with her kind of idly for a while, but we didn’t really start on her in earnest until really pushing toward Overwatch 2’s release,” lead hero designer Geoff Goodman told Polygon in an interview last week. “She’s very aggressive as a tank — not really the hold back/hold-the-shield type. And a lot of that was helping guide our philosophy in tank design changes for Overwatch 2.”
Goodman said that Junker Queen will pair well with anybody else who wants to get in close, including Reaper, Mei, Junkrat, and Brigitte. “She’s also the first character since Lucio who is able to speed boost people, so I’m not entirely sure if that will mean that she will create alternate comps to Lucio or if people will play both,” Goodman said. “We have to worry a little bit about how fast people can ultimately go, but right now you can get going really fast with those two together. I think that that’ll probably be at least an initial strategy we’ll see right away.”
Overwatch 2’s approach to tanks like Reinhardt and Orisa has been to make them less defensively focused and to get them into the fray more often and more aggressively, Goodman said.
“She’s got this awesome personality we wanted to maintain in her animations, and […] in her gameplay kit,” Goodman said. “You can see in her eyes, there’s always that glimmer of ‘I’m ready to go, let’s do this, let’s get in there.’ Her gameplay kit is really reinforcing her character and [her design] to get in close.”
Some of Junker Queen’s abilities are riffs on other Overwatch heroes. Her primary weapon is a hitscan shotgun, à la Reaper. Her Commanding Shout ability gives her and nearby teammates a temporary buff to health and movement, à la Lucio. And her Ultimate ability, Rampage, applies an anti-healing effect to enemies it hits, à la Ana’s Biotic Grenade. But other parts of her kit introduce all-new gameplay elements to Overwatch 2, including a new “wound” effect from certain attacks that will drain enemy health over time and passively heal Junker Queen. She’s also armed with a throwable knife that can be recalled with her magnetic glove, doing damage (and inflicting wound) on the way out and on the way back.
And yes, she carries a big ax, named Carnage, that’s been with her from the early concept art teases that players saw in 2017, when the map Junkertown, the Queen’s home, was added to Overwatch.
Goodman said that Junker Queen’s artwork was a compelling starting point for a new hero — developers liked her look and fans were clamoring to see her in the game — but was also somewhat restrictive. “She’s kind of always been known to have this big ax,” Goodman said. “It’s kind of where we started with her: Let’s make sure we have a big ax attack.”
“Sometimes we create heroes with no artwork at all to start with,” Goodman said. “And we’re just thinking about raw gameplay mechanics and how they may play. And then try to come up with a cool hero around the mechanics on the prototype we’ve made. And other times — in the case of Junker Queen and Ashe, for example — we had already established [their look].
“And I always laugh at our concept guys like, ‘You guys love your melee weapons. You’re killing me. I’m trying to make a shooter!’ There have been other instances where we’ve really tried to push a melee character, but it’s really difficult to do in our game. So I actually didn’t even want to go down that road with her.”
Junker Queen’s scrappy, aggressive ability kit aligns with her visual design and her narrative. Her clothing and scant armor is a pieced-together punk rock look. She wears pieces of dead Omnic robots, and her shotgun and ax are clearly not off-the-shelf weapons. “She’s from Junkertown, so all of her stuff is like pieced together, cobbled together weapons,” senior outsourcing supervisor Kacey Helms told Polygon. “Nothing’s manufactured, clean, or pristine. It’s all like, ‘I found this, this, and this, crammed it together and made a gun out of it.’ So it’s really cool that her kit also visually shows that she’s from Junkertown.”
“Obviously it’s a full-on love letter to Mad Max, right?” Helms added. “Everything about it just screams your childhood and stuff you grew up watching. But in terms of her outfit, [her design was] like, how’s it going to work with what she does day to day? Does she move around a lot? Or is she the type of ruler that just hangs out and sits around? No, she’s up and doing stuff. So her outfit really shows that she has a lot of movement, it’s not going to hinder anything that she’s doing. But generally, she wants to look badass, so she has cool hair that’s all mohawked out, spiked up, and wrapped up so that she can get in there and get all up in your face. All of her stuff’s torn, her shirts, her shorts are torn, and she’s not really worried about what she looks like so much as she is like, there to get stuff done.”
Junker Queen “gets stuff done” in her origin story cinematic, capably and ruthlessly (to a point) overcoming the gladiators of Junkertown’s Scrapyard to depose the current king. But her back story feels anything but dark, thanks to her fourth wall-breaking dialogue and chipper demeanor. It helps that she ultimately spares her former opponents’ lives in her cinematic, titled “The Wastelander,” and seems well deserved in seizing control of Junkertown. It also helps that her primary rival as established by Overwatch lore so far is Junkrat, a career criminal.
Blizzard developers I spoke to clearly had reverence for their Queen, and they seemed excited for her to finally be out in the world.
“Just the way she moves around and the way she swaggers, it just really makes her personality come to life,” Helms said. “She’s there. She’s loud. She’s gonna be in your face. And she doesn’t care what you think about her, which is great.”
“She’s incredibly cunning,” added Jurgens-Fyhrie. “She’s sharp, she’s has a little bit of a sadistic edge, but she’s always having fun and the Junkers adore her and fear in equal measure.”
Beyond “The Wastelander,” expect to see Junker Queen’s story and personality fleshed out in the game itself, via dialogue among her and Overwatch’s 33 other heroes. Jurgens-Fyhrie says that Overwatch players can expect more chatter than ever between characters — not just between the Queen and her closest associates, Junkrat, Roadhog, and Wrecking Ball — boasting of some 1,800 new interaction lines coming to the game.
Junker Queen will be one of at least two new heroes debuting in Overwatch 2 when the game is released this fall. Blizzard will launch it as a free-to-play game on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on Oct. 4.