Overwatch’s newest hero had a long journey coming to Overwatch 2, at least from the perspective of when players first saw him — three-and-half years ago, during the original game’s Storm Rising event — to when he was finally released last week. Like many heroes in Blizzard’s shooter, the new tank hero Ramattra is a collection of ideas that took a long time to gel.
The hero’s lengthy gestation is also the result of the Overwatch team wanting to seed Easter eggs and hints of what’s to come, even if the payoff is years in the future.
“It takes us a long time to create a hero on Overwatch actually,” art director Dion Sanders told Polygon in a recent interview. “Especially as we get more and more heroes, it does take a while.” But Ramattra was “pretty important to the ongoing narrative of the game,” Sanders said, noting “we have to, you know, release some when the time feels right.”
Ramattra dates back to 2017, when Blizzard artists were designing Null Sector units. One lieutenant character from that group, a monk-like figure holding a staff, stood out from the crowd, according to lead concept artist Qiu Fang. The sand-based powers of those Egyptian-inspired robots eventually evolved into nanites, which give Ramattra his powers.
Compounding the lengthy development of Ramattra was his complicated character, both in terms of his gameplay mechanics and his narrative design. Ramattra plays in two different forms — Omnic and Nemesis — bringing technical complications and double the work for the Overwatch art team, similar to two-in-one heroes like D.Va and Ashe (and BOB).
Ramattra’s dual nature in matches of Overwatch 2 are a reflection of his personality, said lead hero designer Alec Dawson.
“When you look at him mechanically, we want to capture this hero that has [two] sides to him, in terms of what he’s willing to do to protect his people,” Dawson said. “[Ramattra] can be a bit more calm or reserved, and you see that with him putting out his shield barrier [and] poking from afar. And then when he transforms, when he goes into his Nemesis form, you see a different side of him. You see some of that force coming out — what he’s actually capable of.”
On paper, Ramattra’s abilities sound scary, potentially meta-breaking. He can switch between two forms, giving him two sets of offensive and defensive capabilities, he can pierce barriers, and his Ravenous Vortex ability will disrupt flying enemies like Pharah, Echo, and Mercy. He pairs well with a Lucio or a Kiriko who can give him a speed burst. But he’s also highly susceptible to counters like Ana’s sleep dart or being flanked while in Nemesis form. Using him effectively takes skill.
“With Ramattra’s gameplay, we’re really focusing on some of the skill elements, [like] when to capitalize and turn the tide of battle,” Dawson said. “There’s a lot of focus on transforming to Nemesis, pushing forward into the enemy backline, and making sure all of that’s [happening at] the right moment. You have a lot at your disposal, but the focus is still on when exactly to transform, when exactly to engage with your whole team together, and being that leader in front.”
Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie, lead narrative designer and writer for Overwatch, said his writing for Ramattra’s back story and ongoing narrative comes “from the sort of fascination I’ve had in my career with the interactions between machine and human intelligence,” topics he’s explored in Wasteland 3, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Horizon Zero Dawn.
“You have this character who was created to hunt and ultimately kill humans in the Omnic crisis, that was his sole purpose,” Jurgens-Fyhrie said. “He gained awareness when he woke up, so to speak, in New York and was forced to confront […] what he’d done during the Omnic Crisis — basically he’d lead countless Omnics to their deaths. These are Omnics that would never know awareness like he does, and this is something that drives him. It’s something that haunts him.”
As told in a recently released “Reflections” short story for Ramattra, the Omnic Ravager goes to Shambali to learn under the monk Mondatta, but experiences something of a second awakening. “He wanted to find his place in the world, to answer those questions like What’s my purpose?” Jurgens-Fyhrie said, “but also to understand how could he atone? How could he make the world better for Omnics, who are a finite race? We saw him try, and we saw the world fail him. Not only is humanity not making the same effort from his point of view, but a lot of the Ravagers — his Omnic model type — are dead. So we have someone who is no longer trying to make peace with humanity. He believes it’s impossible. And in fact, he believes it’s dangerous to seek peace with humanity.”
Sanders said that players should not think of Ramattra as a villain, but an “antagonist.” Jurgens-Fyhrie added that players may find themselves agreeing philosophically with the Omnic responsible for all that death and destruction.
Players will get additional dribs and drabs of Ramattra’s story and personality in his interactions with fellow Omnic Zenyatta — and fellow engineer Wrecking Ball — in Overwatch 2, and players will be able to absorb some of Ramattra’s narrative path to Shambali when they climb the map of the same name. But Jurgens-Fyhrie said that Blizzard is “not done telling the story about Ramattra and Zenyatta by a longshot.”
As for what’s next for Overwatch 2 heroes, Jurgens-Fyhrie noted that “we’ve already said that we’re teasing a future hero based on some stuff in [Esperança, the Portugal-set map]” and hinted at voice lines in the game’s New York map containing some clues. Hopefully, for Overwatch 2 players hungry for more heroes to play, they won’t take as long to come around as Ramattra.