From the first reveal of her character in a small thumbnail portrait in 2016 to her official debut in Overwatch 2 some six years later, Vivian Chase, call sign Sojourn, has been on a journey. Today, that long journey takes a new direction as Blizzard reveals her first animated short, bringing newfound depth to her character and to the Overwatch franchise overall.
In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Sojourn’s creators talk about her new cinematic and her place at the center of Overwatch 2’s story.
Sojourn occupies a peculiar place in Overwatch’s canon. She is an important figure in the game’s lore as a leader in the Overwatch organization, an international military force assembled to protect the world from a deadly robot uprising, and as the orchestrator of its eventual downfall.
From a development standpoint, Sojourn was meant to be a playable hero long before Overwatch launched in 2016. During a livestream at Blizzard, former game director Jeff Kaplan stated that the team began development on her as far back as 2014 / 2015.
Despite her development history and importance in the game’s story, Sojourn was only introduced in 2022. At that time, I spoke with the Overwatch development team, and they told me that because Sojourn “moves the storyline forward,” they needed to wait until the game’s story was ready to be moved forward.
The majority of Overwatch’s animated shorts have served as hero introductions, giving players a feel for who these characters are and what motivates them — but without really moving the game’s actual story forward. 2016’s Recall short initiates Overwatch’s story with the revival of the Omnic Crisis and Winston recalling all the old Overwatch operatives to fight them. That plot didn’t move again until the Zero Hour short released six years later and again today with Sojourn’s short, Calling.
In the short (which, interestingly, isn’t debuting online but within the Overwatch 2 game client), Sojourn is subjected to an impromptu interrogation by a former friend named Tremblay. He suspects she engaged in vigilante activities the night before in violation of the law that ended Overwatch. During the interrogation, Null Sector, the evil robot faction, starts an invasion of Sojourn’s hometown of Toronto. Sojourn leaps into action, revealing she was indeed the vigilante Tremblay sought.
Though the reveal that she’s a masked vigilante and that her quaint Toronto home is actually a high-tech command center evokes big Batman energy, to me, Sojourn is more like a magical girl — Sailor Moon’s Sailor V, to be specific. She’s already a hero who adopts a second heroic persona the same way Sailor Venus dons a red mask to become Sailor V. Sojourn even has her own transformation sequence of sorts in which she swaps out her civilian cybernetic limbs for tactical ones. I also enjoyed that Sojourn has an adorable corgi, Murphy, who has cybernetic legs like she does.
I was curious why the developers chose Sojourn, of all the heroes, to be the engine that drives Overwatch 2’s story. The “2” in Overwatch 2 naturally implies it is the successor to the first game, and within Overwatch itself, there are several heroes who are the biological or ideological successors to other heroes. Pharah is Ana’s daughter, Brigitte is Torbjörn’s daughter, Genji is Zenyatta’s disciple, and the newest hero (for now), Kiriko, is a little sister-type to Hanzo and Genji. It would make sense, then, for any of them to be Overwatch 2’s focal point.
“Someone needs to pass the torch to the new group,” said Overwatch 2 art director Dion Rogers. “Someone who’s familiar with the negatives and positives of what Overwatch used to do.”
In that sense, Sojourn’s role in Overwatch’s story is pragmatic. More than any other character, she represents Overwatch’s old guard, and with characters like Lúcio and Baptiste joining Overwatch for the first time, she’s the best fit to mentor the new kids on the block.
But though she may be a mentor to Overwatch’s newest members, she has a bit of a contentious history with its older ones.
“Sojourn was in cartoons. Some of the new Overwatch members grew up watching her on TV,” said Overwatch 2 lead narrative designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie. “But then there’s people like Jack Morrison [Soldier 76] who used to be in charge of Overwatch, and he absolutely holds a grudge.”
The development team couldn’t go into greater detail but did tease that there will be conflict when Sojourn gets around other old guard operatives whose lives were upended by Overwatch’s end, an event in which Sojourn played a big role.
Sojourn’s a complicated character whose strong moral code conflicts with the realities of life.
“She testified against Overwatch because she had this very black and white moral code and she felt like Overwatch was operating in a gray area,” said Overwatch cinematic director Ben Dai. “But it’s interesting to see that after years of retirement, she started doing stuff that’s in the gray area herself.”
That conflict is at the heart of Overwatch’s entire story. Though she may not be the literal representation of Overwatch’s next generation the way Pharah, Brigitte, Lúcio, and Baptiste are, her story is emblematic of Overwatch’s entire thesis as a game.
“Sojourn played a major part in why Overwatch was shut down,” said Jurgens-Fyhrie. “I think she’s central to [Overwatch 2’s story] because with Overwatch being back, that’s a direct challenge to the decisions she made. Her whole story is that she sees what Overwatch can become and is going to be working through that in her own time.”
Jurgens-Fyhrie’s answer may sound familiar to keen-eared Overwatch lorehounds. In the Recall short, Harold Winston, a scientist who is a father figure to Winston and from whom the ape takes his name, tells him to “never accept the world as it appears to be, but dare to see it for what it could be.” That philosophy is repeated throughout the game’s history.
Sojourn’s struggle with what Overwatch was when she shut it down and what it could be now that it’s slowly returning is emblematic of Overwatch’s entire ethos as a game that represents an idealistic and optimistic future.
Her story is Overwatch’s story, and it’s finally time for it to unfold.
“What I really like about the cinematic, is that it has a super direct connection to what’s next for the game,” said Rogers. “She thinks she’s going to save her city, but ultimately she’s going to need to save the world. So her journey is still going.”