Watch: Overwatch’s animated ‘The Last Bastion’ short

Overwatch is a fun, colorful game, in part because it has a strong foundation in classical animation — especially Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli. Those roots (pun??) could not be any clearer in the latest Overwatch animated short showcasing everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic turret, Bastion.

You can dive right into the short embedded above, but I also want to point out a few interesting touches this video has. As you might know, fur, feathers, and water effects are some of the hardest things to pull off in computer generated animation, and you can see a few places where the animators cut some quick corners — the bird doesn’t appear to get wet during rainfall, for instance — but in general these are all handled beautifully. And keep an eye out for a few visual nods to classic animated films, particularly Bambi (the low angle shot on the fallen tree bridge) and the long shot in the field (which we see in quite a few of Studio Ghibli’s features).

The dense forest of 'Eichenwalde' (oaken woods) in Germany, near where Overwatch's upcoming castle map is set.

The dense forest of Eichenwalde (‘oaken woods’) in Germany, near where Overwatch‘s upcoming castle map is set.

Thematically, “The Last Bastion” is also pretty complex! On the surface it’s telling the story of a lone robotic unit overcoming its old combat-based programming, but you can also interpret Bastion’s responses as representing post-traumatic stress disorder. Overwatch has toyed with its “post-war, reignited conflict” narrative setting in a few ways, but a former combat robot experiencing flashbacks because of gunfire-like noises? That’s a pretty powerful means of driving an idea home.

You don’t have to hold to a PTSD/anti-war interpretation of the short, obviously. It’s fine to just appreciate the animation as a piece of entertainment. But it’s nice to see Blizzard drawing upon the talents of skilled animated storytellers to convey something sincerely moving, even if it’s just for something meant to sell a game.

Lastly, you might have noticed the short is dedicated in memory to Yvain Gnabro. Who is Yvain Gnabro? He was one of Blizzard’s cinematic animators, an industry veteran with over 12 years experience who was part of the team creating the Overwatch animated shorts. Yvain Gnabro passed away this past June. His public Facebook profile is absent most personal information, but he regularly shared stills, clips, and articles relating to animation, right up to the time of his death. It’s wonderful to browse through, if you enjoyed “The Last Bastion” and want to learn more about some of its influences.