Who is Athena? Could she be a god program with unfathomable power? A creation of the world’s smartest simian? Or maybe she’s linked to the mysterious Sombra? Blizzard has left us some clues to follow, so let’s see what we can unearth about this mysterious AI in Overwatch.
You probably recognise the voice even if you didn’t know the name. Athena is Overwatch's AI, and she seems to be present in most of their systems, from Winston’s base at Watchpoint Gibraltar to the ships that serve as a spawn room on control maps. It’s been challenging to get any concrete information from Blizzard in regards to Athena (or any future heroes for that matter) but PC Games Network did get this quote from Michael Chu, the lead brain behind Overwatch's lore and story:
From the beginning, we had this idea that we wanted the announcer to be a character and not just the random voice of God. We really wanted her to be a character, and so the first way that we were able to evidence that was in the Recall short – and yeah, that’s where she is… right now.
Her name first cropped up on terminals located on Watchpoint Gibraltar along with the message: “Winston, please respond…”. At a later date, this message was replaced with a new image: a logo for Athena that appeared to be some kind of screensaver for the terminals throughout the map and tutorial. The logo seemed familiar to many players, and, after some searching through artwork released by Blizzard, it was discovered that the logo looked strikingly similar to the one on the head of this below omnic.
Could this be the physical form of Athena? Perhaps created by Winston - or maybe even by the AI herself to give her a presence in the world?
It's really not hard to envision… and - yes - that’s exactly where I'm going with this. Vision, of the Avengers movies, started out as JARVIS, the sarcastic AI that aided Tony Stark in his heroic deeds as Ironman and told him how screwed he was when his suit was losing power. However, later in the story arc, Jarvis finds his consciousness altered and transferred into a body - becoming Vision.
Another clue to Athena's identity can be found on the Temple of Anubis. In the market area at the start of the map, there are various omnic and machine parts. The torsos here look identical to those of the Athena robot - so, perhaps she is part of a common omnic design, but uploaded with the mind of the Athena AI? Or maybe the Athena robot was created by Winston as the first-of-its-kind, and he then created others to assist in Overwatch operations across the world?
Another interesting point relating to Anubis can be found in the “Mission Statement” digital comic. The story follows Pharah and her team attempting to subdue a god program named Anubis whose AI and physical presence is locked inside the Temple we fight for control of in the game. As Athena is the name of another god (this time of Greek mythology) could Athena be another god program? Perhaps she chose to aid Overwatch against the omnics in the war, and she continues to assist them to this day.
Athena’s basis in Greek mythology also brings up some fascinating points. Athena is a goddess who was literally born directly from the head of Zeus, as in she lept out of his forehead fully grown and clad in armour. Perhaps it’s a coincidence - but it is interesting that Athena could have been created by Winston, figuratively birthed from his mind. Especially with Winston being a character who uses lightning as a weapon, much like Zeus.
We later learnt a bit more about the relationship between Athena and Winston during the Recall Cinematic. The two are clearly close, with a dynamic that I would say was more similar to that of a husband and wife than a scientist and computer program. Athena is clearly intelligent, but she also has a lot of personality. She’s not just a machine built for a purpose; she’s able to form opinions, and, by the tone of her voice, she can also feel emotions.
Another point of note from the trailer comes at the end when Winston recalls Overwatch agents to active duty. Amongst the faces that flash by is one that I would like to draw attention to. This omnic does not seem that different to the Athena robot from the previous piece of artwork. It could be a coincidence but there are certainly similarities between the two. It wouldn’t make much sense for Athena to need to recall herself to active duty, but perhaps this is an omnic based on a similar design to Athena?
There is one more point in this cinematic that is quite interesting. Reaper and Talon are attempting to hack Overwatch's systems, including Athena. When Recall was released, we knew very little about another hero Blizzard had been teasing: Sombra. Now that we know more, perhaps she was behind Reaper's attempted hack? Maybe Sombra herself will lead us towards more clues relating to Athena?
That certainly seems to suggest there is hope for Athena to become more than the voice of the game - but what do you think? Will Athena forever be the disembodied voice in the heads of our heroes, or will she become a playable character? And if she does become a character, what class and skills do you think she will have? Let me know in the comments below, I can’t wait to read your speculation.
For all of your questions about Overwatch heroes and lore, stop by the Overwatch Wiki on Gamepedia.
James is a video content creator, Overwatch enthusiast, and a die-hard Firefly fan. When he's not writing scripts or researching game lore, he can be found poring over the latest Marvel comics.