Overwatch is a universe of sprawl. Its characters are manifold and lively, its locations vibrant and diverse, and the stakes in the game are as massive as they are clear. And, well, they all should be, considering Blizzard has spent the last two years digging deeper and wider into its booming story. But when does all that history become too much?

​Overwatch's story has been parceled out through cinematics, comics, in-game diaries and about a million other nontraditional ways. Its storytelling is strikingly ambitious, preferring environmental detail and cryptic messages to direct exposition through a single-player mode. Unfortunately, all that ornamentation lies fallow because the writers refuse to move forward.

Over and over, the Overwatch development team has mined heroes and maps from the world's past, most recently with the ​Retribution event and ​Wrecking Ball's release. Although both add texture to the game, neither truly breathes life into it because neither actually changes it. Rather than allow the (many) pieces already in place to interact and develop, these additions merely scrimshaw what we already knew.

This might seem negligible, but in fact it underpins the whole storytelling endeavor. Players can only become so invested in a story if it never changes, if its characters never change. We connect with characters only when they act, interact and react, which characters in Overwatch never do. How can we love a character or feel a story that we never truly know?

Letting the many faces we know so well meet, speak, fight, cooperate or anything else would pump blood into their veins and ours. Who would win the sniping rematch between Ana and Widowmaker? Who will answer Winston's recall? What is Talon up to? These questions compel on their own, but we need to see some answers to feel as though any of them truly matters.

The last time Blizzard dipped its toes into Overwatch's current moment was ​the comic "Searching," in which Zarya hunted Sombra. That comic revealed a scant few nuggets of information before returning its characters to their vague status quo. That was September.

The simplest way for Blizzard to tell this story would be a traditional single-player, story-based experience, but the developer has expressed disinterest in such a venture. It's tough to blame them: For much of Overwatch's existence, its commitment to piecemeal storytelling has been one of its greatest strengths.

Besides, Overwatch is already an excellent class-based shooter with an exciting esports scene and a massive casual base. It doesn't need to be anything more than that.

But it could be so much more. If Blizzard wants to create something greater than pretty set dressing for solid mechanics, the way forward is as bright as hard-light: The story must advance.

Photo courtesy of Blizzard