Sombra: Overwatch’s Unsolved Mystery

Mysteries are rare in gaming. The Internet in general, and gamers specifically, love to solve puzzles, which makes it difficult for games to maintain any secrets for very long. The recent exception to this is Overwatch’s rumored 23rd character, Sombra.

Players have been decoding images and text for months now, as Blizzard continues to drop clues about this mysterious hero. Not many developers are as playful or as respectful of their fan base as Blizzard. They continue to respect the intelligence of their community by creating elaborate puzzles in, what the Overwatch community has dubbed, the Sombra ARG.

Players, convinced that this elaborate game will lead to the reveal of a new character, continued to investigate Blizzard’s cryptic messages and clue throughout the summer.

Here we’ll track the investigation – its breakthroughs and dead ends. How close has the community come to solving the mystery of Sombra?

Quien es Sombra?

Hints of this mysterious new character have been present in Overwatch since the beta.

During his stream of the beta, Twitch streamer Ellohime found three folders in the Dorado map. These folders, still located in the control room, revealed classified information on three Overwatch characters: Soldado 76 (Soldier 76), Jack Morrison (Reaper), and Sombra.

Credit: Anne Stickney at blizzardwatch.com
Credit: Anne Stickney at blizzardwatch.com

The Dorado map continued to provide in-game hints. Players discovered newspapers littering the ground that showed a hooded figure with a headline reading “Quien es Sombra?” (or “Who is Sombra?”).

All of this seems to indicate that Sombra is a resident of Dorado, or at least operating out of the fake Mexican city.

Do You Want to Play a Game?

These in-game references are only a piece of the Sombra puzzle. The folks at the Game Detectives wiki have been investigating this mystery since details started to drop in July.

Ana, the most recent addition to the Overwatch roster, was introduced with a video on July 12, 2016. Internet detectives discovered a mysterious number pattern when pausing the video at the 1:16 mark.

The numbers were translated from Hex code to ASCII code and eventually into a repeating Spanish phrase: “la que tiene la informacion; tiene el poder.” Translation: “she who has the information, has the power.”

The clues continued to come in when Blizzard released a development update video. However, even this commonplace piece of information contained vital information. Players found strange barcodes at the end of the video. Reddit user /u/zapu discovered that the barcodes were actually the ones and zeros of binary code (the data dump can still be found here). The ones and zeros were made into the white and black pixels of a QR code that, when scanned, produced another mysterious message from Sombra: “¿Estuvo eso facilito? Ahora que tengo su atención, déjenme se las pongo más difícil.” Translation: “Was that easy? Well, now that I have your attention, allow me to make things much more difficult.”

Sombra, and Blizzard, were clearly having fun with the community.

Dead End

The puzzles continued to drop in August. Blizzard launched a seasonal event called the Summer Games with a launch video. In the video, Tracer, another Overwatch character, leaves behind her energy trail, which, according to Internet snoops, contained a cipher.

Credit: Enkeria at glemda.com/overwatch
Credit: Enkeria at glemda.com/overwatch

Ciphers disguise code, so the Overwatch community attempted to decode this cryptic message. So far, any efforts to decode the message have failed. It seemed the search for Sombra had hit a dead end.

However, Blizzard had faith in its community. They continued to release puzzles, moving the community past their hard stop. They released datamoshed images — distorted pictures that contain hidden messages.

Those messages led players to analyze their online achievements page, which now contained a new achievement. Players found a message hidden in the page’s source code, leading them onward.

Breakthrough?

Game detectives continued to unearth Sombra’s playful messages throughout the summer. On August 23, 2016 the search for Sombra culminated in a strange post on the Overwatch forums by user Skycoder.

The post itself eventually led players to an Overwatch video posted well before the game’s launch. However, the real breakthrough came with the introduction of a countdown and steadily increasing percentage.

It’s still unclear what the percentage is building to, but after reaching a certain percentage a new message was added to the source code which translated to: “It seems that things are heating up…I’ll have to go unnoticed while this finishes.” Sombra might be laying low because not much has come out of the Sombra ARG since this update.

Where in the World is Sombra?

overwatch-sombra-body-image-1

Based on the increase rate, its estimated that the percentage will reach 100% around October 16-17. Could this be when Sombra finally reveals herself? It’s been speculated that Sombra is a stealth-based character who uses hacking in combat. Based on the encoded messages this could very well be true. It would certainly add a whole new dimension to Overwatch’s already deep roster of characters.

The excitement over this bizarre reveal strategy is starting to fade within the community. This is the unintended consequence of stringing players along through dead ends and tail-chasing.

But Blizzard should be commended for engaging their community like this. It’s definitely a creative way to reveal new content. Its more evidence that, with Overwatch, Blizzard is able to spark the imagination of their community by trusting in their intelligence. Overwatch is a multiplayer shooter, yet players actually care about these characters. The mystery behind Sombra may be fading, but there’s no doubt that when she finally reveals herself players will flock to her because of the work Blizzard has done with their community.

Check out some of our highlights from Overwatch’s Competitive Play below:

Cody Mello-Klein
Cody Mello-Klein is a writer, gamer, part-time baller, and full-time shot caller from Boston. He's a sucker for a good story and is still waiting for another Cormac McCarthy novel. He has worked as a narrative designer and has an interest in the ways games can tell unique, emotional, and provocative stories. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer for occasionally witty remarks.

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