A screenshot of Antarctic Peninsula, in which a collection of buildings sit atop a snowy side of a cliff
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch 2’s newest Control map, Antarctica, brings lore and life to season 3

Yes, there are penguins, and we are all thankful.

Even in its earliest days, Overwatch’s maps took players on a world tour, encouraging exploration through the futuristic-yet-familiar universe. In the sequel, designers have already taken us to several European locales, the Shambali Monastery, and the warm beaches of Rio de Janeiro. And when season three begins on Feb. 7, players will face a frigid new adventure.

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Welcome to Overwatch 2’s newest Control map, the Antarctic Peninsula. With sub-maps that take players between vastly different areas, like a massive wrecked ship and an underground maze of caves, Antarctica is designed to heat up a fan-favorite map type.

According to developers, the map is also full of lore tidbits that solidify it as part of Overwatch’s past, present, and future.

Let’s start with the most important news: yes, Antarctica includes penguins. 

“It was vital to the team’s happiness that penguins be included,” lead narrative designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie said in a press interview about the new map. According to art director Dion Rogers, players can shoot at the penguins but can’t kill them or hurt them in any way. “It’s playfully done in the game when you see it,” he said.  

Once players are done staring at penguins, they can get to exploring Antarctica’s picturesque and mildly terrifying environment. As a Control map, Antarctica includes three sublevels that will cycle randomly as the match progresses through three rounds.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

These sublevels include massive underground ice caves, which level designer Trey Spisak described as having a “lot of verticality” and multiple flank routes. Another level is more of a “straightforward control point,” according to designers, and features the extensive laboratories Mei and her coworkers used for their research. 

The most striking of the sublevels is called Icebreaker, which includes the remnants of a massive Overwatch ship that attempted to rescue Mei and her research associates. On the way, it ended up mangled in the ice and the mission was abandoned. Players get to meander through the ship and play through engine rooms, a captain’s quarters, and more. 

With Antarctica, the team is diving back into maps that are steeped in character lore. Players got a taste of this lore with Ecopoint: Antarctica, a deathmatch map that was featured in base Overwatch. Everything about the frigid region is related to Mei and her ill-fated research crew. 

As seen in the cinematic “Rise and Shine,” Mei spent ten years frozen in one of Overwatch’s research centers in Antarctica. What was intended to be a short experiment in cryogenic technology ended in tragedy; various issues wound up killing all of Mei’s associates as time clicked by and Overwatch disbanded.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

This version of Antarctica seeks to expand on that lore and answer some questions about the experiment. Fans often ask why no one came to rescue Mei and her coworkers, Jurgens-Fyhrie explained. “The answer is that Overwatch tried,” he said, referencing the Icebreaker sublevel. “You get to see a huge part of the story we’ve never talked about before and you can play across that area.”

Jurgens-Fyhrie was also not subtle about the number of answers–and maybe more questions–that can be found on various levels of the map. “You can see some hints about what Mei and her team were trying to find [in Antarctica].”

With its dreary yet awe-inspiring ice fields and aurora australis–or Southern Lights–Antarctica looks nothing like the rest of Overwatch 2’s maps, which was intentional by the design team. The challenge was in making it interesting while also reflecting its natural setting.

“All of a sudden we say we’re going to [make] Antarctica and you Google Antarctica and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a problem,” Spisak said with a laugh.

Rogers admits the team has previously stuck to “modular” maps, but wanted to reach new heights with this natural setting. “This took some graphical challenges that we’ve never faced before because Overwatch is normally a city-based game,” he said. “Antarctica is a very organic map for us; it’s uneven in its shapes, its curvatures, its caves, and the ice.”

In a strange way, Antarctica seems like the most “Overwatch-y” map the team has created for the sequel. It’s built around the lore of a character and also brings back some of the fun and audacity of the base game’s iconic locales. Not only are there penguins, but there’s a fishing hole and multiple ways to interact with the organic environment. There’s a sense of levity involved that, in our opinion, some of the newer additions have lacked.  

Antarctica launches with the third season of Overwatch 2 on Feb. 7. 


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Author
Liz Richardson
Liz is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago. Her favorite thing is the Overwatch League; her second favorite thing is pretending iced coffee is a meal. She specializes in educational content, patch notes that (actually) make sense, and aggressively supporting Tier 2 Overwatch. When she's not writing, Liz is expressing hot takes on Twitter and making bad life choices at Target.