Many of Overwatch's heroes come with a distinct and interesting backstory, but few are as unique and rich as Zenyatta. This robotic Buddhist-inspired healer represents a sort of peaceful, harmonious core amongst a turbulent, conflicted, and often violent history that makes up the game's lore.
The Omnic has a tale that's both inspirational and slightly tragic; though his grounded, wise ways keep his spirits lifted. Zen plays the role of a unifier and means of support with his abilities to heal, which translates within the society of Overwatch itself. He's also wrought with some particularly cool and well-crafted design elements that draw from a pool of real religious and philosophical mythology.
So without further ado, let's get enlightened as we take a thorough look at 10 things about Zenyatta you didn't know.
10 A Renegade Omnic
It may seem odd that Overwatch's main antagonists, the forces of the Omnics, would be represented by one of the game's most peaceful and subdued heroes in Zenyatta. Though, it all makes sense if you trace the origins of this solemn guru.
Zen had been a prominent part of the Shambali, an order of Omnics whose primary goal was to harbor a peace between the humans and Omnic races. This group was led by Zen's mentor, Tekhartha Mondatta, a famous figure known for his peaceful actions and his ideals of spiritual equality between the rival factions. Zen decided to forge his own path, believing in a more hands-on approach and social connections rather than dogma. Particularly after the assassination of Mondatta, Zen exists as a rare representation of Omnic peace and harmony in a divided world.
9 References To Hindu And Buddhist Religion And Philosophy
One only need look at the Buddhist Monk-like appearance and themes of Zen to pick up on the Buddhist references of this unique healer. Though there's far more to these derivations than just his appearance. His Ultimate, Transcendence, is a reference to the Buddhist belief of Nirvana, while several of his voice lines are nods to Buddhist philosophical bits. An example of this is the quote "no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place."
On top of this though, some of Zen's skins provide subtle nods to Hindu and Islamic mythology, including the Djinnyatta skins, whose appearance and headdress are inspired by the Arabian supernatural beings known as Djinn. His overall appearance is also reminiscent of various Hindu deities, including Shiva and the 4-armed Vishnu. Zen's multiple extended arms are a Hindu representation of generosity; fitting given his role as a healer.
8 Changes Those He Crosses Paths With
Being the Zen Buddhist who channels various powers, it stands to reason that Zenyatta holds a certain aura that few others possess, much like his even more influential mentor, Mondatta. His state of Nirvana and spiritual enlightenment thanks to meditation has allowed him not only to gain greater powers and wisdom, but to affect others in his presence.
In fact, it's said that many who cross paths with the mysterious Monk are never quite the same again, having gained at least a shred of mind-altering wisdom. It would seem as though he's not just a physical healer, but a mental and spiritual one.
7 A Favorite Of Overwatch's Lead Designer
While Zen has proven to be a favorite for players who fancy a healer that can deal serious damage, he also happens to be one of the lead designer's absolute favorite Heroes in the game as well. During a BlizzCon 2014 panel, Blizzard's former senior VP of creative design and writer went on record stating Zen was one of his preferred Heroes.
Perhaps this is part of the reason Zen stands as such a rich and interesting character, in addition to being a lot of fun to play. So for those of you rare Zenyatta mains, take heart - you're in pretty good company with your choice in Heroes.
6 The Quietest Hero Of The Game
No, this isn't referring to Zen possessing a Monk-like level of silence in terms of speech, but rather, his quiet movement. Being the only Hero in the game that floats, Zenyatta also comes with the useful perk of being the only fighter to produce no audible footsteps as he moves.
This tool of stealth can be exploited by crafty players to use during fights to blindside opponents or sneak out of danger. He may not be the quickest or most mobile fighter, but this silent hovering can definitely make up for some of this. As a side note, you'll still want to steer clear of Junkrat's traps, since you can still get caught in them.
5 A Master Of Martial Arts
In the Summer Games, it's revealed that Zenyatta's sport of choice is martial arts, particularly the Korean varient of this practice, known as Taekwondo. As many other aspects of his character are inspired by Eastern themes, it makes sense that the robotic Monk would possess this specialty.
It also provides a bit of context to his unique melee kick - as he's the only Hero in Overwatch to use his feet rather than his fist to strike. His wardrobe also partially resembles the type of robes worn in martial arts. Of course, Zen's combat style is typically from a distance, but it turns out he does have some close-range martial art skills if need be!
4 Inspiration Of His Orbs Drawn From Chinese Cultural Relic
One of the defining characteristics of Zenyatta is the floating orbs that hover around his neck, and which he wields in battle. The healing nature and chime-esque noises the orbs make are likely inspired by Chinese medicine balls known as Baoding Balls. These were used in China as an alternative medicine for stress relief and improving dexterity.
His orbs are also meant to symbolize the nine chakras, which makes sense given the word's English translation of "circle" and the circular formation of orbs around his neck. The opposing nature of Zen's Discord and Harmony orbs represent the Yin and Yang; a prominent icon in Chinese and Buddhist culture.
3 Name Derived From A British Rock Band
The name "Zen" is clearly a reference to Zen Buddhism and enlightenment. But somewhat less known is the fact that the full name of the Monk, "Zenyatta" is a nod to the 1980 album from the British Rock band, The Police. This reference also further ties together Zen and his former mentor and explains the origins of his name, as the entire album is titled "Zenyatta Mondatta."
Though it's likely there are multiple layers of reference to Zen's name, as is often the case with Blizzard's elaborately crafted characters. For instance, the word Śūnyatā is a Buddhist concept that essentially translates to "emptiness," in the sense of being in a clear-headed, weightless state as one meditates.
2 Insane DPS Potential
Much of Zen's character makeup exudes the properties of healing; a sort of subdued and peaceful quality. But surprisingly, this healer's DPS potential can be sky-high; at least if one pairs their assaults with the damage enhancing Orb of Discord.
In fact, assuming one lands their hits - which admittedly isn't too easy - and uses well-timed Discords, Zen possesses more DPS potential than many actual DPS characters! Charging one's orbs and launching an Orb Volley can pelt a foe with a whopping 240 damage. As a form of reference, Reaper's shotty only reaches up to 140 per shot.
1 Absurd Healing Powers With Transcendence
Although Zen's healing output is pretty tepid compared to most of the other support Heroes, his Ultimate, Transcendence, is perhaps the best healing ability in the game. This move uses an impactful 10-meter radius "area of effect" and renders Zen and those in his vicinity immune to damage for a time.
Not only this, but this move can grant up to 300 health per second. Even if a team's in dire straits, this ability can single-handedly turn the tide of a game. Now that's the power of peace and love!