The Overwatch Cookbook Reviewed By Someone Who Has Played 500 Hours Of Overwatch
I don’t usually review cookbooks but Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s Overwatch: The Official Cookbook isn’t your usual cookbook.
Based on the setting of Blizzard’s team-based shooter, Overwatch: The Official Cookbook (hereafter referred to as O:TOK) tries to translate the cosmopolitan flavor of the game’s science fiction setting into a diverse selection of dishes, deserts and drinks.
It’s hardly the first video-game inspired cookbook of its kind but where fare like Fallout: The Vault Dweller’s Cookbook or Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook draw on source material that’s both rich and sprawling, O:TOC has to do more with less.
See, Overwatch isn’t really a game with much of a story. In a narrative sense, it’s all setup with no payoff. There are characters. Goodies. Baddies. And with over 30 playable locations in the game (many of which pull from real-world cities like Busan and London) to brawl within, there’s certainly plenty of conflict in Overwatch.
Even a relatively quiet match will see grenades lobbed, rockets fired, guns shot and laser strobe. But all that gunplay shouldn’t be confused for storytelling.
See, like many AAA games of the modern era, Overwatch is pitched as a live service title. A living breathing experience that evolves and gets updated over time. The upshot? Overwatch is a game that rewards revisitation. The downside? The main plot is all but frozen in time.
In 2016, Overwatch’s story began with retired members of the Avengers-inspired paramilitary group being called back to duty by Winston. In 2020, little has changed.
But this article isn’t about that.
This article is about the Overwatch Cookbook and, speaking as a fan of the game, I feel like I got plenty of bang for my buck with this one. It helped that this was the first cookbook that I’ve properly made progressing through into something of a hobby. It also helped that it was a gift from my partner (Thanks, Liv!).
O:TOC shakes out to include just shy of 100 recipes, divided firstly by geographical origin and then by the character they reflect. In addition to the recipe itself, each entry in the book also comes with a bit of flavor text that connects the dish or drink to the hero in question.
Some of these snippets are fun or insightful, bringing new relatable dimensions to the cast of Overwatch. For example, the flavor text for corn pudding reveals that “Ashe’s butler, Bob, used to make this for her when she was a small girl, often when her parents were out of town on business.”
Most recipes include character-adjacent context like the above but some are a little…weirder.
For instance, there’s a super-rich pavlova that Widowmaker makes when she wants to think about her husband, who she totally murdered after being abducted and brainwashed by Talon and turned into a cold-blooded assassin.
The lighthearted tone found in O:TOC doesn’t always play nice with some of the darker characters or more dramatic elements of the wider fiction it inhabits. Still, the framing that the book tries to create around each recipe is definitely a plus if you’re a fan of the universe and of these characters.
Of the 99 recipes in the book, I cooked around 25.
That might not sound like a huge portion but I promise I hit most of the mains. I ruled out the drinks and cocktails because that’s not really what I’m here for. Same goes for the deserts. Some of the recipes here are also more snacks than proper meals, so I passed over those as well.
I also skipped the entire Australia section— but we’ll circle back to that one.
Owing to the cosmopolitan nature of the franchise, O:TOC features recipes from all over the world. For that reason, I found it a particularly good first cookbook in that it allowed me to trial lots of different kinds of cuisine — which then informed the kind of cookbooks I bought after this one. Even if some of the recipes are a tad International Cuisine 101, they’re still a decent introduction.
Before learning the pelmeni (russian dumplings) recipe in this cook, I had never made any kind of dumplings before. Now, I’m eager to try making pirogi.
Prior to reading O:TOC, I would have never even thought of making congee or breakfast quasadillas on a lazy Sunday morning.
Getting to try a bit of everything and more of the stuff I liked was one of the best parts of this particular cookbook. If you’re not interested in one particular section of the book, you can move on safe in the knowledge that what comes next will probably be radically different.
There’s an important caveat to this. Some of these sections are much stronger than others. Not just in terms of how delicious or involved they are but in how compelling or appetizing they are.
Reinhardt gets currywurst and käsespätzle. Tracer gets…the kind of beer-battered fish & chips you can find at any pub in Australia?
It’s hard to muster excitement for the sections of the less-than-inspired sections of O:TOC. Even at a glance, it feels like the author didn’t really put as much effort into these parts of the book as they could have.
The sections for Bastion, which includes such gems as ‘Bird Shaped Pretzels’ and ‘Treats for Wild Birds’, is a particularly bad offender for this — as is the final section of the cookbook, which compiles recipes for the two heroes who originate from a moon-based scientific research colony.
Devoid of cultural staples to fall back on, it opts to highlight pineapple pizza and…hamster food? It’s easy to imagine a better version of O:TOC that gets more creative when it comes to navigating the more high-concept aspects of the setting but this isn’t it.
All my favorite recipes in this book are absolutely recipes I could have probably learned or found elsewhere. There’s plenty to like about O:TOC but there’s nothing in it that feels particularly special or inspired.
Another drawback here is that a majority of the meals in O:TOC are comfort picks. They’re either a) soup or b) super heavy on carbs. They’re delicious but they’re not a super nutritious way to go about eating on a regular basis.
Now, about that Australian section. It features the following six ‘dishes’:
- A ‘Junkertown Loaded’ Burger
- Chocolate Crackles
- A Boba Drink
- Fairy Bread
- Popcorn Snack Mix
- A ‘Radioactive’ Soda Float
As an Australian, I will grant points to Monroe-Cassel for the inclusion of chocolate crackles and fairy bread here — both are quintessential Aussie snacks. Nevertheless, I still found this overall selection here pretty disappointing. Where’s the seafood? Where’s the barbecue banquet? Where’s the avo on toast?
I’m not the type to get patriotic but, frankly, Overwatch’s Mad Max-esque take on Australia deserves better than this.
That being said, the way the cookbook claims Roadhog’s dishes as Australian (despite the many in-game suggestions that the character is in fact from New Zealand) come across as deeply authentic given Australia’s history of claiming individuals from across the Tasman Sea as our own.
As someone who hasn’t really used traditional cookbooks before, I had a great time working my way through O:TOC but that isn’t to say it doesn’t fall short from what it could — and what I hoped it would — be.
The setting it pulls from always looks towards the future but this cookbook is firmly focused on the past. Its recipes are traditional, foundational and conventional. As a first-time cookbooker, that approach worked fine but, lore snippets aside, there’s little here to latch onto.
I’d have loved a more experimental version of this cookbook that tries to imagine new fusion dishes that might emerge in a post-Omnic Crisis version of Earth. As it stands, there’s probably only one or two recipes here that I’ll likely ever go back to.
As a learning experience and practical introduction to new cuisines, Overwatch: The Official Cookbook is a cosmopolitan collection that’s easy to endorse but the recipes here are little too shallow and obvious to stick with beyond the initial novelty of the license. It’s a great first cookbook but it’s also one I suspect I’ll rarely feel any call to return to.