This Friday marked the opening ceremony of Blizzard Entertainment’s own convention, Blizzcon. The video can be found on the official YouTube channels of each of their games, but for those short on time, here are some highlights of the announcements they made.
A new co-op mission called “Part and Parcel” is being released alongside a new co-op commander, the duo Mira Han and Matt Horner. In addition, Starcraft 2 will be free to play starting November 14th, with Wings of Liberty being gifted to everyone and Heart of the Swarm being given to players who already own Wings of Liberty. While I don’t have a lot of experience in Starcraft, or RTS in general, a free game is nothing to complain about and the availability of both the original Starcraft and its sequel means there is no better time to start.
Heroes of the Storm
A new cinematic introduced two new heroes: Hanzo, a ranged Assassin from Overwatch and Alexstraza, a Support hero from Warcraft. The rest of the presentation was focused on the fine-tuning of existing features, such as the introduction of performance-based matchmaking rather than a win-lose system and a revamp of the camera. Additionally, there were a number of in-game mechanic changes including new stealth visuals (and buffs to the various stealth heroes to compensate), the removal of tower ammunition and some standalone towers, and attempts to make some mercenary camps more relevant. The designers state that while these changes are intended to rework the relatively quick laning phases that players experience in the current version, they are not looking to increase game length.
Personally, Alexstraza is one of my favorite characters from the Warcraft universe, and while I’m sure everyone is still disappointed at a lack of Deathwing, having at least one dragon aspect in the roster will be a welcome addition to support players.
The Kobolds and Catacombs expansion, based on the Warcraft lore of the candle-loving Kobolds and flavored as a love letter to Dungeons and Dragons, was announced for release in December. In addition to the free legendary Marin the Fox, the set announcement revealed that each class will have a Legendary weapon and showcased the new Recruit mechanic that pulls minions from your deck as well as spell cards that improve when certain conditions are met. In addition, Blizzard is planning a new single player mode called Dungeon Run, in which you build up a deck as you fight against progressively tougher bosses.
Hearthstone is probably the Blizzard game that I spend the most time playing, so it goes without saying that I’m looking forward to this expansion. Recruit looks like it can be powerful when used under certain condition or with specific details (like Arcanologist drawing only Secrets) and I welcome the opportunity Dungeon Run presents to use some cards that are less prevalent in constructed play.
A new hybrid (assault, then payload) map is being added in the form of Blizzardworld, which will take players through a theme park with areas based on Warcraft, Hearthstone, Starcraft, and Diablo. Afterwards, they announced the new Support hero Moira, a geneticist that uses dangerous and unethical techniques to make scientific breakthroughs and a former member of Blackwatch who joined Talon. All of this was followed up by a new cinematic of a young Reinhardt in the battle of Eichenwalde and a showcase of skins related to the new map and cinematics.
As a support main, specifically as someone who really enjoys playing as Lucio, I’m excited for another character who not only is able to do significant damage while they heal but also has some mobility. Of course the new Blizzardworld map is also filled with a bunch of cute referential humor that Blizzard always does so well with, and as with most of their cinematic work the Reinhardt video was amazing. Best of all, these new features will be available soon on the Public Test Realm.
World of Warcraft
After the fall of the Burning Legion, the Horde and the Alliance will turn on each other once again in the Battle for Azeroth expansion. With Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms being secured by the Horde and Alliance respectively, they seek out new allies with the Horde reaching out to the Zandalari Trolls and the Alliance revisiting Jaina’s homeland of Kul’Tiras. The expansion promises war campaigns against the opposing faction, allied subraces available as characters after a quest chain, and explorations of the stories of characters such as Anduin, Sylvanas, Jaina, Thrall, and Vol’jin. There are also promised improvements to earlier leveling zones and world PvP. In addition, Blizzard has announced plans for Classic servers, allowing players to relive their days in vanilla World of Warcraft without relying on private servers.
Although these changes probably will not be enough to entice me back into playing the game, I’m at least interested in the story aspects of this expansions, although to be fair I also have my reservations in that regard due to some of Blizzard’s decisions in the past. I am very surprised that they are offering a Classic experience, and I’m sure it will make a number of players very happy, especially after Blizzard’s takedown of multiple private servers.
With the convention now over, you can check out the finer details in each game’s respective “What’s Next” panel or interviews. Which one are you most excited for?