Blizzcon 2019 is over and the announcements from Blizzard were quite a mixed bag of goodies for fans of the different Blizzard franchises.
The convention opened with the biggest announcement – Diablo 4, but we’ll get to that later. Blizzcon 2019 covered their big franchises this year and while some weren’t quite as big as others, we were glad to see the big games continue to have updates.
Before we get to the more major game announcements, the destructive force behind World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Deathwing was introduced as the new hero in Heroes of the Storm. If that matters to you.
We’ll first take a look at the two games with expansions announced, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft before getting into the bigger announcements this year.
Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons
Hearthstone is Blizzard’s mainstay card game and amidst the recent controversy, the company announced a new expansion – Descent of Dragons.
The new expansion will bring even more dragons but also has two big features that were announced. First is a new keyword – Invoke and second is a new game mode based on the auto battler genre (ex. Dota Auto Chess, Dota Underlords, and Teamfight Tactics) called Hearthstone Battlegrounds.
Invoke is tied to Galakrond who was the “progenitor of dragonkind”. The new keyword upgrades Galakrond through three different forms. All players will receive Galakrond upon logging in but he will be available for the E.V.I.L. classes – Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, and Warrior. While the remaining classes will get Side Quest cards.
Hearthstone Battlegrounds was a pleasant surprise. The company hasn’t offered new game modes in Hearthstone and a new mode may offer something refreshing for all players. The official description reads, “…the brand-new auto-battling game mode that introduces a fresh, strategic, 8-player experience to Hearthstone. In Battlegrounds, you’ll take on the role of a familiar Hero straight out of Hearthstone history, craft a powerful board of recruited Minions, and face-off in an action-packed series of duels until a single winner is crowned!”
Battlegrounds will be available for Early Access starting November 5 for those that pre-purchased the expansion, BlizzCon attendees, or BlizzCon Virtual Ticket holders. On November 12, it will be on Open Beta.
Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons is the only announcement with a clear release date – December 10.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
Next up is the latest expansion of the highly popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Following the major events that tied the loose ends of Battle for Azeroth, the latest expansion will send players to the Shadowlands. Sylvanas overpowered the Lich King [Bolvar] and shattered the Helm of Domination which opened the portal to the mysterious Shadowlands.
The new zone, of course, introduces new races and areas to get to know and explore. It also brings new mechanics like a major level squish from the current max of 120 down to 60. Leveling alts and from scratch is also revisited with a new starting area. The ‘base’ leveling experience caps at 50 while 51-60 is done in the Shadowlands.
A roguelike dungeon is one of the more unique end game mechanics that the expansion brings. The dungeon is the tower that is found in the trailer that is floating inverted above Icecrown Citadel.
Seeing where the Shadowlands take us and just how and why Sylvanas is involved will be just some of the curiosities in the new expansion.
As of writing this, there is no exact date of launch just yet but it was announced to be out in 2020.
Okay, now that the two expansions are out of the way, here is the first of the two ‘new titles’ that were announced at the convention.
We start it out with Overwatch 2. The game is supposedly a sequel to the beloved hero-shooter game. Before we get to the actual details of the title, we must say that the cinematic is just beautiful. Watching the Overwatch squad work together against the massive omnic bot is a first.
Overwatch 2 has a greater focus on co-op and PvE modes which include Story Missions and Hero Missions. Along with this, Blizzard showed a progression and leveling system for the different heroes that affect gameplay and abilities.
The sequel will feature new PvP mode, maps, and heroes. The first of these heroes is Sojourn, the first Canadian member of the Overwatch squad. Her inclusion will also include a new Toronto map.
The differentiation between the two games isn’t quite clear just year aside from hero progression and PvE modes. All skins and other unlockables from Overwatch will be carried over to the sequel.
As far as launch date goes, Game Director, Jeff Kaplan simply answered, “No idea.” Which may open the gates for next year, the next, or next, next.
We’ve saved the best for last. Diablo 4 was what opened the convention and was definitely a good way to start it. The wait for this announcement was worth every minute of it. The cinematic just looked gorgeous, albeit on the gory side. Not that gory is a bad thing for Diablo, instead it went back to its roots of a darker, more horror-esque feel.
[WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW IS PRETTY GRAPHIC, SKIP IF SQUEAMISH]
Diablo 4 takes place years after the events of Diablo 3 and based by the looks of things, Mephisto’s daughter, Lilith may just be the baddie in this one. As she is the one summoned in the ritual in the cinematic. She may be the ‘mother’ of Sanctuary and the Nephalem, but she was banished into the Void by Sanctuary ‘father’ Inarius and it’s hard to tell what she plans for the world.
As far as the game and game design goes, it seems to be going back to the darker roots of Diablo II. Three classes have been announced and all three were seen in Diablo II – the classic brute, Barbarian; the magic-wielding, Sorceress; and the more nature attuned, Druid.
Diablo 4 will have a purely online, non-linear story compared to its predecessors and be set in an open world. Based on the announcement, Diablo 4 will not be seen anytime soon, or even ‘Blizzard soon’.
Lastly, we’d like to commend and congratulate the Philippine team that competed at the Overwatch World Cup 2019. While they lost to Colombia 3-1, watching a Philippine team at the World Cup was just heart-warming. Maraming Salamat!