BlizzCon 2019: Everything announced during the keynote address, from Overwatch 2 to Diablo 4
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack started off the Blizzcon keynote by addressing the controversy concerning Hearthstone, apologizing for his company’s haste in banning Blitzchung. He noted that Blizzard had not lived up to its stated goal of every voice mattering and promised “We will do better going forward.” However there was no mention of fully restoring Blitzchung’s player status, nor was there any direct mention of China or Hong Kong.
After the introduction, Blizzard showed off everything the company plans to release for the next couple of years, and the first title revealed was the biggest, Diablo IV.
In the cinematic trailer, a battered and bloody party of adventurers make their way through an ancient tomb. After sacrificing a companion to escape a horde of undead, they end up resurrecting Lillith, a female horned demon with a cloak of blood extracted from her victims. Lillith is a relative unknown compared to the Prime Evils featured in the previous three Diablo games, but she was described as the Daughter of Hatred and creator of Sanctuary. Lore from Diablo III suggests she was the Demon who mated with an Angel to produce the Nephalem bloodline in Diablo’s prehistory.
Director Luis Barriga explained that Diablo IV looks back to Diablo’s legacy, and would be “Going back to the franchise’s darker roots.” This means more blood and gore, plenty of occult symbols, and a higher difficulty than Diablo III. He promised that every character you meet in the game should have a sense of place in this “dark, medieval, gothic version of Hell.”
While we haven’t seen all the characters classes yet, it sounds like the lineup was inspired by Diablo II. The Barbarian and Sorceress were base classes in Diablo II, while the Druid was introduced with that game’s expansion, Lord of Destruction. The gameplay trailer shows all three classes able to ride a horse (something only Paladins have been able to do in prior games) and launching off of it into enemies. Several classic abilities were shown, including the Barbarian’s Leap attack, Sorceress’ Meteor, and the Druid shapeshifting into a bear. We’ll have hands-on impressions of Diablo IV soon.
StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm received little attention during the keynote. SC2 is getting a new co-op Commander; Arcturus Mengsk. Mengsk was the Terran leader of the faction you played with in the original Starcraft, and managed to manipulate his way into becoming Emporer of the Confederacy by the end of the game. For HoTS: the Warcraft dragon Deathwing had already been announced last month, but is playable for the first time at the show. Starting today, all heroes will be free to play until Nov. 10.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft director Ion Hazzikostas took the stage to announce what WoW players can expect for the next few months. Some of what he mentioned had already been announced: Mechagnomes and Vulpera joining the Horde and Alliance, WoW Classic adding world bosses and the PVP honor system, and a new charity pet, Dotty the baby alpaca. The 15th anniversary of WoW will bring some new events: A PVP battleground inspired by Alterac Valley, a Worldbreaker mount inspired by Deathwing, and a lil’ Nefarian dragon pet.
He then transitioned into the new stuff, kicking off with a cinematic trailer for the new expansion: Shadowlands. Sylvanas returns to Icecrown citadel to challenge the current Lich King, Bolvar Foldragon. She gains the upper hand, removes his crown and destroys it, shattering the sky above and revealing a mirrored universe.
Shadowlands is the afterlife for the Warcraft universe. It contains the power that the Scourge and Death Knights draw from, and is the home of the Val’kyr and Spirit healers. Several new zones were shown: Revendreth seems to have a vampire and undead theme, Ardenweald looks more druidic, Maldraxxus seems to be the home of demons, and Bastion appears to be the heaven of Titans and Dwarves. Each zone will have new dungeons and raids, but only one was revealed so far, the Tower of the Damned. Players will need to choose a covenant when they enter the Shadowlands, but what exactly that means and how it will affect your character hasn’t been revealed yet at the time of publication.
Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons
Hearthstone has a lot to prove after the Blitzchung controversy, and director Ben Thompson came out swinging. The final Year of the Dragon expansion takes the title to heart, and Descent of Dragons concludes the story started with Rise of Shadows and continued in Saviors of Uldum. The league of Evil has brought Dalaran to the Dragonblight, a graveyard where dragons go to die. It seems as though Rafaam and the others intend to resurrect Galakrond, the progenitor of Warcraft’s other dragons.
The trailer shows an immense sky battle, and Thompson promised this set would feature more dragons than any prior expansion. Galakrond is an important figure in the expansion, and shows up as a Hero replacement card for all five classes represented by the League of Evil. Fortunately, all of these Hero cards will be available free when the set launches. It sounds as though the four classes represented by the League of Explorers get new dragons instead. One was shown: the Druid’s Ysera Unleashed shuffles portals into your deck which will summon random dragons when drawn. Ysera isn’t the only new Dragon by a long shot, though, and every class gets a new legendary dragon. The only new keyword, Invoke, relates to Galakrond, as some new cards will be able to upgrade the Hero cards when they’re played ahead of time.
The new set releases on December 10, and features a new way to play called Hearthstone Battlegrounds. Essentially Blizzard’s entry into the Autobattler genre, this new 8-player mode was inspired by other games such as Auto Chess and DotA Underlords.
Director Jeff Kaplan teased that everything he was about to say had already been out in the open for a while, but there were still a couple of surprises in the new game’s trailer.
The new cinematic appears to take place directly after Winston sends out the Recall notification, before the entire team comes together. It shows Mei, Tracer, and Winston facing off against a group of Null Sector Omnics in Paris. Several new types of Omnics are shown, including a Titan (normally only visible in Volskaya Industries’ background) and some humanoid soldier types which haven’t been seen in game before. Two new characters were shown: Echo made her debut during McCree’s cinematic last year, and Sojourn showed up during the Storm Rising event earlier this year.
The follow-up will have a much greater focus on story and player vs. environment than the original Overwatch. There will be story missions and “Hero missions,” which Blizzard calls “Highly replayable” co-operative assignments. During these Hero missions players will be able to customize their loadouts and upgrade their hero abilities; for example Tracer can upgrade her Pulse Bomb ultimate to stick to multiple enemies, and Mei can upgrade her Ice Block to create a frost nova when she breaks it.
Several new features were mentioned. In addition to new visuals and engine upgrades, the game will launch with multiple new Heroes, including Sojourn and Echo. However, Blizzard doesn’t intend to split the playerbase. Kaplan promised that all Overwatch players will have access to the same new maps and heroes introduced in Overwatch 2, and that the two games would share their multiplayer environment. What’s more, all Overwatch cosmetics will transfer over to the new game. It sounds like Overwatch 2 is more of an expansion than a replacement for Overwatch, and the primary draw will be the exclusive PVE mode and cooperative gameplay.
We’ll have more about Blizzcon including hands-on impressions with Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 soon.