A blizzard has formed over the Anaheim Convention Center in California, USA, and it’s blown everyone away. Now in its 13th year, the annual BlizzCon event has seen over 40,000 fans and media join the developers at Blizzard Entertainment for a feast of reveals, panels, and esports action.
And Blizzard, better known now as one half of Activision Blizzard, didn’t waste any time getting the party started. At BlizzCon’s opening ceremony, fans got far more than they could have hoped for prior to the conference.
Official reveals and gameplay details for Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV hit the internet right in the feels. While big new expansions for World of Warcraft and Hearthstone brought smiles and positivity to the venue at a time when bringing the fanbase closer together was more important than ever.
There’s plenty to get excited about. Let’s get into it.
Diablo IV Goes MMO
Diablo is one of the world’s biggest franchises, with Diablo III (out way back in 2012) selling over 30 million copies. As such, Blizzard didn’t go soft on introducing its sequel. For the best part of ten minutes, the studio wowed fans with a gloriously twisted and satanic cinematic introducing Diablo IV.
Set in a gothic temple that looked like it has emerged straight from the bowels of hell, the cinematic showed a group of treasure hunters making the poor decision to go looting inside. The stakes rise quickly, with demands for blood sacrifices and the summoning of the Mother of Misery bringing much in the way of blood and gore. In short; rather perfect!
“We are going back to the franchise’s darker roots. It’ll mean blood and gore. It’ll mean occult symbols and rituals,” said game director Luis Barriga following the presentation.
Thankfully, Blizzard went beyond the cinematic, letting attending journos dive into 20 minutes of hands-on gameplay. Here’s some of the key details that have emerged from that session.
- The cartoony feel of Diablo III has been reverted to the grittier, more realistic style of Diablo II.
- Environments are packed with detail, animations – especially as you switch between abilities – are eye-catching, and cinematic transitions use in-game graphics for seamless shifting through the world.
- There appears to be more variety in the large open world, which includes five distinct regions. We can also confirm your journey through this world is non-linear, and the world will turn on a genuine day/night cycle, victimised by varied and random weather events.
- The game is always online, with the world being a shared playing space. This means you will encounter other players doing their thing on your travels, who you can play with in parallel or invite to your party. There will be public quests to engage in, too, separate from the main questline. And even public boss fights, against screen-filling beasts.
- A traditional narrative-driven quest system still remains, leading you into instanced dungeons that are kept isolated to just your playing party. These dungeons will be randomly generated, too.
- The Druid, Sorcerer, and Barbarian have been confirmed as three of the five launch classes.
There’s no release date, sadly. If anything, Blizzard hosed down any hopes Diablo IV might emerge from the dark sometime in the near future. However, targeting PS4, XBO, and PC – as opposed to Project Scarlett or PS5 – would suggest that it will at least make it out in 2020.
Overwatch 2 Targets Co-Op Play and Story
So, Overwatch is getting a sequel after all. Well, kind of. Overwatch 2 is indeed a genuine sequel, that brings new maps, new heroes, new modes, and a fresh coat of paint to the beloved online hero shooter. Yet it’s not designed to supersede its predecessor, but instead work alongside it.
Overwatch 2 pools the players of both games together into a singular PvP experience. New content will appear in both the original and the sequel, cosmetics will carry across between the games, and the new (rather gorgeous) maps and heroes (only one, the agile, attack-minded Sojourn, has been revealed) can be enjoyed by both communities. It will only be the new modes of play only playable by those who’ve purchased the sequel.
Overwatch 2 takes full advantage of the deep lore and character detail, as well the successful experimentation of various Limited Time Modes, to go big on PvE. The opening cinematic doesn’t show the various hero characters as singular entities, but more like The Avengers. A team focused on defeating the robotic army known as Null Sector, previously seen during the Uprising event.
The resulting co-op focused story missions leverage the Overwatch lore and help add another layer of play to the Overwatch experience. Blizzard says players will “team up as different sets of heroes and fight to defend the world from the omnic forces of Null Sector, uncover the motives behind the robotic armies’ attacks, and come face-to-face with rising new threats around the globe.”
The story-driven co-op missions will also include item pick-ups. These can be grabbed by any player for use in the mission, but don’t transcend to following missions.
A Hero Mission mode also makes its debut in Overwatch 2. These are designed to be replayable missions with their own unique level-up trees. Abilities can also be customised, modifying the way they work. There is no story in this mode, and the levelling-up/customisations don’t transcend to the PvE mode.
Finally, a Push Mode was also revealed. A new map type that feels like an expansion of the payload concept, it’s a team-focused experience. A robot is pushing a barrier along a track across the map. The team that controls the robot, moves it forward into enemy territory. And at the end of the timer, the team who has the robot in enemy terrain wins.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a release date or even window for Overwatch 2. The way Blizzard was talking at the panel, this may even be a next-gen project.
WoW Enters the Shadowlands
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, World of Warcraft didn’t leave BlizzCon without some big news. The next expansion is called The Shadowlands, and it will land in 2020. Yet another glorious cinematic trailer set the scene. A fight between Sylvanas and The Lich King tears a whole in the sky and with it, merges The Shadowlands and Azeroth together.
Interestingly, the level cap will not go up, but instead will be squished down to 60. Max level players will be shifted down to 50, with ten levels available for players who enter The Shadowlands. Why? It gives new players a better opportunity to get into and enjoy the expansion’s story without being lost in the grind.
The other key change is the way the endgame will be handled. Once level 60 has been reached, the Torghast, Tower of the Damned, instance opens. This is a dungeon inspired by the roguelike genre. It is randomly generated, with players encouraged to experience a different playthrough each time and to try and reach higher levels of the dungeon. It sounds great!
Hearthstone Gets a New Mode
Finally, collectible card game sensation Hearthstone is getting yet another expansion. Known as Descent of Dragons, it will highlight the winged reptiles across its new cards. It’s out December 10, and closes the trilogy of Dragon games that have focused on the battle between the League of E.V.I.L and League of Explorers.
Perhaps more exciting is word this expansion will also come with a new mode, Battlegrounds. Inspired by the auto-chess, DOTA Underlords, scene, this mode mixes up the core Hearthstone play. A turn-based, tactical resource management mod, it’s a shot in the arm to those looking to spice up the way they look at their decks.