Blizzcon went online this year to touch base on future titles using a clear focus on fan feedback and game feel.
With the world still gripped in pandemic lockdowns, Blizzcon went 100% online this year. The remote experience included everything from the opening ceremonies to the live musical performance, along with a ton of info on what’s in the works at Blizzard Entertainment. While Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 had plenty of information for the eager fan, it was the games of times past that stole the show.
Diablo 2 Resurrected
The biggest show-stealer was the announcement that Diablo 2 Resurrected was not only coming, it’s set to launch this year. Along with a fantastic facelift in the visuals department, which can be toggled on or off, the game also offers a cross-save option that will keep your character on any platform you decide to play on. The developers have gone to great lengths to preserve the original game feel by fixing their version on top of the original, which keeps the game logic the same even at the new 60 frames per second. With Diablo 2 Resurrected set to release on all major consoles and PC, it is sure to make a big splash with new players and returning fans alike.
The reveals for the online card game Hearthstone proved to be huge changes for the humble title. We are entering the Year of the Gryphon and with it comes a new base card set to replace the original, a new set of cards and a new single-player game mode to shake things up. The theme appears to be fan-favorites as the new base set of cards brings back popular characters such as Deathwing and Malygos, while the new single-player Mercenaries challenges you with procedurally generated missions against CPU opponents. While these are a few of the bigger changes, there was a ton of content crammed into the 10-minute presentation for the hardcore Hearthstone fan.
World of Warcraft Classic
The WoW Classic world grows with the announcement of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic. This release will see fans reliving the nostalgic storming of the Dark Portal by the forces of Azeroth against Illidan the Betrayer, Lord of Outland and the demonic denizens of the broken world. The developer panel discusses the release of the original, the shifts in technology and what cloud storage has done to influence the game. They also speak in great detail about how they intend to preserve the game feel of the Classic experience and the challenges in getting to that point. With WoW Classic being a smash hit on launch, the announcement of this expansion and impending release this year only adds to the hype train.
World of Warcraft Shadowlands
Shadowlands didn’t sit this one out and had plenty of storyline and aesthetic focuses to touch base on. While the team didn’t talk too much about new systems, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas made it a point to touch on them as a “strong foundation” for the current game with none of them “needing an overhaul.” The storyline focus branched into the new content patch, a focus on exploring The Maw in full and a new landmass of The First Ones found by The Jailer. With a new raid and a focus on improving what the fans have come to love about this expansion, Shadowlands seems to be succeeding where Battle For Azeroth failed.
Details on Diablo 4 shine more light on what to expect from the next entry in the beloved franchise. The fan-favorite Rogue class from the first game makes a return with new gameplay footage showing a fast, ninja-like character who excels at ranged combat. While the gameplay and cinematic that accompanied it were impressive, we’ll have to wait until next year to get our hands on it and later for more information on the bigger picture of Diablo 4.
With a huge emphasis on gameplay feel and being a “replacement” to the original game instead of just an add-on, Overwatch 2 had a fair amount to show for itself. Tons of gameplay tweaks to the original formula, such as DPS moving faster than any other class and Tanks taking less knockback, go hand-in-hand with the host of new sounds and immersive game feel improvements to enhance the experience. This branches into the co-op Hero Missions and other new story-focused content for the player wanting more Overwatch lore. They also double as fun casual experiences to bridge the gap between the competitive player and their more casual-minded friends, complete with various skills that each hero can learn to personalize the whole experience. These changes, along with the new hero Sojourn, make Overwatch 2 a bit more exciting than when we last left it.
This little handheld title is proving to be a far bigger experience than the “early April Fool’s joke” it was called upon announcement. The team has gone to great lengths to make the game feel like a traditional Diablo experience on mobile. The biggest announcement was the goal of making the game a “mobile MMO,” by Lead Game Designer Wyatt Cheng. The hub town of Westmarch is designed to be a large open area for all players on the server and is an addition that was planned as far back as Diablo 3. This adds a new dimension to the game, especially when considering the instanced dungeons and frantic PvP experiences within the game. The social aspects of the game are a focal point, with big open areas and secret bosses that require players to band together and take it down. With the development team investigating controller support for the title, it’s looking more like a full-fledged gaming experience on your phone rather than a cheap cash-in with a recognizable name.
While we’ll have to wait for the more high-profile releases until next year, those who want to relive the glory days of Blizzard Entertainment have quite a bit to look forward to. The overall focus on fan feedback, coupled with focusing on gameplay and game feel to give each game its own sense of immersion seems to be a big win for the gaming juggernaut. These are all exciting announcements for Blizzard and the nice cushioning of nostalgic releases is a great way to make room for the big names next year.