StarCraft II goes free-to-play
CEO of Blizzard Michael Morhaime delivered the surprising news that StarCraft II will go free-to-play starting November 14. After creating a Blizzard account, anyone can play through the entire Wings of Liberty campaign, gain access to the multiplayer ladder, and all of the co-op commanders up to level five. Meanwhile, commanders Kerrigan, Raynor, and Artanis will be entirely free without restrictions.
For those who already own the base game, Blizzard will gift you the 2013 expansion Heart of the Swarm.
A new dual co-op commander, comprised of Mira Kahn and Matt Horner, was also announced alongside a fresh co-op mission called Part and Parcel.
Heroes of the Storm adds two dragons, gameplay changes
Heroes of the Storm production director Kaeo Milker revealed a pair of dragon-themed heroes. Hanzo will become the latest Overwatch character to join the fray as a ranged assassin, while Alexstrasza from Warcraft can transform into a dragon when reaching critically low health, and will support her team from afar.
A handful of game changes are scheduled to arrive in Heroes of the Storm in 2018. Performance based matchmaking will take more than just wins and losses into account when placing players in matches, and lane improvements, stealth enhancements, and “evolved battle mechanics” are also in line to be implemented next year.
Hearthstone new expansion and single player mode
Hearthstone game director Ben Brode took the audience on a choose-your-own-adventure ride through the next expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs. The expansion riffs off of classic dungeon crawling fantasies.
The keyword for the new expansion is Recruit. When a recruit card is used, a card is pulled from your deck and placed onto the battlefield instantly. This, as you might imagine, may be used to build up a board quickly.
A few specific cards were shown off, as well. Tolin’s Goblet draws a card and then fills your hand with copies of that card. Crushing Walls, a Hunter card, eliminates your opponent’s left and right-side minions. A legendary card called Dragon Soul lets you summon a dragon after casting three spells in a single turn.
And if you log into Hearthstone starting November 6, you’ll automatically receive Marin the Fox, a Battlecry card from the new deck. Marin the Fox creates a treasure chest on the board which, if broken up, reveals a special and absurdly powerful new card.
Perhaps the bigger Hearthstone news, though, was the reveal of Dungeon Run, a free single-player mode modeled off of rogue-lite games. Players start with 10 cards and go through a series of bosses. Each time a boss is defeated, new cards are added to their deck. However, if you die, you lose all of those cards and have to start over again.
Kobolds and Catacombs is expected to launch in December.
New Overwatch hero and Blizzard World map
Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan unveiled the newest map for the mega-popular first person shooter. Blizzard World, a theme park that tours the company’s history, is a hybrid assault/payload map. It will enter Overwatch‘s growing map list early next year, and should appear on the public test servers “soon.”
There’s also a new hero, Moira, heading to Overwatch. She’s a biotic support hero that can teleport across the map and shoot beams from her magic orbs that either heal or deal out damage. Kaplan claimed that she can deal a significant amount of damage, making Moira a versatile hero.
Her abilities include a biotic grasp to heal allies, biotic orb to either heal or do damage, fade to teleport, and her ultimate move coalescence, which deals long range damage and heals teammates.
There’s word yet on when Moira will be playable, though Blizzcon attendees can give her a go.
Blizzard also debuted a new Reinhardt-focused animated short called “Honor and Glory,” shown above. It tours the character’s history, and hints at how aspects of current maps came to be.
World of Warcraft Classic and new expansion
World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack closed out the show by revealing two huge announcements for the MMO.
Blizzard will recreate vanilla World of Warcraft on a new server dubbed World of Warcraft Classic, with the goal of delivering an authentic classic experience that brings players back to the way the game played at its original launch in 2004. While Blizzard is at work on this throwback experience now, no launch date was given.
The other big WoW announcement was the next expansion. Battle for Azeroth takes players to two new continents, Kul Tiras and Zandalar, and will include the ability to play as new races.
Two major new features will debut; Islands, and Warfronts. Both will pit players against the opposing faction, though the enemy will (usually) be AI-controlled, rather than other players. Warfronts, which support up to 20 players, are meant to riff of classic Warcraft gameplay, and will include base-building mechanics.
Battle for Azeroth will also have the usual buffet of new dungeons and raids, new “artifact armor,” and a level cap increase to 120. A launch date for new expansion was not provided, but it follows on the heels of the excellent 2016 Legion expansion.
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