BlizzCon 2017: ‘World of Warcraft’ expansion, ‘Hearthstone’ update coming up
Blizzard Entertainment announced plans for a “World of Warcraft” expansion called “Battle of Azeroth”, a big “Hearthstone” update for December, and a free version of “StarCraft II”, as well as new characters for “Overwatch” and “Heroes of the Storm” at its annual fan convention last Friday.
As expected, a new expansion has been announced for Blizzard’s subscription-based, massively multiplayer online game “World of Warcraft”.
Titled “Battle for Azeroth”, the expansion is likely to hit late 2018, which would keep it on the same sort of announcement and release cycle as previous “WoW” add-ons.
There are a pair of new islands to explore, six new character races split between the game’s two factions, a higher level cap of 120 (new characters can jump straight to level 110 if required) and two new modes to delve into: a randomized, repeatable Island Expeditions raid, and a resource-gathering Warfronts mode inspired by strategy predecessor “Warcraft 3”.
On the subject of franchise nostalgia, Blizzard committed to “World of Warcraft Classic”, an official retrospective version of the 13-year-old “World of Warcraft”, acknowledging the influence of community groups that had started and maintained their own legacy versions of the game.
“World of Warcraft” might have become the modern foundation for Blizzard’s success but it is the team action game “Overwatch” that has been in the spotlight since an exciting 2016 launch.
Irish scientist Moira will be the latest addition to a growing character roster; fictitious theme park venue Blizzard World, which features every Blizzard game save “Overwatch” itself, will be the newest arena.
Intense sci-fi real-time strategy “StarCraft II” is preparing to welcome a new cohort of players when it goes free-to-play on Nov. 14.
Specifically, it’s 2010’s initial “StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty” which is now available for free in its entirety with gated access to multiplayer and co-op (an improvement on the current “StarCraft II: Starter Edition”) while existing players will receive subsequent expansion campaign “Heart of the Swarm” for nothing should they check in before Dec. 8, 2017.
Like “World of Warcraft”, digital card game “Hearthstone” harks back to classic fantasy in its next expansion, December’s “Kobolds & Catacombs”.
As well as 135 new cards which bring new skills and weapons into the fray, there’s a new solo mode in which players defeat eight consecutive boss monsters within the confines of a randomly generated underground complex.
Finally, Blizzard’s contribution to the free-to-play MOBA scene, one dominated by eSports giants “Dota 2” and “League of Legends”, is “Heroes of the Storm”.
It trades intensity and fame for more manageable 20 minute rounds, and by the end of the year welcomes two additional heroes from elsewhere in the Blizzard pantheon: Japanese archer Hanzo from “Overwatch” and dragon queen Alexstrasza from “World of Warcraft”. JB