BlizzCon 2014: Blizzard Announces New IP Overwatch and StarCraft II Expansion

blizzcon-bannerThis weekend was the annual ode to all things Blizzard known as BlizzCon. While most developers and publishers use platforms like E3, Gamescom, the Tokyo Game Show and even CES to announce and show off their upcoming creations, Blizzard waits until their annual November gathering to do so.

At the 2014 edition of BlizzCon, Blizzard had a few tricks up their sleeve. First was the announcement of their brand new IP, Overwatch, the reveal of the third part of StarCraft II and a bit more news about Heroes of the Storm and the Warcraft movie.

The biggest news coming out of BlizzCon was likely the announcement of Overwatch. The game represents the first new IP announced by Blizzard in 17 years. Sure, they’ve come out with World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm in the interim but each of those were based on existing Blizzard IPs.

overwatch-promo-01Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter that is stylized to look a bit like a Pixar movie. Others quickly drew the comparison to Valve’s Team Fortress 2.

Overwatch is a 6v6 team shooter where the aim isn’t so much sounding like team deathmatch as it is focusing on various objectives (in a way, that makes it similar to their MOBA Heroes of the Storm) such as capturing points or pushing a payload to the enemy base in a tug-of-war style mode.

The twelve characters (so far) have different classes, each wield one weapon but all have a few abilities to choose from. Reportedly, each character feels very unique to play from every other one. Making things a bit more interesting is that players can change their characters when they’ve died or entered the spawning area. Theoretically, you could start as an assault character, switch to support/healer in the mid-game and end as a tank if you really wanted to.

Considering that this is Blizzard’s first attempt at a first-person shooter, early impressions indicate that everything could use a bit of a polish, especially movement speed, but the gunplay is pretty good for a team who doesn’t have a lot of internal experience with the mechanics.

The game’s beta is scheduled for launch at some point in 2015 and sign ups for the beta are already on the game’s website.

It wouldn’t be BlizzCon (or a Blizzard blog post on et geekera) is we didn’t mention StarCraft II. Blizzard’s big eSport (until Heroes of the Storm goes beta and the competitive scene grows) had its World Championship Series Global Finals this weekend that saw the Anaheim Convention Centre Arena packed with SC2 fans but that wasn’t the big SC2 news that had people talking.

We all knew that Legacy of the Void, the third and final of the three-part StarCraft II saga, would be coming at some point but I don’t think that anyone expected it within two years of releasing Heart of the Storm.

LotV is going to be a standalone expansion that will work in conjunction with the existing Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm if you have them installed. However, it won’t be mandatory to have them to play Legacy of the Void.

Anyway, the LotV single-player campaign is the Protoss-focused campaign which will star Hierarch Artanis who is leading a Protoss fleet to take back their homeworld of Aiur while trying to save the galaxy from complete annihilation. You know, your everyday fare for a species of hyperadvanced humanoid aliens.

starcraft-2-lotv-cycloneThe big changes everyone is talking about comes on the multiplayer side. Each side is getting new or upgraded units. A series of showmatches at BlizzCon showed that the new Terran units might be a bit overpowered but they didn’t seem unstoppable. It seems as though the new units and changes are designed to be micro intensive and force more smaller skirmishes around the map to increase viewability. The biggest change is that games will start with 12 workers and mineral patches have had available resources turned down by one-third in order to force fast expansions.

There are also new multiplayer game modes in LotV. Instead of standard 2v2, you can have 2v2 with each controlling a single base and race in Archon Mode. It’s just like an Archon in that you and a friend will combine to control one set of units in a two heads are better than one scenario. There is a campaign-style co-op mode that hasn’t been really detailed but has been announced. There will also be daily tournaments run by Blizzard automatically through the game.

No beta date has been officially announced but it was reported that the beta would start in early 2015 (perhaps as soon as January) with a full release believed to be coming by mid to late 2015, possibly in time to be used for some portion of WCS 2015.

Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s cross-IP free-to-play MOBA, got some exciting news for the millions and millions of MOBA and Blizzard fans who have been left out in the cold by the limited availability of spots in the game’s alpha.

The closed beta for Heroes will start on January 13, 2015. Blizzard is taking it’s time getting the game right but I seem to recall that the Hearthstone closed beta lasted six months before going open. Another two months after that marked the full release of the game. I don’t expect Heroes to go that quickly from closed to open to full release because MOBAs seem to have long beta periods and it’s already been in alpha for as long as Hearthstone was in beta.

Also coming soon is the addition of Ranked Play and Draft Mode in the near future. Ranked play and draft mode go hand in hand with each other and MOBAs. If anything, it represents a next step for Heroes as it nears release.

In other H(eroes)OTS news, Blizzard announced four new heroes that are being added soon that would bring that count up to 35. They also announced three new maps that will be added to the game in the near future to bring that total up to eight. Something tells me that a Heroes eSport would be pretty neat as you could add StarCraft style map vetoes and selection as part of a series.

Hearthstone wasn’t left out of the BlizzCon action. Blizzard announced a new expansion for the card game called Goblins vs. Gnomes.

Unlike Curse of Naxxramas, this isn’t a single-player adventure but a new set of 120 cards that will be added to the game for you to play with. The expansion is effectively free as you can buy, win or craft the cards being added to the game. Or maybe I should say that Goblins vs. Gnomes is as free as the rest of the base game.

Goblins vs. Gnomes is scheduled for a December release.

And the Warcraft movie, which is currently scheduled for a 2016 release, had a cast unveiling at a BlizzCon panel.

Starring for The Alliance in the movie will be Travis Fimmel as Lothar, Ben Foster as Medivh, Dominic Cooper King Llane, Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar and Paula Patton as Garona. On The Horde side of the movie are Toby Kebbel as Durotan, Rob Kazinsky (who is a big WoW fan and gamer) as Orgrim, Daniel Wu as Gul’Dan and Clancy Brown as Blackhand the Destroyer.

I’m not much of a Warcraft (or WoW) guy so none of this means anything to me. I’m just hoping that this movie does well with critics, gamers and at the box office alike. I’d hate to see the video game movies die a complete death so one of them has to turn out well eventually.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on November 10, 2014, in Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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