BlizzCon 2019 is here! After a rather lackluster 2018, there has been a great deal of speculation on how Blizzard would make up for it this year. It is safe to say that congoers and players around the world have lofty expectations. My own predictions (found here) had Blizzard coming out on top and putting on a fantastic show.
Before Blizzard was able to announce anything during the opening ceremony, there was a giant elekk in the room to address. The recent controversy surrounding Blizzard’s treatment of Hearthstone esports pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, and the firing of the two casters Virtual and Mr. Yee announcing his game. The internet quickly questioned Blizzard’s actions which led many to boycott the company and lead protests at this year’s convention. Blizzard’s president, J. Allen Brack, was quick to address the situation at the start of the ceremony.
Brack admitted that the situation was one that could have brought the world together and they did not. Further, he said, “We moved too quickly in our decision-making and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. We didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves.” Sitting in the audience in Hall D, the apology seemed sincere. Brack looked to be almost in tears as he gave his apology, stopping throughout to gather himself. The crowd allowed him to finish without issue and applauded even has he encouraged congoers to express their opinions freely throughout the weekend. With that, the announcements began!
It is finally official. BlizzCon 2019 opened with a cinematic that was arguably one of the best I have ever seen. Despite technical difficulties, while it was playing that led to 15 seconds or so to be unviewable, the Diablo team put together a truly dark cinematic that lived up to the Diablo brand. So much so that prior to the opening ceremony, signs were littered throughout the Anaheim convention center that let congoers know that there would be images not suitable for children in the opening ceremony.
Following the cinematic that introduced players to Lilith the embodiment of the devil, Blizzard assured the audience that the franchise would be returning to its darker roots. Pulling from all three previous games, Blizzard hopes to provide an experience that will make the community proud. With all that was provided in the gameplay trailer, I have to believe them.
Players can expect a post-Diablo III world that offers darkness, world, and legacy. There were majors pops from the crowd as PvP zones and three playable classes at the convention (barbarian, sorcerer, and druid) were announced. No release or beta details were given, however, players looking to get dark and sinister can expect to do on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.
Starcraft II / Heroes of the Storm
Much as I predicted earlier in the year, there wasn’t a lot of hype surrounding the Starcraft II/Heroes of the Storm announcements. While all Starcraft II fan eyes will be on the World Championship, congoers can test their skills against Deepmind AI. The artificial ingredients are said to be better than 98% of the population and plays the game at a grandmaster level. Heroes of the Storm announced Deathwing as the next playable character. All attendees and virtual ticket holders will have him upon release.
Warcraft III Reforged
As the game was announced last year, there wasn’t too much new in the opening ceremony. However, the game will be going into beta very soon. Further, attendees and virtual ticket holders will get access to the beta on Tuesday. The game will playable throughout the convention in a 1v1 PvP demo.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
With the recent addition of WoW: Classic early this year, BlizzCon 2019’s WoW announcements are essentially two-fold; time for retail and time for a classic. Before the discussion surrounding the two games, Blizzard announced a partnership with WE and Make A Wish. Through the rest of the year, all proceeds from the purchase of a new alpaca in-game pet will go to both charities. WoW: Classic will receive a big update on November 12. This update will include the addition of world bosses and the introduction of the long-awaited honor system. Dire Maul was recently introduced and open for congoers to play.
The retail version of World of Warcraft will get a new expansion next year: World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. In another fantastic cinematic, congers were left in awe as Sylvannas Windrunner ripped the Helm of Domination from Bolvar Fordragon at the top of Ice Crown Citadel. Contrary to my own belief, Sylvannas split the helmet in two. Consequently, the sky split apart as well as opening Azeroth to the Shadowlands.
Heroes of Azeroth will have to enter into the release of the departed and battle ancient foes. As with expansion, there will be new zones, instances, as well as new ways to interact with the factions in the Shadowlands called covenants. One of the new zones named Bastion will available to play at the convention. Shadowlands is now available for prepurchase and will be released next year.
Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons
Hearthstone had its share of announcements that were a given and some may not have expected. Players can expect to see a new expansion, Descent of the Dragon, in the near future. The expansion will round out the year of the dragon and show an end to the League of Evil and League of Explorers conflict in Dragonblight. Announcements for expansion included the addition of the Galakrond, the Nightmare hero card. The card will work with a new synergy called invoke that will improve the benefits of Galakrond prior to play. Further, each class can expect their own legendary dragon. Prepurchase of the expansion is now live.
The more surprising announcement is that Blizzard will be tackling the auto battler genre through Hearthstone. A new 8-player PvP mode called Battleground will be introduced to combat the likes of Teamfight Tactics and Autochess. Beta access will start November 12 while attendees and virtual ticket holders will get access November 5. Further, attendees will be able to play the new game mode at the convention.
Probably coming as no surprise given the leaks, BlizzCon 2019 made Overwatch 2 official. Jeff Kaplan himself joked that when he heard about the leaks that he essentially was Sylvannas from the Shadowlands trailer but instead of the Helm of Damnation he wanted to rip apart his phone. That being said, he was in good spirits and excited to show talk about the changes to Overwatch.
To ring in the new game, a final beautiful cinematic showed the members of Overwatch coming back together to defend Paris from a Null Sector invasion. Overwatch 2 will feature story missions, hero missions, talent trees, upgradable abilities, a new PvP mode, and multiple new heroes. There is a clear message that Blizzard is attempting to give players a unique PvE experience while steadily improving PvP in casual and competitive play. Additionally, we got a glimpse of our first new here: Sojourn (pictured above).
One of the biggest worries for the announcement for Overwatch 2 was what would happen to the original. So often we see sequels make the previous obsolete. Blizzard may have the answer to that problem. All owners of the original game will still be able to play all of the new maps and heroes available in Overwatch 2. Further, those who decide to make the transition to Overwatch 2 will have all of their cosmetics transfer over. There truly is a commitment to not leave any Overwatch player behind.
With day one in the books, stay tuned for more BlizzCon 2019 coverage.