BlizzCon: Legacy of the Void and Overwatch

Blizzcon wrapped up this weekend, with plenty of news on all fronts. We got a teaser for the Warcraft movie, new loot and levels for Diablo, and expansions for the Hearthstone card game.

The biggest news of the event came on the first day though; in the form of the final campaign for StarCraft 2 and the reveal of Blizzard’s first new IP in 17 years.

Let’s start with StarCraft.

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Legacy of the Void
is the latest and final installment in the SC2 trilogy. Following on the heels of Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void finally allows players to take control of the scattered and disconnected Protoss tribes.

As far as new gameplay goes, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to mention. The usual tweaks and refinements that come with a competitive RTS game are there, as well as some new units. Zerg fanatics and OG SC players will be thrilled to hear about the return of the Lurker unit, and an interesting new mode of play called Archon will allow players to link up in teams of two and control a single base. Something that, if memory serves, was possible to do on the N64 version of the original StarCraft. There isn’t anything really groundbreaking about this game. Blizzard has more or less perfected the competitive RTS genre, and while it remains incredibly popular in Korea and certain circles of Western gamers, it looks like they’re ready to wrap up their epic Sci-Fi series and move on to other things.

Speaking of other things…

Attendees at Blizzcon and the thousands of fans streaming the event were treated to something rare on Friday afternoon.

For the first time in 17 years, longer than many gamers have even been alive, Blizzard is set to unleash a new IP. The announcement began with an animated and a clearly excited Chris Metzen walking on stage. After the usual speech about the history of the company, how much he loves gaming, and how eager he is to share the future with us, Metzen stepped back and a trailer began rolling on the screen.

The trailer, which shared a visual style and themes akin to a Pixar movie, opened up under intense scrutiny and left many viewers scratching their heads. Two wide eyed children walk through a brightly lit and vibrant museum that shortly becomes a battle featuring an armoured gorilla, a cute and bubbly cockney girl rocking a jetpack and blaster pistols and two classically evil and darkly coloured villains. The company that gave us the Lord of Terror and world devouring hordes of spiked and scaly aliens appeared to be entering the realm of children’s movies.

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Enter Overwatch.

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Scattered and forced applause followed. Surely this is a joke. This is not Blizzard, this is Disney. We waited 17 years for this?

However, trailers aren’t everything, and a video showcasing the actual gameplay followed the confusing and underwhelming trailer.

What new and innovative tools will Blizzard be bringing to this generation of gamers? What kind of crazy, creative and groundbreaking gameplay will we get to experience over the next several years?

The answer is basically a reskinned Team Fortress 2. Overwatch looks to be a class based, 6v6 team shooter. There are plenty of unique and wonderful character designs, the levels look fabulous and the combat looks varied, tactical and unique. You’ve got support classes, like the medic and engineer, and heavy classes, sniper classes, and your stealth characters. While it definitely looks good, and will certainly be tested to infinity to ensure quality, it just seems like this has been done before. We expect more from Blizzard, Overwatch is just not at all what anyone saw coming; we wanted something different, we wanted something darker, we wanted something original.

Another worry surrounding the game is the potential for Overwatch to follow the F2P model ala League of Legends, where the game itself would be free but characters, weapons and the like will all cost money; a lucrative option for the company, but bad news for fans who dislike this style of constant micropayments and transactions. While not actually confirmed by Blizzard at the event, it was not denied either.

The beta won’t be open until 2015, and Blizzard has never dropped the ball before, so I’ll wait with trepidation to see how Overwatch turns out. I have to be honest though, as much fun as it looks, I’m worried about the payment model and still underwhelmed that this is what gamers are getting from one of the most respected and successful game developers on the planet. Maybe expectations were too high, and there’s definitely a lot they aren’t saying, but so far, I’m not stoked on Overwatch.