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Sunday, November 06, 2016
BlizzCon franchise roundup
Posted: 11:16:00 PM 0 comments
BlizzCon was as amazing this year as it has ever been. From the Sombra announcement to Weird Al closing out the show, there was more than enough to do this year. What I wanted to do with this post is roundup the six game franchises and give some commentary on their current state, going from best to worst.

Overwatch


Everyone was expecting the release of the new champion Sombra, and sometimes when you're expecting something you really don't get too hype for it. Sombra's reveal was definitely NOT one of those times, because the hype was real. They started the opening ceremony with a retrospective video of Overwatch's release. I thought it was pretty fake, with a ridiculously setup war room, some equally ridiculous lines, and in general a lot of small things that tipped off "this was not real". Sure enough, the video started glitching out, and eventually blacked out entirely before playing the reveal video. Everyone loved it, and it was as amazing as I had hoped it to be.

Overwatch has taken off in popularity since its release, and the main reason is that it makes a genre that was previously associated with hardcore gamers accessible to casual gamers, while at the same time making sure not to lose the hardcore crowd. The Overwatch World Cup was played at BlizzCon, complete with their own mini-stadium built inside of one of the halls. Overwatch is turning into a juggernaut that is continuing to gain momentum with things like arcade mode, new maps, and new game modes. They are constantly tweaking their matchmaking algorithms, improving their server technology to make the game smoother, and listening to fan feedback.

World of Warcraft


While Overwatch has all the hype, World of Warcraft is an established brand that has endured for over 10 years. However, their last expansion, Warlords of Draenor, hmm... sucked. No really, it was awful. They lost a ton of players, released very little content, and seemed to have no plan for the future.

Legion, on the other hand, has been an amazing expansion, with the new artifact weapons, a world quest system to replace the daily quests, other systems inspired by Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm, and a ton of content. So, it was pretty telling when on the first day, Ion Hazzikostas took the main stage and spent an hour talking about what was coming to future patches, and did so by himself. He went over the next two patches, 7.1.5 and 7.2, the raid content we'd see in it, and even gave a teaser for a 7.3 patch. This expansion is simply blowing the last one out of the water - not that it would be too hard to do so - and it's clear there isn't going to be any kind of content drought for the foreseeable future. Right now, WoW is pressing all the right buttons, and backing up their words with new content. If you've been wondering whether to get back into WoW after the failure of Warlords of Draenor, the answer is clearly yes.

Heroes of the Storm


Heroes is an oddity in the Blizzard world. It draws upon all of their franchises to take on giants such as League of Legends and DotA2. And to be fair, it does a good job. Again, it's another case of bringing a genre of gaming that is more associated with the hardcore gamers to casual gamers. They announced adding Varian Wrynn and Ragnaros to the game at BlizzCon, and continue to add more variety to the way you can play the game.

What I find odd, though, is that unlike a first person shooter, having all these different ways to play Heroes of the Storm just doesn't appeal to me as much as it could. It lacks player progression, and compared to Overwatch is significantly more difficult to pick up the cosmetics. Not to mention that with as many heroes as there are in the game, the learning curve is really huge when it comes to trying to figure out what each hero does, and how to successfully play against them. Having multi-class heroes like Varian is only going to make the curve grow. On the flip side, there is a plethora of things to do in Heroes of the Storm, so if you enjoy the game you're going to continually have more to do.

Hearthstone


Hearthstone is a fun, lighthearted game that tries not to take itself too seriously. However, I personally find that the game tends to move too fast, with multiple expansions per year and a constantly changing meta game. The speed of the meta changing is not a new complaint, but with the new expansion announced at this BlizzCon, that speed doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.

To me, Hearthstone is an incredible time sink if you choose to play it. Not only do you have to stay current on the meta, but you spend time analyzing your cards and assemble decks with hopes that you will put together something that will be useful. Not to mention the investment - either time or money - required to get the cards you need to be competitive. Hearthstone can be amazing fun, but to remain competitive you really have to be ready to make the commitment.

Starcraft


Starcraft II is definitely waning in terms of new things happening. Sure, the modding scene is pretty active, but there were no announcements related to Starcraft II, if you don't count the DeepMind announcement. They have completed the story with the 3 chapters of the game but do occasionally add new mission packs to the game which are fairly popular. However, this won't sustain the game forever, and unless they're thinking about moving along to the next chapter in the Starcraft series, there isn't going to be much to talk about when it comes to Starcraft any time soon. At least their e-sports scene is thriving.

Diablo


Where there is little to talk about for Starcraft, there is much to talk about with Diablo, and it's not very good. Diablo III has become a stale game, with the meta being exactly the same for the past 4 seasons. While they are adding some nice feel good elements such as the annual Diablo I event or the Necromancer, it really isn't clear what they have planned to allow the game to remain relevant. Challenge Rifts were a good thought, but even that will become stale after some time.

Diablo III almost seems like the red-headed stepchild of Blizzard. They have no e-sports scene, the content that gets added to the game tends to pale in comparison to other games, the meta has become stale, and they're even losing some of their top players to boredom. Are they doing enough to keep fans of the game playing it?

On the flip side, this sure feels awfully familiar. It's a long content drought, like those we'd get at the end of an expansion for World of Warcraft. Blizzard isn't dumb, they know when a game they've made is losing its appeal, and they tend to do something about it. They already did it with Reaper of Souls. Perhaps the next expansion or game is just around the corner?

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