Blizzard went big at GamesCom this year. While the European Expo has played host to Activision/Blizzard in the past, most of the attention is lavished on the Skylanders, Call Of Duty and (since last year) Destiny franchises. Blizzard attend, sure, but this year the Irvine Publisher went widescreen, making a ton of announcements and establishing a dominant presence in Hall 7 of The Koelnmesse. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re a fan of any of Blizzard’s games:
1. World Of Warcraft is getting a new expansion
Blizzard traditionally hogs a lot of the biggest announcement for its end of the year party in Anaheim, California: BlizzCon. So it was something of a surprise to see it crash the GamesCom keynote party with the announcement that World Of Warcraft – its world-conquering MMO – is about to get a new expansion in the form of Legion.
If you’re not a massive WOW-head, this news will be of little interest to you, but if you’re part of the Azeroth faithful, you may be feeling a little giddy with excitement. The new expansion sees the return of the Burning Legion to Azeroth, led by the demon Illidan and follows directly on from the events of the last expansion, The Warlords Of Draenor. Along with the usual additions WOW players expect from expansion packs – new quests, new raids and dungeons, a new continent (The Broken Isles) and a raised level cap (this time to 110) – Legion also come armed with a new character class, The Demon Hunter, powerful artifact weapons and a new Honor system for the PVP mode. Oh, and it’s likely to eat up a fairly large chunk of the time of anyone who plays it.
2. The Grand Tournament is going to change how you play Hearthstone
Blizzard announced a while back that it was planning a new expansion set for its virtual card-combat game Hearthstone called The Grand Tournament. At GamesCom we finally managed to play a few rounds using the new cards and we can report that they’re probably going to change the way a lot of players tackle the game. At the very least, they’ll need to tinker with a few of their decks.
First up there are a couple of new mechanics players should be aware of: Joust and Inspire. Joust cards, when played, prompt both players to pull a card from their deck and, if the person playing the Joust card has a higher Mana Cost value, the Joust minion they play gets a couple of boosts – such as Divine Shield, or a Taunt, or in some instances, both. This means that if you’re used to playing low cost decks – such as Warrior Patron or ZooLock – you’ll find yourself in trouble early on as your cheap minions will gift your opponent a ton of in-game bonuses. Then there’s the Inspire mechanic, which activates whenever the player uses their Hero Power. This means you could have several cards pinging off attacks simply by spending two Mana on a Fireball. Two Mana and you can bring down a world of hurt. Best get redesigning those decks…
3. Heroes Of The Storm is getting new heroes and a new battleground
Blizzard also announced that its compelling MOBA, Heroes Of The Storm (Or HOtS to you) has some new additions to it. First up, Rexxar, the Beastmaster from Warcraft will be added as a ranged warrior and he’ll bring with him his pet bear, Misha. According to Blizzard, Rexxar’s fuzzy companion isn’t merely a cosmetic addition, she’s integral to his effectiveness, acting as a shield against damage and an extra attack. The Monk from Diablo III is also joining the fight; Kharazim, as he’s known, is going to be a melee support character. The Protoss Templar Artanis from Starcraft rounds out the trio and while Blizzard haven’t been too forthcoming about his abilities, they hinted that he’ll be a warrior class Hero.
Alongside the new Heroes, there’ll be a bunch of new skins and mounts added, as well as a new battleground in the form of Infernal Shrines, which is themed on the area The Sanctuary in Diablo III of the same name. According to the blurb on Battle.net, Infernal Shrines is a three-lane Arena featuring three shrines that will periodically gather power. Teams can then tap into this power by taking over a shrine and killing its guardians. This action summons something called a ‘Punisher’ to fight for their team – we’re betting it’s not a dude wearing a black T-Shirt with a skull on it.
4. Overwatch has a new character
When it was first unveiled at BlizzCon last year, Overwatch was arguably something of a shock to the Blizzard faithful. Not only was Blizzard making an FPS, but its visual style was a million miles away from any of the games the developer had previously created; its Anime-meets-Pixar aesthetic attracted as many players as it put off.
At GamesCom, Blizzard went big with Overwatch, installing a massive booth and allowing players to get hands on with its new asymmetrical team-based tactical shooter. Furthermore it unveiled a new character: Lucio, a dreadlock-sporting DJ on rollerskates who can wall-run and glide through the map strafing multiple enemies. How the heck Blizzard plans to balance Overwatch remains something of a mystery, but we can’t wait to get our hands on the beta when it goes live later this year.
5. Starcraft 2: Legacy Of The Void is coming out this year
It seems that the beta testing for the third installment in Blizzard’s RTS franchise has been going well, because the publisher announced in a conference call last week that Legacy Of The Void will see release in 2015. There’s no solid information about what day and what month the game will launch, but we now know we’ll be able to play it before 2016.
Furthermore, Legacy Of The Void is getting a brand new co-op mode called Allied Commanders. In it, players will take control of heroes from the franchise – such as Jim Raynor, Kerrigan and Artanis – and they’ll have to work together to finish missions that they won’t be able to cane on their own. Here’s hoping Zeratul is a playable character…