Blizzcon: Starcraft, Diablo, and More Mists of Pandaria

Blizzcon:

Yesterday, I posted about the announcement of Mists of Pandaria as the next WoW expansion. Today, I’ll cover some of the other highlights coming out of Blizzcon, as well as elaborate on a few points about the pandas.

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm:

I may mostly discuss WoW on this blog, but I’m also a big Starcraft fan. Blizzard owns all of my soul, not just some of it. So I was quite interested in the new Starcraft info at Blizzcon.

First, we got a nice new trailer. It doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know in terms of plot or gameplay, but it looks pretty, and it was quite nerdgasmic to see Kerrigan in all her rage-fueled glory. I’m a big Battlestar Galactica fan, and I love Tricia Helfer as Kerrigan.

Next, the new multiplayer units were revealed. They sound cool now, but if there’s one thing we learned from Wings of Liberty, it’s that the cool units will be nerfed into oblivion for the sake of balance. I know they have to do it, but it puts a damper on these things.

The Zerg gain two units, the viper and the swarm host. The viper is an aerial caster to replace overseers. Its most entertaining ability is probably “abduct,” which allows it to grab enemies and pull them out of unit balls so that the zerglings can nom on them. The swarm host is a burrowed siege unit that continually spawns mini-units to attack nearby enemies. Swarmtacular.

The Terrans get two new units, the warhound and the shredder, as well as a tougher “battle mode” for Hellions. The warhound is analogous to a small thor; if you played the original Starcraft, they’ll greatly remind you of goliaths. The shredder is an odd kind of mobile, area of effect defense structure. Sounds hard to balance. Terran doesn’t lose any units per se, but you will now only be able to have one thor at a time, similar to Protoss motherships now, so it’s likely no one will bother using them.

Protoss loses both the mothership and the carrier (sad face) and gains three units. The tempest is a capitol ship that has an AoE attack for use against other air units and a single target attack for ground. Sounds cool, but I’d rather they just find a way to make carriers useful. The oracle is a flying caster/harassment unit. It doesn’t actually do any damage, but it can shut down buildings and interfere with economies. Finally, the replicant is a unit capable of duplicating any other non-massive unit, complete with all their abilities and attributes. (“Hmm, nice siege tank; I think I’ll take it.”) This seems like a gimmick unit that will be impossible to balance.

There will also be many changes to and new abilities for existing units. For example, ultralisks now have an underground charge ability. I’m honestly more excited about the upgrades to old units than the new units. After the mothership fiasco, I refuse to get excited about cool new units.

Diablo III:

A quick piece of backstory: I played Diablo II many years ago and despised the one-dimensional, grindy gameplay, but Diablo III intrigued me a little. Then Blizzard came out with an offer where I could get it for free for signing up for a year of WoW.

I care about Diablo now.

I haven’t been following the game too closely, so I don’t know much about it, but I can tell you there was a lovely new trailer at Blizzcon. I don’t even really know what’s going on in this trailer, but holy crap the CG is beautiful.

Mists of Pandaria: After the dust settles:

After the frenzied pandemonium of yesterday (no, I won’t stop making these jokes; sorry), I’ve had time to think about the expansion. There are a few things I’d like to elaborate on.

The design philosophy: I love it. They seem to be embracing choice and casual play over the hardcore, raid-centric endgame of the previous expansions. The idea seems to be to do what you want, when you want. This is what the game needs.

The lore: This really worries me. I don’t want another pretty expansion with no real story. *Glares at Burning Crusade.* But it seems like that’s what we’re getting. Warcraft is supposed to be about epic story-telling. Running around DrunkenPandaLand with no real goal in mind is not epic.

There’s a theory going around that we, the Horde and the Alliance, may be the villains of Mists of Pandaria. One of the new monster types is going to be the sha, a kind of negative spirit that are drawn to violence and conflict. The theory goes that us bringing our war to Pandaria will begin summoning massive numbers of sha, threatening to destroy Pandaria. We will be forced to reexamine our old hatreds, lest our foolhardy wars consume all of Azeroth.

This would be a lovely return to the morality play style of storytelling we saw in Warcraft III, and I’d love for it to be true, but I don’t think Blizzard is clever enough for this anymore.

The talent changes: Very mixed feelings here. I love the customization that comes with the talents being mostly utility with no direct impact on your damage, healing, or tanking. I’m sure theorycrafters will still find the “right” choices, but the penalty for choosing “wrong” choices should be much lower.

Also, SHADOWSTEP FOR ALL ROGUES SHADOWSTEP FOR ALL ROGUES SHADOWSTEP FOR ALL ROGUES!!!!11!1!

On the other hand, only getting one talent per fifteen levels is going to really suck the fun out of leveling, and I really don’t relish having to wait 90 levels for the best toys.

Furthermore, while I know the talents aren’t set in stone, they sound pretty lame for most classes right now, with a few major exceptions, such as death knights. AoE death grip that does damage, Remorseless Winter… Holy crap; can you say overpowered?

I know, I know. None of it’s final yet.

So, yeah, I still don’t know how I feel about these talents.

* * *

So, what do you think? How are you liking this year’s Blizzcon announcements? Pro-panda or anti-panda? Looking forward to new talents or hating them? Excited for Diablo? Mourning the carrier or hoping to roflstomp mutalisks with your tempests?

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