This year’s BlizzCon didn’t exactly get off to a strong start. It’s worth noting I’ve experienced a significant traffic spike over the past two days, and from what I can tell it’s mostly from people Googling “BlizzCon disappointment” and similar phrases.
That said, for all the disappointment of the opening ceremony and the way Diablo is falling apart, there has been some good news in the subsequent talks and panels. World of Warcraft, especially, is coming out of the convention looking very good, despite being all but ignored by the opening ceremony.
The road ahead:
Blizzard amazed all and sundry by discussing not one, not two, but three upcoming content patches for WoW.
First up is patch 7.1.5, a minor patch adding a few tweaks and new systems. Brawler’s Guild will be returning with new content, which should excite both of the people who play it.
They’re also adding a new series of micro holidays that will only last for a day or two. They’re going out of their way to make these not particularly rewarding, even in regards to cosmetics. That’s nice in that it’s no big deal if you miss logging in for such brief events, but it makes me wonder what the point of these things even is.
Finally, the one thing in 7.1.5 that interests me is that Mists of Pandaria dungeons will now be included in Timewalking. Mists was probably the best dungeons have ever been, so that’s welcome.
Most of the big news, though, focuses on the next major patch: 7.2, Tomb of Sargeras. As the name would imply, we’ll return to the Broken Shore to confront the Legion at their beachhead. Obviously the Tomb will be a raid, with figures like Kil’jaeden and the Avatar of Sargeras as bosses.
I’m kind of not sure how to feel about this. Where do they even go from here? Like, how do you escalate from fighting basically the entire Legion command structure? This is only the second patch…
There will also be a new faction to grind reputation with, Legionfall. I’m already having flashbacks to the ungodly Suramar grind, but rep grinding seems to be par for the course this expansion, so I guess we’ll have to roll with it.
Otherwise, though, it’s looking like a really promising patch.
The best news is probably on the dungeon front. Not only is the Tomb of Sargeras going to have a five-man wing, the Cathedral of Eternal Night, which will not be mythic-only, but all current mythic-only dungeons will gain queueable heroic modes (Karazhan will be divided into two wings to make it more manageable).
This is simply fantastic news. The WoW developers learning from their mistakes is shocking enough, but the fact they’re doing so relatively quickly is all but unheard of. It’s almost like they have some humility, or they value all their players equally or something.
Furthering the impression that Blizzard may actually value multiple playstyles, the class storylines will continue in patch 7.2, and there will be a new artifact appearance earned through a difficult solo challenge. More emphasis on skill rather than grind is always a good thing.
Next, flying will return in 7.2. We don’t have a lot of details on what the second half of Pathfinder will entail, but I’m expecting a lot of rep grinding. Not looking forward to that, but I am glad that we now have a clear answer on flight’s fate, and that it isn’t something we’ll have to wait until the very end of the expansion for.
On top of that, we’ll also be getting unique class-specific flying mounts. Some will even have multiple variations for different specs.
Rogues will get a crow.
I’m not normally the sort of person who gets particularly excited about mounts, but crows are awesome, and a nice, unpretentious crow or raven mount has been my most-wanted mount for years now. The class mounts require exalted with Legionfall and completion of the new class story, so I doubt I’ll bother for most characters, but I need that crow in my life.
Another cool-sounding feature in 7.2 is the addition of Legion invasions. These will be similar to the pre-expansion event, but tied into the world quest system. They’ll only be in the Broken Isles, which is a bit of a shame, but the pre-expansion invasions were a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to these.
The final major addition currently announced for 7.2 is the addition of a PvP brawl mode, similar to the brawl modes that have proliferated to virtually every Blizzard game seemingly overnight.
I don’t PvP much, so I personally have no particular opinion on the matter, but I do not think this will go over well. WoW players are not the sort of people who like surprises or adapting to unusual mechanics. They like things safe, predictable, and rigidly balanced.
Overall, 7.2 is not without its worrying aspects, but overall it’s shaping up to be a very promising patch.
Lastly, they provided a brief teaser for the next major patch after 7.2: We’re going to Argus.
Not sure how to feel about this. Thanks to my enmity for the Draenei, I’ve long-dreaded the seemingly inevitable foray to their sparkly, lore-breaking homeworld. But I guess the silver lining is that it will just be a patch, not a whole expansion.
There’s been a bit more non-WoW news, as well.
Haunted Mines will at last be returning to Heroes of the Storm, with some tweaks to its design. I don’t play Heroes much anymore, but I always liked Haunted Mines, so it’s heartening on some level to see it returning.
Heroes is also getting some tweaks to its leveling mechanics. Hero levels will now be (nearly) infinite, levels past ten will be quicker to acquire, and every level will now have some form of reward. Seems pretty similar to Overwatch, but with less RNG. Sounds good.
Diablo is getting an absolutely bizarre new mode called challenge rifts. As I understand it, they’ll randomly select a player out of the entire game’s community, and then for the rest of the week everyone in the game will be able to play a clone of their character — same skills, same gear — to compete on leaderboards.
Otherwise, the Diablo fanbase is pretty much rioting and setting fire to cars right now. I’m still feeling pretty bitter myself. Reaper of Souls was so good, and I was so excited for what was to come. Now it looks Diablo III is simply being abandoned, at least as an actual RPG with a narrative.
I just don’t understand what’s going through the minds of the people at Blizzard. RoS was a big success by pretty much every conceivable metric. Why not keep the momentum up? Why are they just throwing in the towel?
I’ve actually been giving serious thought to writing my own fan fic “expansion”* just to satisfy my own sanity. Wouldn’t exactly be the first time I’ve done something like that.
*(With black! And hookers!)