BlizzCon 2019 Leaves Me With Mixed Feelings

This is a sad day. While it may have had its disappointments before, BlizzCon has always felt a bit like Christmas morning to me. But nowadays Blizzard’s games have strayed far from what made me love them, and after they started creeping on female employees’ periods and stomping free speech to appease China’s government, I’ve decided to tentatively boycott future purchases.

A preview of Overwatch 2's new Sojourn heroStill, I’m watching the coverage. I have to for work if nothing else. The reveals so far give me a bit of hope, but perhaps not enough to turn things around for my dying love of Blizzard.

Yes, J. Allen Brack did open the convention with an apology for their screw-up regarding Hong Kong, and to be fair, he sounded pretty sincere. But waiting until now undermines that sincerity, and so far that apology is not backed up by any action. I’ll need to wait and see if this really changes my opinion in the long term.

Before I go any further, I will mention I’ve had a terrible week filled with health problems and other misery, so if I’m bit more ruthless in my rantiness than usual, I apologize.

Diablo IV:

Huge disappointment.

Everything about this reeks of an attempt to appease the edgelord fanboys who didn’t like Diablo III. It feels like they’re basically trying to pretend D3 didn’t happen. No returning characters, no indication that they’re picking up where Reaper of Souls’ cliff-hanger left off, no mention of the growing power of the Nephalem, no mention of saving Leah’s soul, no reckoning with Imperius.

A screenshot from Diablo IVOh, yes, and skill points are back, so you rest assured that once again get your build from Google and feel superior to everyone who didn’t! Who needs flexibility and meaningful customization?!?

Even the environments feel painfully uncreative. Just the same moors and deserts every Diablo game is apparently required to have. Take us to Xiansai or Skovos and I’d actually be excited.

Honestly, if Diablo III hadn’t happened, this would be an exciting sequel to Diablo II. But in a world where Diablo III exists, this feels like a step backwards in every possible way.

Except the graphics. Those are pretty awesome-looking.

Shadowlands:

I’m not sure how I feel about the new World of Warcraft expansion.

For most of the cinematic, I was terrified they were just going to make Sylvanas the Lich Queen, which would have been the Worst Twist Ever, but then… then things got interesting.

The cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft: ShadowlandsFrom a lore perspective, Shadowlands looks genuinely intriguing. Delving into the afterlife to confront a heretofore unknown threat is daring. It reminds me of Mists of Pandaria; it’s a setting we’ve heard of before, so it doesn’t feel like a total ass-pull, but we know basically nothing about it, so it’s a total blank slate to create new lore and stories.

That is deeply appealing.

On the other hand, Shadowlands appears to be the most unambitious expansion to date in terms of gameplay features. No new race, class, or even allied races.

The only new feature of any note appears to be Covenants, which sound like Legion’s class hall campaigns but fewer in number and therefore theoretically more fleshed out. That does sound cool, though. Encourages alt play, which I like.

Not sure that’s enough to win me back to WoW at this point, though. If they’d announced a permanent end to the faction conflict, or free to play, or an end to the restrictions on flying, I’d be ready to hop on the bandwagon, but as it is I’m on the fence on Shadowlands.

Arcturus Mengsk:

So after years of people asking for Valerian to be playable in StarCraft II co-op, we instead get… his father, who worked for Amon, the villain of co-op.

The Dominion Fleet calldown ability in StarCraft II co-op missions.Sure. That makes sense.

I don’t really feel the need for new commanders in co-op at this point, so I won’t be heartbroken if the new ones are no good, but yeah… this was not a good choice.

Overwatch 2:

Somewhat surprisingly this is what has me most tempted to break my boycott right now.

First off, that cinematic trailer was bloody amazing. Overwatch cinematics usually are, but this one takes the cake. Epic, fun, emotional. I loved Tracer posting a picture of her girlfriend in the cockpit of her jet.

Overwatch 2 itself is essentially a huge expansion pack for the original game that fleshes it out to what it should have been at launch. There will now be a story campaign and repeatable co-op missions that sound a lot like StarCraft II’s co-op.

This is what I wanted Overwatch to be from the start. Finally we’ll get to advance the story and explore this beautiful world Blizzard created.

Oh, yeah, and we’re getting Canadian representation. There’s a new Toronto map that looks fantastic — TTC streetcars! A Jamaican restaurant! — and if I’m not mistaken I’m pretty sure I saw a red maple leaf badge on the new hero, Sojourn.

A preview of Overwatch 2's Toronto mapYeah, this could win me back.

My one concern — aside from Blizzard’s recent scumminess in general — is that it looks you can’t solo the story missions, which could make for an unpleasant experience. SWTOR taught us how well story-driven experiences work with four player PUGs (poorly).

We’ll see what other news comes out over the coming days and weeks. If this BlizzCon had come in a different context, I would be far more impressed. As is, it’s a struggle for them to crawl out of the hole they’ve dug themselves… but there might be a sliver of hope yet.

TV: What I’ve Been Watching

Been watching a bunch of different shows in the sci-fi/fantasy vein lately. Rather than spamming my blog with half a dozen different review posts, I thought I’d throw together a list of my quick and dirty thoughts on each. Presented in no particular order:

The cast of Glitch season twoWu Assassins, season one:

Cheesy kung fu show that’s fun if you don’t think about it too hard. I mostly enjoyed it, but it did falter a lot in the later episodes.

I’m really getting fed up with how ridiculously short most TV seasons are becoming these days. Among other problems, it leads to very rushed stories, and Wu Assassins is a particularly egregious example.

There’s about three seasons of good story here, but it’s all crammed into ten episodes, and it just becomes a mess. Stuff just happens without any explanation of how or why. Characters change sides or evolve into completely different people without any foreshadowing or natural development. Interesting new plot threads are over before they start.

The fight scenes are good, and it’s got a certain kitschy charm, so I’d probably watch a second season if it gets made, but boy this show wasted so much of its potential.

Killjoys, season three:

Dutch and D'avin in KilljoysIt had been so long since I watched Killjoys that I’d forgotten most of the plot, but it doesn’t really matter because there isn’t much of a plot to begin with. Upon being reacquainted with the show, I was once again reminded of how spectacularly mediocre Killjoys is.

The last two seasons are available for me to stream, but I’m not sure I’ll bother. It’s clear by now this show is never going to get any better. In fact it’s slowly getting worse as they continue to gradually write out all the secondary cast members, which were the only thing memorable about the show.

The fact Killjoys survived and Dark Matter didn’t is just tragic.

Disenchantment, part two:

I was a bit disappointed with part two of Disenchantment.

The trade-off of Disenchantment is that it’s got fewer jokes than The Simpsons and Futurama, but it makes up for that with an engaging ongoing plot and good character development. But fully half of this season is standalone episodes that don’t contribute to either. They’ve very forgettable.

A promotional image for Netflix's DisenchantmentOn the plus side, the episode in hell is great, and the cliffhanger is pretty good. Also Jerry is the best.

Glitch, season three:

It had been so long since season two of Glitch that I kind of assumed it had been cancelled. Then one day boom there’s season three on Netflix. I didn’t realize until the last episode this is also the final season of the series.

The good news is that season three is more akin to the second season than the first. It’s well-paced and advances the plot at a good clip, without wasting too much time on soap opera style angst. The acting and character development continue to be outstanding, with Kirstie once again being a particular standout.

The bad news is that it’s a great season right up until the ending, which is a serious disappointment. Glitch’s ending is a complete copy of the ending of a fairly famous video game, and I didn’t like that ending the first time, let alone the second.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, season one:

I remember enjoying the original Dark Crystal movie when I was a kid, but I’d all but forgotten about it as an adult. I rewatched it before jumping into Age of Resistance, but I have to say it didn’t really hold up from a grown-up perspective.

A promotional image for The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceFortunately, Age of Resistance is a more mature take that preserves the brilliant world-building of the original movie while fleshing out the story and characters into something much more meaty and satisfying.

It is not without its stumbles. Like Wu Assassins, it suffers from trying to cram way too much story into just ten episodes, leading to a lot of rushed and unsatisfying story-lines and character arcs. In particular a lot of wins by the heroes come too soon and feel unearned.

While I’m usually a defender of prequels, in this case I do feel knowing how the story ends hurts Age of Resistance. We know the Gelfings ultimately lose, so it’s hard to get excited about their budding revolution. I think it would have been better to sell this as a reboot rather than a direct prequel to the original movie.

On the other hand, the depth of the world-building and the visuals to support it are spectacular, the characters are mostly endearing (Deet is a treasure and she deserves all of the hugs), it hits a nice balance of being both heartwarming and tragic, and the season finale is one of the most spectacular bits of television I’ve seen in a long time.

I definitely want to see a second season, hopefully sooner rather than later.