Going into this year's BlizzCon, we all kind of assumed that Blizzard was on the verge of announcing Diablo 4. But it turns out that Diablo 3 is still alive and well.
As Mike wrote earlier, Blizzard will be introducing a new class, The Necromancer, to Diablo 3 in 2017. Sadly, the new class won't be accompanied by a full-blown expansion, but it should encourage more than a few fans to embark on yet another run. It will also bolster the series during the long wait for a proper sequel.
What's much more exciting, though, is that Blizzard is effectively remaking the original Diablo within Diablo 3, and that it will be completely free. The Darkening of Tristram patch, which goes live on the Public Test Realm next week, will include 16 floors as well as the four main bosses from the original games. As an added touch, it will include a special "Glorious Retrovision" graphics filter to make it look as it did back in 1996.
While not a full-blown remake, this is a fantastic gift for dedicated fans of the series who want to relive some of the magic of the original. Plus, it offers a bunch of new content for dedicated fans of series to play through. I guess maybe we know now why Diablo designer David Brevik was consulting with Blizzard.
The original Diablo was, of course, very different from Diablo III. Its progression was totally different, it had only three base classes, and many of the franchise's most iconic features, including Hardcore mode, weren't introduced until the sequel. In that regard, it's hard to capture the feel of the original Diablo. After all, what is Diablo without a slew of hackers jumping in to ruin your day?
Still, it's a window back to the dawn of the series, and a wonderful little tip of the cap to the fans on the eve of the game's 20th anniversary. Bravo, Blizzard.
The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan Once Again Showcases Blizzard's Inventive Side
Blizzard hasn't been afraid to try new things with Hearthstone. From the Tavern Brawls to wacky cards like Yogg'Saron, they've thrown plenty of ideas at the wall. Now The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan looks to take that approach still further with a number of new mechanics, some of them quite wild.
The crux of the expansion is its three gangs, each of which encompasses three of Hearthstone's nine classes. The gangs will have exclusive cards that can be used with their affiliated characters, effectively creating three-way class cards. It should have an interesting impact on deckbuilding, since the classes will all use the cards in different ways. I'm guessing that playtesting this expansion will be a real pain in the neck for the designers who have to worry about balance.
Aside from the main mechanics, some of the new minions have some pretty crazy abilities. A new legend called Kazacus, which can craft spells in the middle of the game, is already getting a lot of buzz among Hearthstone fans. Priest also seems to have received a major boost, picking up several powerful-looking cards after being stagnant over the past couple updates.
With Hearthstone being a constant moneymaker, Blizzard really just needs to avoid cooking the golden goose; but the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan demonstrates their willingness to keep throwing new things out there, knowing that it will eventually be cycled out even if it doesn't quite work. I'll admit, I'll be sad to see League of Explorers retired after a fantastic run in 2016, but I'll also be happy to see things shaken up a bit.
StarCraft II is Dead... at Least Online
It's been a year since the release of Legacy of the Void, and the indisputable truth is this: StarCraft II is dead as a doornail. There are still people some playing it, but the bulk of the community has moved on.
StarCraft II's decline is evident in the dearth of strategies to be found around the Internet. Where a thriving community supports Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm via a variety of dedicated sites, you have to look pretty hard for anything related to StarCraft II. Most of the readily available material is from the heyday of Heart of the Swarm, which is now more than two years old.
In an effort to keep fans engaged, Blizzard have shifted their focus to an episodic campaign starring Nova, as well as a series of co-op challenges that are meant to tap into a bit of the spirit animating MOBAs. At BlizzCon, they introduced a new co-op commander, Alexei Stukhov, and revealed that the final set of Nova missions will be out on November 22. After that, StarCraft II will most likely fade into obscurity as Blizzard focuses on their more popular games.
Credit them, at least, for not completely giving up once Legacy of the Void arrived. The Nova campaign is a well-done extension of the original story, and the co-op missions are a neat twist on the traditional StarCraft format. But after a rocky run through the eSports scene, and a story that was ultimately pretty disappointing, most people seem ready to be finished with StarCraft.
Ideally, this would be Blizzard's cue to move on to their long-rumored StarCraft and WarCraft III remasters, or even WarCraft IV. If any studio can revitalize the declining real-time strategy genre in the eSports space, it's Blizzard. But until that happens, there's no use hanging on to StarCraft II: one final nod aside, it's done.