It seems like picking on Blizzard right now is the geek-culture bloggers equivalent of kicking a dead horse, but that horse knows what it did, and while an apology has been issued for the political controversy, it comes across has a rather hollow token, to say nothing about the mass-blocking of comments on YouTube videos from the event.
We are not here to stir the political pot, that’s not what we’re here for. I am here to pick on Blizzard for something a little less volatile, the games that were announced this year.
What? I said a little less…
Blizzard do one thing exceptionally well, and have done since the 90’s: epic cinematics. They fall firmly into the “pros” column on pre-rendered cinematic cut-scenes and trailers and whether you are for or against them, there is nothing negative to say about Blizzards cinematics in their own right. As if to prove a point, oh wow that Diablo 4 trailer was pretty. There were times when the graphics quality bordered photorealism a little too closely, and there seems to have been a positive tone shift, which I will get to shortly.
Pretty pictures aside, we also got a good look at some in-game footage, and the level of detail is delicious, especially given the genre. Moreover, Diablo 4 is darker visually, and it sounds like they’re going dark in narrative, like it should always have been. My biggest issue with 3 was all the pretty colours, in defiance of the legacy left by 1 and 2, and it easily meant that Grim Dawn made a better successor to the throne. A more “medieval” version of hell has been suggested, and the little glimpses we’ve seen suggest hints of Hieronymus Bosche, and the brightest coloured things on screen – the blood red demon “fallen” – are stringy and drawn out horrors.
But of course it wouldn’t be Blizzard without compulsory online multiplayer elements, and sure you don’t have to engage with the other players, but so help me I don’t even want them around, and I don’t like the idea that they might try and engage with me. You’ll pardon me if I remain far more interested in Crate’s ARPG than the usurper to D2.
Oh, and can I get a citation on the claim “Best in class visceral and fluid combat” please? What I’m seeing is that there is a way to play the druid, a way to play the sorceress, so on so forth, with not a great deal of variety, only an optimised route to power. I’m going to hope that this has more to do with the demo than the finalised game, but I’m going to profoundly suspect that I am wrong.
Oh… good? Whatever happened to the days when Blizzard would wait over a decade between sequels? No, I’m not going to complain about this one.
As you may have already guessed, I don’t really do online or multiplayer, so I’ll keep my critique here short. Another of Blizzard’s fortes is great character development, we’ve seen it across the Warcraft legacy, and Overwatch really shows what they’re capable of. There’s a great Extra Credits video on the idle animations of Overwatch and how they communicate a great deal about the character you’re playing. I will watch Overwatch content because the stories are pretty cool, and I like that they’ve introduced some singleplayer content.
I hope that the new game will be more than just shooting while wiggling from side to side.
More World of Warcraft
Among the early announcements, onesies! Do you hear the sound of scraping? That’s the bottom of the barrel.
The former stranglehold Warcraft held on the market is broken, and I feel like now would have been the time to go completely revolutionary, bring back Warcraft as an RTS, I’d even take a World of Starcraft, just to see something that isn’t yet more WoW. There was a lot of talk about the Overwatch sequel being massively supportive, rewarding, and compatible with players of the original game, would a Warcraft 2 be so outlandish?
The game has been updated, modernised, more and more content has been brought to the game, and the original game has been repackaged and redelivered to us in brighter and shinier colours, which I cannot and will not disparage because I bought and played the re-releases of Skyrim, Myst, and Heroes 3 among others. And after fifteen years of World of Warcraft, it has now exceeded the lifespan of the strategy game that preceded it.
Board gamers can look forward to a Smallworld of Warcraft that looks like it’s close to a release date, and it looks like that’s as close as we’re getting to a Warcraft “original” style game.
Am I going to rag on Bethesda next week for only having Elderscrolls, Fallout, and Dishonoured? Well to be fair they also have Doom and Wolfenstein and whatever Deathloop is but it looks inte- y’know what? Bad example. And to be completely fair, I should also point out that Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Starcraft exist.
I suppose I look to Blizzard as an example of a bubble that looks set to burst, and recent events make that bubble look especially fragile. The popularity of their fairly narrow range of intellectual properties is undeniable, and one must pay respect to any company that can keep players enthralled and enjoying a game for fifteen years, and then still go on to produce another market-dominating title in Overwatch.
And yet I’m watching the opening ceremonies from this year’s Blizzcon, and there’s an astonishingly similar feeling to watching the advert for a “new” apple product. It doesn’t sound like they’re changing much, it doesn’t sound like they’re innovating in any way, and yet there’s a host of fans who’ll still pour their money into the new thing and keep the bubble floating for another year.