BlizzCon 2017 recap: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, new Overwatch hero and map, more

Sorry in advance, Diablo fans.

It’s that time of year again. Hordes (and Alliances) of people descended on Anaheim this week for BlizzCon 2017, taking over the newly expanded Anaheim Convention Center for news on World of WarcraftOverwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and StarCraft II. Conspicuously absent: Diablo news of any kind. Even more absent: Warcraft IV still. One of these days.

We’ve recapped all the biggest announcements (and an onslaught of cinematics) below.

StarCraft II

The first announcement of the day was important enough that we broke it out into its own article, but might as well recap here too: StarCraft II is going free-to-play...sort-of. There are quite a few restrictions in that statement. On the campaign side, only 2010’s Wings of Liberty campaign is going free—though if you own Wings of Liberty you’ll get Heart of the Swarm instead.

The versus side is even more confusing. Custom games have already been free in StarCraft II’s “Arcade” mode for years, but now competitive is going free also. The focus however is on unranked play with, it seems, ranked only unlocking for people who play more than 10 matches—maybe 10 matches per day? That seems outrageous, but that’s how the website phrases it. Commanders are also free, but only up to Level 5.

Still pretty cool though. Look for the free version on November 14.

Heroes of the Storm

Next it was Heroes of the Storm, which is due for a sizable update in 2018. Along with two new dragon-themed heroes—Hanzo and Alexstrasza—much of the game is being overhauled. The stealth systems were specifically called out, plus myriad map tweaks, a new camera, and more.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone did the usual at BlizzCon 2017, announcing a new expansion—its third this year, which is pretty wild. The new expansion is titled Kobolds and Catacombs, and has a classic Dungeons & Dragons feel. There’s also a new singleplayer mode, “Dungeon Run,” where you start with 10 cards and have to defeat eight bosses in a row, with new cards added to your deck after each victory. Blizzard called it “essentially a Hearthstone roguelike,” which sounds interesting.

Overwatch

In case you needed more indication Blizzard’s attention is mostly on Overwatch nowadays, Jeff Kaplan had three major announcements to make at BlizzCon.

First up, a new map: “Blizzard World.” It was an appropriate map to unveil in the Anaheim Convention Center given its proximity to Disneyland across the street—Blizzard World is an amusement park themed around Blizzard’s other games, past and present. There’s a StarCraft section, a Warcraft section, and even a Lost Vikings section. I didn’t spot any Rock & Roll Racing though.

BlizzCon also served as the stage for the new hero Moira, who looks like a cross between Reaper and Zenyatta. She’s a support healer with a healing beam, a darker beam weapon which I referred to in my notes as a “hurting beam,” and a smoky teleport move. So yeah, as I said, Reaper crossed with Zenyatta.

And there’s also this poignant Reinhardt short:

World of Warcraft

Finally, Blizzard wrapped up with World of Warcraft. I know—no new game announcements and certainly no Warcraft IV to close out the show. I was surprised too.

The World of Warcraft news is certain to please longtime fans though. After years and years of shutting down unauthorized Vanilla World of Warcraft servers Blizzard’s finally put in the work to make it official. World of Warcraft: Classic was announced at BlizzCon 2017, courtesy of this brilliant trailer which rewound old cinematics:

As you might expect, there’s also another expansion coming. No surprise, given it’s been about a year and a half since the launch of Legion. The new expansion is titled Battle for Azeroth and focuses on reigniting the war between Horde and Alliance. There are two new continents, Kul Tiras for the Alliance and Zandalar for the Horde, with new allies to discover, plus the usual smattering of dungeons and raids, and the expected level cap increase (now 120!).

And Blizzard closed out the show with Battle for Azeroth’s opening cinematic. It’s very pretty.

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Hayden Dingman

PC World (US online)
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