The opening ceremony of BlizzCon 2019, presented live from the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, is over. Here are all the biggest stories, including the first details for Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, new information on World of Warcraft’s next expansion, and the new autobattler mode coming to Hearthstone.
Blizzard’s Hong Kong apology
When Blizzard suspended Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung over his calls to liberate Hong Kong from Chinese oppression, it set off a chain reaction of negative feedback. That feedback showed up in force, with protestors showing up in person outside the convention center to make their feelings known.
Blizzard resident J. Allen Brack came to the stage himself — ahead of the final countdown that traditionally begins each keynote — to formally apologize for his company’s actions.
“I am sorry and I accept accountability,” he said in a visibly emotional address. “What exactly is our purpose? BlizzCon is demonstrating it as we speak. We aspire to bring the world together in epic entertainment. I truly believe in the positive power of video games.”
No mention of reducing blitzchung’s suspension further was made.
The biggest announcement by far was the reveal of Diablo 4. The isometric action role-playing game is going back to its roots, with a solo and a cooperative campaign that looks more grimdark than anything the franchise has done before. It will also include player-versus-player combat zones. The stated goal is to make a gorier, more sinister experience in the vein of Diablo 2, and fans in the audience seemed impressed.
An elaborate cinematic introduced fans to Lilith, mother of the Nephalem and a female version of the devil himself, clad in a flowing gown of human flesh. The presentation also included an early look at gameplay, featuring the mage, druid, and barbarian classes.
No release date — not even a release window — was given.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion
After generations at war, the inhabitants of the long-running fantasy MMO World of Warcraft are ... still at war. Blizzard announced the game’s next major expansion, Shadowlands, and it’s due out sometime in 2020.
The elaborate CGI trailer for Shadowlands shows Sylvanas Windrunner taking the Helm of Domination from Bolvar Fordragon, and then ripping it apart. That act opens up a veil between the world of Azeroth and its version of hell. The action will see players leap through that portal to take on “terrors and beauty never meant for mortal eyes.”
The expansion will include new factions, called covenants, plus high-level raids and an all-new character class. Shadowlands goes up for pre-order online today.
Hearthstone is getting an autobattler mode
Hearthstone’s next expansion is called Descent of Dragons, which will conclude the story that began with Rise of Shadows and Saviors of Uldum. The action takes place in Dragonblight, which fans will recognize from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. The big bad this time around is Galakrond, the Nightmare. The legendary dragon has two alternate forms which the player can switch between thanks to a new keyword, Invoke.
The new set of cards was also accompanied by a playful CGI trailer, with its own catchy theme song.
But by far the biggest news on the Hearthstone front is the announcement of an entirely new gameplay mode called Battlegrounds. Inspired by wildly popular games like Dota Auto Chess, Underlorlds, and League of Legends’ Teamfight Tactics, this one comes with some CCG flavor. Units get upgraded by matching three of the same type, and additional bonuses can be tacked on for fielding multiple units from the same class.
The new eight-player game mode is playable for the next two days at BlizzCon. Those who pre-order Descent of Dragons get access to Battlegrounds on Tuesday Nov. 5.
Overwatch 2 is real, and it will include a long-awaited story mode. At least thirty-two heroes will launch with the game, and all 31 existing characters will get a completely new look for the sequel. The newest addition to the team is named Sojourn, although fans of the game’s lore will know her as Captain Sojourn.
The highlight of the presentation was a heartwarming cinematic titled “Zero Hour.” Centering on fan favorites Mei, Tracer, and Winston, it culminates with a battle against a massive Omnic and the reformation of the in-fiction Overwatch task force.
Gameplay changes abound, including new hero abilities and synergies. There will be tons of player-versus-environment content. And perhaps most surprising is the announcement that all cosmetic unlocks will carry forward for owners of the original Overwatch. That includes skins, sprays, victory poses ... everything. Blizzard did not confirm platforms or a release window for Overwatch 2.