PAX East had a lot of great things to see all over the huge show floor at the Boston Convention Center – enough to confuse a person about which booths to hit first and which games to demo. Luckily for me, we’re spoiled with shiny media badges, which gave us an extra hour before general admission to roam peacefully and make that decision. As a dude that has played Warcraft and Diablo games for over a decade, I decided to hit up Blizzard first.
Last year’s PAX East being their launch platform for Hearthstone, I was excited to see what they had in store for us this year – and as far as I’m concerned, they didn’t disappoint. While Blizzard crew was still setting up the last of the demo stations, I settled in to try out World of Warcraft’s upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and their upcoming free-to-play mashup barn burner of a title, Heroes of the Storm.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Let me be straight here – what I played was definitely not a complete representation of the game. The demo was a limited, but I’m not going to hold that against them – they had an alpha build, and for those of you that have never worked in software or game testing, an alpha build is early earrrlllyy goins on. So naturally I wasn’t expecting everything to be in final form. That’s just how alphas go. At least they were giving us what they got.
The demo allowed players to see all the skins for all of the genders and races (including the updated Alliance models), but restricted player selection to Horde characters only. It made sense to me really, since the first quest is literally speaking with Durotan in this tweaked timeline, and it wouldn’t exactly be a Gnome carrying that out now would it? So I made a Blood Elf hunter (deviating from my Night Elven lineage), cranked him as brown as a Blood Elf can get and away I run. The problem was that whenever I summoned a pet, debug windows came up instead of said pet, and I got good and killed in a sea of mobs despite my best efforts trying to close windows. That’s ok though.
The gameplay (at least as far as I can tell for hunters) is not drastically different at level 90 when you just start out. BUT if big numbers jumping all over your screen is the life you’re about then prepare to make an adjustment. We were equipped in character level 90 greens comparable to Mists of Pandaria endgame gear, but the numbers and damage I was doing was tremendously downsized. With this expansion they’ve gotten away from the crazy exponential increase in stat values and damage, meaning I wasn’t throwing out six-figure damage with my critical strikes like I’m used to seeing. It doesn’t mean that it takes that much longer to down enemies though – their HP is scaled to match your decreased stats.
Thank the lords of Azeroth for that too. Right now my hunter is walking around with half a million HP unbuffed, and I get 1000+ agility from just my bow. My endgame bow in Wrath of the Lich King didn’t even break 200. The numbers now are just getting out of control and more or less have lost all meaning when my 140k DPS is the low number on Recount charts.
The big change with Warlords that everyone’s excited about (and with good reason) is the concept of the garrison – it’s like having your own little Warcraft III style homebase with peasants running back and forth gathering materials for you. I wasn’t allowed to take game footage pictures, but I got some screenshots from the press kit, and as more data is available I’ll make sure to get that out to you kids. I got in on the closed beta, so when I kick that off I’ll have some real goods for you.
Heroes of the Storm
Is there anyone that doesn’t love a good crossover? How much fun did we have with Super Smash Brothers? Kingdom Hearts saw Disney and Square-Enix collide. The Marvel universe squared off against Capcom a number of times behind the controller, and even went head to head with DC Comics on the page before that. And we love it. There’s something about different universes coming together that is just pure meta appeal for the geek inside all of us.
So what happens then when one company has enough isolated universes to do it within itself? The answer is Heroes of the Storm – a crossover that pits the heroes (and villains) of the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo universes against each other in a good old-fashioned melee.
Now you see the thing is this – upon first glance this looks like the MOBA style (multiplayer online battle arena) we’re used to seeing in League of Legends and DOTA. Do not be fooled though, it’s not. Well not completely. I mean it does have the concept of lanes, and you have to take said lanes to crush your foes. But you don’t have to do a million things to be successful or have fun. It’s like they stripped out all the annoying parts of the MOBA genre (sorry MOBA fans) and… the only way I can put it really is that it combines that with some old Warcraft III charm, down to unit jokes.
The heroes are split into different types – Warrior, Assassin, Support and Specialist, each bringing a different type of play style into the game. One of the interesting new heroes they revealed under the Support style was Brightwing the Faerie Dragon. She has the ability to not only heal but to blink from ally to ally throwing heals anywhere on the map. With her other skills she can be a pretty complex hero to play. Tyrael on the other hand is a Warrior class, primarily dealing damage with high defense, having a less complex play style.
… and then there’s Murky. Yes Murky the Murloc is a hero because as the developers put it, “we decided to make a hero that was awful” and one to consider the “Wile E Coyote” of the game. Murky has almost no health and no attack, but lays an egg before charging in. When he dies, in a few seconds he will just respawn from the egg – over and over again. It was absolutely hilarious to see Murky use this method against Diablo and ultimately run him off with a Murloc army. So how’s that for varied play style? Each hero has his or her own signature attacks to customize it that much further.
As far as skins and upgrades are concerned, yes there are some for purchase, but there are also some that can be unlocked just by playing a particular hero a lot without a fee, including what they call “ultimate skins.” There’s some humor in these too, like having the abomination Stitches in a bikini.
I’ll let that one sink in for a bit.
I’ll be looking forward to when I can get my hands on HotS for real.