When Immortals Die

When someone records themselves singing, it’s a personal testament of feeling. A harmonic, melodic etching of the self that ripples out and affects others. Maybe enough to shut off the recording, or more happily, to keep singing. When it’s done over a hundred times with thousands of tiny variations until perfection, their voice becomes a habit. A […]

To Recap: Best. BlizzCon. Ever.

A Blizzard Of Games

BlizzCon is my annual video game convention of choice.

E3 is for the businessmen, GamesCom is Europe’s E3 and the various Pax conventions are for geeking out.

Yet BlizzCon is the one for lovers of the PC. Between the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises, PC is the home base for Blizzard. And now with Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, it doesn’t look like they’re quitting that space any time soon.

So whenever BlizzCon rolls around, I listen, because they most likely will showcase what most likely will take my money. And from the amount of information released this Blizzcon, it may have been the best ever.

Between the panels, the news (which I will highlight later) and the various franchise updates, the energy around BlizzCon 2015 was something I hadn’t felt for a long time.

I think it's the feeling of driving my enemies from the battle and hearing the lamentations of their women but I'm not sure...
I think it’s the feeling of driving my enemies from the battle and hearing the lamentations of their women but I’m not sure…

Traditionally, BlizzCon felt more like Blizzard’s annual celebration fest. Some times there was a WoW expansion, sometimes it was just development updates. BlizzCon was a celebration of what Blizzard made, not what they were making.

Blizzard had released Heroes of the Storm with updates and new heroes released regularly, Hearthstone has exploded to 40 million players(1), Overwatch beta has launched with great first impressions and Starcraft II’s final chapter, Legacy of the Void releases in 3 days on November 10th.

Furthermore, Diablo III’s support continues, with players still logging on and playing frequently.

Hell, I’m not even a huge e-sports fan, but Blizzard was running World Championships for Starcraft II, Heroes of the Storm, WoW arena and Hearthstone during the entire freaking convention. This con had it all.

So even if World of Warcraft has dropped to 5.5 million subscribers, the overall feeling for this con was that Blizzard’s future has been brighter than ever. The last time I thought Blizzard had a big future was 2008 with Diablo III and Starcraft II both on the horizon.

So just in regards of energy, tone and those dastardly intangibles, BlizzCon 2015 felt like it was ready to blow the roof off of Anaheim.

Oh yeah, and the Warcraft movie was given a trailer, but, y’know, no biggie(2).

A glorious victory indeed.
A glorious victory indeed.

Your Pocketbook Is Not Prepared!

For once Illidan may be right, so prepare your wallet because 2016 may be one of Blizzard’s better years.

And it starts in only 3 days.

As foretold, Starcraft II’s big expandalone, Legacy of the Void releases on November 10th, promising an all new competitive flavor and cooperative mode, as well as finishing up the Starcraft II trilogy. It will cost 40 USD for the standard edition, 60 USD for the deluxe edition(3) or 80 USD for the collector’s edition.

Then on Thursday November 12, the Hearthstone team is releasing it’s third adventure mode story, The League of Explorers for 20 USD. If you like Hearthstone as a casual game, this update is for you, boasting some really fun new mechanics that can change the game.

Truly a league of extraordinary gentlemurlocs.

Spring 2016 boasts Overwatch’s full release to the public. It will be released on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. It will have a similar pricing model to Legacy of the Void, with a 40 USD standard edition, a 60 USD “Origins Edition” or 130 USD collector’s edition.

The Warcraft movie will also be released June 10th, 2016. I’m definitely excited for that because the trailer has nailed the Warcraft aesthetic. I’m going in with low expectations and hoping for great surprises.

But then again, Thrall is now Green Jesus and Green Moses (4).

Back to the real Warcraft. The World of Warcraft that is. Legion will be coming out at or prior to September 21st, 2016. Keep in mind, Blizzard has been known to use and abuse the word “soon” and have historically pushed back expansions just to tune them further.

It will be 50 USD for the Standard Edition and 70 USD for the Deluxe Edition. No word on the street on the Collector’s Edition but the internet does always like to spin that wheel of rumours.

Illidan, after engaging and killing Sargeras, will transcend the mortal plane and become Super Saiyan before destroying the One Ring at the fires of Mt. Doom and slicing Voldemort in half. He will then ride to Westeros and slay everyone but the Starks before facing off and defeating his greatest nemesis: your suspension of belief.

Sprinkle in the fact that both Diablo and Heroes of the Storm will receive massive updates over the coming year and Blizzard has one hell of a stew brewing for the year.

With that out of the way let’s just go through the top stories from BlizzCon, shall we?

Warcraft: Lights, Cameras, Orc-tion!

Warcraft fans across the globe finally saw the efforts of Duncan Jones on the long awaited Warcraft movie(5).

It’s a weird world where David Bowie’s son is presenting a live action Warcraft movie trailer, but there it was, live across the world. Showing just how the filmmakers could translate the universe’s cartoon realism into film…

…and succeeding. It’s too early to tell if the film is good. But it does look promising and all told, they really nailed the art style.

Although, Durotan might want to get his teeth checked, because they ain’t art but they sure are a piece of work.

The armor in Warcraft has always been comically clean, the orcs have always been musclebound brutes and the magic has always been over the top.

Thus it’s not worth saying that the CGI looks terrible. Because it doesn’t. It’s a tired argument, especially when the exaggerated art style helps cover up any inconsistencies. Moreover the original plot of Warcraft wasn’t exactly its most compelling aspect — that honor went to the gameplay.

The film just need act like a gorilla running through a china shop, breaking all the rules in a spectacular fashion.

Low expectations would be the best course of action for those going to see the film.

Diablo III: Demons All The Way Down (The Pipeline)

No really, it’s admirable how Blizzard has supported Diablo III over the last few years.

Free updates in the age of DLC are rarely heard of but Blizzard keeps on improving and making the game better and better by stuffing it with more and more. For free.

Diablo III’s lukewarm reception must have really stung them because Diablo III really has become a game worth buying now with Seasonal play, meticulous balance changes and new zones.

And I was so hoping for an island vacation zone.

Patch 2.4 looks to continue this trend by introducing a new zone, Greyhollow Isle and opening up both the Royal Quarters of the Skeleton King’s personal castle and the Eternal Woods which lay beyond the now broken capital of the barbarian peoples.

New legendary items will be added, set items will be revamped (to make them feel more powerful) and completed class sets will open up non-randomized dungeons that only that class can access.

Seasonal play will be getting some quality of life improvements as well, in addition to more stash space and the implementation of action combat features from the console version.

Blizzard has a more comprehensive list here that will be updated as they reveal more.

You can have it in any colour you like, so long as it’s black.

Heroes of the Storm: Two Heads Are Dumber Than One

Cho’Gall has entered the arena!

Both literally and figuratively, because a new map called the arena is in development with no released. Be sure however, that it features a gladiatorial arena with simple objectives and all types of meta-breaking gameplay.

The battleground’s trailer features 10 Illidans of all things.

Back to Cho’Gall however, he’s a hero that two players will have learn to coordinate together with. Yeah, you heard right: one hero, two players.

What a monstrosity for the MOBA genre; working together always breaks the meta.

One player goes as Cho, the warrior head, and the other goes as Gall, the mage assassin head. He’ll be considered as two players if he’s killed, which puts the onus of movement on the player of Cho.

Blizzard released the information for how players can get him, all a player needs to do is team up with someone who has him and win two games, after January 1st however, he will become buyable. Sounds easy, right?

Heroes Genn Greymane, King of Gilneas and Lunara the Dryad will also see release. Both of which are ranged assassins but with some wrinkles.

Genn Greymane can switch from human to worgen form, essentially acting as a ranged and melee assassins. Lunara meanwhile will not have a mount and move 20% faster than normal.

Finally, Heroes will have another new map where players have to siege the core through controlling towns called Towers of Doom and it looks to be released sometime this fall.

HeroesNexus has a comprehensive list of talents for the new heroes.

Hearthstone: Adventure Mode Adventures Around Azeroth

Hearthstone is getting a new adventure: The League of Explorers allowing players to explore the world of Azeroth in Hearthstone.

The adventure mode will have four wings, each one being released week by week (excluding a Thanksgiving week, obviously in memory of those poor turkey souls lost that day) and allow for players to collect up to 45 new cards.

New card effects will also be added. The discover card will allow players to find cards within their own decks, their opponents decks, or even just randomly from the entire library of cards.

Each of the explorers introduced in story mode will also be represented as a legendary card. And just to show how much Blizzard loves to bend the rules, I present: The Golden Monkey!

Hearthstone has gone the full bananas.

HearthPwn has a full list of cards, and some of them are quite nutty.

But just to straighten this out: a game derived from another game is going to explore the game world of the game that game is derived from.

I could probably go deeper, but I will wait for when they release Hearthstone: World of Warcraft mode. Only then will I attain lucidity on a vast scale.

Also the trailer is fantastic. I always knew he was an explorer at heart.

Overwatch: Don’t Worry Love, The Pricing Model Is Here!

It’s official, Overwatch is Buy-to-Play.

Players will be able to play all heroes, however Blizzard’s been on clean up duty, trying to dispel rumours that would be selling new heroes and maps as DLC. PC Gamer’s Tom Marks did a really good interview to help Jeff Kaplan clear up the confusion.

Personally, I’m all for the Buy-to-Play model mainly because, from my impressions, the game looks like a full game. The latest Co-Optional Podcast even discussed that the amount of different characters has added immensely to its replayability.

With 21 different characters that play like 21 different classes with no direct hard counters, Overwatch just looks like good, clean, fun. When it was first announced, Overwatch never caught my eye, I was looking forward to Heroes of the Storm.

Any game where I can play as a skating Brazilian DJ who uses music to heal his allies might have my interest.

But now that Blizzard has announced the full roster of characters, I’m ready for the game.

Not to mention that because every single hero is available on purchase, teams can change their compositions mid-game. Thus far, Blizzard’s touted a really fluid and fast shooter with very little drawback and I don’t think.

Furthermore, Blizzard has quite the track record when it comes to releasing quality products minus two or three hiccoughs(6), so I’m quite confident they’re not going to mess this up.

Furthermore, I have no problem with purchasing skins in a buy-to-play game. Cosmetics don’t break a game unless the development wanted to.

And if Blizzard really were that stupid, fans would justly and absolutely punish them for it.

But if you have any prohibitory feelings towards pre-purchasing, don’t preorder and wait for the reviews to come out. It’s usually the most sensible answer.

However, I’m looking forward to the game and the latest trailer has me praying for a beta key(7).

WoW: Legion’s Cinematic Has Already Been Realeased.

No really, I was expecting to wait much longer before they revealed the trailer.

But keeping with the trend of just taking a massive dump (uh, information wise), Blizzard said: “we heard you liked trailers, so here you go.”

Outside of the trailer for Wrath, this one may be my favourite. I’m hardcore Alliance, so to see Varian just rip through demons and generally be a badass, made me giddy on the inside.

And I swear to Aman’thul, if Varian dies, I don’t think I could bear Anduin as High King of the Alliance(8).

It almost feels like Blizzard is breaking the rules to make this expansion feel even more bonkers than Warlords of Draenor. But that’s what they’re doing.

That’s to say, Warlords was bonkers in its premise and while Blizzard has scaled back on goofy premises, they still have gone absolutely bonkers in the scale of what they’re planning to do.

And also the game has some inspired artists. It takes a lot of talent to make a player want to be in a piece of art.

A forty man introductory scenario, voice-over quest experiences, class halls, artifact weapons, the Legion invading multiple regions all at once, Illidan coming back with his army of demon hunters, Dalaran coming back and the reintroduction of the Broken Isles, an area with surprisingly little lore despite it’s importance.

All these things combined make Legion overall more bonkers than Warlords.

Further, one of my friends who still raids in WoW asked me what I thought of Legion, thinking that I would dig into Blizzard but found himself shocked to hear me say that I don’t know what mad potion they concocted in the labs at Blizzard but I liked it.

I just want them to make the game fun and filled with wonder again. They nearly succeeded with Draenor but let some elements escape them.

So even if I would enjoy a Naga/Old Gods expansion more (9), I really like what I’ve read from Blizzard regarding both the story and lore and the the game systems. Like as with Diablo III, the WoW team seems to have learned lessons from the sting of a pissed-off player base.

If you want all the nitty-gritty details however, MMO-Champion has the bullet point recap here.

All in all though, this was a great freaking BlizzCon. One of my absolute favourites with a plethora of news to chew on for weeks to come.

So enjoy the trailer, because it’s a goody.

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(1) I would take that with a grain of salt though, because it could include people who have touched the game once and never again.

(2) Is it a bad thing when a movie trailer for a franchise like Warcraft becomes an afterthought? Or a good thing because Blizzard was dropping info bombs left and right.

(3) Not a bad deal in general for new players or people interested in returning to Starcraft II. But also great for those who are huge Starcraft fans (read: not me).

(4) Thrall’s character really has jumped the shark and at this point it’s just hilariously bad.

(5) Seriously, over 9 f—in’ years of development, the project will be almost 10 years old when it is finally released. That’s a true development hell if I’ve seen one.

(6)*cough*DiabloIIIandWarlordsofDraenorandpossiblyCataclysmbutitdependsonwhereyoustand*cough*

(7) Lord show Mercy, even better, show me playing Mercy because I really want Overwatch.

(8) Yeah, yeah, yeah, peace, love, happiness, have you not taken a look at the title of the game, Anduin? I mean really c’mon. It’s like you don’t even know you’re just a character in matrix like simulation only serving to amuse your — wait a minute.

(9) Queen Azshara and the old gods have been mentioned in every expansion since Cataclysm. Hell, she even makes an appearance (with a very crappy model)! She’s the most powerful sorceress on Azeroth and I am waiting for that expansion. The only other villain I wanted to fight as bad as her was Arthas, and he’s dead now.

The Travelling PC Gamer

So you may have noticed I haven’t posted anything for a while.

This is not a mistake. It’s just the unfortunate side effect of being a PC gamer studying abroad.

However, I also know “Tell us about France!,” “What’s it like?,” “What’s different?,” “Show us!,” are common things to reply to. Ideas to develop an article around.

For me, France is really simple: everyone speaks French, the food is great, and the cities are filled with history. Plus, it’s the south of France, la belle Provence. Provencal France ranks as one of the most beautiful countrysides in the world and I love the place(1).

Le Pavillon Vendôme, a historical home for historical ballers.

So the reason I haven’t been writing about video games is because I haven’t been playing them much. Games cost money and time, money and time that could be used for travelling when Europe is at your fingertips.

“But then why don’t you play on the trains or airplanes?” One might ask.

First off, and this will probably come as a big shock, I don’t have a laptop bag with me, or even a backpack for that matter. I don’t know where they are, probably lost forever. Moreover, I am a desktop PC guy, laptops are near anathema to me.

So, I’m using my parents’ old laptop. Not ancient, but still aged to the tune of 3 years with a history of technical problems. The ole Civilization V bread n’ butter doesn’t really run well on this thing.

Finally, a lot of my favourite games to play require online or are multiplayer. For single player that’s fine. For multiplayer that’s a problem. The ping would be horrendous and lead to a less enjoyable experience for everyone.

No Battlefront beta for me, then.
The problems that faced me and my enjoyment of the Battlefront Beta were as big as a… well… y’know

Moreover though, the fact that I want to travel means that video games are sort of a… unwise purchase. Not because I wouldn’t enjoy them, but instead because it takes money away from seeing things in that crazy outside world.

Not to mention that video games can now be bought almost anywhere at anytime and in contrast books here are dirt cheap and I love French literature(2). The other avenues of entertainment are just so much more cost effective and far more exclusive.

Where else can I buy French literature in French(3)?

So there, my feeble excuses for not writing about video games lately. Unfortunately, video games have stepped down a few tiers due to France.

That’s not to say I won’t still write about video games. I am very interested in both Armello and Thea as 4X-survival mash ups. The Steam Fall sale can not come soon enough.

Until then, however, I am doomed to this existence of reading, playing a Civ game once in a while and exploring the outside world.

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(1) It probably helps that I also can speak French. Not well by my own standards, but sometimes I meet some nice French people who do say I speak as well as any non-native speaker. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

(2) Reading “The Flowers of Evil” by Baudelaire, an 18th century French poet, and I expected him to be such a pretentious prat that sometimes I turn out to be the more pretentious prat. Well played, Baudelaire, well played.

(3) Don’t say Amazon, don’t say Amazon, don’t say Am — merde!

Behind Closed Ears: Video Games and Music

Sometimes the music of a certain video game feels dull.

Sometimes it’s just been overplayed.

And sometimes it’s fun to listen to the music that the ear, the heart, and the brain crave.

From someone who’s played World of Warcraft on and off for about 7 seven years, this is conversation a I know many players engage in.

“What music do you listen to while playing?”to “Do you enjoy WoW’s music?” to “What song in WoW is your favourite?” are common questions. And I don’t blame them — I’ve enjoyed World of Warcraft’s music intensely. There are obvious favourites from different zones. Grizzly Hills and Elwynn Forest instantly come to mind.

There is an obvious atmosphere created just by this music. I remember it distinctly as one of my favourite leveling zones in Northrend. It’s now a regular stop.

Remembering this music is also often why I come back every so often. The power in nostalgia lies in its addicting, la-vie-en-rose (1) qualities. If I didn’t play WoW every now and again, it would be like how people treat reading a good book even though they may not read every day.

They’d feel a little ungrounded. A little bored with the constant rush of life.

In other ways it’s nice to experience a game fully. Especially when it’s a one time play through of an RPG. I played through Dragon Age and only put on some outside music once — and I paused it every cutscene.

Why bloat a one time or rarer experience? Even if others feel differently, even they have to agree music really brings the player into the experience. Same with movies, same with books, same with, well, music.

But then a point is reached. A point of boredom. A point of different interests.

A point where I want to break the Led out, find some good beats from The xx or even let Miles Davis soothe the spirit with his golden trumpet.

So going back to that original idea of wanting different music than the regular soundtrack: it can do the exact same thing as in game music. Civilization comes to mind. Playing as Germany? Break out some Beethoven or release the “Ride of the Valkyries” during an invasion scenario.

Portugal in particular is a favourite. Fado has one of the most interesting complexities in emotion and sound. It relates to a burning feeling of missing the homeland. And in Portugal, fado is like a religion.

Makes sense then, to pull open some fado for some Portuguese flavour instead of the endless ambient loop Civilization V plays.

More to the point, though, when I decide to turn off the game music for something different, it’s not a matter of not enjoying the game.

It’s a matter of association. I know most Led Zeppelin lyrics because I listened to them while playing WoW in 2008. And, I know many classical works because of a morbid quite regular habit in Saints Row III:

Driving on the sidewalk with kneecappers and nitrous to the finale of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” Apparently the power of music in video games can be measured in horses.

Just choose your horse wisely.

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(1) Did I mention I’m studying abroad in France? Yeah, I’ll try not to nauseate my (admittedly) rare posts with français.

Merde.

 

To Recap: World of Warcraft Is Legion

Well, it’s that time again, time for another World of Warcraft expansion.

Here’s the dirt:

Gul’Dan was sent to Azeroth, finds Illidan and subjugates him, then preps for a new Burning Legion invasion centered around the Tomb of Sargeras. Azeroth goes to hell, players are the beacons of light against the Legion.

The Broken Isles is the new continent. Home of Suramar, where teenage Malfurion, Illidan and Tyrande were chilling, out maxing, relaxing play some b-ball by the school when, well, demons invaded the first time.

West Suramar was a rough place to grow up, man.
West Suramar was a rough place to grow up, man.

The Isles are also the location of the Tomb of Sargeras, master of the Burning Legion, imprisoned there by Aegwynn, mother of Medivh (1).

At the Broken Isles we’ll find, and probably fight, an ancient elven society, naga under the command of Queen Azshara, satyrs under the command of Xavius, uncorrupted vykrul, a blue dragonflight offshoot race, a Tauren offshoot race and of course, demons.

Oh, yeah, and we finally get to find and fight Gul’Dan (2).

Illidan’s back and so are his Demon Hunters. Players can now start with a new Heroic Class, the Demon Hunter. Oh, yes, the Death Knight has a new buddy. But unlike the Death Knight, it looks like an Elf only club.

Interestingly, they only get two specializations: one for DPS and one for Tanking. Sounds about right considering that a healer Demon Hunter would be really weird.

Cool kids club: no humans, orcs, dwarves, tauren, gnomes, undead, worgen, goblins or pandaren allowed!
Cool kids club: no humans, orcs, dwarves, tauren, gnomes, undead, worgen, goblins or pandaren allowed!

Also, that whole players are a “beacon of light against the Legion” thing? That’s not lip service, we reinforce or recreate ancient orders like the Silver Hand and make a new base of operations like the Archerus area for Death Knights.

As Ian Hazzikostas said, it’s an evolution of the Garrison feature, all the good stuff, hopefully none of the bad stuff.

But why the player? Because players also can wield artifact weapons of their class like Ashbringer for Retribution Paladins or Doomhammer for Enhancement Shamans. You wanted Ashbringer? Well, it’s been brought (3).

Oh, and the real Christmas Miracle? The PVP system is getting revamped — they are separating PVP and PVE progression and attempting to make gear less of an issue for PVP.

But how, one may ask? Well, they’re making ability changing talents for player abilities. After working up the ranks, players get different takes on classic abilities. Bloodlust, for example, can be talent to affect only the target and shaman caster but have a vastly reduced cooldown.

It looks World of Warcraft wants to be cool again and do it right this time.

All I can say is: I hope it works.

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For more info, MMO Champion is the place to go.

(1) That’s the dude who brought the Orcs to Azeroth and had a mental battle with Sargeras for control of his own mind.

(2) I’m not saying, but I’m just saying, it’s always an Orc who is to blame.

(3) I need a bad joke swear jar.

 

Rambling On About E3

Good Vibrations The latest edition of the Electronic Entertainment Expo is over and, surprise, surprise, it actually held my attention for longer than 30 minutes. I normally don’t care about E3 outside of the announcements but this was the first in a long time that I became a gameplay and trailers junkie. The change this […]

Not A Review: Heroes of the Storm

So Heroes wants to respect your time, eh? Well, two can play at that game.

It’s over. The wait is over. It’s functional, fun and free (to a point). These are my poetic thoughts.

No player levels, only teams.

No shop, only talents.

No correct builds, only tinkering.

No single towers, only entire towns.

No monotony, only multiple objectives.

No hour long slug fests, only 30 minute battles.

No pay-to-win, only condensed skill.

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2015-05-30 18-06-11-06
No resistance, only Devouring Maw.

This is what makes Heroes different. This is what makes it fresh. This is why I decided to play Heroes and not other competitors. I want to play as Azmodan, Tassadar or Uther and I want to smack Nova in the face.

However, heroes and skins are quite expensive. Be wary of pain to the pocketbook and use some gold. That said, Heroes won’t make someone a good MOBA player–but a good MOBA player will be a good Heroes player. In the end, pick one’s poison, because one still froths at the mouth when they try their best to carry and fail.

I recommend finding a team of friends.