Blizzard has recently announced that they’ve cancelled another much-anticipated title – this time the secretive Project Titan, which was supposed to be Blizzard’s next attempt at a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG. In order to mourn its loss, along with the finally confirmed to be cancelled StarCraft: Ghost, I’d like to celebrate the greatest of Blizzard’s works. This is not an easy list to narrow down, because while Blizzard hasn’t released a lot of games, they’ve (nearly) all been well made and they also have a vast array of books set in their game worlds. Here we’ll highlight the best among all of those… so let’s take a trip down Blizzard’s history.
6) World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft changed the landscape of the gaming industry forever. It turned the MMORPG from being just known by a small, and incredibly elitist crowd to being a household name. I played World of Warcraft for more than 6 years, and even now I still follow it to some extent because it was such a big part of my life for so long. World of Warcraft is the most complete and well-designed MMORPG to date, and it is still going strong. So of course it deserves a spot here. It was a magical experience being a part of that world, and I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had throughout the various guilds I was involved with in my time there. There’s something about playing an MMO that no other genre quite captures… the sense of satisfaction that comes along with it is unlike any other game genre.
5) Warcraft: Lord of the Clans
Speaking of Blizzard’s cancelled games… one of the more memorable cancellations was that of Warcraft Adventures, an old-style PC adventure game that was supposed to tell the tale of Thrall as he sought to uncover his heritage. After its cancellation, Christie Golden was given the difficult task of telling that story in its stead. But man was she up to the task. Lord of the Clans is one of only a very few video game tie-in books that I will actually go back and read just because I love it.
It tells an exciting story with strong character development, and some of the best use of character death I’ve ever seen. If you’re interested in finding more about the back story behind this storied character, or in understanding more about the history of the world itself, this is a great place to start. It’s a work that stands on its own, but still fits into the greater picture perfectly.
4) Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Diablo 3 was a game beset with flaws that held it back from being amazing. Itemization issues, awkward balance, a lack of game systems that provided motivation to play… it all added up to an experience that didn’t live up to the clean and exciting gameplay the game offered. Then they released the Reaper of Souls expansion set, and it all clicked. The itemization was mostly fixed, the game felt more balanced than ever, and they added new elements that helped make playing the game feel more rewarding while at the same time removing other things that held the game back. It was an incredible transformation.
When Reaper of Souls came out, Diablo was the best it had ever been, and unquestionably the most well designed action RPG I’d ever played.
3) Starcraft Ghost: Nova
Similar to Warcraft: Lord of the Clans, Nova is a retelling of one of Blizzard’s sadly cancelled games. Starcraft: Ghost was to be Nova’s story, a third person shooter taking place in the aftermath of the Brood Wars and with you playing as one of the elusive Ghost operatives. After Starcraft Ghost was ‘postponed indefinitely'(and eventually cancelled), Nova’s story was converted to book format and, rather than simply being an action-stealth game, it focused more on her origin story.
Nova’s story is told by Keith R.A deCandido, and it does a fantastic job of providing a great entry point into the Starcraft universe, while still also telling a great detective story, regardless of the world it takes place in.
2) Warcraft 3
Blizzard has made most of the most famous real-time strategy games ever made. Warcraft 2 and StarCraft were pretty standard RTS games, just refined and perfected for their eras… but Warcraft 3 took things in a different direction. Most RTS prior to Warcraft 3 focused on what is typically called ‘macro-management’, the manipulation of the greater map – economic management and base design. Blizzard decided they wanted to do something completely different, and focused Warcraft 3 around heroes and the management of small armies – known as ‘micro-management’ – and it worked so well. It created a game with interesting focal points, and a second progression system beyond just the tech tree – with the heroes leveling as well. It made it stand out as something distinct and different from other RTS games. And that is what made it so special.
1) StarCraft 2
I debated long and hard whether Warcraft 3 or StarCraft 2 deserved the top spot… Warcraft 3’s unique focus on heroes and RPG elements was brilliant, but I think StarCraft 2 is the perfect RTS. Not only does it have an amazing single player campaign and addictive multiplayer, but there are a number of small touches that just make it ‘perfect’. The league system is clever and far superior in every way to a traditional ladder, they’ve implemented a variety of small touches to provide people with motivation and rewards for simply playing the game, and most importantly, the game’s map editor is insane.
You can create everything from the usual suspects like tower defenses and ‘madness’ maps to ridiculous complete alterations of the game… I’ve seen third person shooters, rpgs, space sims, and just some utterly crazy concepts. And, since all of these glorious custom maps and mods are a part of the arcade… even if you don’t own StarCraft 2, you can still partake since the arcade is free – all you need is the starter edition which I think was an awesome decision on their part.
Are there any Blizzard games or books you think deserve a spot on here? Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments!