- Mar 31, 2004
Art by Braderunner
It's been a month since Heart of Storms Act I: Dusk of Draenor Public Beta, and as we're finalizing and polishing last bits of the Release version, it's time to announce the next part!
Following Dusk of Draenor that culminates with the opening of the Dark Portal, Act II: Heralds of the Abyss is set during Warcraft I and II era, covering the last stages of the First War and the interbellum when the Horde expanded north into Khaz Modan. A number of canon events will be shown, such as the sacking of Northsire Abbey and Stormwind itself, the invasion of the Badlands, the siege of Ironforge and the climactic battle at Tol Barad. However, in a manner similar to Act I, "historical" events will be shown through the eyes of original characters caught in the conflict and trying not only to survive, but to manipulate its flow.
The story of Arnak Bladeweaver continues as more of his agenda is revealed (and keen-eyed players who noticed a few clues in Act I may have their theories confirmed). Don't expect this to be an orc-centered campaign despite the Horde being an integral part of the story - Arnak's status as a clanless orc makes him seek some unlikely allies. Meanwhile, a quartet of new heroes (or, to be precise, heroines) make their appearance:
Dayoma Rainsong, a renegade high elven magistrix and a mercenary sorceress.
Holga Brassbrow, Dayoma's old colleauge and companion, amateur adventurer, part-time scholar, professional troublemaker.
Stephania, a Kul Tiran treasure huntress specializing in troll artifacts.
Natty "Natalie" Threshwrench, the self-styled Great Communicator and the esteemed head (and sole member) of M.I.S.S.I.O.N.A.R.I.E.S. (Master Investigators of Sentientological Studies Institution, Nominated Asylum for Reeducation and Integration in Educated Society, a.k.a. Steamwheedle Cartel's Diplomatic Corps).
Oh, and then there's Dr. Ishmael Dasariah Aedelein, the Healing Hand, once a humble Kul Tiran naval surgeon, now the head of a notorious sellsword company on Lord Ashvane's payroll.
As it's not too hard to see, none of them looks like a typical protagonist of the First and Second Wars. That is correct, while the tragic events of Dusk of Draenor called for heroic (but doomed) draenei and villainous orcs, the conflict on Azeroth is much more nuanced. Nope, we're not going to paint the Horde morally grey (in fact, we're turning their bloodthirst up to eleven as the roster of clan-specific orc armies have the enemy-exclusive Bleeding Hollow added into it, with units that have such nice names as Gutslicer, Eyepiercer and Bloodhunter, not to mention the Cabalist whom you will hate not only for using blood magic, but for being a nasty healer/debuffer) or make the defenders of Stormwind any less noble. But we definitely will explore other factions that stick their noses in this expanding conflict, for much more selfish reasons. The goblin cartels of Kezan take keen interest in the arrival of the orcs, and the trade princes' plans on shifting the Easten Kingdoms' economic balance might have a use for an all-out war... Meanwhile, the Ashvane Company of Kul Tiras feels like they could also benefit from the brewing conflict - you know, those novelty black powder guns won't sell themselves. And though only the hardcore old timers remember that, but Warcraft I did mention human mercenaries working for the Horde (even if it was only an excuse for a Human vs Human mission), and we're expanding on that piece of lore...
In addition to Orcs and Ogres (sadly not Draenei, their story in HoS is over... for now), Act II: Heralds of the Abyss brings three more full-scale races to the table: Humans, Dwarves (and Gnomes) and Goblins.
(A note regarding the screenshots: these are taken in Reforged (which doesn't allow unit shadows in the editor) on unmodified terrain only for testing purposes! Everything should be considered WIP anyway.)
Humans are based on the Warcraft I unit list and design choices (including Knight with flail, Gandalf-styled Conjurer, and Water Elemental shaped like a woman), representing the forces of Stormwind, though with a dash of Kul Tiran mercenaries (who, in our headcanon, did take part in the First War, Stormwind being a huge port city after all). They also have Paladins from Warcraft II (who are a separate unit to the Knights), but they won't appear in the campaign until they are canonically formed as an order, similar to Orcs' Death Knights and Dragon Riders. Other human nations, such as Kul Tiras proper (and the Ashvane Company as a version of it), Stromgarde and Dalaran will appear as additional factions, similar to orc clans.
Humans are basically the "normal", intended way the Alliance should work. They've got abundant heals, self-buffs, AoE magic; dispelling and countering units are present. They somewhat lack in the air units department (Dwarves got all the good stuff) but this is compensated with powerful AA. Their Knights are also incredibly useful as both heavy assault and support units, cementing their role as Stormwind's elite.
Dwarves (and Gnomes) are, once again, the recreation of classic known by WoW. We wanted to keep the iconic roster including everyone's favourites such as Riflemen, Gyropcopters, Gryphon Riders and Steam Tanks (in their early prototype form), as well as ram riders, bikes and all sorts of crazy gnomish technicians and magicians - of course, with revamped graphics and a few unexpected aces up their sleeves! As race variants, expect old classics here as well, Wildhammer and Dark Iron dwarves.
Being a powerhouse race, Dwarves (and Gnomes) rely on expensive, slow, armored units and artillery with decent range, as well as stuff that gives area buffs. They've got few mid-range units, most are either melee or siege. Damage reflection is common, and they have have the second best air units (after the Legion) - Gryphon Rider and Thunderer Gunship.
Goblins... now, these were a tough designer challenge. In the old incarnation of HoS we were very uneasy about giving them WoW-styled technology, but reducing the roster to primitive contraptions and the classic but boring stuff like Zeppelins, Sappers and Shredders also didn't feel right. That was until we discovered the piece of lore concerning goblins actually becoming less advanced over the years and losing a lot of their old know-how as they grew less dependant on kaja'mite. That, and said kaja'mite being a completely unnatural way to boost the intelligence (as opposed to somewhat realistic technological progress) inspired us to go with the idea of showing the goblins somewhat past their prime but still making use of fantastic inventions of old even though they don't fully understand them now. To other races, it's not much different from magic. We also went wild with goblin slang that's based off modern terms and ideas but sounds like complete gibberish in a quasi-medieval world. And all goblin units are specifically civilians (they maintain neutrality after all, he he he he!), so say hello to Bouncers, Preservationists, Insurers and Advocates. Yes, they WILL sue enemy units on the battlefield, and it's deadlier than it sounds.
Goblins are a fragile gimmicky faction with an emphasis on being great inventors, but mediocre frontline soldiers. They rely on synergy between different unit types, spamming single unit type squads is ineffective. They have lots of disabling abilities and AoE damage as well as increased gold generation. If needed, they can quickly regain the income rate and shift economy to different tactics. Oh, and they come with lots of long-ranged artillery. And Giant Turtles. Everything's better with Giant Turtles.
Special thanks to @General Frank for giving permission to use his awesome mechanical units for some of goblin machines!
Since Warcraft III had a total of one goblin face type (with a pitiful polycount and terribad animations), we used a lot of remixed and heavily kitbashed WoW assets (as well as converted stuff provided by Dreamcraft) to give them the variety they deserve. Animating all those talking guys and girls was a pain, though!
And we've also put effort into cinematic animations for new heroes so cutscenes are much more varied than usual. Thanks to @Maximal for his awesome work!
There is much more to tell about, like the new mercenaries mechanic, or the eponymous Abyss and its Heralds... but these are all matters for another day. Stay tuned, in due time, all will be revealed, for her eyes are many, and they never sleep.