20th anniversary

Celebrate Diablo’s 20th Anniversary in Each Blizzard Game

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December 31 marks the 20th anniversary of the original Diablo. Blizzard Entertainment is hosting a minor celebration across all their games with special events, games, and loot.

“Blizzard Entertainment is thrilled to commemorate twenty years of Diablo,” states the news post. “We’re ready to celebrate our passion for the world of Sanctuary and the brave heroes who inhabit it! Here’s to twenty years of loot!”

Each of Blizzard’s ongoing series is celebrating:

  • Diablo III – The Darkening of Tristram tribute event. The Cathedral levels of Diablo 1 have been recreated in Diablo III, including some “familiar items.”
  • Heroes of the Storm – The weekly brawl will feature a Diablo theme. As with other brawls, playing three games nets you a unique portrait.
  • Hearthstone – A Diablo-themed Tavern Brawl, and a new Diablo card back.
  • Overwatch – Loot new sprays of the Diablo III classes, and a new Diablo player icon.
  • Starcraft II – A new Diablo-themed portrait.
  • World of Warcraft – “Strange things are afoot in the world of Azeroth as denizens of Sanctuary cross over into an unfamiliar world.”

No details on when the Diablo event ends.

As far as multi-game events go, this one is pretty weak. New retro content in Diablo III is nice, but the rest are lame. To be fair, Blizzard is also in the midst of their big Overwatch Winter Event, and other holiday events for various games.

Diablo is widely considered the grandfather of the entire Action-RPG genre. It wasn’t the first to define the genre, but it was the first to popularize its loot-driven, fast-paced gameplay. Decades of games have built upon that solid gameplay loop, from Borderlands to Destiny.

Blizzard’s own Diablo II remains one of their most beloved titles. The very long-awaited Diablo III had a rough launch. It was criticized for some jarring changes. After years of feedback, patches, and updates it has been embraced by fans, and become a worthy successor.

overwatch

Earn Free Winter Loot Boxes by Logging into Overwatch

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If you’ve lapsed, or haven’t yet tried one of the biggest games of the year, now is a lucrative time to jump in. To further celebrate their Winter Event, Overwatch is giving out five free Winter Loot Boxes, just for logging in. You’ll have to do it before January 2nd, when the Winter Event ends.

The Winter Loot Boxes contain special unique loot that’s only available during the Winter Event. This includes unique new Winter and Holiday-themed skins for many characters. These skins, as always, are among the rarest loot.

Overwatch is also on sale right now, both digitally via Battle.net Shop and physically at Amazon, GameStop, and Best Buy. It’s discounted to $29.99, while the Origins Edition is $39.99. The Origins Edition is useful for fans of other Blizzard games, as it comes with a collection of digital goodies such as a Hearthstone Overwatch card back and a Baby Winston pet for World of Warcraft. It also includes five unique skins for Overwatch characters.

The Winter Event is the third Seasonal Event that Blizzard has run this year. Events include new loot and new Arcade mini-games. The Winter Event presents Mei’s Snowball Offensive, in which everyone plays Mei and hurls snowballs at each other.

Blizzard’s hero shooter has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Overwatch has earned numerous Game of the Year accolades from prominent gaming sites, including here at Pixelkin. Stephen called it “a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today.”

goy

Pixelkin’s Game of the Year 2016

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Rather than settle on one game of the year, here at Pixelkin we feel like every one of our writers brings a unique perspective. Therefore our most prominent contributors have made their game of the year selections. Our hope is that these recommendations give you an idea of the great games of the year in all of our eyes.

Nicole’s Pick

Event[0]

I’ve been playing games my whole life and have been writing about them for more than 10 years. While there are many games that are great at what they do, it’s a rare occasion that I see something completely new. Event[0] is one of those games. Though the story isn’t that different from other AI gone wrong games like Portal, the gameplay is not only intriguing, it’s a lot of fun. Rather than listening to the  AI spout information to you, in Event[0] you have the chance to interact with that AI, whose name is Kaizen.

event0-screenshot-01

You use terminals throughout the environment to converse with the Kaizen. Very little direction is given in regard to what you should ask or say, so the conversations end up being unique to each player. And besides that, they can be very amusing. This is impressive given that even modern RPGs that are focused on choice only have a few canned responses. In Event [0] those responses are nearly limitless.

Kaizen is arguably one of the main characters, if not the main character in the game. Heck, he’s one of the most interesting characters in any game. You can’t proceed without his help and many times you’ll have to be nice to him to get him to help you. Kaizen is a witty and somewhat moody character. Many times I tried multiple approaches to see what he would say and it was endlessly entertaining.

Lots of games that are trying something new with their gameplay end up falling into a hole where the game falters in other aspects in order to accommodate that gameplay. Event[0] keeps an entertaining story and other types of gameplay intact while adding in something new. This game hasn’t received the kind of attention that it deserves. It’s unique, amusing and fun. That’s the reason why it’s my favorite game of the year.

Eric’s Pick

Stardew Valley

My game of the year came as a complete surprise. I knew I’d love Overwatch, XCOM 2, and Civilization VI. I’d never given much thought to sim farm games like Harvest Moon, but I ended up sinking over 70 hours into this charming, pixelated adventure.

stardew-valley

Stardew Valley plays like a love letter to 90s JRPGs, localized entirely within a single town. There’s so much to do in and around Pelican Town it’s often overwhelming, especially since the game takes place in a strict day/night cycle with real seasons. Explore the mines to defeat monsters and find treasure. Socialize with townsfolk to earn rewards, and maybe even a spouse. Fish, explore, trade, and participate in seasonal events. Each day brings a wealth of important tasks and new possibilities.

Stardew Valley is so much more than a farm sim, yet the farming portion is also immensely satisfying. There’s a wonderful balance between scrapping enough money to buy just a few seeds, to eventually turning your land into a well-oiled brewery or animal farm that makes more money than you know what to do with. It’s a great experience with a catchy soundtrack, surprisingly poignant writing, and some of the best pixel art I’ve seen. Stardew Valley deserves all the praise and accolades for being this year’s big indie success, and my favorite game of the year.

Stephen’s Pick

Overwatch

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. Nicole, our fearless leader, asked me a few weeks ago to think long and hard about what my personal game of the year should be. I had a lot of options, because I played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

overwatch-screen

Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. No excuses people. Go grab it and enjoy!

overwatch

Overwatch Presents Holiday-Themed Webcomic with a Big Reveal

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Tracer is queer!

Now that I have your attention, Blizzard Entertainment has, rather sweetly, confirmed that Overwatch’s most popular character and face of the game is queer through a new webcomic.

The comic, titled “Reflections,” tells the story of Tracer racing home during the holidays using her chronal powers. Through good deeds and a bit of luck she ends up with a gift for her special someone, who happens to be a woman named Emily, and the two share a tender kiss.

overwatch

Naturally the internet is losing its mind.

Blizzard’s hero shooter Overwatch is one of the most popular games of the year. The fandom has exploded thanks to Blizzard’s colorful and diverse cast of international heroes and villains. The stories and setting surrounding the multiplayer shooter have been teased through short videos and webcomics.

“Reflections” is written by Michael Chu and drawn by Miki Montillo. It’s the tenth webcomic they’ve done, which typically focus on expanding one hero’s backstory.

A bonus treat is the penultimate panel, which shows a montage of scenes of other Overwatch characters celebrating the holidays in their own ways.

overwatch

It’s worth nothing that Tracer’s sexuality has zero bearing on the game itself. This isn’t a BioWare RPG love-fest, it’s a multiplayer shooter. The revelation is being treated just as you expect in an increasingly divisive world: disgust, annoyance, support, and love.

No, a video game character’s sexuality shouldn’t warrant its own headline. But reading through comments (which I don’t recommend) you’ll quickly realize why this is a big deal. Gaming in particular often comes under fire for under-representing anything that isn’t the default straight white male. Overwatch has one of the most compelling character designs in years, with a wide range of body types and ethnicities. It’s natural that they would include a range of genders and sexualities.

Blizzard’s Michael Chu has previously confirmed that “they are definitely LGBT heroes” in Overwatch. That’s heroes, meaning multiple. “It’s very important for us to have diversity and inclusiveness of all types, and that includes LGBT characters.”

Here’s an official statement that Blizzard sent Kotaku:

As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are. From the very beginning of our work on Tracer’s story, it just felt right to make this an aspect of her character.