Though not expected to come for some time, Blizzard Entertainment has confirmed that Diablo 4 is in the works. In the meantime, a whole load of information regarding it is available and it’s all compiled right here.
Following the horror story that was the Diablo: Immortal announcement at BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard appears to have regained the faith of the community by announcing Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2019. Despite having to work from home, the Irvine, California-based developer has been keeping us regularly updated with quarterly check-ins this year.
From what information has been given, it appears that Diablo 4 will not be as divisive as its predecessor — which very much improved over time to be a worthy entry in the series nonetheless. The quarterly updates contain info regarding gameplay systems, aesthetics, and the new story.
A release date? Don’t hold your breath
While an official release date for Diablo 4 has not been announced yet, there is a considerable amount of information given by the quarterly updates. Don’t expect a release date anytime soon, considering how progress on the game has been slowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing political turmoil in the United States.
As declared in Blizzard’s February 2021 earnings call, it was reported that both Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 shouldn’t be expected in 2021. So basically, don’t hold your breath.
Nonetheless, there’s a lot of info to get through for the game. So let’s get right into it.
A darker world and the return of Lilith
Overall, it appears that the fourth title in the Diablo series will harken back to the older, darker aesthetic after fans complained that Diablo 3 was too stylised. Whether or not this is the correct move remains to be seen, but it should appeal to a considerable portion of the fanbase.
The concept art that has been made available shows of this darker tone, but also how the designers have incorporated a great deal of religious symbolism and references into their work. In the “Cathedral” image we can see Lilith, who hasn’t been seen since Diablo II, as a major player in a conflict between good and evil.
It appears likely Lilith will feature as the main antagonist in Diablo 4, which has us excited. She is the daughter of Mephisto, and has an prominent role in the lore of the Diablo series. In fact, it was her relationship with archangel Inarius that eventually led to the creation of the Nephalem, and consequently humans.
Where Blizzard chose to take her character is anyone’s guess. The important thing is that she is far more fertile ground than another big, angry demon lord. I mean, she managed to seduce an Angel, and is referred to as the Queen of Succubi. She’s got that X factor.
Diablo 4: class warfare
Diablo 4 will have five character classes at launch which will as usual be all very distinctive from one another. But for now, Blizzard have only revealed four: the Barbarian, the Sorceress, the Druid, and the Rogue – the last of which was announced at BlizzCon Online 2021.
The Barbarian returns from Diablo 3, liking to get down and dirty with their Arsenal of weapons. Depending on the situation, the Barbarian can whip out a mace or a pair of hand axes, with the ability to carry four weapons total and swap between them at any time. These weapons can be attached to different skills, allowing for a greater degree of customisation.
The Rogue follows the archetype laid down by previous Diablo games and World of Warcraft alike, with a focus on combos, stealth, shadow magic, and the option for some ranged attacks as well. The Rogue’s imbued weapons will also mark a key part of their arsenal, including a great variety of deadly poisons, no doubt.
The Sorceress will be the resident magic user, harnessing the elemental powers of Fire, Cold, and Lightning. A new Chilling mechanic has been added where the amount of Cold damage affects whether an enemy will be slowed, frozen, or shattered by your attacks.
The Sorceress will also have access to the Enchantment System where a Skill can be bound as an active or as an Enchantment, where it will no longer be used as an active. Instead, a secondary bonus power will be gained.
The Druid returns for the first time since Diablo II. While the elemental powers of lightning, wind, and rain will still be available, there will be a greater emphasis on the ability to shapeshift into a Werebear or Werewolf depending on the situation at hand.
Skills to pay the bills
Diablo 4 will utilise a brand-new and very literal skill tree (as seen above). The upper part of the tree is where Skill Points, earned through levelling up, will be spent to unlock new Skills and enhancements for existing skills. Meanwhile, the “roots” of the tree are where Passive Points, earned through spending Skill Points, are spent to unlock powerful effects.
Blizzard estimates “30-40%” of the skill tree will be filled in during the end game, meaning that players will all have very distinct builds from one another, even if they’re playing the same class.
Diablo 4: big world, big party
For the first time in a Diablo game, Diablo 4 will be open world. Though the five regions (Scosglen, Fractured Peaks, Dry Steppes, Hawezar, and Kehjistan) that make up the world will all be distinct, the player can seamlessly travel to them in any order and any time.
Dungeons throughout the world will be procedurally-generated. Scosglen is a forested coastal area with werewolves, druids, and Drowned (a new monster type). Fractured Peaks is snowy and mountainous, with an intricate cave system. Dry Steppes is a desert so harsh that its inhabitants have resorted to cannibalism. Hawezar is a swampy area with witches and zealots. Lastly, Kehjistan contains many ruins inhabited by cultists.
Dungeon Objectives have been introduced, where the completion of them will be rewarded accordingly. However, this will result in tougher enemies and challenges being spawned for the player to deal with.
With the world being as big as it is, having some friends to help you travel through it is most appreciated. Though Diablo 4 is confirmed to release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One — with a release on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S expected — crossplay and local multiplayer are being targeted by Blizzard. Enemies will scale according to party level to ensure that friends can play together.
Even if you choose to fly solo, you will need an online connection to play Diablo 4. Lead systems designer David Kim confirmed to GameSpot that there will be PvP, saying:
“Currently, we are planning on having specific areas of the world where you can choose to PvP if you want to, and the other thing is, we are also exploring some PvP modes that would work really well in Diablo.”
Items of interest
Following feedback, Ancient items will be no more in Diablo 4. In its absence will be a new as-of-yet unnamed consumable earned from killing late game monsters. Whatever loot you get can be customised with runes to upgrade items with certain effects.
There will be two types of runes: condition and effect. Condition runes will require a specific situation to activate, while effect runes will add onto the items’ usual operations.
While the usual offensive and defensive stats such as attack, crit chance, and element resistance will remain, three new stats have been introduced: Angelic Power, Demonic Power, and Ancestral Power. Angelic Power will increase the duration of all beneficial effects (self-buffs, healing), Demonic Power will increase the duration of all negative effects (debuffs, damage over time), and Ancestral Power will increase the chances of on-hit effects.
Diablo 4 will also do away with Tetris-style inventory management, having removed different-sized items. This change should hopefully prevent the slowing down of gameplay from having to shuffle inventory blocks to fit one more piece of loot.
A common request for years that will finally be addressed in Diablo 4 is the ability to rebind the primary ability from left-click, with all skill slots able to have their keys rebound. Even though this change is welcome, there will be support for PC players using controllers.
With a unified UI having been designed for the game, native feel should come with either mouse-and-keyboard or gamepad input. Elective Mode also returns from Diablo 3, allowing for incredible flexibility when binding skills to whichever keys you fancy.
For now, Blizzard have given us a lot of information and we’ll learn a lot more about the game soon at the current rate of updating. As for when Diablo 4 will come out, expect to wait a fair while.
Blizzard staff are currently working from home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, hence the delay to 2022. Considering Diablo 3 was in development since 2001, announced in 2008, and released in 2012, a long wait may well be on the cards. Nevertheless, the hype train rumbles on.
A change in direction
The original director assigned to Diablo IV, Luis Barriga, has left his post at Blizzard due to the company’s ongoing workplace culture controversy. His reported replacement is Joe Shely, who has been with Blizzard since 2005. Shely had the following words to say regarding his promotion:
“As a design lead who has been working on this dark, shared, open world action role-playing game from the beginning, I’m honored to continue the vision of Diablo IV as its new Game Director”.
Blizzard will be hoping that it’s smooth sailing from here on out but, considering their continued refusal to accept responsibility, that’s still far from certainty.