DIABLO 4 IN A NUTSHELL:
- An isometric hack'n'slash (don't know about you, but I'm already relieved)
- The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
- A powerful network component reminiscent of Path of Exile, Destiny, or Guild Wars
- We'll be able to play solo, but if offline? We don't know
- Open world
- Rune words make a comeback
- The character development system combines Diablo III and Diablo II
- The return of darkness and evil
- And weapons. Truly, a whole lot of weapons.
Blizzard has got some air to clear. And something to prove. Recently, they suffered both major and minor blows to their reputation. Players were not thrilled with Battle for Azeroth; we’re bare witnesses of the slow and painful demise of Heroes of the Storm, Diablo III was saved, but only eventually, which gave others time to brew up a serious competitor: Path of Exile. Diablo Immortal was revealed in the worst possible moment. But the faltering quality of their products was just the prelude. On top of that, there were also reports of poor treatment of employees, and the recent nail to the coffin, i.e. the Blitzchung scandal, which fueled newsrooms across the world for weeks. And maybe it's true that the old, player-friendly, Blizzard is forever gone. But it's also possible – and we certainly hope that to be the case – that they're finally getting out of the pit. And they sure know how to get the hype train rolling. Diablo 4 looks like a hack'n'slash dream come true, a game we yearned for ever since Diablo II.
This series has always had one problem. No matter how good the subsequent iterations were, they always seemed to fail in realizing their biggest promises. Clans, guilds, a proper PvP, refreshing the formula without breaking the spirit – those things were either not there at all, or came half-baked. Those were still solid games that would revolutionize and improve the genre – with one exception. The problems of Diablo III were legendary. And it seems somebody has finally done their homework. Everything we’ve seen, BlizzCon presentations in particular, seems to confirm that assumption.
This article is based on materials released by Blizzard on November 1 – the conference, the trailers, gameplay, and demo impressions. The roadmap on the website allows to assume that by the time you read this, more details will have become available – details that we could not include in this piece, for our precognition skills are too low.
A journey through the darkness
The stereotypical opinion about Diablo and all the diabloids is that they're all one, big grind fest that boils down to collecting items and clicking your mouse to death. And the truth is, addictive gameplay is the reason we come back for another fix. But that's not all there is. Because the reason for the first Diablo being so unique was something else. Something very important that Jay Wilson didn't get when he proudly announced Diablo III. The Gothic horror was diluted with Middle-Eastern tropes and superhero undertones – our main characters are practically demigods, and humanity is the fruit of the mésalliance of demons and angels.
This translated into soggy aesthetics of a cartoonish dimension of gloom, which would be better suited for Darksiders or Warcraft than Diablo. I remember the first time I launched Diablo II. The child's mind was more prone to horror on the screen, but even years after, the same impression prevails. This story was a trek through thick darkness and corruption. It was a journey to hell, head-on. It acted on feelings, tasted bitterly, and showed that even the strongest hero of the noblest heart can eventually succumb to viciousness.
And it looks like Blizzard was finally reminded of how it's done. The cinematic trailer shows Diablo 4 taking absolutely no prisoners. The gloom is back, it's real, brutal and bloody occult; people are evil and treacherous. There's a hefty dose of horror, and a pinch of gore. But what did you expect from a story focused on Lilith – the daughter of Mephisto and the creator of the Sanctuary? Little is known about the details, but I'm beginning to wonder what role she'll play in the plot. Will she be just another boss, or maybe more? Someone to sow doubt in the minds of our heroes? In the end, the priest in the trailer urges her for help and protection, rather than the imminent destruction of the world (besides, the hellish family already has a specialist on this – Bhaal).
And it's hard to wonder – ravaged by the conflict of Heaven and Hell, humanity has no one to turn to. The sky closed the gates and turned away from the Creation. And Lilith seized the opportunity. The apocalyptic influence of the new ruler should be tangible at every step. We shall witness the consequences of her reign and influence on the very human nature. The creators have announced that it will be the most immersive installment in the franchise, where players travel through a shattered world filled with Gothic horror, biblical motifs and regular human malevolence. I also have a hunch that we will see a lot more ambiguity – perhaps even at the heart of the game’s pivotal conflict.
Yes indeed, the corruption, blood, violence, Christian symbolism and the pentacles make a big return. Some more outlandish ideas will certainly make it into the game here and there, but both the trailer and the gameplay show that this will be a definitive departure from the stylistics of the third part. It all seems to shout, in capital letters: welcome to hell. Over the abyss. With the promise of reaching the deepest circle.