Diablo 4 Originally a 3rd-Person Soulslike Game, New Version to “Embrace the Darkness”

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Nov 21
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What is going on with the Diablo franchise? Blizzard has hinted they have multiple Diablo projects in the works, and the company reportedly scrapped plans to announce Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2018 at the last moment. Instead, they opted to focus on the mobile-exclusive Diablo Immortal, which has not been well received by fans, investors, or even ex-Diablo developers.

Following the backlash to Diablo Immortal, Blizzard has largely clammed up, refusing to reveal any new details about what they’re doing with Diablo. Thankfully, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has done some digging, talking to 11 current and former Diablo developers. The picture that emerges is of a franchise, and studio, in a state of flux and uncertainty.

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First off, the good news – Diablo 4 is very much in production. Development began in late 2013/early 2014 when Blizzard brass decided to cancel Diablo III’s second expansion. The feeling at the time was that Diablo III had been a “giant fuck up” and that it was time to move on to the next major game in the series. Unfortunately, Diablo 4 has run into its own problems.

The original vision for Diablo 4 was essentially Blizzard’s take on Dark Souls. A gritty, challenging gothic action game, featuring over-the-should third-person camera. Unfortunately, this version of the game “was not shaping up at all,” and in 2016 Diablo 4 was rebooted with original director Josh Mosqueira being replaced by design director Luis Barriga.

The current version of Diablo 4 is reportedly a return to series fundamentals, with an isometric viewpoint and a new art style that “embraces the darkness.” Basically, the much-maligned stylized, colorful graphics of Diablo III have been replaced with a more dark, realistic, “gross” look. Development is still early (don’t expect the game until 2020 at the earliest), with certain aspects like online integration and monetization still up in the air. That said, there’s said to be plans for some light MMO elements, like a hub where players can meet up before embarking on quests.

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Those worried Diablo Immortal will take resources away from Diablo 4 can breathe easy, as the mobile game is being overseen by a completely different team at Blizzard. As reported, Diablo Immortal is just one of many mobile games in the works at Blizzard, which include a Warcraft take on Pokemon Go.

The aggressive push into mobile gaming could be due to Activision’s growing influence over Blizzard. While they’re technically two halves of the same company, Blizzard has traditionally operated completely independently from Activision. That may be starting to change, with Activision pressuring Blizzard to cut costs while simultaneously increasing their output of new games. Hence the mobile titles, which can be developed with partners and shunted out quicker than Blizzard’s traditional highly-polished fare.

So yeah, I wish the news was better, but at the moment the future of Diablo, and Blizzard itself, is far from certain. Here’s hoping Diablo 4 eventually shapes up into the return-to-form fans have been hoping for.

In the meantime, Diablo III is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch and Diablo Immortal is “coming soon” to iOS and Android devices.

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