Blizzard's announcement of Diablo 4 during the 2019 Blizzcon Opening Ceremony describes a part of the action-RPG series that sounds very different from its 2012 predecessor. Diablo 4 returns to its darker roots. While Diablo has helped inspire the slate of prey game that has recently emerged, Blizzard seems to be borrowing some ideas from these games to make Diablo 4 more than a shared experience.
Following the announcement, Blizzard made a short demo available on the show where we played about 10 minutes on Diablo 4. The most striking element is the use of game ideas similar to what is seen in games like Destiny 2 or Dark Souls . You are a warrior fighting hordes of evil creatures all over the World at the Sanctuary, but you are not alone. Not only do you have teammates, but in the demonstration we saw, the world was alive with other players who were fighting just as hard to dispel unwanted brothers and demonic creatures.
The demo included three different classes of characters: the barbarian, the sorceress, and the druid. Taking on the role of a form-shifting druid, we quickly deepened into the terrifying world of the sanctuary, falling into the midst of a search that sent us exploring the crypt in search of a particular lantern. The formula was immediately familiar ̵
After the world came out, Diablo 4 presented what felt like a more terrible, desperate Sanctuary , but one that was also more lively. As I headed to the village of Korbach, I began to encounter other players as they rushed through monsters and interacted with distracted and unjustified peasants. In a practical way, these extra bodies in the world help to create many, well, additional bodies. At first glance, it is very likely that you wander through living enemies around the world as dead, already eliminated by someone else, which creates the distinct feeling that while the people of the Sanctuary are on the verge of destruction, there are still many warriors fighting.
at first glance, it is as likely to wander through living enemies around the world as the dead, already eliminated by someone else.
These additional players mean that Diablo 4 may also feel more dangerous. While you may be crossing the field behind someone else who wiped out all the mafia just before you arrived, you may also encounter some haunting creature that you just couldn't handle on your own. These meetings get a sense of public events in games with a common world where multiple players come together spontaneously to destroy something that would otherwise be beyond their control. The stumbling block of one of these massive demons in Diablo 4 can be daunting, but with other players around, they also create a sense of shared purpose.
As a druid, your abilities are primarily about becoming powerful creatures that deal great damage and knock enemies around to stun them and control the battlefield. Your main attack turns you into a werewolf to push through your nails, and the rest of your movements tend to clear big bangs in certain areas. One allows you to transform into a bear and charge through multiple enemies while positioning yourself; another throws a pair of stones at enemies, leaving them stunned; another sends a pair of wolves after one enemy while dealing with another. When the barbarian deals extensive damage and the sorceress focuses on the area of action and stunning, the Druid seems to strike a balance between the two.
During the opening ceremony, Blizzard described his intention to bow to the horror of the Diablo franchise and even in our brief demonstration there was evidence that it was. The cinematic trailer is certainly full of disturbing views, and the cut of your escape from the cave helps the telegraph of Diablo 4, who fears very early on. The mission I took on as the local village leader also had considerable horror. It focused on the woman's son, a fit young man who had prophetic visions of a lantern and insisted that he should find and retrieve it. Entering through the early cave ended with the discovery of the lantern, but his return did not make his son any better, but worse – he now wanted to take him and wander into the cave.
When I went to his cave instead, I found out why he was drawn there: the previous old man used his lantern and his dark magic power to sacrifice young people to a witch, guaranteeing the prosperity of the village. But even destroying the witch was not enough to save the boy. Returning to the village, I arrived just in time to watch him choke with blood while his mother watched in horror.
It was a tragic and horrifying moment, and this is exactly what Blizzard intends in the aesthetic and thematic focus of Diablo 4. Combined with its shared-world approach, it seems that we can expect Diablo 4 to offer a much different take on the franchise than its predecessor.