The recent release of Diablo II Resurrected and Diablo Immortal have all been leading up to the big one in Diablo IV. As the team is in deep preparation for its highly anticipated launch in 2023, many questions still linger about how the game is and what can players look forward to.
Diablo IV Game Director Joe Shely and Head of Franchise Rod Ferguson was kind enough to share a few words with several media outlets to talk more about the upcoming game, including why Diablo IV is more than just a new game in the series.
Because of the shift of Diablo IV to a shared world featuring the biggest map the series has ever seen, the team had new problems to solve that was brought about by this. “It was a really interesting process to sort of work through those,” says Shely, as he pointed out how to give players a system that would allow for flexibility in moving around the world. “There’s a system by which you can open the map and pin a particular location on the map and it will it will draw a line from your location to that location that shows up on their mini-map and you can use that as a navigation aid similar to how GPS works in your car.”
One other adaptation that the team came up with was to allow players to teleport to a waypoint from any point on the map, and what this really does is help the overworld of Diablo IV “shine and live up to its potential as a wonderful place that you can explore with all of these monsters,” says Shely.
One new system being introduced in Diablo IV is the use of mounts, which can be eventually unlocked as you reach a certain point in the game. A concern was having players not care about the world and simply riding from point A to B everytime, skipping the overworld and the activities that enhance the full experience.
The balance is to have players experience the world first and have a greater feeling for it. “You start to get into where you need to have greater travel as you’re doing the end game that we make the amount available,” says Ferguson. Putting this system in place allows players to unlock the mount approximately two thirds in the campaign, which is then unlocked for all other characters in the player account.
It’s been a little over ten years since Diablo III, and apart from the recently released Diablo Immortal for mobile, Diablo IV is going to be the biggest and newest game yet. With the series seeing a sort of reemergence over the past couple of years, the team had to make sure that players weren’t looking forward to it just because it’s new, but it had to have an X Factor.
“Story,” says Ferguson. “I think the there’s a really rich world and story there.”
Our hands-on preview of the game allowed us to play the prologue and act one, and indeed, storytelling in the game is much more involved and dramatic. With more cutscenes and dialog, it is clear that one of the core aspects that the team gave much importance to was a focus on the story. “I believe it sets a new bar for Diablo games in terms of storytelling,” Ferguson proudly shares.
Between the enhanced class and skill tree upgrades to always giving the players choice of how they want to play the game and who they want to play it with, everything in Diablo IV has been “plussed up” where there’s a sort of familiarity to it but also a very rich and deep game to further explore. “I think it’s like the combination of the Diablo series and I think that’s what makes it exciting to play.”
As players explore the world and grow in power, formidable World Bosses may stand in their way, huge behemoths that will require more than a party of four players to topple. These bosses, as Shely mentions, are designed to be challenged by many players, with even the monster design and the skills involved architected in such a way that it would work with an army of players in battle.
One interesting thing while fighting these bosses is that they are so big, that things may get a bit crowded at times. “One of the things that we do is we actually pull the camera out a little bit when you’re fighting a World Boss so that you can actually see everything that’s going on. Plus we kind of have to because the world bosses are enormous,” claims Shely.
When asked about the possible return of the infamous marketplace/auction house from Diablo III, Shely dismisses the notion by saying that the team has “no plans for a marketplace or auction house.” Shely continues, saying that “the underlying engine of the game is ‘kill difficult and scary demons to get powerful loot’ so we want to make sure we’re always staying true to that.”
It’s no secret that Diablo IV is looking to its past for inspiration, and “returning to darkness” has been a recurring theme that the team is keeping at the core for the game. As such, it is inevitable that the game will be targeting a more mature audience and rating, but there also comes a concern that it might limit the broader appeal of the game.
“When we see the darker tones of what’s in pop culture today, with Game of Thrones and Walking Dead and Squid Game, these are properties that have a dark tone that I consider to be mainstream,” says Ferguson. “I don’t think it’s limiting our ability to be mainstream. It’s really nice to go back to the roots of Diablo and lean into the themes that makes Diablo, Diablo. When you think about heaven vs hell and the eternal conflict, that’s a dark tone, and it allows us to be truer and more authentic to the property.”
Diablo IV is shaping up to be the game fans have wanted and so much more. While there’s still a ways to go before its release, we can only count the days until we finally get to battle Lilith to save the world from the forces of Hell once again.
Diablo IV is scheduled to release in 2023 for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.