Diablo IV‘s announcement at Blizzcon yesterday was packed with gruesome death The long-awaited sequel’s tone is dark, and that carries over into the gameplay. My hands-on time with a demo build was exciting.Diablo IVeagerly ramps up the gore and dark magic for an experience that feels old-school but adds a few modern twists.
Diablo IV‘sjourney has been rocky, as it was conspicuously absent at last year Blizzcon. Fans had to make do withDiablo Immortal, a mobile game iteration whose announcement was met with disappointment. There’s been a tumultuous development history, with aDark Soulsinspired project finally giving way to a more traditional game. That project, which becameDiabloIV,went by the codename Fenris and had a major design ethos: embrace the darkness. PlayingDiablo IVis a bloody experience. Sorceresses wade through crimson rivers, bosses fall apart in fleshy chunks, and innocents are sacrificed to vengeful gods. It’s the return toDiablo IIthat many fans want, and it’s damn fun to play.
There are only three playable characters announced forDiablo IVat the moment : the barbarian, the sorceress, and the druid. These are classic archetypes familiar to the series. As a fan of flashy magic users, I selected the Sorceress. Starting the demo, I immediately found myself in a dark crypt full of shadowy beasts. My objective was to recover a magical lantern at the behest of a local village chief. Thus began the dungeon delving thatDiablois known for. As a sassy mage lady, I had plenty of great abilities at my disposal. I could conjure freezing rain to slow down enemies or encase them in ice if they lingered in the storm — hitting skeletons and beasts at this point shattered them into frosty bits. If I was in trouble, I could transform into a ball of sparking electricity, rushing around a room to zap foes into dust. Most impressively, I could target an area and call down a massive meteor and blow enemies into bits. My talent tree teased the possibility of snappy teleportation spells and brutal ice blades. It ties into design ethos, which sound supervisor Kris Giampa summed up to me in one word: to make every interaction gratifying.
“We want you to kick ass when you’re in the game,” Giampa said. Even breaking a barrel should feel gratifying. If you were to close your eyes and play the game, you will hear exactly what’s happening. Chopping a goatman in half, squashing him with a boulder. ”
The goal is an experience that’s dark and magical, and not too humorous.DiabloIVplays like a deliberate response to criticisms, both from players and within Blizzard thatDiablo IIIwas too cartoony. I never really understood that complaint and thought that game had a solid split between dark fantasy and dry wit, but it’s clear thatDiablo IVis meant to be a crowd-pleaser more than anything. If that means an extra layer of blood and edge, so be it.Diablo IVfeels like a very safe game but there’s no denying that matching through dungeons and blasting apart water-bloated witches is a good time.
There are some new ideas here, too.Diablo IVstructures itself more likeDestinythan its predecessor. While there is a main story that players can focus on, the world itself is more open and not merely a collection of zones you teleport to. Even in the short demo I played, the map was large and held plenty of side areas to explore. There were cliffs to jump down, walls to climb, and while they weren’t available yet there will be mounts to ride across the larger areas. Other players crossed my path during my travels, and we were able to help each other out or even participate in world events to defeat unique world bosses. The one I found in the demo was a massive sort-of flayed dragon. Other players joined in the battle, filling the screen with spells and carnage.Diablo IVis more social than previous entries. You can party up with players you meet along the way, trade items with them, and under the right circumstances, fight them. The last is an eagerly awaited feature, but one that the development team is approaching carefully.
“We want PVP to be opt-in,” lead game designer Jesse McCree said. “It’s not fun to be attacked when you least expect it. There will be some conditions for participating but we’re figuring those out. I wouldn’t want you to run into someone with crazy gear who one-shots you as they walk past. ”
DiabloIVactivities aren’t walled off between different modes or multiple toggles. Non-linearity is another goal. If you want to follow the main story with your friends, go for it. If you simply want to explore the game world for dungeons, go ahead. Wandering around could lead to surprise encounters with players and demons alike. Instead of teleporting from challenge to challenge, the hope is that players will take charge of their own experiences. If there was another key thing to change, McCree told me, it was the pacing.
“The gameplay videos make it look frantic but the pacing is down a little bit,” McCree said. “I think it adds more atmosphere, more time to take things in.”
The result was aDiabloexperience that I really enjoy and definitely want to check out again before Blizzcon is over. There’s a focus on pleasing players, bringing back competitive battles and allowing them to focus on what they want. Underneath the gritty looks and the expansive world is the monster mashing gameplay folks love.
“Smashing stuff is really fun,” McCree said. )
It’sDiablothrough and through, and moreDiablois always a good thing.