After last year’s disappointing BlizzCon, there was only one game and one game only I wanted to see at BlizzCon 2019 and that game was Diablo IV. After dropping one of the best Blizzard cinematics the studio has ever released, we got our first look at D4 gameplay and I was all for it. It’s clear the game is still incredibly early in development, especially after the team stated the game wasn’t coming soon, not even Blizzard Soon, but it’s already looking great.
The most obvious change with D4 is in the game’s art style. Visually, at least, D4 looks to be a throwback to Diablo II and that’s just fine with me. The game features a gross, dark art style that should make Diablo III detractors quite happy. Personally, I didn’t have any real misgivings over the art style of D3, but I am digging the darker tone all the same.
The game also just seems a bit more grounded overall. Animations look more deliberate, and spell effects, at least the ones we’ve seen so far, don’t sear your eyeballs. The characters themselves seem less like godlike heroes beating back the darkness and more like people trying to survive a horrific scenario.
I’m also excited for Blizzard’s MMOARPG approach to D4. They’re not outright calling it an MMO, but it’s clear that D4 has things in common with games like Marvel Heroes, an ARPG by Diablo creator David Brevik that featured a ton of open, shared spaces for players to run into each other and easily team up. When playing through a campaign area for the first time, the map will be private to you, but once you’ve cleared it, it will be a shared space. This is a clever way of handling this decision that allows players to maintain a sort of single player experience when playing through the campaign for the first time.
The concept seems well thought out overall. My understanding is that you’re not going to run into people all the time, but you will run into more people around parts of the map that focus on co-operative objectives, such as world bosses. Some of my favorite experiences in MH were the many opportunities to seamlessly team up with others to tackle a big boss fight or zone event, so I’m definitely looking forward to this.
I’m not super invested into any particular Diablo class, but I do like the Barbarian and Sorcerer, so I’m glad to see them return. The Barbarian’s new Arsenal mechanic, which allows him to equip four different weapons, is neat. I also really appreciate how these weapons are used when executing abilities. That’s one huge gripe I had with D3. I do miss the Crusader and I hope she returns, but given D4 is clearly inspired by D2, I’m expecting to see the Paladin return as one of the game’s five launch classes.
Character customization also looks to be a bigger thing in D4 as well. D3 allowed you to select a gender for your class, but D4 is upping the ante with customizable faces, skin tones, and more. I’m trying to temper my expectations here, but I hope Blizzard really leans into customization. I realize this probably isn’t super important to most people, especially since you’re typically looking down at your character due to the game’s top-down camera, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about this sort of thing.
If there’s one area I’m apprehensive about D4 right now it would be the game’s direction towards itemization. Many players have lamented Blizzard boiling down a lot of damage and defensive attributes to simple Attack and Defense, but I don’t think we’ve seen the full picture just yet and things are so early that I hesitate to be overly critical here. My understanding is that Blizzard wants you to be able to know at a glance if an item is an upgrade for you, but the real interesting choices will come from the other things you can find on an item that let you create the build you want. That could work, but it all depends on the execution.
One thing I am glad to see is that Blizzard wants to move away from is item sets, which is something that really choked out build diversity in D3, though things have improved recently with the introduction of Legacy of Dreams. I don’t know if putting the focus on Legendary items themselves is the right approach, but it’s certain to shake things up some. I know a lot of the D2 crowd wants every tier of item to matter, but I don’t necessarily want to spend time evaluating lower rarity items for value in the endgame.
What’s your take on Diablo IV from what we’ve seen so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!