Originally going into Blizzcon I was really excited for Diablo because I thought it was likely we would get a reveal for what Diablo 4 would be. However, after blizzard pretty much announced they would not be announcing Diablo 4 I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I know some people expected a remaster of Diablo 2 but that honestly wasn’t even on my radar as a likely possibility. However, a mobile Diablo game wasn’t something I had even considered as a possibility and as a result Diablo Immortal came as a complete surprise to me and caught me a bit off-guard. Thankfully I had the opportunity to play the demo and interview Matthew Berger, Sr. Content Designer, and Richie Marella, Lead Artist, and find out a bit more about this surprising game.
A lot of my love for Diablo rests with the stories they tell and the incredibly beautiful cinematics in Diablo III really helped to push this even more. So, one of my biggest concerns with Immortal is how they will tell a great story in a compelling way on the phone. Specifically, with the smaller screen the though of having to read dialogue or story text is even less appealing to me than it is on other platforms. Thankfully they do plan on having Immortal fully voiced but they were also quick to say that doesn’t mean there will be no text to read, they were trying to minimize it.
They also expressed a real desire to explore all the different things which happened between Diablo II and Diablo III which gives them a ton of possibilities. One thing which has been heavily hinted at during the panels was we might get to see how Tyrael survived shattering the Worldstone. Which all by itself could be an interesting story but then there’s all the things which lead up to the state of the world when Diablo III starts there’s enough possibilities there to provide many years worth of stories. I also asked about the chances of running into Leah even though at the point Immortal starts she’d just be a little girl. Berger did indicate it was possible we might eventually see how she ended up in Deckard’s care.
For the demo of Immortal only the Wizard, Monk, and Barbarian were available to play. I chose the Barbarian to start with because that’s pretty much always my first class every time. Moving around was seamless and intuitive. Thankfully you can put your left thumb wherever on the screen and drag it around to move the character. I had been a bit worried if there was limited space (if there was a specific circle or something you had to stay in) it could make movement frustrating when your thumb hit the edges. As it was movement seemed straightforward and I didn’t get frustrated with it at all.
All abilities are controlled with the right thumb and are on a radial menu. This was also easy to use, and the icons made understanding what each ability was easy and clear. I was also really surprised by how cool the abilities looked. I had seen the video which was shown at the What’s Next panel but seeing them while playing was different somehow. Also, being able to charge skills, aim, and move at the same time felt good. Having this flexibility helped combat to flow in a more modern way and was a lot of fun.
One of the big draws of Immortal is how it will function in some ways similarly to a MMO in that players will just run into each other out in the world. In Diablo III people would only be in your game if you invited them so having these open areas where people will just be running around concurrently is a big shift. One thing doing this allows them to do is to put tougher monsters out in the world with the expectation players will organically work together to take down these tougher challenges. I have always approached Diablo III as a single player game I could play with friends if I wanted to (though I usually don’t). I have to admit though, it was a lot of fun just rampaging through things with other players.
Of course, there’s still a lot they weren’t ready to talk about regarding Immortal and some of these things are kind of a big deal. For instance, knowing how inventory and gearing will work is an important consideration. Also, a big question is what the difficulty level will be. They were very clear at Blizzcon the difficulty is was set easier for the demo to not be too frustrating for people who might not have ever played a Diablo game before. Knowing where the base difficulty and if there will be other difficulty options is important. Lastly of course is what the monetization system will be. Although I don’t always agree with some of Blizzard’s ways of monetizing their games, but also when compared to the wider gaming industry they haven’t done anything truly horrible. I have cautious optimism about it.
I am looking forward to seeing more of Immortal over the next few weeks and months and hope everything continues along positively. What I have seen so far was a lot of fun though so at least this first step is positive.