During the opening ceremony for BlizzCon 2019, Diablo fans got something which we’ve been waiting for what has felt like years. In fact, the announcement trailer for Diablo IV kicked everything off with a hell of a bang. One aspect I hadn’t dared hope for but was incredibly excited to see is the much darker and more gruesome take on the world of Sanctuary. I hadn’t expected it because although a game that leans into the heavier subject matter available and doesn’t pull its punches on the brutality is something I’d enjoy when making games for the mass market, it’s safer to tone everything down a bit. Toned down and restrained has no place in Diablo IV.
The story kicks off decades after the end of the events of Diablo III, and the intervening time has taken a heavy toll on the inhabitants of Sanctuary. Everyone who had previously been a hero or protector has either died or grown old and feeble. Even the Nephalem is now old and useless in any fight. With no protection or real strength to protect themselves, the situation is dire for humanity.
As with Diablo III, players who have played the previous games will get the advantage of more quickly understanding what is going on in the world, whereas new players might have to delve a bit deeper into the story before understanding the current stakes. However, since this is a new story set many years in the future new players will be able to jump in and understand the story without having to backtrack through previous games. I love that they are keeping this philosophy alive, because for most people having to go back and play previous games to understand the story is something that simply will not happen.
One of the more interesting aspects of the initial gameplay experience is the character select is just a bunch of characters sitting around a campfire together. Unlike many other games, though, there’s no stat blocks or paragraphs of the class description on this scene to help the player choose which class they want to play. Fortunately, the three classes we have available this weekend are distinct enough; there isn’t much chance of confusing them. Well, I could understand if someone initially confused the Druid and the Barbarian, at least at first. This might change once the last two launch classes are announced.
Initially, I had been disappointed the Crusader was not one of the three classes announced right away, but I hoped they might add them in later. However, having given it some more thought, I don’t believe the Crusader fits in this new version of Sanctuary. Crusaders believe they are on a holy mission, and in a world where heaven has left humans to fend for themselves, the Crusader doesn’t make much sense. As for which classes could be the final two, Necromancer and Assassin are the two I think are the most likely. I could also see Demon Hunter as a real possibility as well.
I’m most excited about the open world and a nonlinear storyline. I tend to like to shotgun story in games, not necessarily as fast as possible, but with a singular focus. Getting stopped from this pursuit because the game thinks I should do something else with my time is frustrating. Conversely, I’m also a big fan of wandering random places and just generally exploring. An open world with a nonlinear story is the best of both worlds. However, nonlinear stories often have the downside of not always being the most cohesive stories because the devs have to account for players encountering things out of order. Hopefully, this is a hurdle that will be cleared, and we’ll end up with a cohesive and intriguing story.
These are just some of the more important highlights about Diablo IV I wanted to point out. I’ll be back later to talk a bit more about the demo and how this early look feels to play. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, leave them in the comments, and if I don’t know the answer already, I’ll try to find out and reply. I can’t wait to get back in Sanctuary again.