Just this week, Blizzard announced that it was not going to show fans a preview of its much-anticipated update to its popular Diablo series at Blizzcon. Much to the dismay of fans, the publisher says that it never intended to do so, causing a lot of confusion in the community. Even some of the biggest names in the video gaming press were confused, offering retractions and apologising for errors.
With that said, Diablo 4 remains one of the most hotly anticipated titles in the video game space, alongside the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and the next instalment in the Battlefield series. The question is whether Diablo 4 can build on the (eventual) success of Diablo 3 and deliver to fans that dungeon crawler experience they fell in love with when they played the original, 2D versions of the game back in the late 1990s.
There were some significant problems with Diablo 3, especially on launch. Fans didn’t like the fact that the auction house system seemed to be broken, with prices for modest gear beyond the reach of the vast majority of players. They also hated the difficulty level and the fact that monsters with special abilities could spam different spells and make it impossible to progress.
Subsequent updates solved those problems, but Diablo 3 had some limitations, and they weren’t all technology-driven. Diablo gameplay is a fantastic concept. For those of you who don’t know, you get an aerial view of your character, with a camera that moves with your character’s movement. You can’t pan the camera, and so you can’t always see what’s coming at you from off the screen. It makes for a fast-paced kind of gameplay, and it fairly unique to the Diablo series, though other games now emulate it, including the recent Pillars of Eternity II.
Gamers have a long wish list of stuff they’d like to see Diablo 4 do that improves on the previous version of the title. They’re not just looking for refinement, but something that takes them deeper into the dark world that Blizzard created in the original games.
So what do fans want?
More Detailed Lore
The original Diablo games were steeped in lore. You couldn’t go five minutes without getting an opportunity to read a long text conversation between characters. These conversations helped to immerse players in the world, providing valuable information and intrigue, providing an interesting interlude between spells of hack and slash gameplay. Diablo 3 continued this storytelling to some extent with voice acting and cutscenes, but for many players, it didn’t feel as deep. From the next game, some lore-minded gamers will want to be able to read books (in the many bookcases found in the game) and find out more about their characters, as well as other characters in the game. If they were to have one request, it would be that.
A Longer Game
When players logged into Diablo 3 servers for the first time back in 2012, they were expecting an epic. After all, that’s what Blizzard is famous for, thanks to the MMORPG World of Warcraft franchise. But instead, they got something much shorter than expected. The four chapters of the game could be completed by a skilled player in a single session, leaving many disappointed. Blizzard tried to enhance the game’s longevity by providing different modes, increasing the difficulty of levels in proportion to character progression, but this still couldn’t make up for the relative lack of content.
Fans want Diablo 4 to be a real epic, with dozens of different environments. They also want the story to be a saga, rather than a curt tale. Something more akin to Skyrim than Super Meat Boy. Anything shorter will be a disappointment.
Games based on Dungeons and Dragons have always been about combat, whether played online or in real life. There needs to be some kind of skill involved in every interaction with enemies to make the game enjoyable. If not, things can get boring very quickly.
But the problem with Diablo 3, according to many players, is that after a while, skill and strategy no longer mattered, except, perhaps during boss fights. You can see how Blizzard tried to avoid this using special abilities in the vanilla version of the game, but they couldn’t get the balance right, and so players found combat too difficult.
Fans also want to be able to shop now for the things that add uniqueness to their characters, but don’t confer gameplay advantages. The vanilla version of Diablo 3 got this wrong, making it possible to buy your way to the top of the leaderboards without having done the actual hard work of getting there through skill.
Blizzard has always struggled to create meaningful skill trees in its games. The problem is creating skills trees where all skills are equally enticing so that players have real options. In any RPG, this is hard to achieve because there will always be some skills that synergise better with particular classes or armour sets than others, making certain choices inevitable. Blizzard tried to get around this in Diablo 3 by offering ability upgrades suitable for different situations, but much of the customisation was superficial.
Hardcore hack and slash fans want to be able to customise their characters in the future more deeply, and they hope that this is what Diablo 4 will bring.
Greater Variety Of Classes
Finally, players want Blizzard to offer a wider variety of classes in Diablo 4. At launch, Diablo 3 only had five playable classes. Yes, some were interesting, like the enigmatic Witch Doctor, but overall players didn’t have a lot of choices. Other than male or female, there was no additional customisation of a character’s appearance, so playing in groups could look a little odd.
Blizzard could easily remedy this in the next iteration of the game, basing the class system on either Overwatch or World of Warcraft, both of which provide players with far more options.
Little is known about Diablo 4 as yet, but if Blizzard can be as successful as they’ve been with other recent titles, it could prove to be an incredible game.