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Diablo 4 - What We Know So Far

Things have been rough for Blizzard in recent years, to say the least. BlizzCon 2019 presented a chance for the developer to turn public opinion around. To do so, it pulled out one of its biggest weapons: "Diablo 4," the sequel to the long-running isometric dungeon crawler franchise.

Following the disastrous reception to "Diablo Immortal," a mobile game literally no one was asking for, the "Diablo" name needed a lifeline. Blizzard knew that. The fans knew that, too. So this time around, they pulled out all the stops to get rid of the blasphemous taint surrounding the franchise.

But will "Diablo 4" be everything you're hoping for? If you don't know much about the game, don't sweat it. There's a lot going on, with all the classes, skill trees, and even new mounts! Blizzard is journeying into a brave new world, considering the company announced the sequel seven years after "Diablo 3" released. Here's everything you need to know about Blizzard's upcoming RPG.

Diablo 4's release date

Anyone familiar with Blizzard knows the concept of "soon™." It's an amorphous, abstract unit of time that could mean, well, anything, at least for Blizzard. Fans have patiently waited for all sorts of things, like expansions and new games. This time around, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be any different. In fact, it might be an even longer wait than you might expect.

Luis Barriga, the director of "Diablo 4," didn't sugarcoat anything regarding the game's release date. He wouldn't offer a launch window, and he even poked fun at the meme that's surrounded Blizzard for years now: "A game of this scope takes time. We're not coming out soon, not even Blizzard soon."

But, despite Blizzard's reluctance to commit to a solid date, the company did post an official blog update in June 2022 to say that "Diablo 4" will be released sometime within 2023. And a leak reported by Windows Central claims that "Diablo 4" will potentially be releasing in April 2023, but no official confirmations have yet been provided.

When soon™ can't even be used to describe the wait, we're definitely in it for the long haul.

Who is developing and publishing the game?

Blizzard Entertainment is the company behind "Diablo 4." Blizzard was once regarded as one of the best PC game studios in the world, and part of that prestige in the 2000s was thanks to the "Diablo" franchise, not to mention other genre-defining franchises like "World of Warcraft" and "StarCraft." "Diablo 2" was released in 2002, is such a respected game in the Action RPG genre that fans still gush about it decades later.

But for all of Blizzard's success in the 2000s, the intervening years have been rough for the company. Since merging with Activision in 2008, the company has been embroiled in numerous controversies, including harassment scandals and losses of key employees.

Joe Shely, "Diablo 4's" Game Director, and Rod Fergusson, the game's General Manager, have served as media frontmen as "Diablo 4" inches closer to release. Joe Shely was a Senior Game Designer for "Diablo 3" and Rod Fergusson is best known for his contributions as a Game Producer for the "Gears of War" franchise, so their combined experience should serve the new game's production well.

Diablo 4's platforms

Any diehard "Diablo" fan should expect this next mainline entry in the franchise to come to PC. That's practically a given at this point, considering that's the platform that lent the franchise its success. However, what might be a surprise to some is that Blizzard plans on launching "Diablo 4" on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One alongside PC.

In some ways, it makes sense. "Diablo 3" eventually made its way to home consoles. It hit the PS3 and Xbox 360, then the PS4 and Xbox One. It even came out on the Nintendo Switch. However, all of these console releases came after the PC launch.

Blizzard wants to give as many gamers as possible the chance to play "Diablo 4," as it's coming to everything but the Nintendo Switch on launch. Yet, the game won't hit shelves any time soon, and with next-gen consoles on the way, you have to wonder if Blizzard is aiming for more consoles down the line.

Diablo 4's cinematic trailer

Blizzard kicked off its 2019 convention with an open apology from president J. Allen Brack. It was a somber way to start off the festivities. But after he left the stage, a cinematic started playing, and for the next nine minutes, the crowd couldn't look away.

The studio is no stranger to epic cinematics for its games. Overwatch received more than a handful, and BlizzCon 2019 had no shortage of "World of Warcraft" and new "Overwatch" animations. In this one for "Diablo 4," we see four explorers making their way through some ominous ruins while fighting off demons. They eventually need to sacrifice their own blood to open a door to a summoning circle. Pretty standard fare for "Diablo," really.

Eventually, the group makes the ultimate sacrifice in a bloody ceremony, summoning none other than Lilith herself. She looks as regal as she does ominous, and she certainly seems like a worthy ultimate evil for the next "Diablo" game.

Who is Lilith, anyway?

Old-school fans of "Diablo 2" might recognize Lilith, although she didn't look as high-definition as she does now. She was a boss in the second game, although she wasn't the ultimate antagonist. That honor was reserved for none other than Diablo himself. Now, she seems to be getting her own game to star in.

Lilith, in Diablo lore, is the daughter of Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred. She goes by many names, including the Queen of the Succubi, although judging by her appearance in the cinematic trailer, she might not live up to the sexually charged nature of that title. She once fell in love with an archangel named Inarius, and the two created the nephalem. This powerful race existed between angels and demons, with the potential to become stronger than both. The player characters in the series are all nephalem.

Lilith and Inarius also created the world of Sanctuary by using the Worldstone. The "Diablo" games take place in Sanctuary, but we don't see Lilith in them much. Aside from her appearance in 2, she only gets a passing mention in 3. It's starting to look like we'll see a lot more of her in 4 though.

Diablo 4's gameplay trailer

If you have played a lot of "Diablo," then for the most part, nothing in the new game should surprise you: it's still an isometric, dungeon-crawling RPG about slaying armies of demons like they're nothing. Every class has a whole host of abilities to work with, so you can create all sorts of crazy builds.

However, this video does showcase a few new mechanics. For one, now players can ride on mounts, helping them traverse the landscape more quickly. Previously, players had to rely on abilities to move faster, but the mount will hopefully change that. Furthermore, Blizzard is giving players dismount abilities, letting them get off their mounts with flair while doing damage.

Otherwise, it's fairly par for course. "Diablo 4" has a shinier coat of point, but in terms of gameplay, the classic, addicting formula looks to be basically unchanged — at least, on a surface level.

The Barbarian

When you're in the mood to smash anything that moves, the barbarian just might be the perfect class for you. Most of their abilities require you to be close to your enemy, so you can absolutely destroy them. You've got the relatively simple Bash attack, which sounds fairly self-explanatory, but the barbarian can also use abilities like Upheaval, which tears the ground and sends debris flying.

Some of your other skills bolster your defensive capabilities. Rallying Cry improves your teams' movement speed. Undying Rage can keep you alive when you take a fatal hit, while Challenging Shout taunts nearby enemies and increases your defense. And don't worry if you're not close enough to hit your enemies: gap closers like Leap and Charge will do the work for you.

The barbarian's ultimates drastically alter how you play for a short time. Wrath of the Berserker, for example, gives you the Berserk buff for a few seconds, giving you a damage boost. Iron Maelstrom puts your weapons on a chain that spins around you, dealing passive damage as you do, well, anything else.

The Sorceress

If flinging spells from afar suits your style, the sorceress might be up your alley. If things ever get too hairy, they have a few spells that gets them out of danger, too. Across all of their skills, you'll notice that fire, ice, and lightning pop up regularly, as this class is all about mastery over the elements. Looking at the basic attacks alone, you'll see lightning, fire, and frost bolts as your major options. It only gets crazier from there.

Some of the bigger, more destructive spells include launching Chain Lightning, pelting enemies with Ice Shards, or slinging a classic Fireball. Defensive abilities can coat you in a shield of ice or fire, but the more agile players might prefer using lightning to teleport to safety.

When it comes to ultimates, the sorceress lives and breathes absolute chaos. Deep Freeze makes them immune to damage while freezing everything nearby. Inferno creates an area of effect that's full of fire. Alternatively, fleet-footed sorceresses might use Conduit, which turns the player into a ball of lightning that darts between enemies.

The Druid

For Diablo 4 players who look for something between melee and ranged combat, the druid could be your class of choice. This class can shapeshift into a werewolf or werebear, using those animals' inherent speed to leap around the battlefield. When in human form, they can manipulate nature, giving the class a fairly versatile toolkit.

Take, for example, all of the druid's basic attacks. Earthspike, Storm Strike, and Wind Shear all keep them in human form, as they bend the elements around them to do damage. Alternatively, Shred and Maul automatically shapeshift them into a werewolf or werebear respectively. Just imagining high level druid play conjures images of a constantly shapeshifting creature wreaking havoc upon the hordes of hell.

The druid also has access to animal companions. These pets constantly follow them around, randomly attacking nearby enemies. So far, the confirmed companions are Wolves, Ravens, and Vine Creeper. The druid's ultimates are nothing to scoff at, either. Cataclysm summons tornados and lightning, which stick around after you activate it. Meanwhile, Grizzly Rage turns you into an unstoppable werebear.

The Necromancer

A returning class from "Diablo 2," "Diablo 3," and "Diablo: Immortal," the Necromancer is one of the most storied in the franchise (per Blizzard). This iconic class is known for summoning hordes of necrotic waste back to life to plague and reign terror on its enemies. Necromancers will be able to use Swords, Daggers, Wands, Focuses, Shields, and they are the only class that can use Scythes in battle. They are also the only class with access to curses and they have 4 available playstyles:

The Bone Necromancer focuses its gameplay on heavy Essence usage, creating things exploding skeletons or Bone Cages. Physical damage, critical strike rate, and Essence generation are all stats that make this a desirable path. The Darkness Necromancer uses quick-hitting attacks that generally ramp into damage-over-time (DoT) effects. The Blood Necromancer siphons power from enemies and turns those defensive capabilities into offensive weapons. Lastly, the Army Necromancer summons a horde of undead to deal with their enemies, and is otherwise left open as a sub-type within Necromancy that allows the build out of Bone-Army, Darkness-Army, or Blood-Army hybrids. 

All of that customization within the Necromancer class isn't the end to it, because each Necromancer gets access to their own Book of the Dead, which allows them to further customize the buildout of their very own summoned horde.

The Rogue

The Rogue class in "Diablo 4" will function as a hybrid class that allows players to spec into either the classes' melee or ranged capabilities. Melee Rogues will have access to swords and daggers, while ranged Rogues will have access to bows and crossbows.

Shadow Realm Rogues allow melee focused rogues to pull enemies into a dark void where they get heavy bonuses fot slaying their targeted enemy. Enemies not pulled into the Shadow Realm will disappear until the combat is over or until 5 seconds is up. Exploit Weakness Rogues give valuable information to the player regarding the targeted monster's weaknesses. Additionally, when activated, the Exploit Weakness ability turns all attacks against the target into critical strikes, dealing 60% increased damage. Combo Point Rogues build up spendable points from basic attacks that can be consumed to add extra abilities or damage to existing abilities.

Each Rogue sub-archetype will also have access to 3 Imbues (Fire, Frost, and Poison), similar to "Diablo 2." This means a ranged Combo Point Rogue would be able to imbue their Arrow Barrage with an elemental augment.

All sorts of customization

From what we know about the confirmed classes of Diablo 4, we can already tell that the level of customization and skill synergies leaves a lot for players to explore. Yet, even after hours of tinkering with those skills and finding the best build available, you'll only scratch the surface of what Blizzard is offering. 

For starters, each class will have a talent tree that modifies their skills and other aspects. For example, the barbarian's Concussion talent makes every Brawling skill slow enemies for a bit. Beyond that, there's more than enough loot to customize your character. From powerful legendaries and sets to the newly introduced mythic items, there's no shortage of gear with interesting effects to play with. It has also been confirmed by a Blizzard dev blog that Legendary item abilities are transferable between items (besides 1-of-1 special items). The abilities can also be stored, giving players even more gearing options.

If those legendaries aren't enough for you, you can modify them using runes and runewords. These give you all sorts of control over your abilities as you combine conditional and effect runes. When you attach an effect rune to a conditional one, its effect will trigger every time that condition is met.

Diablo 4 will have cosmetic microtransactions

Lots of Diablo 4 sounds pretty good, as far as we're concerned. The level of customization is through the roof, and the classes have skills that make your mind race at the possibilities. Unfortunately, everything can't be perfect: Blizzard confirmed that "Diablo 4" will have microtransactions. "Diablo" has always been about looking as cool as you feel; consider, the third game even let you transmogrify your gear to look one way while having the stats of another item. Blizzard knows the visual appeal of having an awesome look to your character, and it looks like they're tapping into monetizing that.

Blizzard's monetization for "Diablo 4" will mostly be done through its Shop and its seasonal battle pass. The Shop has been revealed as the cosmetics hub where players can buy skins for premium currency and use those bought items as transmogrified gear. "Diablo 4" will have up to 4 seasons a year with both a free and a paid Season Pass. The Premium Season Pass will have exclusive cosmetics, account boosts, and other goodies, but Blizzard has been adamant that "Diablo 4" will not be pay-to-win.

Diablo 4's shared world experience

It seems like Blizzard has been taking cues from Bungie. Much like "Destiny," "Diablo 4" will have a shared world aspect to it. Players can run into each other, but there's a bit of nuance to how it works. For example, you're more likely to run into players in towns, as more of them will populate there. Meanwhile, you'll find fewer of them while out exploring the wilderness, so you can be more immersed.

Additionally, areas important to the campaign will be private to you and your party if it's your first time experiencing it. Blizzard wouldn't want to ruin the story experience with strange players, after all. Dungeons will still be instanced for your party every time you enter it, which is also when you choose the difficulty of the dungeon. In the open world, enemies scale to your level, but some places will be more challenging than others.

This shared world, while creating a more social experience, means that players can't play "Diablo 4" while offline. An internet connection is required to play it at all times, even if you're going through dungeons solo. However, "Diablo 4" is adding a dynamic level adjuster to parties so that players of varying levels can still party up to experience Sanctuary together, making the shared experience easier for everyone.

PvP in Diablo 4

The shared world of "Diablo 4" creates an inherently social experience, but no one said we all had to play nice together. The upcoming Blizzard RPG will let players face each other in combat to see whose build comes out on top. If you're worried about being harassed or griefed online, you don't have to worry about that. You have to opt into PvP by hanging around a specific part of the shared world. As long as you avoid it, you'll be safe. If you want action, though, you'll know where to find it.

We don't have many details on how PvP will shake out in "Diablo 4," but we hope it fares better than Blizzard's attempt with "Diablo 3." The developers promised PvP initially, but they decided against it in the end. Instead, they implemented a mode called "Brawling," which was a poor substitute for a full-on PvP system. "Diablo 2" had a fully fleshed out PvP system back in the day, so it's not like Blizzard is unfamiliar with it. Here's hoping they deliver on their promises with "Diablo 4."

Diablo 4 has gone through a lot of testing

"Diablo 4" has been in the works for a long time considering that "Diablo 3's" last expansion, "Reaper of Souls" released in early 2014. That has given Blizzard plenty of time to develop and now test out "Diablo 4," and they are not holding back. In fact, Blizzard has gotten "Diablo 4" into about as many hands as possible before releasing the game through a myriad of tests.

According to an interview with IGN, "Diablo 4" was initially tested by the whole "Diablo 4" team over Christmas in 2021, then they allowed the entire Blizzard staff to play "Diablo 4" and give feedback, and then they allowed all of Activision Blizzard and all of their friends and family to play the game and give their feedback. And on top of that, "Diablo 4" just closed its endgame testing where select members of the "Diablo 2" and "Diablo 3" communities were given early access to test out classes, combat, and the balance of endgame content.

So, not only is Blizzard getting a wide range of testers, they are also testing nearly every part of their game before it ships to market. And all of this is before the public beta goes live where server chaos is sure to ensue. All in all, it looks like "Diablo 4" is going to well-polished for its out-of-box release date even given that it will be a live service game.

How you can play the previous Diablo games

As one of the older PC game studios, Blizzard launched the first "Diablo" all the way back in 1996. Most of Blizzard's older catalogue is available for purchase on Battle.net (the company's game client), but the original "Diablo" is notably missing. One could definitely speculate that Blizzard doesn't want to run support for a 25+ year old game, but the fan community still does. Good Old Games (GOG) released a digital version of "Diablo" with the "Hellfire" expansion for $10 USD, making it so players didn't need to hunt down a CD from 1996 to play the title.

"Diablo 2" and "Diablo 3" are much easier for players to get their hands on, thankfully. "Diablo 2" fans were treated to a massive remastered version, "Diablo 2: Resurrected," in 2021. The new version is available on all gaming devices besides phones. All of "Diablo 3" is likewise easy to obtain for consoles through its repackaged deal, the "Diablo 3: Eternal Collection," which includes its DLC.

The latest "Diablo" installment, the controversial "Diablo Immortal," is also available for free on Apple, Android, and Windows PC.

How does Diablo 4's open world work?

As a departure from the norm in the franchise, "Diablo 4" is opting for a fully open world experience. However, that "open world" doesn't mean that players will have the same type of freedom they have in, say, "Breath of the Wild." At least, that is what Joe Shely and Rod Fergusson have said in their IGN interviews.

Instead, the open world of "Diablo 4" is dictating by how players choose to interact with the main story. In "Diablo 4," there are going to be three main acts that players can choose to play through at any point, at their own rate. That means that certain map areas will be open and filled with story content when that portion of the story is actively being played and explored. The choice of when and where to go, then, is what translates the game's non-linear story into more of an "open world" framework.

According to the developers, "every inch [of the map] is built for combat," (per IGN). This space versus encounter-density is a delicate balance that the game's developers have paid keen attention to, ensuring that the world feels alive –  but that it's also not a slog to get from one place to another.

Diablo 4 will have Seasons

A growing trend in the "games-as-a-service" (or GaaS) model is the use of content seasons, and "Diablo 4" follows that trend. Seasons can mean different things across different titles, but in general, seasons separate the calendar year into chunks that serve multiple purposes for both the players and the developers of the game.

For players, seasons give closure to ranked ladders, often ending in a reset of stats and goals. And for action RPGs like "Diablo" and "Path of Exile," seasons represent a start and end point for whole characters.

For developers, seasons provide a consistent release schedule for new content, all while also allowing for game balance changes to be implemented, tested, and refined for a set period of time. For specific context, "Diablo 3" used quarterly seasons (4 per year), and "Diablo 4" is likely to use a similar model.

And most importantly, seasons also come with battle passes that encourage players to play as much as possible to earn loot, account boosts, and more goodies that are locked behind play-gated walls. Of course, premium battle passes that cost real money will also be available for each season (per Blizzard).

An in-depth look in 5 new zones

Roleplaying games rely heavily on the immersive elements of their gameplay, and the look and feel of the world is of utmost importance for supporting that immersion. In a recent dev blog, Blizzard laid out 5 of the new and most diverse zones in "Diablo 4," along with an explanation for their overall art direction.

Scosglen Coast is a bleak coastline with muddy waters and washed-up rubbish that paints a picture of despair and peril. Shanty fishing villages dot the coast of this Drowned-infested zone. Orbei Monastery is a run-down temple in the middle of the Dry Steppes for Zakarum worshippers. The Monastery used to be a place of pilgrimage and safety for Zakarum worshippers, so players might be able to find some old relics housed within. Kyovashad is a militaristic settlement set in the frigid cold that acts as a refugee camp for anyone willing to live there.

Wretched Caves is one iteration of the many cave-style dungeons scattered across the world of Sanctuary in "Diablo 4." The pictured Wretched Caves, with its many talismans and animal charms laying around, point towards a possible Druid-themed dungeon. Flooded Depths is an example of the game's tile-set transitions that seamlessly link randomized dungeons with each other, making it possible to enter an upstairs manor dungeon that's linked to a flooded basement crawling with horrifying Drowned.

Blizzard's conscious return to medieval darkness as a core aesthetic can certainly be seen here, and it's likely that fans will get to see more official looks into the larger world of Sanctuary before "Diablo 4" arrives.

What is the Paragon Board?

Blizzard is not holding back at all when it comes to character customization in "Diablo 4." In fact, the inclusion of Paragon Boards and seasonal character rotations makes it seem like in-depth character customization could be considered a hallmark element of "Diablo 4." And it probably should be; after all, "Diablo" is about rampaging through hordes of baddies with utmost style.

The Paragon Board, unlocked at level 50, is how "Diablo 4" is planning to make its character customization some of the most in-depth and innovative in the RPG genre (per Blizzard). This labyrinthian progression tree allows players to choose their paths in a multitude of ways.

First, players start spending skill points to radiate outwards from their class-specific Paragon Board center tile. Those basic nodes lead to the outer rims of the Paragon Board, where players can then choose a new Paragon Board to rotate and link to their existing board. Paragon Boards contain Normal, Magic, Rare, and Legendary Tiles, each with their own stats and unlocked abilities.

Additionally, if all that customization was not already enough, "Diablo 4" will feature a Glyph and Socket system that allows players to grant additional boosts to certain areas of the Paragon Board based on their proximity to other tiles. It's a complex system, but one that is in place so that players can express themselves — and so the endgame doesn't ever get too stale.

Dynamic Skills and Art

Blizzard has revealed that a fan-favorite feature from "Diablo 3," skill-driven deaths, will be making their return to "Diablo 4." The game will feature fancy animations in which This is a fancy way of saying that enemies will die in a way that matches the manner in which they are slain. That means that when a barbarian swings a giant hammer at a skeleton, they get crushed; when an ice sorcerer freezes enemies, they shatter — and so on.

For a game where main focus is slaying monsters, it should feel satisfying to slay those monsters. Considering all of the additional combat customization options available to characters in "Diablo 4" makes the work of the art team seem even harder when they have to animate the same monsters dying in a multitude of ways. This doesn't just impact the enemy's animations, either. As noted by Blizzard, "If your character is in the thick of combat, they will be covered in the blood spatter of nearby monsters."

Another juicy addition from the art direction team comes in the form of intensity-based skills (per Blizzard). When players level up their skills beyond their first rank, new animations are unlocked, which gives weight and believability to each character's ramping power.

Players can skip the main campaign?

One of the most-enjoyed added elements in "Diablo 3" was the Adventure Mode in the "Reaper of Souls" expansion, which allowed players to skip playing the main story as long as they had completed it on one character. So, instead of having to play through the same 10-hour story over and over again every time they wanted to try out a new build, the whole map would immediately open up for the new character.

According to a 40-minute video leak of "Diablo 4" (now scrubbed off the internet) that "Diablo 4" will be following down the same path of late-game availability that adds so much to the game's overall replayability (per Tech Radar). In the leaked video, the character creation screen featured a "Skip Campaign" option (translated from Russian), suggesting a similar approach to Adventure Mode from "Diablo 3." 

In a game with so many character customization options at players' fingertips, it only makes sense to allow them to try new things out with as little a barrier-to-entry as possible.

Diablo 4 wants players to enjoy a long endgame

The hardcore, Action RPG style that "Diablo 4" employs lends itself exceedingly well to long-form content. That is, "Diablo 4" is in many ways about creating the ultimate power fantasy through deep character customization. Therefore, expanding the ways that players can customize their character, and also giving them repeatable opportunities to make new characters, vastly expands the end-game content pool.

Other Action RPGs like "Path of Exile" have embodied this idea well by having seasons that reset servers with fresh characters alongside balance changes to keep the end-game from feeling stale (per PCGamer). "Diablo 3" followed this path, and "Diablo 4" is set to follow it as well by announcing server-reset Seasons in their August 2022 dev blog. Additionally, Blizzard has announced that end-game content will be spruced up with PvP, Nightmare Dungeons, Whispers of the Dead, Helltide, and more (per Blizzard).

In order to ensure this content is well-tuned, the "Diablo 4" development team reached out to veterans of past "Diablo" end games for their input (per IGN). Game Director Joe Shely explained to IGN why he felt endgame testing was important: "After they complete the campaign, you're unleashing players into a game that hopefully will entertain them for thousands of hours." With that in mind, "Diablo 4" is shaping up to have a dense and thought-out endgame with longevity as the main concern.