PREVIEW – The long-awaited sequel to Diablo 4 (Diablo 3 is ten years old this year!) was announced at BlizzCon 2019, and in the months since then, we’ve learned a lot about what to expect from the action RPG. The publisher has given us insight into Diablo 4’s development through meaty quarterly updates that track everything from map design and art direction to classes, combat, and itemization.
Since pre-registration opened on Blizzard’s website, things have been heating up down there, and it’s time to run through everything we know about Diablo 4 before you can finally play it yourself – sometime next year.
Diablo 4 release date
Blizzard has not yet set an official release date for Diablo 4, although the publisher has confirmed that it will be released sometime in 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC and last-gen consoles. Although parent company Blizzard now owns Microsoft (and therefore Xbox), the sequel has been confirmed to be a multiplatform title, and there is no known timed exclusivity deal on Xbox.
Diablo 4 beta
Live Diablo 4 beta registration! We haven’t seen any information about the Diablo 4 beta release date yet, but we expect it to arrive soon.
Diablo 4 classes
Blizzard revealed the three classes of Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2019: Barbarian, Sorceress and Druid, and 15 months later, the returning Rogue class was unveiled at BlizzConline. The fifth class has just been revealed to be the Necromancer. Whether through trailers or developer updates, Blizzard has already given us a lot of information about the different classes in Diablo 4, so let’s dive in.
The Barbarian class is precisely what it sounds like – blunt and sharp weapons to wield, a raw and ruthlessly efficient caste. Special abilities include one that shoots out a wave of energy to damage surrounding enemies and one that boosts attacks and covers the barbarian in flaming runes.
The Sorceress takes a more tactical approach to combat and attacks enemies from a distance, using projectiles such as fireballs, hailstones and a sharpening bolt. And as we learned in a developer update, the Sorceress class has a unique spellcasting system that allows you to “enchant” abilities, turning them into additional, passive moves. For example, you can use Meteor as a normal, active ability or insert it as an Enchantment, which will periodically call down fiery space debris from the sky on your enemies.
The Druid class, returning to the series from Diablo 2, returns with a new design and magical abilities. Instead of fire magic, storm and earth magic will power the Druid’s attacks. Shapeshifting magic transforms the Druid between human, werewolf and werebear, which will likely be a central part of most Druid builds.
Older Diablo fans may remember the Rogue class from Diablo 1, but it seems that Diablo 4 Rogue is a whole new caste. In Diablo 4, Rogue is a versatile class that is a hybrid of the original Rogue’s ranged abilities and the disguised melee of the Assassins from Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. You can watch the Diablo 4 Rogue trailer here.
Finally, Necromancer seems to be a mixture of the old and the new. Yes, you still resurrect the dead to do your dirty work for you, but there are some changes to how it works. For example, in a comprehensive developer update (opens in a new tab), Blizzard explained that the new “Book of the Dead” feature allows you to customize your undead army in a whole new way.
Lilith returns as a boss in Diablo 4
The Daughter of Hate has been confirmed as Diablo 4’s presumed number one big baddie. Lilith is a highly challenging demon, last seen in Diablo 2’s Pandemonium event and known as the “Mother of Sorrows”, “Queen of Succubi”, “Mother of Deception”, and “Mistress of Betrayal”.
It sounds like Lilith has gone from being one of the overlords of Diablo 2 to one of the main antagonists of Diablo 4, at least according to the reveal trailer. The design is dramatically different from what we saw back in Diablo 2, this time with far fewer limbs (at least from what we can see). It’s by far the best look we’ve gotten at Lilith so far, with a properly animated cinematic backstory and story.
Diablo 4’s locations are about “believability, not realism”.
Blizzard has revealed that Diablo 4 will feature “five different regions and hundreds of dungeons”. Art director Chris Ryder added that “weather and lighting will play a more prominent visual role” than in previous Diablo 4 games. The team is also aiming for “believability, not realism”.
Some areas that have been name-checked include the Scosglen Coast, home to forests and werewolves, the Orbei Monastery on the Dry Steppes, and Kyovoshad, an overwhelming medieval-style settlement.
Blizzard also uses clever development techniques to ensure that players’ needs for dungeons to conquer are met.
“In order to support over 150+ dungeons, we had to adapt the way we create environmental art to be flexible enough to be used in multiple locations rather than just one dungeon,” explains Brian Fletcher, Associate Art Director. “Diablo 4 uses dynamic dungeon ’tileset’ sets that can be rearranged to create a wider range of environments, which means Diablo 4 will feel less one-size-fits-all as you grind your characters to infinity.”
Diablo 4 exists in an always-online shared world.
It seems Diablo 4 is taking up the MMO side of things, as the new entry will require players to be constantly connected to the internet to play together in a shared world. The dungeons are instanced, which means you won’t encounter random people with your team during portages, and critical moments in the story won’t be interrupted by other players. But you will meet people roaming the cities and participating in world events.
The details are vague, but Blizzard says it is working on how to create a shared world with random player encounters without compromising the studio’s goal of bringing a darker atmosphere to the game that is more like Diablo 2.
Diablo 4 is not a full-fledged MMO
In Diablo 4’s developer update, game director Luis Barriga clarified that Blizzard’s sequel, despite some similar features, is definitely not an MMORPG. “Our goal has always been to incorporate elements from shared-world games without the player ever feeling like they’re straying into massively multiplayer territory,” Barriga explained.
“To be clear, this is more of a philosophy than a technical limitation. We find that the game wouldn’t be a true Diablo anymore, and the world feels less dangerous if you encounter other players too often or in too large numbers,” he continued.
Despite technically existing in a shared world, you can experience all the dungeons and key story elements in private with your team – you won’t be distracted by random people. However, you’ll also meet other players in the towns, who’ll wander around even when there’s no story moment, and you’ll probably want to check in with others during significant world events.
Diablo 4 PvP
Fans of old-school RPGs, including the first two Diablo games and MMOs like World of Warcraft and Ultima Online, will appreciate that Blizzard has confirmed PvP for Diablo 4. The feature was sadly missing when Diablo 3 was released seven years ago and was never properly implemented. It should also be noted that those who prefer to have only NPCs as enemies can choose not to participate in PvP.
In his speech at BlizzCon, 2021, he confirmed that there will be PvP zones called Fields of Hatred that players can choose to enter, and whether or not they do so will not affect the primary mission or story. This means that you will be rewarded for entering a PvP zone with Hatred Shards, a unique currency you can collect by killing monsters, completing events, opening chests and killing other players.
Entering PvP zones is a high-risk but high-reward activity, as you must first clear them to use Hatred Shards, making you a prime target for other PvP players. However, if you manage to escape with a few cleansed Hatred Shards, you can spend them on costumes, weapons and horses at unique vendors.
So PvP in Diablo 4 is an optional but rewarding profession, and Fields of Hatred is not just about PvP. There are PvP events and bosses to beat; you just have to watch out for other players. Or, if you’re the type that other players have to watch out for, you can end up with a massive bounty on your back. In Diablo 4, there’s a system called Vessel of Hatred, which puts a target on the head of the Fields of Hatred’s bloodiest PK and pays handsomely to the player who ends its reign of terror.
Remember how I mentioned the high-risk, high-reward nature of Fields of Hatred? Well, not so risky that you lose all your loot upon death. Dying in PvP zones just means you lose any hate shards you haven’t cleared yet, which can be pretty devastating depending on how much you’ve collected. And much to my delight, players who get shot lose the ears their killer can collect. It does nothing, and it’s just a trophy for the winner and a vengeful catalyst for the dead player.
Diablo 4 will have microtransaction
Lead game designer Joe Shely seemed to confirm the presence of microtransactions in Diablo 4 when he spoke to Twitch streamer Quin69 at BlizzCon 2019 (PCGamesN).
Asked by the streamer about microtransactions, Shely said, “Diablo IV will be available as a base game, and … we’ll have expansions. In addition, cosmetics will be available in the game”. The streamer then asks, “So, MTX? Is this going to be through some kind of store? ” Shely vaguely replies, “It’s still very early … but yes”.
So, it sounds like cosmetic microtransactions will be included in Diablo 4, but hopefully, Blizzard is wise enough to refrain from including microtransactions that benefit the player in gameplay situations. As we’ve seen before, pay-to-win mechanics are often the downfall of even the most popular games.
Diablo 4’s character creator “offers deeper customization than any previous Diablo”
In its latest quarterly update, Blizzard explains that the character creator in Diablo 4 is more in-depth than in other games in the series. That’s not a high bar, of course. In the current Diablo games, character creation only allows you to choose your gender, but this will change in Diablo 4, as you can customize your character’s skin, hair, eyes, fur, and metal. Apparently, even the sweat drops on their skin.
“We built a robust character customization system that’s completely new to Diablo, and that meant a daunting amount of technical character work,” explained art director John Mueller. “These solutions had to work not just for a single character, but for hundreds of component armour sets, different body types, dozens of unique personalities, and completely unique art for five different classes (to start).”
Diablo 4 will have a choice mode
Like Diablo 3, Diablo 4 will not link specific skill categories to buttons or keys. The “Elective Mode” will allow you to assign abilities to keys at will, something that wasn’t made clear at the BlizzCon reveal.
“Like many things in the demo, the UI is not final, and we will support Elective Mode style skill selection. Skill selection and assignment will always be open to all players,” lead system designer David Kim writes in a community update.
No ancient items in Diablo 4
In a developer update, Blizzard has confirmed that Diablo 4 will not feature “Ancient” items, thanks to community feedback on the subject. Instead, Blizzard is introducing a new consumable that will only be found on monsters in the late endgame. The currently unnamed consumable will contain a random Legendary affix that can then be applied to a non-Legendary item of your choosing.
Diablo 4 items include unique and legendary items
The December 2020 Diablo 4 developer update dives deep into loot, detailing the different weapon types and item affixes you can use to fine-tune your gear setup. First off, remember the Mythic items? Well, it’s time to forget about them because Blizzard is replacing them with Uniques, which are distinctive-looking items with static affixes and mostly class-specific effects.
Legends also get an extensive overhaul thanks to new randomly rolling “Legendary Effects” that can be applied to multiple armour slots. Legendary items include four standard Affixes and one Legendary Effect, and some are class-specific while all classes can use others.
Blizzard is also planning to make some Affixes on magic items more powerful than on any other item and to increase the maximum number of Affixes on rare items to five. The goal is to make Legendaries not the only drops worth spending time on when you’re at or near max level.
Finally, different weapons of the same class will have unique speeds and characteristics. For example, wands will be faster but less lethal than quarterstaves, and swords and clubs will be distinguishable from each other.
The Diablo 4 skill tree is divided into active and passive skills
Diablo 4’s very tree-like skill tree is split into passive and active skills, a development decision Blizzard says came in response to fan feedback that the skill system lacked depth. You can now unlock your passive skills from the literal roots of the skill tree, while active skills are contained in the branches.
Then there’s a whole separate system of “upgrade nodes”, which are located along the skill tree and unlock new features for active skills or enhance existing ones. The square nodes unlock new abilities, and the circular ones enhance those that have already been unlocked. According to Blizzard, there is a cap on how many nodes can be unlocked at a time, with the goal being that players unlock 30-40% of nodes by the end of the game so that “players can build their character in very different and distinct ways. ”
Diablo 4 crossplay
We know that Diablo 4 will be released on multiple platforms (including PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X), but we don’t yet know if players on each platform will be able to play together. For now, we can only hope, but for now, it’s all but confirmed.
Fortunately, Diablo 4 executive producer Allen Adham is hopeful that cross-platform play can happen. Speaking to The Telegraph at BlizzCon 2019, Adham said that there are technical hurdles to overcome, but “our goal is to get to crossplay”.
Diablo 4 local co-op is a “focus” for Blizzard
Blizzard is listening to feedback from the Diablo community and making changes to improve the Diablo 4 experience. Likewise, the company is also working on improving the local multiplayer experience, particularly the user interface.
“For Diablo IV, we decided to focus on improving the popular two-player co-op experience by setting up our core progression UI screens so they can be opened independently or simultaneously. “
Diablo 4 will have controller support on PC
While there are ways to play Diablo 3 with a controller on PC, it’s not an official feature that Blizzard has introduced. This will change with Diablo 4, as Blizzard has confirmed native gamepad support on PC.
According to a February 2020 developer update (opens in a new tab), the addition of PC controller support was the driving force behind Diablo 4 being developed for PC and consoles simultaneously. “We wanted players to be free to switch between the two, so our UI needed to be consistent enough that swapping hardware inputs on the fly wouldn’t throw people off completely. Unified UI means that our layouts are more grid-based for more straightforward navigation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the same interaction flow. ”
Diablo 4 lets you reattach the left-click button
According to Blizzard, one of the common requests from fans is to be able to link the primary ability to a button that isn’t the left-click, so they’ve confirmed that Diablo 4 will have left-click override. Also, all skill slots will have the ability to reassign keys.
This will appeal to players who don’t want to use the same button to move their character and attack with their primary ability. For me, hacking through dungeons with the left click button has become so natural that I couldn’t imagine it any other way, but it’s nice to hear that Blizzard is doing its best to cater to all play styles.
Diablo 4 has cannibal monsters
As you may have already learned, Diablo 4 groups its monsters into different families. Blizzard unveiled a new monster family in February, and I can’t wait to get my dagger into more of these vile bastards. Such as the blood-curdling cannibal monsters.
According to Blizzard, the Cannibal family has two standard melee fighters, one equipped with a two-handed greatsword axe and the other with a light halberd. Then there’s the bruiser, which uses a spiked club in each hand to maim and stun players. Finally, the fanatics wield two axes, use the bruiser’s stun to surprise you, and then feast on your entrails.
Diablo 4 will likely feature “many” returning and redesigned characters
A page from the recently released art book “The Art of Diablo” was leaked by Twitter user WeakAuras(opens in new tab) and included a quote from Diablo 4 art director John Mueller, who confirmed that “many” characters from previous Diablo games will return in Diablo 4. The leaked material includes a quote from Mueller explaining how the creative team plans to bring back characters from previous Diablo games. According to the passage, the returning characters will look at least fundamentally different this time.
“I’ve always liked that about IP of all kinds: putting things in the hands of talented artists and letting them make their own version. We’re doing that with many of the characters in the new game. “