ANAHEIM, Calif. – This year's BlizzCon is a big one in many ways, but it includes having playful demos for Diablo 4 World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and Overwatch 2 . I attended the show this year and played all three.
While there was some tension in the media coverage and social conversations around BlizzCon following the company's decision to temporarily suspend a pro Hearthstone player for making a political statement on during an official stream, this is not the dominant will on earth. From the keynote through community events, it is clear that most people are more concerned about games than anything else. [1945901616
And there is a lot of games. I've come across a lot of a BlizzCon, but it's at its biggest in terms of announcements. There is the long-awaited Devil 4 a new World of Warcraft expansion called Shadowlands a series of Overwatch and a new Hearthstone mode marks Blizzard's entry into the popular auto-battler genre.
I actually started my career as a writing writer for a World of Warcraft news site called WoW Insider (titled Blizzard Watch). For years, though, I had mixed feelings about Blizzard games. I often feel like every Blizzard game has a more sophisticated, more immersive, more alternative hardcore. But as I got older, and especially as I experienced games through the eyes of my girlfriend (now husband) who was new to gaming, I began to appreciate Blizzard's focus on access, onboarding, and polish.
Based on how it was designed, it is easier to maintain Diablo 3 if you work full time and have a family than it is to follow the Disposal Path . The same goes for the modern World of Warcraft compared to many other MMOs. Also, Blizzard games have become a regular shared activity between my husband and over time. We leveled WoW characters together, each on our own desktops; we gathered Diablo 3 sets in the couch co-op PS4 version; we formed the Overwatch teams with my brother-in-law and secured many, many playing games; We entertain our favorite players at Hearthstone esports.
So I went to BlizzCon 2019 as a fan with a deep and deep history in these games. And here are my (more positive) impressions of arguably the biggest new game on the show: Diablo 4 .
Atmosphere and vibe
Let's get this out of the way: despite modern game design concepts and very modern rendering technology, Diablo 4 looks more like Devil 2 than it does Devil 3 . Not cartoon-ish or colorful; dark, crisp, muted, and painterly. If you are in the cadre of players disappointed by the Diablo 3 lighter, camping tone, you will be pleased to see a return to form here. [1945901616
Every possession in the place I play is created to indicate a decay, despair, and violence. And Blizzard has implemented cinematic transitions between venues. Instead of just clicking on a dungeon entrance and teleporting to a starting point for the dungeon as in previous titles, your character will do something like getting on their hands and knees to push the vineyards and snatch on a crawlspace cramp, emerging on the other line. The game goes to a Tomb Raider -like cinematic camera view to illustrate these transitions, then it returns to the standard top-down view once the transition is complete.
Many bells and whistles were intended to give the game a bit more gravity and counteract the cartoony floaty-ness (for lack of a better term) of Diablo 3 . We interviewed two members of the art team at the show, and they enthusiastically listed the major graphics improvements and engine features they introduced at this time. For one thing, Diablo 4 uses physical rendering. It also has environments with slopes and hills in a way that even Diablo 3 does not, and player characters seamlessly transition between animations in a more realistic way. (Earlier versions have canceled the current animation when starting new, but Diablo 4 follows a model represented by many more modern triple-A games).
It all looks great, but as is often the case with Blizzard titles, it's the art that really sells the experience. Technical matters are on a supporting role.
The look of Diablo 4 is what most -tell me about it, but it's also the hardest thing to come up with in writing – so you won't need to turn off screenshots, concept art, and videos.
How it works
There's no question that it feels a little like Diablo 3 to play. Class practices have similar ease, similar effects, and fall into similar categories to those in 3 ; which is a good thing, because the feeling of Diablo 3 was playing.
I played as a Druid – a class that made up the will. The left mouse button is attacked in one form (a werewolf of sorts), the right mouse button in the other (a bear). In addition to that, there is an action bar of other abilities – basically the Devil stuff. Like Diablo 3 many capabilities involve very clear movements such as leaps or charges; it brings the dodge mechanic to the PC from the console version of Diablo 3 . [1945901616
It's tight and fast to play, but fundamentally, if you've played any other Diablo-like action RPG, you've played it one of several levels. It's worth noting that there are public events and it brings players around you to relevant moments such as Destiny and noses. I fought with a big world boss and participated in a random event – they are very similar to what you would expect in modern MMOs.
While the demo was too short for me to really sink my teeth into development systems, I was able to confirm that it was something of a hybrid of Diablo 3 and earlier title. One panel lets you choose between options for each skill space, such as Diablo 3 but the other is an older talent pool with each point providing marginal advantages. like + X% in crit rating of some ability, or what you have. This seems to appeal to oldschool and newschool fans.
That said, it's very clear that this is an early demo. Reports indicate that Blizzard re-voted its work on Diablo 4 back in 2016, and knows the way the company normally does, having a playful demo just three years into this iteration is a bit surprising. You will be forgiven for suspecting that Blizzard was in a hurry at this point to alleviate fan anxiety in the absence of an announcement last year. Given that a demo was pushed for the sake of a one-demo, we can't be sure that much of what we've seen here will remain the way to launch two or more years from now.
But, what is now amazing — a perfect blend of Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 with the modern nu-MMO ( Destiny The Division ] Path of Exile ) possibilities.
Improvements to Diablo 3
When Diablo 3 first launched, I played the campaign but stopped there. I didn't just grab it; the story seems to be all over, and the idea of repeating the chapters of the story to grind for myths did not appeal to me. However, all that changed with the launch of the Reaper of Souls and later, the console version. I started playing Diablo 3 with my wife (then boyfriend) on the co-op splitscreen (which Blizzard confirmed would also be a feature on the console versions of Diablo 4 ) many hours a week, and the redesigned endgame (including Adventure Mode, Greater Rifts, and all the good stuff) takes us very seriously. [1945901616
Between the two of us, we ended up building each class up to the highest level, reaching the humiliatingly high levels of the Greater Rift, and securing each set for each class. Finally, I played Diablo 3 more than I played Diablo 2 . It has become one of my favorite games of all time. But I don't love everything about it.
For one, the game does not have the same environmental feel as Diablo 2 . For another, I felt the over-reliance on set-based builds made the endgame a little bland. Yes, the seasons can mix it up a bit, but it really does mean that there is a relatively limited set of viable builds, as is usually one or two sets of each class way better than others for running rifts, and most of your equipment space is unstable as it is about sets. Apparently the answer to both is temporarily "yes." The BlizzCon panels of Diablo 4 have this game de-emphasize the sets in favor of the myths of some legends. They also mentioned that there would be a ton of myths, but at a relatively lower rate than the modern Diablo 3 . That being said, the legends of the downturn were very low in The launch of Diablo 3 but the game ended up being a legendary piñata with a very high drop rate eventually. So it doesn't mean that Diablo 4 will change either.
As far as the environment is concerned, as mentioned above, the game is in spades – in fact, in that very early build, here's my main takeaway. It was dripping, bouncing, soaking in the tired, fuzzy, gothic, awful atmosphere. In that respect, it borrows more from Diablo 2 than it does from Diablo 3 . And while I enjoy Diablo 3 more than a few die-hards, at that point I believe that Diablo 2 has more to offer, so it's not is a welcome development.
All of this is to say that my brief time in Diablo 4 was a tribute to the game – but things were earlier, hard to say with certainty. However, I will watch it closely until it releases "Blizzard soon."