I’m not usually a fan of grim and dark things. But seeing Diablo IV‘s gritty, bloody world in person made me feel good.
Blizzard announced Diablo IV today during the opening ceremonies for BlizzCon 2019 in Anaheim, California. I played it just a bit after its reveal, getting to spend 15 minutes with the Druid class on the PC version (it’s also coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One).
Diablo II was my favorite entry in the series, so I’m glad to see its influence return in Diablo IV. Diablo III’s aesthetic never felt right. Sure, it had demons and fire all that evil stuff, but it lacked the gothic grittiness of Diablo II. It was like Blizzard was holding back, trying not to make something too intense.
Blizzard isn’t holding back anymore.
Diablo IV has a more realistic look compared to the almost cartoon-like proportions and creatures of Diablo III. Monsters and humans now have enough detail to make the violence more impactful. I also enjoyed seeing my characters smeared in blood after a tough battle. I feel less like a kid breaking a bunch of piñatas and more like a warrior fighting for his life.
Diablo II always made you feel a bit uneasy when you played it. It’s world was grim and filled with despair. Diablo IV is giving me those vibes again.
Gameplay-wise, however, Diablo IV is leaning much closer to Diablo III. Combat is fast-paced and flashy. As the Druid, my skills focused on animals and nature. I had two pet wolves that would attack enemies on their own, or I could direct toward a specific foe. I could also summon a boulder that would roll in the direction I’m aiming, pushing enemies it hits back while damaging them. Another skill had me briefly transform into bear and charge forward.
The animations for all of these abilities look awesome. Every move looks and feels like it hits with a ton of impact. Even my most basic attack, which transforms me into a kind of wolf-man to swipe my claws, looks brutal.
Some abilities take a resource to spend (Spirit, for the Druid). At least one will replenish that resource. Other moves just have a cooldown. So you’re using abilities often. Again, it feels a lot like Diablo III.
Talent lines and camera time
Progression is more of a question mark. I could access a Talents and Skills menu. Skills were laid out in rows, each assigned to a button. For example, there about four different skills I could assign to the 3 button on the keyboard. Again, this isn’t too dissimilar to how skills work in Diablo III, although the demo I played did not let me swap and change my abilities.
Talents do things like increase your stats. It wasn’t really a talent tree. The system looked more like two separate, zigzagging lines covered with dots. Spending points (which I’m not sure how you earn) on these dot can do things like increase your physical damage.
The most surprising moment of my demo happened when I left the first dungeon. The camera actually got lower, and I watched an in-game cinematic starring my Druid. In the past, all cutscenes in Diablo have been pre-rendered. They’re reserved for big moments, like the transition between different Acts.
Diablo IV, however, has in-game cutscenes that brings the camera out of its top-down angle. And they can happen for something as mundane as leaving a dungeon. It helps make the experience feel more cinematic.
Afraid of the dark
A cynic could call Diablo IV more of the same. You’re still running around in an isometric world killing hordes of demons. If you played Diablo III, it won’t feel all that much different.
But the aesthetic changes are important. Diablo IV feels gritty and brutal. It might even actually be scary. It’s bringing horror back to Diablo, and I’m happy to welcome the darkness back.