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Diablo 4 - What We Know So Far

Ever since Blizzard gave Hearthstone esports player Blitzchung the banhammer, things have been a little rough for the once-beloved studio. 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 is Diablo 4 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 they announced the sequel seven years after Diablo 3 released. We've got you covered. 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."

What that means is anyone's guess, but don't hold your breath. When soon™ can't even be used to describe the wait, we're definitely in it for the long haul.

The reveal might seem a bit early, especially if they can't publicly commit to a time frame. If anything, this could be Blizzard's way of distracting people from the Blitzchung debacle. After all, it's hard to be mad at a company when you're also excited for its next big project.

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.

Diablo 4's classes

Anyone who knows Diablo games know that they live and die by the classes they have. Everyone usually falls in love with these kinds of games because they find a class and build that speaks to them. At BlizzCon 2019, the developers revealed three classes that will launch with Diablo 4: the barbarian, the sorceress, and the druid. 

The barbarian has been a staple since Diablo 2, and even the first game had a similar class called the warrior. Meanwhile, the first two games had a sorcerer and sorceress, respectively, while the third game replaced the class with the wizard. Nonetheless, every game has always had a magic-wielding class of some kind. The druid only made an appearance in an expansion to Diablo 2, but it returns to wield nature as a weapon once more.

We can't say for sure how many classes Diablo 4 will have on launch, but five might be a safe bet. The first game only had three classes, while 2 and 3 both launched with five. Additionally, we can probably expect Blizzard to add even more in expansions down the line.

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.

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.

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.

This is a tricky path that Blizzard has chosen. If these microtransactions end up too invasive or egregious, it might scare players away from Diablo 4, regardless of the game's quality.

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.

PvP in Diablo 4

Diablo 4's shared world 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.