Making the fourth game in a series is tough, and Diablo IV must tread carefully to make their fans happy. Just ask Bioware about Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Aside from needing to develop a story that justifies a sequel, Blizzard has to bring back parts of the series that people liked while trimming elements that were poorly received. While most fans rightfully point to Diablo II as a good source of what the next entry should have, I think it’s also fair to look back at the original Diablo to see how it should influence the game.
I know that some people are reading this saying “Kyle, they’ve already released gameplay videos for D4. You’re a little too late.” I won’t say that’s entirely wrong, but this is Blizzard, folks. By now, we all know that the product that Blizzard reveals and the product we receive upon release are two different things.
At the very least, this could be some wishful thinking about what could make the next game really good.
Make the Player an Underdog
Maybe it was my age and my general inexperience with games at the time, but it felt like I was in a fight for my life throughout Diablo I. I distinctly remember opening up a random door and finding myself face to face with the Butcher. He did his whole “Ah, fresh meat” spiel and then added me to his corpse pile.
The Butcher is a pretty significant monster to face when you make a fresh character. You could get the right gear and beat him to try to get his cleaver, but it’s definitely not a sure thing. However, it is a sign of things to come. In this game, you weren’t dominating the monsters so much as surviving the onslaught.
You battle through hordes of monsters that can be downright unforgiving based on their resistances, immunities, and attacks. Even though you’re the hero, the game puts you in a hostile place and makes you grind to survive. Why is that so important to making a good game? Because it heightens the level of threat to your character and helps with the immersion.
Being the underdog and fighting to win is fun and it leaves you feeling accomplished.
Diablo III took the series in the opposite direction, and I had a great time with it, too. In that game, you dominate the enemy from the word go because your character is a Nephalem, the product of Angels and Demons; they’re not a regular human like Aidan or the others.
However, we’ve had the better part of a decade to play the latest Diablo game, and it’s time for something fresh. Playing on “demigod mode” is only fun for so long. I think the next game should rock humanity back on its heels, cut us down to size and make it seem like we’re not meant to win the fight before it starts.
Bring Back an Eerie Atmosphere
Diablo I had a unique atmosphere that combined Gothic horror, sparse music, and a sense of crushing isolation that all made the player feel a certain kind of doom hanging over them. The battle through the catacombs towards Hell was claustrophobia-inducing, and the grim sound effects with sudden wails of pain is enough to give me the creeps.
Even when you weren’t fighting, the sparsely populated Tristram was hardly a reprieve from the seclusion the game imposed upon you. Some of this might have been unintentional due to the technological constraints at the time, but it worked nonetheless.
I’m not saying put us back in one town or dungeon, but I think it would be good for the Diablo franchise to go back to its roots by creating an atmosphere of subtle fear.
For one thing, the music should be dialed back quite a bit from where it’s at in Diablo III. You don’t need a whole fanfare blaring when you arrive in a new city. Understated music with sound effects is the way to go, in my opinion.
As far as the colors, I’d like less bright and cheery, more gloomy and dreary. Within reason, of course. I don’t think we need an entirely gray-washed landscape or another Whimsyshire.
I know that there’s no way to replicate that feeling of being alone and stuck in a small space with a game that’s going to include more player interactions than ever before. Still, there is one thing I wish they would fix about the game’s layout, the areas in which you fight.
In Diablo I, the player fought in the uncomfortable, close-quarters of the catacombs. You didn’t have a “boss area” that was clearly built into the map to make the fights occur in a big, open space. You wouldn’t walk into the Butcher’s room or the Skeleton King’s jail area and say “Wow, I bet there’s a boss fight here.”
The fear and feeling of being unable to escape could be successfully cultivated in Diablo IV, and I’d love to see it.
Make Loot Feel Important Again
Alright, let me start out by saying the loot in Diablo I isn’t perfect. But one thing the game did get right is having some unique items sprinkled throughout that could completely improve your character. Whether you got an Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac or a monster dropped The Grandfather, there was an instant benefit of getting these rare items.
There were a lot of bad items in the game, and most of the time you got them and not the loot you were looking for (especially since certain monster types would drop specific loot).
What I’d like to see is a game that has some great items that could change your gameplay for the better and also get you excited. I have been showered with rares, legendaries, and set pieces in Diablo III and just shrugged because they weren’t worth anything to your character, had poor stat weights, or were not optimal in some other way. While I feel Diablo III missed the mark on the loot, it was certainly interesting to get so many opportunities to get rare items.
Still, I’m not advocating a crazy grind for gear because many of the series’ fans probably aren’t going to invest MMO level of time into the game. I’d still prefer to see meaningful item drops make an appearance so that you can beat the game with normal stuff, but you can dominate the game with a little bit of a grind and some luck.
Give The Player Customization Options
Diablo I is not a game where you can customize too many elements of your character. However, you could mess around with your stats. Some people choose to increase their Rogue’s stats enough to wear hefty armor or allow their warrior to get a few spells like Stone Curse or Teleport.
Each level you gained gave you stats to freely spend up to a certain level for each class, allowing you to get a warrior that would dodge attacks or a mage that had a massive mana pool for Mana Shield.
Diablo IV could give us similar freedom to Diablo I or go more in-depth like Diablo II, providing stats and skill trees. As long as we get a little more of an RPG feeling instead of the arcade feeling, I’m on board.
It’d be nice to see different builds impacted by stats again so that players can mess around and see what they come up with. That’s always been one of the most interesting parts of the series for me- finding ways to survive the battle against demon hordes.
How’s Diablo IV Looking So Far?
There have been quite a few videos released from Blizzard highlighting the gameplay of Diablo IV. From what I’ve seen, the game looks pretty interesting.
While nothing is set in stone, judging by that crazy trailer cinematic and some of the gameplay videos, the game seems like it has a darker tone than the previous entry, both figuratively and literally. If you haven’t seen the trailer, you can watch it here. It’s absolutely horrifying in all the right ways and hints at a pretty dark storyline to come.
Also, the colors are much darker, the characters look less cartoony, and the atmosphere just appears a little closer to the first two games than the third. I’ve seen the color schemes described as washed out, and I agree with that a bit. I’m far from an artist, but it seems like a little more contrast could help move the look in the right direction, and there’s still plenty of time for that to happen.
As for skill trees, I’ve seen some of what Blizzard has come up with. I want to say it’s alright, but I won’t know until I get my hands on it. I will say that I’m happy that they’ve brought back some older skills as independent attacks instead of add-ons to existing ones like we got in D3. That way, there’s actually a chance for Chain Lightning or Charged Bolts to be useful and not confined to filler.
All in all, I’d say the game is on the right track. It has a good look that could be refined before the game comes out along with some of the things that made the earlier entries so much fun. We’ll see how much of an impact the original Diablo had on the game when it launches, and I’m hoping that the influences are significant.
When Is Diablo IV Coming Out?
While I wish I could tell you when the game was coming out, there’s still no word. Sure, there have been a few industry people saying 2021, but who knows? The game was announced in 2019, so there could be some significant time between that and the final release of the game.
It would make sense for Blizzard to showcase a little more of the polished product to let people react to it and make changes to entice their fans. Whether or not Blizzard will actually do that remains to be seen.
I know I’ll be sticking around for any news about the game because I really want to see what they do with the series.
Diablo I was a very fun game with many ideas that could be used to make the next title. I’m definitely not saying this was the perfect game or even the best in the series, just that the first title is overlooked when it comes to potential contributions.
I hope we get something dark and gritty that will have a whole new generation of people tentatively poking around in places where evil is lurking and instantly regretting that decision. It’s been a long time since the Diablo fans have had something this big to look forward to, and I hope it takes the series to new heights.
Lastly, shout out to my older brother, Ryan, for getting the screenshots and cultivating my love for this amazing game.
You’ve Reached the Bonus Level!
Since I mentioned things I want to see included, here’s something I want to be taken out: the loads of references to other Diablo games.
If Diablo IV is going to tread new ground, then it can’t hang on to the past in such a gratuitous manner. Granted we no longer have Deckard Cain to make us “stay awhile and listen”, the game could fall into the same traps of Diablo III by including too many callbacks. Sure, it’s cool to look at a monster and go “Woah, I remember that”, but I started to roll my eyes because every cool thing from the last game appeared in the latest one. You know, like:
- Gharbad the Weak
- The Secret Cow Level
- A Joke about the Nonexistence of the Secret Cow Level
- The Butcher
- Black Mushroom
- Skeleton King
I made that list without playing the game meaningfully in a few years. While I don’t mind a hint here or there, I sure hope we don’t get smacked in the face with every reference to the past.