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Blizzard say the Diablo series is “extremely poised” for more experiments like the shift to open world

I do not greatly enjoy the playing of Diablo 4, but I do rather enjoy its hellish setting, which I would characterise as a Warhammer table-top diorama dunked in a bucket of frozen offal. As such, I’m tickled gall-bladder-pink to hear that Blizzard consider the action-RPG series “a wonderful platform” for different types of game, now that they’ve made the leap to an open world format.

For the most part, said experimentation will occur in the course of Diablo 4 expansions – the first of which, Diablo 2 throwback Vessel of Hatred, will launch in late 2024, adding a new class to the game described as “never before seen in the Diablo universe”. But from the sounds of things, there’s scope for the “franchise in general” to evolve too.

All that’s from a big roundtable chat from Blizzcon featuring several developers, published by Wccftech. A lot of it is about adding to or tweaking Diablo 4 in smaller ways – there is talk of loot filters and Malignant rings and monster “intensity”. But there’s also some Big Picture stuff about the future of Diablo.

“Diablo is known as a big dungeon crawler and we added this huge open world to it,” the developers observe. “That’s a pretty big evolution for the franchise as a whole and it’s a wonderful platform for us to continue to experiment with a lot more things.”

“You’re going to see some of that stuff happening in the seasons,” the assembled Blizzonauts go on. “The hope is that we take larger steps when we go into the expansions as well, so really it’s about creating a platform to do more. I think Diablo as a franchise in general is extremely poised to do that.”

The developers argue that there has never been more ways to play Diablo than right now, though I’m not sure the differences will be apparent to people who aren’t steeped in all things Sanctuary-related. “It’s been four years since we announced Diablo 4 at BlizzCon,” they told reporters. “At the time, there was sort of one game that most people were playing with Diablo 3.

“Today, there are four Diablo games that people can play with D2R, Immortal and D3 […] and D4. It’s been really cool to have the support of our team and Blizzard and now Microsoft in continuing to bring more and more Diablo to fans because there’s so much more we want to do.”

It’s worth pairing these sinister ruminations with Diablo 4 associate game director Brent Gibson’s comments to Gamesradar about the decision to add a new character class in Vessel of Hatred, rather than reviving a fan favourite such as Witch Doctor or Paladin. “The team talked about it a lot, and we really feel responsible to offer new ways to play, right?” he said. “So we’ve made the decision to go with something new. And so that that’s kind of the heart of where we’re at.”

I find it unlikely that Blizzard will take any significant steps away from Diablo 4’s loot-saturated service game approach in the near future, certainly not going by recent remarks from Blizzard’s president, but the mention of new parent company Microsoft above is… interesting. Microsoft, you might recall, bought Minecraft back in the day, and to the company’s credit, have spent much time and energy trying to popularise different kinds of game in the Minecraft universe, albeit not always with great success. Perhaps they’ll try to do something similar with Diablo. The difference, of course, is that Minecraft is a massive sandbox sim and as such, the basis for many ways of playing already.

Blizzard have toyed a bit with the key workings of Diablo prior to doing an Ubisoft with Diablo 4. In particular, the above Blizzconversation makes me think of Project Hades, the original pitch for Diablo 4: eventually cancelled in 2016, it was an over-the-shoulder action game in the style of Dark Souls, led by Diablo 3 game director Josh Mosqueira. There’s also the mobile game project “Diablo Jr”, aka Diablo Pokemon, which was briefly in development in 2002, following the release of Diablo 2.

Personally, I would quite like to play a Diablo adaptation of Dungeon Keeper, featuring all of Diablo 4’s bells, whistles and oozing squidgy bits (if you are of similar mind, you might be interested in this fan remake of the Bullfrog classic). Or alternatively, a Diablo slice-of-life management game in which I’m the vicar of some benighted Sanctuary hamlet, perhaps taking a few cues from The Shrouded Isle. How about you?

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