Diablo 4 isn't coming for at least another year, but we've already seen a good deal of gameplay, art, and insights into Blizzard's plans for the long-awaited sequel. Thanks to detailed quarterly updates from Blizzard, we have the chance to listen in on the developers' thoughts as they make key decisions involving Diablo 4's multiplayer elements, skills and stats, items and weapons, and so much more.
Blizzard has also been receptive, welcoming even, of the community's critiques regarding Diablo 4 development, which makes it feel as though we have somewhat of a hand in how things play out. And for that very reason, almost nothing about Diablo 4 is set in stone right now, as Blizzard continues to tweak existing systems, introduce new features, and scrap old ideas altogether based on feedback.
It's clear the studio is intent on delivering a game that satisfies the core Diablo base - one of the most common complaints about Diablo 3 is that it's too colorful, and footage of Diablo 4 shows a game as dark and gritty as we've ever seen from the series. But it should come as no surprise that Blizzard is also working on making the next entry in one of its most popular franchises as accessible to newcomers as possible.
It's a tricky balance to be sure, but Blizzard has shown that it's listening to fans about what they want to see from Diablo 4. Quarterly updates often demonstrate meaningful changes to gameplay, systems, and overall development philosophy based on what Blizzard's hearing from fans, so keep sharing your thoughts!
We might be a ways from playing Diablo 4, but we already know plenty about what Diablo looks like, how it plays, the demons we'll encounter, the skills and items we'll use to slay those demons, and a whole lot more. Carry on reading and we'll tell you about everything we could scavenge about Diablo 4 from the greatest depths of hell.
Diablo 4 cinematic trailer
Diablo 4 gameplay trailer
Four Diablo 4 classes have been revealed
Blizzard revealed three classes for Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2019: Barbarian, Sorceress, and Druid, and 15 months later the returning Rogue class was revealed at BlizzConline. We still don't know what the fifth class will be. The first three classes were broken down rather comprehensively in dedicated gameplay trailers via Game Informer, while the new Rogue class got a solid demo at BlizzCon 2021. Let's go over every Diablo 4 class we know about at the moment.
The Barbarian class is exactly what it sounds like - a storm of swinging weapons both blunt and sharp; tactless, brute, and unforgivingly effective. His special abilities include one that projects a wave of energy to damage surrounding enemies, as well as one that buffs attacks and covers the barbarian in flaming runes.
The Sorceress takes a more tactical approach to combat, choosing to attack foes from afar using projectiles including fireballs, ice arrows, and a honing bolt of lightning. And as we learned in a dev update, the Sorceress class has a unique Enchantment system that lets you "enchant" skills, thereby making them additional, passive moves. For example, you can use Meteor as a normal, active skill, or you can slot it as an Enchantment, which would call firey space debris down from the sky and onto your enemies periodically.
A return to the series from Diablo 2, the Druid class is back with a new design and magic skills. In place of fire magic, storm and earth magic power the Druid's attacks. Shape-shifting magic transforms the Druid between human, werewolf, and werebear, which will likely be central to most Druid builds.
Diablo fans of a certain age will remember the Rogue class from Diablo 1, but it sounds like Diablo 4's Rogue is a whole new beast. The Rogue in Diablo 4 is a versatile class that serves as a sort-of hybrid of the original Rogue's long-range skillset and the cloak-and-dagger melee of Assassins from Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. You can check out the Diablo 4 Rogue trailer here.
Lilith is coming back as a main antagonist in Diablo 4
First leaked by Twitter user WeakAuras, the Daughter of Hatred has been confirmed as, presumably, Diablo 4's number one big baddie. Lilith is an extremely challenging demon we last saw in Diablo 2's Pandemonium event, and is known as the 'Mother of Misery,' 'Queen of the Succubi,' 'Mother of Deceit,' and 'Mistress of Betrayal.'
It sounds like Lilith has graduated from an uber boss in Diablo 2 to one of Diablo 4's primary antagonist, at least judging from the reveal trailer. This is far-and-away the best look we've had at Lilith, with a properly animated cinematic, backstory, and lore. The design is dramatically different from what we saw way back in Diablo 2, this time with far fewer limbs (at least from what we can see).
Diablo 4 exists in an always-online shared world
Diablo 4 seems to be embracing its MMO side, as the new entry will demand a constant internet connection for players to play together in a shared world. Dungeons are instanced, meaning you won't find randoms during raids with your party, nor will key story moments be interrupted by other players. But you will come across folks roaming around towns and participating in world events.
Details are vague, but Blizzard says they're working on a way to create a shared world with random player encounters without compromising the studio's goal of bringing a darker atmosphere to the game more akin to Diablo 2.
Diablo 4 isn't a full-blown MMO
In a Diablo 4 dev update, game director Luis Barriga took the time to clarify that Blizzard's sequel definitely isn't an MMORPG, despite some similar features. "Our goal has always been to incorporate elements from shared world games without the game ever feeling like it’s veering into massively multiplayer territory," Barriga explained.
"To be clear, this is a philosophy rather than a tech limitation. We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers," he continued.
Despite technically existing in a shared world, all dungeons and key story beats are experienced privately between you and your party - no interruptions from randoms. However, you will find other players roaming around in towns when there isn't a story moment happening, and you'll probably want to coordinate with randoms during large world events.
Here's how Diablo 4 PvP works
Fans of old-school RPGs, including the first two Diablo games as well as MMOs like World of Warcraft and Ultima Online, will appreciate that Blizzard has confirmed PvP for Diablo 4. The feature was sadly missing when Diablo 3 released seven years ago, and it was never properly introduced. We should also point out that those who'd prefer their only enemies to be NPCs have the option not to partake in PvP at all.
Speaking at BlizzCon 2021, confirmed that there will be PvP zones, called Fields of Hatred, that players can choose to enter, and whether or not they do has no bearing on the main quest or story. That said, you'll be rewarded for entering the PvP zone with Hatred Shards, a special currency you can collect by killing monsters, completing events, opening chests, and yes, killing other players.
Entering PvP zones is a high-risk, high-reward activity, as in order to use Hatred Shards you'll need to purify them first, and doing so makes you a prime target for other PvPers. But if you manage to escape with a few purified Hatred Shards, you can spend them at special vendors for costumes, weapons, and mounts.
So, PvP in Diablo 4 is an optional, yet rewarding trade, and Fields of Hatred aren't exclusively about PvP. There are PvP events and bosses to take down too, you just need to watch your back for other players. Or, if you're of the type that other players need to watch out for, you might end up with a mighty bounty on your back. Diablo 4 has a system in place called Vessel of Hatred, which puts a target on the head of the most bloody PKer in the Fields of Hatred and pays handsomely to the player who ends their reign of terror.
Remember how I mentioned the high-risk, high-reward nature of the Fields of Hatred? Well, it's not so high-risk that you lose all your loot when you die. Dying in PvP zones just means you lose any Hatred Shards that hadn't been purified, which could be pretty devastating depending on how many you'd collected. And, much to my delight, downed players will lose an ear for their killer to collect. It doesn't do anything, it's just a trophy for the winner and a catalyst for revenge for the dead player.
Diablo 4 will have microtransactions
Lead game designer Joe Shely seemed to confirm the presence of microtransactions in Diablo 4, speaking to Twitch streamer Quin69 at BlizzCon 2019 (via PCGamesN).
Asked by the streamer about microtransactions, Shely said, "Diablo IV will be available as a base game, and … we're going to have expansions. You also will be able to acquire cosmetics in the game." The streamer then asks, "so, MTX? Is that going to be through some sort of shop?" Shely responds vaguely with, "It's very early … but yes."
So it sounds like cosmetic microtransactions will be a feature in Diablo 4, but hopefully Blizzard is wise enough to refrain from adding microtransactions that benefit the player in gameplay situations, as we've seen before that pay-to-win mechanics can often spell doom for even the most mainstream games.
Diablo 4 will have Elective Mode
Just like Diablo 3, Diablo 4 won't lock certain skill categories to any buttons or keys. Elective Mode allows you to assign skills to keys however you fancy, which wasn't made clear at the BlizzCon reveal.
"Like many other things in the demo, the UI is not final and we will support Elective Mode-style skill selection. Skill selection and assignment will always be completely open for all players," writes lead systems designer David Kim in a community update.
Diablo 4 won't have Ancient items
Blizzard confirmed in a developer update that Diablo 4 won't feature Ancient items, which they is due to community feedback regarding the topic. Instead, Blizzard is introducing a new consumable that can only be found on monsters in the late endgame. The currently-unnamed consumable will feature one random Legendary affix, which can then be applied to a non-legendary item of your choosing.
Diablo 4 items include Uniques and Legendaries
December's Diablo 4 dev update was a deep dive into loot, detailing the different weapon types and item Affixes you'll use to fine tune your gear setup. Firstly, remember Mythic items? Well, feel free to unremember them, because Blizzard is replacing them with Uniques, which are distinctive-looking items with static Affixes and mostly class-specific effects.
Legendaries are also getting a big overhaul, thanks to new randomly rolling Legendary effects that can be applied to multiple armor slots. Legendary items come with four regular Affixes and one Legendary effect, and some are class-specific while others can be used by all classes.
Blizzard is also planning to make individual Affixes on Magic items more powerful than on any other item and increase the max number of Affixes on Rare items to five. The goal here is to ensure that Legendaries aren't the only drops worth your time if you're at or near max level.
Finally, different weapons in the same class will have unique speeds and characteristics. For example, wands will be faster but less deadly than quarterstaves, and swords and maces should feel distinct from one another as well.
Diablo 4's skill tree is separated into active and passive skills
Diablo 4's very tree-like skill tree is divided into passive and active skills, a development tweak Blizzard says came in response to feedback from fans that the skill system lacked depth. Now, your passive skills can be unlocked from the literal roots of the skill tree, while active skills are contained in the branches.
Then there's a whole separate system of "upgrade nodes" placed along the skill tree, unlocking new functionality for active skills and powering up existing skills. The square nodes unlock new skills and the circular ones upgrade skills you've already unlocked. Blizzard says there's a cap on how many nodes you can unlock at once, with the goal being for players to have 30-40% of nodes unlocked at the end game so that "players can have very distinct, and different ways they build out their character."
Diablo 4 cross-play multiplayer is Blizzard's goal
We know Diablo 4 will initially release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, but we don't yet know whether players on different platforms will be able to play together. That's always the hope, but it's anything but confirmed at this point.
Thankfully, Diablo 4 executive producer Allen Adham is hopeful about making cross-platform play happen. Speaking with The Telegraph at BlizzCon, Adham said there were technical hurdles to get over, but that "it's our goal to get to cross-play.”
Diablo 4 couch co-op is a "focus" at Blizzard
Blizzard is listening to feedback from the Diablo community and implementing changes to improve player experience with Diablo 4. Likewise, the company says improving the local multiplayer experience is something they're working on, specifically in regards to UI.
"For Diablo IV, we decided to focus on improving the favored 2-player co-op experience and set up our core progression UI screens such that they can be opened independently or at the same time."
Diablo 4 will have controller support for PC
While there are workarounds to play Diablo 3 with a controller on PC, it's not an official feature implemented by Blizzard. That's all changing with Diablo 4, as Blizzard has confirmed native gamepad support on PC.
According to a dev update from February 2020, the decision to add controller support for PC was the impetus behind developing Diablo 4 for PC and consoles simultaneously. "We wanted to give players the ability to switch between the two options freely, so our UI needed to be unified enough that swapping hardware inputs on the fly wouldn’t throw people completely off kilter. A unified UI means our layouts are more grid-based for ease of navigation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an identical interaction flow."
Diablo 4 will let you rebind the left-click button
Blizzard says a common request from fans is the ability to the primary skill to a button that isn't left-click, and so it's been confirmed that Diablo 4 will feature left click rebinding. Further, all skill slots will be able to have their keys rebound.
That should please players who prefer not to use the same button to move their character and use their primary skill to attack. Personally, it's become so second-nature to demolish my left-click button hacking through dungeons that I couldn't imagine it any other way, but it's good to hear Blizzard is doing their best to accommodate all playing styles.
Diablo 4 has cannibal monsters
As you might've learned already, Diablo 4 is grouping its monsters into various families. Blizzard revealed a new monster family in February, and I can't wait to dig my dagger into as many of the foul bastards as possible. Just look at 'em - truly wretched, they are.
Blizzard says there are two standard melee fighters in the Cannibal family, one equipped with a two-handed greatsword cleaver and another with a lightweight halberd. Then there's the bruiser, which uses a spiked club in each hand to damage and stun players. Finally, swarmers dual-wield axes and take advantage of the bruiser's stun to catch you off guard and subsequently feast on your innards.
Diablo 4 will probably have "many" returning and redesigned characters
A page from the recently-released artbook, 'The Art of Diablo,' was leaked by Twitter user WeakAuras and included a quote from Diablo 4 art director John Mueller that confirmed "many" characters from previous Diablo games will be returning for Diablo 4. According to the passage, the returning characters will at least appear fundamentally different this time around. The leak includes a quote from Mueller that explains how the creative team plans on bringing back characters from past Diablo games.
"I've always really liked that about any kind of IP: letting really talented artists get a hold of things and letting them do their version of it. We're doing that with a lot of characters in the new game."
There's no Diablo 4 release date yet, and there probably won't be for a while
Blizzard hasn't given Diablo 4 a release date yet, and it's unlikely to do so for some time. Activision Blizzard recently confirmed that Diablo 4 won't be releasing in 2021, which isn't a huge surprise considering it was only announced in November 2019.
For reference, Blizzard announced Diablo 3 back in 2008, and as we all know, it wasn't until May of 2012 that it was released. That doesn't necessarily mean Diablo 4 is coming out in 2023, but it does add some context. Plus, Blizzard is dealing with the unprecedented complications of working under the constraints of a pandemic. Long story short, settle in for a long road ahead until Diablo 4.