‘Diablo IV’ is a return to hell

‘Diablo IV’ is a return to hell

Diablo’s Return, the iconic demon-slaying hack-and-slash series is near.

Activision Blizzard, the company behind the game, has not announced a release date for diablo IV, other than sometime in 2023. That would mean almost 11 years after the release of Diablo III. It’s a long wait between games, but now Blizzard has shown off at least part of the upcoming installment in a limited preview.

Blizzard’s preview build provided access to most of the game’s first act, although it was limited to three playable classes (Barbarian, Sorceress, and Rogue) and max character level of 25. (Blizzard says the ultimate max level will be 100, with most players expecting to complete the campaign around level 40–45.)

Courtesy of Activision Blizzard

For the unconverted: Diablo is a third-person, top-down dungeon crawler. You choose a hero class and blast away some demons either in single player or multiplayer. Loren has its share of twists and turns and complicated characters, but at its core is a battle between good and evil. The forces of heaven and hell are locked in a constant power struggle. You play as one of the poor saps trapped between them in the mortal realm of Sanctuary.

Of course, you’re not exactly helpless. The Diablo series has always been a power fantasy, and Diablo IV don’t waste time letting you kick the ground. Within seconds of taking control of your character, you’re set loose to vaporize enemies and collect a dizzying array of loot to become increasingly powerful.

The Big Bad you are tasked with defeating is the demon Lilith, also known as Hatt’s daughter. As such a name might suggest, Lilith’s influence on the world is brutal and malevolent. The game’s environment reflects that. The lighting is weak, the landscape stark and broken. The characters you meet run the gamut from abandoned widows to blood-obsessed killers. The remains of ritual sacrifices and other violent strife are strewn about everywhere.

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Diablo has always been grim, but damn Diablo IV is a stark change from its immediate predecessor. As several developers of the game have repeatedly said during interviews, Diablo IV is a “return to darkness” for the series. Diablo III caught some flak for its lighter, more accessible color palette and tone. Diablo IV aims to drag the franchise back to the macabre. The aesthetic leans harder into horror elements than ever before. The environment is a mixture of different shades of grey, at least when everything is not covered in blood.

“Darkness is mainstream now,” says franchise manager Rod Fergusson. “It felt like a really interesting place to go, to bring Diablo back to its roots.”

John Mueller, Diablo IV‘s art director, says the art team looked to great Renaissance artwork for inspiration. (Think the right panel of Hieronymus Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights.)

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