After years of speculation and rumors, Blizzard finally revealed Diablo 4 during BlizzCon 2019. Its existence was already something of an open secret at the time, but the gorey cinematic trailer was a fitting return to the series, which was followed up by a look at some familiar character classes. There may yet be a few years to wait before Diablo is in our hands though. During its 2019 reveal, Blizzard said that Diablo 4 isn't coming soon, "not even 'Blizzard soon.'" Blizzard is keeping players in the know through quarterly development updates though, so check back to keep up with the latest on Diablo 4 in development.
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Diablo 4 is being pitched as a return to the darker look of early Diablo, with even more blasphemy and profane imagery per capita. It'll feature a shared open world, and it's online-only, some will be disappointed to hear. Other players won't always be around, though—Blizzard tells us that we don't have to worry about strangers bugging us for trades while we complete important story moments, as an example—and PvP will be contained to the Fields of Hatred.
We don't know exactly when Diablo 4 will be out yet, but we'll collect everything interesting we hear about it here while we wait for that announcement.
What is Diablo 4's release date?
We don't have a release date for Diablo 4 yet, but Blizzard has confirmed that it won't be out in 2021. 2022 is a possibility, but 2023 or 2024 seem more likely given that, back in 2019, then game director Luis Barriga said that Diablo 4 was "not coming out soon" and then added that he meant "not even 'Blizzard soon.'"
Watch the dramatic Diablo 4 cinematic trailer
This was one hell of a way to announce Diablo 4. The cinematic is gorgeous and morbid, exactly as Diablo should be. Imagine how much better off the world would be without treasure hunters accidentally resurrecting the ultimate evil.
What are Diablo 4's starting classes?
The shapeshifting Druid class was one of the first to be announced for Diablo 4. They're able to use powers based on the earth and wind or transform into animal forms like the wolf or bear. Game Informer posted 20 minutes of hands on gameplay with Diablo 4's Druid class shortly after the game's announcement in 2019.
The Barbarians are back with their massive strength and arsenal of weapons. Here's a bit of the Barbarian in action.
For the traditional elemental spellcasters, there's the Sorceress class who can hurl lightning, ice, and fire at enemies from afar. You can see all of that in this Sorceress gameplay video.
At BlizzCon 2021, Blizzard added a fourth class to the mix, the Rogue, who hasn't appeared by that name since the original Diablo. We've got some details on the Rogue's abilities here, and you can see the class in action in this reveal trailer.
Diablo 4 has actual character customization
Diablo 4's character customization system will allow players to outfit their characters with hundreds of unique armor pieces as well as detailed facial and body characteristics. An expanded dye system will also let players customize individual pieces of armor, or entire outfits, "in a range of colors that still feel grounded and realistic in the world we’re building."
It's not just armor though. Diablo 4 will let you change the facial features of your character, a new feature for the series. Blizzard says that your characters will get more close-up time than every before in the series, appearing in lots of different menus, but also in cinematic sequences.
Here are all the details Blizzard mentions in its June 2021 development update:
"You will be able to change the face of your character, the hairstyle, the facial hair (beards and eyebrows), and add jewelry (nose piercing or earrings), makeup, and body markings such as tattoos or body paint. You will also be able to change the color values of your character’s skin, eyes, hair/facial hair, and body markings. Some elements will be class specific, to support the classes’ unique backgrounds, but many will be shared between classes allowing more possibilities to mix and match."
Diablo 4 is making big changes to items
Blizzard says that its ideals when it comes to itemisation are strengthening class identities, supporting deeper customisation and giving players a level of depth that sits somewhere between Diablo 2 and 3. "We aim to provide years of things to discover and countless ways to build a class," former game director Luis Barriga wrote in a development update.
Specific changes include the addition of weapon speed and other inherent physical characteristics that you'll find across all item types. Every shield, for instance, will have a block attribute on top of whatever other prosperities they have.
Item qualities and affixes have also been in the crosshairs. Blizzard says it wants to give players more flexibility and doesn't want them to feel like they should just ignore everything that isn't a legendary-tier item. "We’re increasing the potential power of individual affixes on Magic items," said Barriga. "We're increasing the maximum number of affixes on Rare and better items in the endgame. Legendary affixes now roll randomly (Yes, really!) on Legendary Items. And Unique items will replace Mythics."
Say goodbye to inventory Tetris
Yup, you heard right. No more shuffling various shapes around your limited inventory space trying to bring back just one more bit of loot. Blizzard says it wants to "avoid interrupting gameplay with pockets of inventory management." Fair.
Ancient items are being replaced
In Diablo 4, ancient items are no more. Instead, Blizzard is opting for a system that will hopefully encourage more unique play styles. Players will earn a consumable that allows them to attach a Legendary affix to non-Legendary weapons, essentially creating your own ancient items.
"Our newest proposal hits a couple different feedback points: addressing the usefulness of Rare (Yellow) items as well as increasing the depth and complexity of player gear choices in the endgame," lead systems designer David Kim said in a blog post at the end of 2019.
Exactly how this system will work is still being iterated on, though. The quarterly update in autumn of 2020 says that player feedback from BlizzCon indicated there were changes yet to be made.
"In order to gain specific, minor bonuses, players would most likely have to carry around several extra pieces of gear, each with different amounts of Ancestral/Demonic/Angelic Power on them. You would then need to constantly calculate each of the power levels of those items and compare with their overall power. It felt like an excessive amount of bookkeeping for the player," Blizzard say.
"However, one thing we really liked about the system was the gameplay of managing stats in meaningful ways to hit certain bonus thresholds that then make your items better suited for the playstyle you are going for. We need some more time for iteration/rework here and look forward to sharing more on itemization in our next quarterly blog."
Diablo 4 has three new stats
Blizzard is adding three new stats to Diablo 4: Angelic Power, Demonic Power, and Ancestral Power. Each has its own effect, but they'll also be used as prerequisites for item affixes.
- Angelic Power: increases the duration of all beneficial effects (like self-buffs or healing)
- Demonic Power: increases the duration of all negative effects (like debuffs or damage over time)
- Ancestral Power: increases the chance of on-hit effects (aka increased proc chance)
Here's Diablo 4's skill tree
In its quarterly update for September 2020, Blizzard talks about Diablo 4's new skill tree. The branches of the tree are where you'll spend experience earned while leveling to unlock new active skills, enhancements for those skills, and Passive Points. Passive Points are spent in the roots of the tree where you unlock additional effects.
Blizzard says that it currently aims for players to unlock around 30-40% of the nodes on the skill tree by the endgame, meaning players will have quite different builds even within the same class.
In the same update, Blizzard details the Enchantment System available to Sorceresses. After unlocking a Sorceress skill, it can be placed in an active skill slot that works the way other classes' active skills work. It can also be placed in an Enchantment slot that removes your ability to use it as an active skill but grants a different secondary effect instead. As an example, Blizzard explains the current implementation for the Meteor skill (which is subject to change, it notes) "Meteor allows you to call a fiery chunk of rock from the sky. If you choose to slot it as an Enchantment, you won’t be able to control your Meteors, but they’ll fall onto enemies periodically."
Diablo 4 monsters are classified as "families"
Diablo 4's baddie classification will be a bit different from Diablo 3's. In D4, monsters will be part of "families" that share a fighting style. So far Blizzard has talked about Cultists, Drowned, and Cannibal families.
In the first quarterly update, senior encounter designer Candace Thomas talked through the Cannibals. They're intentionally designed with several melee type monsters but no ranged.
"Instead, they spring at the player with supernatural swiftness. Some may close the gap by leaping over obstacles and would-be competitors, while others will swiftly and deftly maneuver through other monsters to get first blood. This provides a very different experience and gives the player less time to make thoughtful positioning decisions, thus making combat with these flesh-eaters feel frenetic."
How do the online features work?
BlizzCon attendees were able to get their hands on the game, and our first impression was that it's a game whose stark and desolate look is in contrast with its always-online elements, which guarantee that other players will be running past as you explore it: "There's no queuing or anything like that, but seeing players who are clearly on the same quest, but aren't a permanent part of my world, reminds me that this isn't just my adventure."
If you'd like to know more about how Diablo 4's shared world works, here's our breakdown of that. The main takeaways are that dungeons will be instanced for solo or partied players, and in the overworld you'll see more players in towns and safe areas—though there's no option to turn them off altogether, even if you're solo. World events will draw players together, and you'll be able to ride mounts to cross great distances (these will be horses, and yes, you'll be able to buy horse armor for them). Difficulty can be set when you enter a dungeon, while above ground it will be scaled to your level (though there is a permadeath mode).
Here are some more facts about how Diablo 4's online world works:
- Enemy levels scale so that friends can always play together
- Dungeons are private for solo or partied players. It's only in the open world where you'll encounter the public.
- When entering a dungeon, you can select difficulty options "with great granularity."
- World events will call players together to fight as a group
- There is no option to disable seeing other players or an offline mode, but you can solo the whole game if you never feel like grouping up.
PvP will take place in Fields of Hatred
At BlizzCon 2021, Blizzard reveled how Diablo 4's open world PvP will work. You can find the full details here, but the gist is that PvP will be contained to areas called Fields of Hatred. Enter one, and you're fair game.
Inside a Field, you'll collect Shards of Hatred by fighting monsters, opening chests, killing other players, and completing other tasks. Hold onto your Shards long enough to cleanse them at an altar, and you'll be able to spend them on items from special merchants. If you're killed while holding uncleansed Shards, though, you'll drop them, and whoever took your life will get to grab them.
Diablo 4 will support controllers for PC
Blizzard talked in its first quarterly update about how it's designing the user interface with lots of player types in mind. Here's some UI/controller-specific stuff you can do in Diablo 4 according to lead UI designer Angela Del Priore:
- Switch between mouse/keyboard and controller without "throwing people completely off kilter"
- Choose to have the action bar in the middle center or bottom left of the screen
- Open UI screens independently in couch co-op mode
- Rebind your primary attack to something other than left mouse click
Diablo 4 has a new game director
Following the harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard by the state of California, the company confirmed that Diablo 4's game director Louis Barriga was no longer with the company. Blizzard has now introduced senior game designer Joe Shely as the new game director. Shely has been on the Diablo 4 team since 2017, previously working as a designer on multiple World of Warcraft expansions before becoming a senior game designer on Diablo 3.
"Like many of you, our team has been reflecting upon recent events," Shely wrote in the Diablo 4 quarterly development blog from October 2021. "A lot has happened since our last blog and the hard work of practicing the values we aspire to must continue. In parallel with that important work, development of Diablo 4 continues too."