There are no guarantees in life, but it’s really starting to feel inevitable that Blizzard will announce Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2019. Aside from the avalanche of rumors that hint at the game’s pending reveal, there’s also the fact that people are still talking about how badly Blizzard botched the reveal of the mobile game, Diablo Immortal.
Combine that controversy with some other recent controversies involving Blizzard and Hong Kong and…well…let’s just say Blizzard could use a win.
Until now, much of the talk surrounding Diablo 4 has been pretty standard. Most people expect it to be similar to Diablo 3 in most respects but bigger and hopefully better. Because Diablo 4 needs to be a big win for Blizzard, people don’t think they’ll try to reinvent the wheel with this sequel.
Yet, there are some who wonder if now isn’t the perfect time for Blizzard to change the Diablo formula just a bit. Specifically, some are wondering if Diablo 4 should be more like Dark Souls.
Before we break down what that means, let’s clear the air a bit. There was a rumor that started floating around about a year ago which suggested that an early version of Diablo 4 was in fact modeled after the Dark Souls formula. However, it was also reported that the Diablo team didn’t like how that game was coming together and decided to abandon it in favor of something more traditional.
That would seem to close the lid on the idea that Diablo 4 may resemble Dark Souls, but that suggestion ignores a couple of points. First off, we don’t know how much of that original build of Diablo 4 may have survived the transition. It’s possible that Diablo 4 could still be a third-person game and not an isometric RPG, for instance.
More importantly, the question isn’t whether or not Diablo 4 will be more like Dark Souls. The quest is, “Should Diablo 4 be more like Dark Souls?”
That question is much more interesting. Until now, the Diablo series has followed a pretty straightforward formula that hasn’t changed much over the years. They are isometric action-RPGs that see you level up a character and acquire increasingly better gear off random and pre-determined drops. They’re mostly known for their simple (but deep) gameplay, dark tones, and hours of content.
That’s all well and good, but it’s been seven years since the release of Diablo 3. A lot has happened since then. Games like Path of Exile have replicated the Diablo formula and added so much content over the years that there’s no way Diablo 4 could conceivably match it out of the gate. We’ve also seen titles like Destiny come along and offer core elements of the Diablo formula as part of an evolved package that features changes like first-person shooter gameplay and persistent online multiplayer options.
Yet, the most important thing that has changed since the release of Diablo 3 was the reveal of the aforementioned Diablo Immortal.
Early reports indicate that Diablo Immortal is actually pretty similar to a traditional mobile game but on mobile devices. That makes a lot of sense, actually, when you consider that Diablo doesn’t demand much from a technical standpoint that couldn’t be accomplished in the ’90s and early 2000s.
That’s kind of the point here. What happens if Diablo 4 offers pretty much the same experience as Diablo Immortal but features a few more mechanics and some slightly refined graphics? You get the feeling that might kind of “expose” the ways in which Diablo has aged and inspire some to suggest that Diablo 4 was negatively impacted by Blizzard’s desire to make mobile games.
That being the case, you’d think that Diablo 4 might benefit from going the Dark Souls route in some ways. Specifically, it could incorporate a more dynamic third-person combat system, feature larger open environments, and even ramp up the difficulty and dark themes (two missing elements some fans took the retail release of Diablo 3 to task for). Diablo 4 could borrow aspects and innovations from Dark Souls, feel new, and still feel like a Diablo game at the core.
It sounds good, but it probably won’t happen. The truth is that far more people will probably be upset if Diablo 4 is anything but the “more Diablo” they’ve been seeking for years. We’ll see how those fans react to a game that may just be an improved Diablo 3, but right now, Diablo 4 is most valuable as a PR win for Blizzard and an almost guaranteed sales hit. Diablo Immortal proved that a Diablo game that offers something even a little different may not get them both of those things.
Yet, you can’t help but wonder if we’re at a point when it is in fact time for Diablo 4 to grow and even change.