Diablo Immortal is entering closed beta with a planned full release in the first half of 2022, and there are some sizeable changes coming as the developers tweak systems while they refine Diablo’s first mobile game – and first MMO. One of the biggest changes? A new event transforming one elite player into a raid boss taking on 30 player challengers.
The 30-on-1 event is a new finale to Diablo Immortal’s season-long PvP system, the Cycle of Strife, which pits the elite and few-in-number Immortals faction against a host of challengers, the Shadows, vying for their top slot. But now, the season is capped off by an event called Challenge of the Immortal: 30 of the top Shadow players on the server take on the top Immortal, who grows to colossal size and lives up to their faction name, thrashing puny players with powerful skills.
But the event doesn’t stop there. Should the Shadows emerge triumphant and strike down the Immortal, a true final phase begins: all 30 players turn hostile and a battle royale begins, with the last Shadow standing taking the role of the new top Immortal.
To be fair, most players who pick up Diablo Immortal may never get the chance to transform into a raid boss – by design, it’s an honor reserved for the best player on the server, as Blizzard developers explained to TechRadar at a recent briefing. But it’s a unique climax to a season of PvP antipathy, and a fitting capstone for those who have outperformed all the other players on the server. If you want to participate in one of the rarest group bosses in multiplayer gaming, you’ll have to be the best.
Being the boss: a proud video game tradition
This is far from the first time video games have let players inhabit the awesome powers of a boss-level monster – who can forget watching the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade's Black Temple raid on Illidan from his perspective via a Legion cinematic?. But the best modern example is the popular horror game Dead by Daylight, which pits four 'survivors' against a powerful player-controlled monster picked from a roster of genre staples, including cinema legends like Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Ghost Face, and Pinhead, as well as classic video game antagonists like Pyramid Head and Nemesis.
But that PvP boss-versus-normals gameplay was pioneered in earlier games like Turtle Rock Studios' 2008 classic Left 4 Dead and its 2009 sequel, which let players take control of more powerful monsters to ambush and kill the human survivors – especially as The Tank, which struck fear in players' hearts as soon as its telltale intro music heralded the massive threat. Turtle Rock refined that concept in 2015 with Evolve, a game that set four hunter characters to track and confront a massive monster, formalizing the 4-vs-1 concept.
The studio moved on to Back 4 Blood, a spiritual reimagining of Left 4 Dead's gameplay that includes a PvP feature for enemy players to inhabit monsters to attack survivors. Alongside the release of Resident Evil 3 Remake in 2020, Capcom introduced Resident Evil: Resistance, a similar 4-v-1 concept with a bit more strategic planning than is usual for the genre.
Single-player modes have also given players supreme power to subvert the usual protagonist presentation as an underdog fighting impossible odds. Contrary to his unremarked-on presence in the original Doom games, the 'Doomguy' players control is formally referred to as the 'Doom Slayer' in Doom 2016, and lore reveals that his legendary swathe of carnage has made him a boogeyman striking fear in demons across Hell's realms. Talion gets a similar fearful reputation among orcs in Shadow of War and Shadow of Mordor, while the Crackdown and Infamous games have players portraying super-powered humans that dominate typical enemies.
In a more literal sense, Devil May Cry: Special Edition in 2006 let players run through the game again as one of the regular version's antagonists, Vergil (a move repeated in the 2020 Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition). The 2009 BioShock 2 put players in the shoes of a Big Daddy, a regular boss from the first game. The Shadow of RAAM DLC for 2011 Gears of War 3 let you play as the antagonist from the first Gears of War, while DLC for 2014's The Evil Within gave players control of one of the game's bosses, The Keeper.
Delving deeper into gaming history reveals the niche subgenre of becoming a literal dungeon's boss, like the single-player Dungeon Keeper series from the 90s that put players in charge of a villain trying to keep NPC heroes from looting their dungeon. The Overlord series arguably inherited the concept (though was more action-adventure than dungeon-keeping), and eventually, games like the 2013 Dungeonland took that tradition into true 3-vs-1 multiplayer territory.
Diablo Immortal closed beta: building out endgame content for hardcore players
While most players may never make it to the Challenge of the Immortal, there are more events and systems added to the closed beta to appeal to hardcore gamers.
First, there’s a whole new class of equipment returning from older Diablo games: Set Items, which confer bonuses when equipping multiple pieces from the same set (a small bonus for three or the full bonus for all six). These won’t overlap with legendary items, and will specifically take up slots like rings and amulets to allow players to equip their favorite kits. There will be four sets in the closed beta, with more likely planned for the full launch.
After players have finished all the Helliquary list items, they can unlock Helliquary raids – 8-person group events to take on tough enemies. And players will get a better sense of how tough the events are with recommended Offense and Defense score levels. Legendary Gems have also been given an entirely new system to enhance your favorite gem by ‘awakening’ them (aka slotting in other gems to empower them).
Finally, the developers have increased the loot drops in the higher difficulties, increasing the stat ranges of items dropped in Hell 2, Hell 3, and the new Hell 4. Your paragon level (the post-level cap progression) will add even more bonuses to dropped items – and if you want those Set Items, you’ll need to party up with three friends to enter higher-difficulty dungeons.
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David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.