Click. Hack. Click. Slash. Click. Loot. Repeat. Welcome, you're in the world of Diablo now.
For the uninitiated, Diablo is the world’s premier action RPG series. It's a game that's effectively spawned many an imitator, but few have managed to come close to the original's addictive, dungeon-crawling, gear-gathering grind.
Blizzard, the developers of Diablo, managed to blow away the competition on the PC and finally won over console gamers with Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition.
And now they're making a move that's a bit unexpected, and has ruffled a few feathers: they're setting their sights on your smartphone, with plans to bring the demon-slaying franchise to your palm with Diablo for smartphones, which will be called Diablo Immortal.
However, the move from PC to console to smartphone has been a controversial one, and already seems to be dividing the game's hardcore fanbase. We're not sure where we stand yet. But we do think that Diablo Immortal could be a genuine antidote to all the horrible Diablo clones that plague mobile game stores, right?
UPDATE: Well, the update is: there is no update. The Diablo Immortal website is still up-and-running and there's still an option to pre-register for the game, but otherwise we've heard nothing about it. There's some speculation as to whether it's been cancelled, Blizzard is waiting to release it with another game, it's no longer going to be a mobile exclusive or we're just all too impatient and it'll be coming any day now. We'll keep you posted.
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Cut to the chase – Diablo on phones
- What is it? A mobile, touchscreen-controlled take on the classic Diablo ARPG formula.
- When can I play it? There’s no set release date yet, but we’re hoping 2019
- What can I play it on? Android and iOS devices are the platforms announced so far
Diablo Immortal trailers
Two trailers have been revealed for Diablo Immortal – one a relatively extensive look at gameplay, the other a cinematic focussing on the story. Feast your eyes on both below:
Diablo Immortal release date
Diablo Immortal doesn’t have an official release date yet beyond a “coming soon” placeholder. We had been expecting a 2019 release, but a statement in February of 2019 from Blizzard CFO Dennis Durkin, aimed at easing investor expectations, stated that the company had no major releases planned for 2019.
It’s possible that as Diablo Immortal is (for the time being at least) only being considered a mobile release, that this is not considered a big mainline title for Blizzard, and could still fall into the 2019 window. But as the first all-new release in one of the company’s most storied franchises, it’s hard to imagine it not being considered a major title.
If we're going to hear any news, it's most likely to be during BlizzCon 2019 at the start of November as Blizzard is skipping Gamescom 2019 "as part of a renewed effort this year to maintain our focus on development".
Diablo Immortal gameplay and story
It may be a mobile game, but for the most part this is going to be the same Diablo you already know and love, albeit with controls designed to make the most out of a phone touchscreen rather than a mouse or controller.
Developed cooperatively between Blizzard and Chinese devs at NetEase (the company which co-operates Overwatch, Diablo 3 and Warcraft in China), the game will be set 5 years after the events of Diablo 2, and will explore what happened after the Worldstone was destroyed in that game, and the path taken to the dismal world of Diablo 3. The likes of Tyrael, Malthael, and Leah and Deckard Cain will all feature in the story, as will the demon hunters Valla and Josen who appeared in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. In terms of foes, expect appearances from Diablo’s buddy Baal and Skarn, the Herald of Terror. Story beats will be dished out via non-playable characters, with additional storylines landing through updates to the game.
Built from the ground-up, Diablo Immortal will introduce new abilities and techniques not yet seen in a Diablo game. While six familiar classes will be present (Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer, Crusader and Wizard – with the Witch Doctor notably absent at this stage), they’ll be able to work together in all new ways. Abilities will be able to be combined to make cross class co-operative play more exciting. A Wizard for instance will be able to freeze a foe with ice crystals before firing a beam called the Ray of Frost into the crystal. When used individually, the Ray of Frost and ice crystals can only take down one baddie, but if the ray is fired at the crystal, it fragments the beam so it can hit multiple enemies.
Projectile and melee attacks will also be more clearly directional now – many attacks will include a a directional cone within which to fire them off, which will likely be handy when attempting to trigger the combo moves described earlier.
The other big change for the game will be the amount of players who can team up together. Previously, this has topped out at four for Diablo 3. But footage of Diablo Immortal shows as many as ten players banding together to battle foes. Early reports indicate that these large scale battles will be locked to open world areas, with instanced dungeons (and the boss specific loot they offer) instead tied to four-player maximum parties.
There also seems to be a greater emphasis on environmental and platforming obstacles in Diablo Immortal. The gameplay clip showed levels in which players had to abseil down a chasm while battling the forces of darkness, and another where they travelled along what appeared to be a river in a raft, taking on baddies along for the ride.
Those changes aside, expect Diablo Immortal to be very similar to previous Diablo games. You’ll fight enemies, levelling up to acquire new skills while dearly wishing that the next felled foe will drop a more powerful weapon, armour piece or accessory to make your coming battles easier. It’s one of the most addictive loops in all of gaming, and what has made Diablo one of the most revered franchises in all of gaming.
Reception and controversy
Diablo Immortal’s announcement was met with, at best, a mixed reception. It’s been several years since Blizzard released a mainline Diablo game, and so the trailer seemed a tease for those expecting a full PC or console release. As such, the backlash was immediate, with some accusing Blizzard of cashing in on fans’ goodwill, and that the game was merely a reskin of co-developers NetEase’s previous mobile ARPG titles.
Blizzard has looked to allay fears, saying that it’s taking as much care with Diablo Immortal as any of its titles, and assuring fans that it’s an all-new game worth their time.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack defended the decision to create a mobile game stating that while Blizzard would like its core fanbase to give the mobile release a chance, it's understood that "every game is not going to be for every person".
Brack added that as a mobile title, Immortal will, of course, be "different" and that it's not trying to replicate the PC experience" but promised "it’s going to be a good, authentic experience for the Blizzard games we bring to that platform."
However, so great has been the animosity that Blizzard has had to show its hand for further titles earlier than expected. While it hasn’t explicitly stated that Diablo 4 is in development, it has said that Immortal is not the only Diablo game currently in the works. So expect, sooner or later, another fully fledged Diablo game to be revealed.
In another interview with IGN, Brack said that the fan reaction to Immortal's reveal had taught Blizzard "a huge number of lessons". Brack acknowledged concern that Blizzard was moving away from PC releases in favor of mobile but said that this mobile release "doesn’t mean we’re not going to be continuing to make awesome PC games and awesome console games like we have in the past. "
Diablo Immortal pricing and in-game purchases
Just exactly how Blizzard will be selling Diablo Immortal is yet to be revealed. While many fans are hoping for a one-off, single payment, that seems unlikely given how the lucrative mobile gaming market has been established.
We’d imagine that Diablo Immortal will be free to play, and will include some sort of in-app purchases, be that access to additional classes or, more likely, stat buffing items and cosmetic adornments for your heroes.
Image Credits: Blizzard Entertainment