There may not be a BlizzCon this year for fans of Blizzard games – but that doesn't mean we're not getting an update on Diablo 4. Continuing the series of quarterly developer updates, the team at Blizzard has just revealed a host of fresh new details on Diablo 4.
Perhaps most promising of all is that, despite the ongoing pandemic forcing the team to work from home, development seems to be continuing at a good speed. In a blog post, Luis Barriga, the game's director, revealed that the team managed to 'block in' (in other words, make fully playable) a whole area of the game's open-world called The Dry Steppes, for a two-day play testing session.
While the game is still "not at an Alpha or Beta stage yet" with "a lot of work ahead", it was enough to highlight some exciting new elements of the game.
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Monsters, mounts and multiplayer
One of the key changes highlighted relates to story-telling. Diablo 4 is unlikely to rely on conversation panes as much as its predecessor Diablo 3, with a mixture of choreographed and tool-generated camera angles bringing life to interactions with NPCs. An effort has been made to make use of 'real-time cutscenes', in the game engine, to allow for cinematic in-game moments seamless to player-controlled gameplay. Blizzard's signature, high-quality pre-rendered cutscenes will still feature though.
The new-to-the-series open world was also discussed, combining "a variety of open world systems and pieces of content," offering greater campaign replayablility, and letting players approach the main quest-line at their own pace. Crafting, world PVP and events were detailed, but most important is the addition of Camps. These are areas of the map overrun with monsters and demons which, when cleared, become hubs for NPCs and waypoint travel markers. The game won't explicitly point them towards you, encouraging exploration, with locations like haunted crypts and plague towns detailed.
Mounts will also be making their first appearance in the Diablo world, with Diablo 4 letting you make use of them to cover larger open world distances at speed. A player can be knocked off their mount by combat, as well as customizing them.
Those fearful that the 'shared-world' nature of Diablo 4 will turn it into an MMO also had those fears allayed a little. Barriga stressed that overlap with other player's games will be kept appropriate to the in-game mood. "We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers," said Barriga. Dungeons and key story moments remain instanced to a player and their party, but world events can be co-operatively tackled with strangers even if they're not in your party.
It may be a long way from release yet then, but Diablo 4 sounds like it's coming along nicely. We can't wait to get slaying and looting again.
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