Two years ago in Blizzcon 2018, Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, a new installment of their fan-favorite isometric RPG franchise that will be completely developed straight to mobile. The announcement was met with a less than stellar response back then and since then we haven’t heard of it since then. Until now that is.
We were able to attend a special preview event for Diablo Immortal and access to a pre-alpha build coming soon. The game will be developed by Blizzard in partnership with Chinese media juggernaut NetEase, who’s also published a bevy of popular mobile games such as Marvel Super War and Identity V. Wyatt Cheng, Lead Designer for Diablo Immortal and Caleb Arseneux, Lead Producer presided over the event and talked us through some design philosophies and where the game is so far development-wise.
What we saw was a preview of what will be available in the alpha test which will open later this week. We got to learn about the game, the story, how multiplayer will work, and of course the most important detail: the sweet, tasty loot and items.
A big takeaway for us was that there seems to be great emphasis on keeping the core experience of Diablo true to the source. Wyatt Cheng remarked at one point that the game will have uncompromising and visceral combat and that despite it being a free-to-play MMORPG on mobile it will have very little of the trappings of the genre. He reemphasizes later on that “[Diablo Immortal] will be about killing monsters and getting gear”—the definitive gameplay loop in the original games. It seems that the development team was laser-focused in preserving how Diablo plays and feels in its transition from the PC and console space to mobile.
As such many of Diablo Immortal‘s systems have been molded to fit around the core gameplay. First off, all of the characters (four available at launch: Barbarian, Monk, Wizard and Demon Hunter); all the content and all of the story will be available Free-to-Play. The team did seem keen on locking away content beyond paywalls so everything will be available for everyone. Second, the microtransactions in the game will only be “worthwhile, gameplay-centric bonuses” and will only serve to accentuate the gameplay experience rather than to alleviate a negative experience.
All classes will have two robust skill trees to spend their skill points on. Later on, as they progress, the game’s Paragon System will come into play to specialize and add endgame progression.
Items and gear will also work like in the previous games. There will be 13 item slots: Head, Chest, Shoulder, Legs, Main hand, Left hand, 6 Gem slots, and a Charm slot. Charms are something new to the game that will modify your class skills and will be an item slot tied into endgame content. Each piece of gear will change your character’s appearance which is always a cool thing.
Interestingly enough, there will also be no item trading between players in order to prevent exploits and to also ensure that if a player is running around with a cool piece of gear, he found that himself. I feel like trading stuff between friends has been a significant part of Diablo before so this restriction seems curious. Hopefully, it’s for the best.
The open world looks to be a massive affair with each server looking to house around 10,000 players running about, doing quests and interacting with each other. There also seems to be a lot to do in the world. Among some that were mentioned are Elder Rifts which are repeatable dungeons that you can run over and over again to farm experience points and loot. There is also going to be a free-for-all PvP area which will excite those people looking for it in Diablo III. The dev team also discusses other ways to interact with players such as being able to form guilds and having built-in voice chat as well as leaving short voice messages for your guildmates.
Finally, in the business of story, the game will take place sometime between Diablo II and Diablo III. Expect to see familiar characters such as Deckard Cain, Tyrael and Malthael make an appearance in the story. The narrative will have a definite starting point and the story will be treated as “the trunk” of the main gameplay tree moving forward.
The market has changed since the initial mixed reception to Diablo Immortal in 2018. The general gaming populace now has a better understanding and acceptance of how good a mobile game experience can be thanks to the success of trailblazers such as Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact. It seems like the time may actually be right for the arrival of the Prime Evil himself. Diablo Immortal looks pretty promising and fun from what we’ve seen and the resolution to stay true to the classic Diablo formula is a bold and commendable choice sure to win over so devout fans of the series and garner new ones. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s going to live forever on our phones when tech alpha starts later on this week.
We’ll be making another article after we finish our hands-on with the game!
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