BlizzCon 2018 has hit the ground running this year, with its opening ceremony absolutely devastating onlookers with a slew of announcements across the board. Heading the convention was a slew of massive announcements for every single one of the major brands including Diablo. Heading the mainline stage Wyatt Cheng, the lead designer for the Diablo Series, unveiled the newest and most demonic edition of the franchise yet. Following the devastating conclusion of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction and the corruption of the World Stone, Blizzard has now set the stage for Diablo Immortal. Entering the mobile marketplace for its first gaming release, Diablo Immortal is intended to be a mobile exclusive Action-RPG, covering the twenty-year gap between Lord of Destruction and Diablo 3.
The game will feature six hero classes at launch including: the Necromancer, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Crusader, and the newly established Demon Hunter order. Intended to possess the same MMO functionality found across the franchise, Diablo Immortal will also feature massive co-op gameplay throughout its dungeons, allowing up to six players to join up at any time. The game is being co-developed by Chinese internet titan NetEase, a company that is certainly no stranger to Blizzard’s products. In the past they’ve covered both the open beta distribution for Diablo 3, as well as development for Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and handling the distribution for numerous other games including World of Warcraft’s relaunch in 2009 and several world sites for Hearthstone.
Picking up 5 years after Lord of Destruction, Immortal is intended to answer those questions left unanswered after the destruction of the World Stone. Following the scattering of the World Stone’s corrupted remnants, players will have 8 playable zones available at launch, with promises of additional content post-launch.
At the What’s Next panel for Diablo, the senior development team behind Immortal previewed several of the new zones; the twisted remains of the Bilefen, a newer jungle-grown marshland that has seen darkness take route with the shards of the World Stone. Players will also return to the Frozen Tundra, the homeland of the Barbarians with promises that the land has become even harsher with Bael’s corruption. Zoltun Kulle’s Library returns for Immortal from Diablo 3. This particular lair birthed deep in the heart of the desert like a “magical hoarder” as the panel described. They then demoed the persistent player world to be found in Immortal, displaying the shared-outdoor zones players will find; using famous Warcraft enemy Hogger as an analogy, they described how players may happen upon each other as they play, battling monsters together for greater loot and rewards than one could find playing solo otherwise.
Jumping off from that, Immortal will also feature the same style of instanced randomly-generated dungeon the Diablo series is known for, with distinctly greater challenges than one could find in the open world. Opening up with the Kikuras Rapids found deep in the heart of the Bilefen, the Rapids are home to some of the most vicious fetish-monsters of the zone. As players avoid having, “swords donated to them, pointy end first,” they’ll also be sailing down river in a similar manner to famous Hollywood film, Apocalypse Now, bound to a dingy raft that slowly begins to float players along to either great rewards, or potential doom over the edge of a waterfall. Changing tone entirely the panel then revealed the Tomb of Fahir, a silent desert ruin drawing more on the aesthetics the series is known for. This was quickly followed by the Forgotten Tower, an ancient sanctuary now overrun with cultists of every caliber undergoing dark rituals for their demonic lords. The panel then revealed Westmarch, Immortal’s capital city in its golden age of existence but didn’t demo any concept art or in-game work.
Continuing onward, Blizzard then demoed the launch classes which all appear to contain not only the main design concepts inherit to each class from its parent game, but hosts of new moves and abilities to make each feel remarkably distinct. Panelists then went on to talk about how future classes are being planned for post-launch, intending for Immortal to be live-updated in a similar manner to how Diablo 3 was up until the last few seasons, teasing both the Witch Doctor and Assassin classes while maintaining that the community will have the greatest say in which Classes meet release.
Control for Immortal is rather standard for how most mobile devices handle, featuring a virtual control stick in the bottom left corner of the play-screen. The user interface now also includes the various button abilities found traditionally on the controller. Movement and aiming finally come into harmony in Immortal, generating a second control stick after ability activation to determine target. Immortal will also feature an Intuitive Aiming mechanic, allowing the computer to generate relevant targets for ability usage. This will essentially allow users to point and click where necessary, while still maintaining control of their abilities. Immortal is intended to be more social-heavy than previous Battle.net games, integrated from day one with the social platform so players may engage across games.
In the Q+A period Blizzard would later confirm, much to the crowd’s displeasure, that Immortal would exclusively be developed for Android and iOS systems with no future plan for PC or console development. I, for one, am actually looking forward to an exclusively mobile game; after picking up Reaper of Souls for my Playstation 4 several years ago, I still haven’t gotten past Tristram simply for not having the time. I fully intend on picking up Diablo 3 for my Nintendo Switch for the promise of portability, as that’s where I can make the best use of my dungeon delving time effectively.
Players also inquired into Hardcore mode’s potential return to Immortal and was sadly disappointed. Citing issues with mobile connectivity, Blizzard currently does not seem to have plans on pursuing a traditional version of Hardcore but instead wants to carry those principles into other areas. Cheng briefly talked about a potential system reminiscent of Warcraft’s Mythic Dungeons.
Ultimately we’ll see more of Diablo Immortal hitting the BlizzCon stage later this weekend, but for now I am thoroughly impressed. All-in-all Immortal looks at first glance to be a refreshing take on the franchise on technology finally best-suited for it. While some players may be incredibly bitter about a mobile-exclusive release, with one questioner asking, “Is this some off-season April Fool’s Joke?” I for one look forward to Immortal. While I do think it could potentially succeed better on the Switch and PC, one cannot deny that Blizzard is reaching for a more viable and successful long term market. However with a slew of ARPGs already saturating the mobile marketplace, and the mass negative reaction from attendees at BlizzCon its clear that Blizzard will need to bank on more than just nostalgia to make Immortal perform well in the long-run.
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