Blizzard revealed a little more on the world, classes, abilities, and the setting of Diablo Immortal, the newly announced mobile MMO.
The panel was lead by Wyatt Cheng (Principle Designer, Diablo), Sean Copeland (Historian, Diablo), and Matthew Berger (Senior Designer, Diablo).
Wyatt Cheng also specifically reiterated several times that many different Diablo projects are being concurrently developed by separate teams. It appears Diablo Immortal is just the first to come to light.
Immortal takes place 5 years after the events of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction and 15 years before Diablo 3. As such, this very specific point in history heavily effects the stories being told and locations being visited. However, although there is a local scope to the narrative, many aspects of the story will harken back to issues that sprung out of the Eternal Conflict long before Sanctuary was even born.
Essentially, one of the biggest threats during this game is that although the corrupted Worldstone was destroyed by Tyrael, several corrupted shards survived and were scattered across the world. Players will explore vast open world locations with many other players, as well as delve into complex 4-player instanced dungeons, to find these corrupted shards and thwart the plans of those that found them.
These villains include old and new foes and characters, but the “big bad” of the initial launch content appears to be a demon named Skarn, who is a Lieutenant of Diablo and seeks to usher in Diablo’s imminent return by gathering the corrupted Worldstone fragments. It seems unlikely that this would happen due to the air of mystery and the dialog of NPCs in Diablo 3, but we don’t have a clear picture on if Diablo will actually appear in this game that bear’s his namesake.
Along the way to finding the corrupted Worldstone shards and stopping Skarn, players will encounter NPCs that aid them. These include Valla, a Demon Hunter with a tragic past, Valla’s master Josen, Jacob Staalek (who is currently holding Tyrael’s sword, El Druin/Azurewrath), and Deckard Cain, himself.
Of note, many of the revealed locations so far show art assets that seem oddly identical to those of Diablo 3, which is pretty cool that such a level of fidelity can work on a mobile game, but strange that the two games appear to share so much art.
Bilefen is an appropriately named, classic take on the swampy island theme. Located off the southern coast of Khanduras, the island’s main town is Port Justinian. The port is struggling with fetish monsters, bog creatures, and other nasties assaulting its travelers and traders, which it survives on. The island is also the location of the Kikuras Rapids dungeon, and a Xiansai Wizard named Jin (unsure on spelling), who is on a mission to discover lost relics for some unknown purpose.
Zoltun Kulle’s Library (Zone)
While players of Diablo 3 may be familiar with both Zoltun Kulle and his great, hidden, and well-protected library, Diablo Immortal reveals that the fallen Horadrim has many caches of research and terrible secrets across Sanctuary. And while the man himself is not to be resurrected until 15 years later, players will encounter a curator that bars the way into this library–a simulacrum of Zoltun Kulle who does not, himself, know that he is only a copy. The library contains horrific experiments, annals of libraries, traps, and the usual host.
Shassar Sea (Zone)
Located in eastern Kehjistan, the SHassar Sea is home to the Demon Hunter Valla, who is training under her master Josen. The story here reflects some dialog of the forming of the Demon Hunter order–an order that is well-established by Diablo 3 but only in its infancy in Immortal. It’s a large desert area that pretty much has what you’d expect as far as bestiary.
Tomb of Fahir (4-Player Dungeon)
This first dungeon is found in the Shassar Sea and has 4 players beating baddies, delving deep into dark ruins, breaking open 3 seals, and repealing down a rope to fight a giant broodmother spider boss. The way the rope works is visually interesting but doesn’t seem to have any gameplay ramifications.
Kikuras Rapids (4-player Dungeon)
Based in the island of Bilefen, the Kikuras Rapids house ancient relics, old ruins, and swampy monsters. Players will trek up the riverbanks to a giant raft and then journey down the river on boat, all the while fighting off monsters that appear on the banks and from the river’s dark depths. At the end, players will face off against a fetish patriarch, a monster very reminiscent of its ilk in Act 3 of Diablo 2.
Forgotten Tower (4-Player Instance)
The Forgotten Tower is a location old players should recognize from Act 1 of Diablo 2. Out in the marshy fields, a dilapidated tower with more basements than vertical floors invited players to descend into a labyrinth of stone ruins, demons, and beasts, all to reach the evil Countess at the bottom and slay her and her cohorts.
In Diablo Immortal, the Countess returns as the final boss of the new instance. While the dungeon is much less of the traditional dungeon crawler from the older game, it is much more in the Diablo 3 style of open landings and sweeping architecture. Players encounter cultists resurrecting the Countess through a blood ritual, which it appears they fail to stop, hence the Countess fight.
Classes and Abilities
Diablo Immortal will launch with six returning character types: Demon Hunters, Necromancers, Crusaders, Necromancers, Monks, and Barbarians.
Some of their abilities are returning powers, others are modified from their original forms, and others are entirely new. Many of their abilities are heavily impacted by how players use a touch screen on a mobile device, and thus targeting and casting areas, as well as pathing, are often highlighted as players press down while using an ability.
Barbarians, as warriors whose purpose derived from their sacred charge to defend Mount Arreat (and the Worldstone) from invaders, now struggle to find their purpose and meaning in a world when their charge has been, literally, destroyed. The typical melee master of weapons and brute strength, his skills reflect his previous incarnations.
Furious Charge: Charge through multiple enemies, stretching out a path line with your finger. You will hit and damage each enemy as well as travel a short distance.
Hammer of the Ancients: Your typical targeted, field AoE attack. Target an area and release.
Throw: For the first time, Barbarians can pick up random monsters and toss them. They deal damage to the monster thrown as well as monsters struck.
The Priests of Rathma return as harbingers of balance. Wielders of the forbidden magic of death, decay, blood, and the undead, their abilities reflect their previous incarnations.
Command Skeletons: Raise skeletons around you (without corpses, like in Diablo 3). Use again to target an area for your skeletons to charge/leap to and attack.
Corpse Lance: Summon bones from nearby corpses as floating missiles to instantly hurl at your enemies. You need corpses for this, it appears, and they will shoot down a path you designate with your finger press.
Skeletal Spikes: Summon bones from the ground (no corpses needed, it appears). They will surge upward from the ground in a cone in front of you, striking everything in their path.
The Crusaders were originally founded to purge the taint of Mephisto from the Zakarum clergy following the fall of Travincal. Described as holy war machines, they’re plated, shielded, and armed to the teeth.
Blessed Shield: Direct the throw of the shield with your finger. It will strike all enemies on the way out and on the way back, and will also pull any surviving monsters back toward the player.
Sweep Attack: Swipe around you in a circle with your weapon. You can either press and hold until the targeting area fills up to release maximum power and hit full range, or release earlier for less damage and a shorter range.
Falling Sword: This ability has two phases. On the first use, you will mark an area with holy power, dealing damage to anyone caught on the spot. After that, you can either use the ability again or wait until its timer wears off and you will automatically be dropped on the original spot again, dealing yet more damage.
Haughty, stylish, and damning the risks, the Wizard is intellectual, sassy, and powerful. And maybe a little vain. Although mages typically must train at one of the few elite magical academies in Sanctuary (a response likely brought by the indiscretions of the Vizjerei and the Mage Clan Wars), Wizards do things their own way, although they pay homage to Xiansai.
Meteor: This hallmark mage spell returns as the usual point, wait for it to drop, and big damage hit on a small area.
Ray of Frost: Point and channel a slowing ray that strikes only what it hits first for as long as the channel holds out. It can combine with Ice Crystal (below) to awesome effect.
Ice Crystal: Summon a timed ice shard that explodes and shoots off ice projectiles, dealing damage at explosion and with each shard. It combines with Ray of frost (below) to awesome effect.
Ray of Frost + Ice Crystal: While Ice Crystal is up, channel Ray of Frost into the crystal to fragment it into several beams that directly target surrounding monsters.
Driven by revenge, the Demon Hunter has many tools at her disposal, including ranged weapons, traps, and shadow magic. But it’s all for a single goal: destroy demons, and their plans, at any cost.
Daring Swing: Shoot a, well, I’m not sure if it’s just a red rope or some red magic string, into the air and vault across the map. It looks like players can shoot arrows/bolts while en route and out of harm’s way. Great to use for mobility, defensive, and offensive strategy.
Strafe: It looks like you basically assume the usual Barbarian’s Whirlwind attack, spinning around in the direction you drag your finger while dealing melee damage around you. You’re probably immune to many different stunning or slowing effect while in this mode, but we don’t know for sure.
Rain of Vengeance: Call down a hail of arrows on a large spot you designate with a tap. It looks like you may be able to use this while you’re in the air with Daring Swing, but we’re unsure.
Ivgorod’s spiritual fighters, Monks can focus their spiritual power either to protect others or deal damage. Their unique training allows them to instantly be many places at once.
Seven-Sided Strike: Deal heavy damage all around you by manifesting yourself in many directions at once.
Kick: This one is actually super cool. You will kick in the direction you tap, either intercepting an enemy in a straight line or recoiling off a wall. You can also recoil and hit an enemy, or hit an enemy, recoil, and hit another enemy.
Imprisoned Spirits: Punch the ghosties out of several enemies directly in front of you for some damage.
Q: Can we expect to see Mephisto in any form?
A: Too early to say. One of the things that’s exciting is that we’re exploring how some of the Prime Evils are returning faster than they should.
Q: Are socketing or runewords returning?
A: Can’t speak to runewords, but looking at itemization. This is a great time to talk about itemization a little bit. For those that played demo, you probably noticed that inventory was disabled. Currently, we’re looking at what itemization will look like. Legendary powers will be in the game. Other than that, we want to look at the question of, once I have an item, how can I make it better? Is there enough depth to the item system that I can make choices to improve that item? Socketing will definitely be in, but we’re not sure about gems, runes, or legendary gems. We’re looking at if we’re going to adopt systems from Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 or something entirely new.
Q: Will we see a lot of microtransactions or will it be single pay?
A: Blizzard’s tradition is gameplay first regardless of if it’s boxed or F2P. We want to focus on making an excellent game first–system, items–and then when the game is farther along we can take a look at the game and figure out what the best business model is.
Q: How do you plan to stay relevant with a mobile game in a heavily PC-dominated market?
A: There’s multiple Diablo projects being worked on by multiple teams. We love Diablo, and for us we’re the most concerned with making excellent games. We look at other games, we’re super passionate about games, and we play all kinds of games. We look to others for ideas constantly, and these ideas influence how we make design decisions.
Q: Do you have any idea how you will do trading, or how to prevent trading items for real money?
A: We do have some ideas. When you look at Diablo 3 at launch with the Real Money Auction House (RMAH), it allowed players to get the best items without playing the game. In Reaper of Souls, we made everything soulbound. It’s nice to make sure you’re earning the best items, but you’re also part of a larger economy. In Diablo 3, we had rubies and emeralds, and maybe I could trade you an equal exchange. We know that’s ok, especially because we could also use the Cube to transmute gems between types. That social interaction with trading is an important part of a mobile MMO. We haven’t made a decision, but we’re looking at a sweet spot, middle ground between RMAH and soulbound.
Q: We’ll look at the history of the demon hunters, but what about the other factions’ histories?
A: There’s a really big timeframe we’re dealing with Diablo Immortal. There will be events from either side of history (past and future) we’ll look at and provide answers to. One is Malthael–this is a period when he decides humanity has to die, this will give a chance to explore that. The formation of Demon Hunter order is another one. There are other factions that have interesting histories but we don’t have anything specific to reveal at this time. We’re exciting for you to explore these new stories.