Welcome to my Diablo IV impressions article series where I will take a more in-depth look into Diablo IV with my thoughts and impressions on the game. I say impressions because the game is still very early in development and hate to call these criticisms of things that will most likely change. Take everything with a grain of salt. A more comprehensive feedback video will be coming after this series to go further down into the details.
Monsters, monsters everywhere and they all want to kill you! The monsters of Diablo IV are not a laughing matter for the development team has gone back to the drawing board on what it is to be a savage beast of Sanctuary. The first major step in this is to have a bunch of lovely families or groups of monsters that work well together. One monster’s strength makes up for another’s a weakness.
The Fallen are back as a natural first step into the Burning Hells. They look more ravaged and beaten; all the more motivation to come after you! Your typical Cultist Hierarchy and Goatmen are back with new tricks up their sleeves. The ever present skeleton family lead by the Tomb Lord has a bone to pick with you and finally the new to us but the ancient threat of The Drowned.
I must say the concept of making families or groups of monsters that do different things is another great step for the game. Doing this gives purpose to the monsters. It gives them roles and makes for a more engaging experience. On top of this, monsters interact with each other more. You can have Goatmen Casters buffing basic Goatmen. When that Goatmen dies, it leaves poison pools behind is one example.
On top of all this, the way the monsters telegraph their moves is more subtle. A Fallen Overseer’s blade will light up, but you’ll need to be quicker than you are in D3. Fallen Shaman resurrecting other Fallen is a sight to behold as the bodies start to float and contort back into life. You almost don’t realize what’s happening until that Fallen Grunt you just killed is bashing you in the face. I look forward to many other interactions and family of monsters to come in the future.
What would monsters be if there weren’t a few Elites along the way? Elites will be coming back with some of the affixes you know and love like Frozen and Mortar. On top of this, the development team will be adding an Enhancement Affix system. This is a simple concept but one that makes the games feel more grounded and broadens the threats you’ll deal with. The system is one where the natural ability of the monster is enhanced by the affix given. In the example below, you see a regular Skeleton Ballista shooting one projectile. In the second example, you’ll see that same Ballista with a Multishot affix allowing it to shoot three at one time. This same affix, if it was applied to a Fallen Shaman, would allow it to resurrect three Fallen at once instead of the one.
This system of affixes working with the native abilities of the monsters themselves is amazing. It just seems right. It also opens up the threats as every monster’s natural ability can be super-powered in some way. Ultimately it brings back a concept of kill priority where you need to think about what is the most threatening target to go after. It’s not just a hack and slash anymore.
(Regular Skeleton Ballista)
(Elite Skeleton Ballista with Multishot Affix)
World bosses in the new open areas of the map add another dangerous level to the world. They are intended to be much harder and will require many more of you to effectively takedown. Ashava (pictured below) is a huge killing machine. A dozen or so players would go after her in the demo and one misstep would mark your end. I can only imagine the death counter on Hardcore. World bosses are meant to add another level to the world and add a new threat to Sanctuary.
I do love the idea of world bosses however there needs to be some kind of fail-safe to make sure they can’t be exploited. What I mean by this is a group starts an encounter with Ashava. Halfway through more people come in. The last 10% one lonely Sorceress comes into the battle. In the end, that Sorceress gets a legendary drop while the other groups do not. It breads a player mentality of “last hitting” world bosses for minimal effort, maximum reward. While I understand this is an RNG game and sometimes stuff like that happens, this is also a more MMO game element with requiring more than just yourself to take down. With that, you shouldn’t be able to “last hit” and run.
With monsters and world bosses there often comes the question, “How do we beat them?” One major tool in our arsenal is CC (Crowd Control). In Diablo IV they have decided to add a unique CC mechanic to bosses and world bosses specifically; The Stagger System. Certain abilities you use can cause stagger. The stagger bar will fill up and on completely being filled a unique action will happen.
For the Drowned Witch, the pools she spawns (which spawn monsters during the fight) clear away. Getting rid of those extra spawns and making the fight easier for you. See a clip of this on Rhykker’s BlizzCon Demo below:
For Ashava, one of the massive arm blades will get stuck and break off. Greatly reducing the range of damage from that arm. If the mass of players triggers the stagger mechanic again, the other arm blade will break off, further reducing her damage potential on the players. See a clip of this on Rhykker’s BlizzCon Demo below:
Dungeons are where we get off the open world and enter the true randomness we’ve grown so used to with Diablo franchise. Dungeons are randomly generated with a better system to ensure we get lost more often. Dungeons will also have virtually no loading screens beyond the initial load. This is due to the seamless exploration being built in. You’ll go from level 1 to level 2 all the way to level 10 or 12 without a loading screen. On top of this, tile sets can be connected to each other allowing for more unique playthroughs of each dungeon. Lastly, dungeons will be not just indoors but outdoors as well.
Keyed dungeons are the first step of many for end game content. Keyed Dungeons will be accessible via dungeon keys that will drop. A key will be to a certain dungeon in the world, so many keys will drop for you. Each key will have a rank and affix(s) on it. Higher the rank the harder it will be. The affixes add a unique twist to each dungeon that the player must overcome.
(Example of the Lightning Pulse Dungeon Key)
The example given to us was the lightning pulse affix. A hovering pillar periodically pulsed releasing a wave of lighting damaging the player if hit by it. The pillar follows the player(s) throughout the dungeon until the dungeon objective is complete. As the first step for the end game, this is great. It takes existing content that could be burned through and forgotten and gives it prolonged life. It will make you think about how to tackle the dungeon, which beats back against the monotony some of these systems can fall into as well. It’s an exciting first step and I look forward to more end game content being shown in the future.
With all the classes and dungeons and monsters, how are we going to kill things you ask? With items naturally! Items will be returning in Diablo IV following at first glance the current Diablo III method. That being Normal to Magic to Rare to Legendary/Set (with Ancient versions after) finished up by Mythics. Normal, Magic and Rares will be how we normally expect. A few affixes but there is a natural progression to get to Rares.
Something different however is that as you are looking to compare those early pieces is the replacement of the main stat per class and vitality to just a new attack and defense stats. These stats are more general than Diablo 3 but open up each piece to being considered useless just for having the wrong main stat on them. I personally like this as it’s not just getting rid of the stat to simplify the item affix game, but making it easier to use a piece. Removing a layer of RNG that may not be needed is welcomed. Lastly, the way the total attack and defense are added up it will be better for the player to understand what is changing whenever you swap out a piece of gear.
Legendaries and set items will also be coming back. The twist this time around is that set items will be aimed to be stepping stones towards legendaries. The main goal is to have your character at the end game be fully decked out in legendaries. This is another step in the right direction. Re-purposing sets this way still keep them in-game and have a more focused goal. It keeps more of the gear hunt intact but tries to open up as much diversity in the late game. Ancients are back to but not much information was given.
Mythic items are the new bad boy, got to have items! Mythic items will roll with four legendary powers and are unique equipped one per character. These are intended to be those white whale items you can’t really rely on ever dropping but if they do you hit gold. You’ll most likely try to fit it into your build or maybe just roll a new character to suit the item perfectly. It’s like a primal but better as the four legendary powers are random as well so it truly will be a surprise when you get them.
Runes are back in a new way to further add options to your playstyle. The way they work in DIablo IV is by having one Conditional Rune that states how the following rune you pick activates. The second rune is an Effect Rune, what happens when the first rune is triggered. It’s a great addition to the gearing process and is better than just sticking max level gems in all the sockets you have. Even better you control what you want and make things easy by having things trigger exactly when you need them to. Making a unique order of skill usage to pull off your build.
There was a lot more I could talk about, but that would extend this series into another one or two articles and that be a little much. I wanted this series to have some reflection on what we learned and some of my general feelings. Like I stated at the beginning of each article, I intend to do a feedback video where some of the missing content not covered here will be brought up. Once done it will be uploaded here to add to this article series.
Thank you once again for ready the series and look out for more content for Diablo IV coming soon.