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Diablo 4 combat “grounded” to make room for tactical choices

The Diablo 4 combat builds on the systems of Diablo 3, says Blizzard, but feels more grounded with a focus on movement abilities and tactical choices in the RPG

Diablo 4 combat - a wide-faced character covered in scars frowns, as if deep in thought

Diablo 4 combat feels “more grounded” than that of its predecessor, says Rod Fergusson of the upcoming RPG game. The Blizzard general manager for Diablo joins game director Joe Shely to detail how simplification of visual design creates a more realistic tone for the fantasy game that feels “a little less high fantasy” than Diablo 3. In addition, the pair discuss how a focus on movement and tactical choices during combat should help players feel like they are making more impactful moment-to-moment decisions.

Speaking to IGN as part of an ongoing interview series running alongside the Diablo 4 closed endgame beta, Shely and Fergusson talk about the “power fantasy” of combat systems in Diablo 4 and some of the decisions made to distinguish it from its main series predecessor. “The visceral combat in Diablo 3 is certainly the foundation,” says Shely, explaining that “We wanted to make combat feel a little bit more intentional, add a little bit more stakes, and increase the clarity of the battlefield.”

That improved clarity as a centre point for player-driven tactics during combat is driven home by Fergusson, who points to a removal of the blue and yellow glow on Diablo 4’s stronger enemies such as rares and uniques to help give the game a more “grounded” feel. Shelby remarks that this approach has its limits, however: “When monsters are hiding behind a doorway or a pillar or something, it’s certainly more grounded to not have any information about that – but it also turns out to be very frustrating!”

“If you can’t see what decisions you’re making or what monsters are doing, it’s hard to feel like you’re making important decisions,” says Shelby. He also speaks to player movement, the evade skill, and other traversal abilities, explaining that the team is designing encounters and boss fights that make use of the movement mechanics to keep players on their toes.

Another factor that the pair express emphasis on is time to kill. “Diablo is a power fantasy,” says Fergusson, “So if it feels too arduous and slow, too laborious, then it feels like just meat sacks of hit points and it’s not fun to kill things. If it’s too fast then [it feels] like everything’s made of paper and my strength doesn’t matter. It really is about dialling it in.”

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As the Diablo 4 release date slides inevitably nearer, Shely and Fergusson also discussed the Diablo 4 endgame boss gatekeeping its world tiers, while a recent demo revealed that Diablo 4 skills are tied to weapon damage – although not in quite the same way as Diablo 3. We’ve got everything you need to know about the Diablo 4 classes you’ll be able to play at launch, along with more of the best games like Diablo on PC to keep you satisfied while you wait.