When is the Diablo 4 release date? It’s been a while since we last knew the Devil, after all. While new releases on consoles have kept Diablo lurking at the back of the public consciousness, it’s easy to forget that the last major series release, Reaper of Souls, was over six years ago. Diablo III itself launched all the way back in 2012. But now, Diablo IV has finally been announced.
We’d hoped Diablo IV would make its debut at BlizzCon 2018. After months of small rumours, job listings, and speculation, hopes for another major entry in one of PC gaming’s landmark series were at an all time high in 2018. So it’s something of an understatement to say that the audience reception to the announcement of the mobile-only Diablo: Immortal was, um, muted. In the end we had to wait for BlizzCon 2019 for the reveal. And what a reveal it was.
Here, we dig into everything we know, including the Diablo 4 release date, its story, new gameplay systems, and the rumours and leaks from the past few years, this is the story so far on Diablo 4.
Diablo 4 release date
While BlizzCon 2019 finally confirmed the game’s existence, it did not yield a Diablo 4 release date. It doesn’t look like it’ll be soon either. When asked about the Diablo 4 launch date, game director Luis Barriga explains that “a game of this scope takes time” and that the game won’t be “coming out soon – not even Blizzard soon.” BlizzCon 2020 was cancelled, but Blizzard confirmed it will host an online conference in 2021. “BlizzConline” is set to take place between February 19 and 20, 2021.
If history has anything to say about it, we have a bit of a wait on our hands. Diablo 3 was announced in 2008 but was not released until 2012 – making it four years of development. We are, of course, more than happy to wait.
DIABLO 4 Gameplay
Alongside a cinematic trailer that oozed dark horror, Blizzard also gave us a look at some gameplay. We’ve played some of the game, too, and had – ahem – a hell of a good time with the Druid class in particular. It’s still early, but we can see ourselves making Diablo 4 builds around it. Even so, there are loads of gameplay details to dig into. We now know some of the classes (among them, the confirmation of the return of the Druid and the Barbarian), and there’s a new open-world setting. There will also be mounts, and Blizzard has extensive plans for customisation including being about to customise your skills slots in Diablo 4.
Blizzard published a development blog post in June, 2020, detailing the then-current state of Diablo . The post explores how Diablo will transition to some open-world environments and the affects on play time and player freedom. The post also details some of the Diablo 4 public events, and how players can wander into events without having to join a party.
There’s a lot of thought behind the minions you’ll be knocking out for loot, too. Blizzard is introducing the idea of families with Diablo 4 monsters. While these monsters appear visually different, they’ll have a theme in common – like being a ranged fighter, for example.
When it does finally launch, there will be Diablo 4 expansions, and the game will have absolutely no loading screens between dungeons, which sounds pretty cool. While it hasn’t been confirmed, Blizzard admits it is “very excited” about the idea of Diablo 4 cross-play.
Meanwhile, Blizzard has confirmed that the game will feature keys which turn normal dungeons into endgame content, so all that leveling goodness will be hiding in plain sight from the off. Speaking of that good loot, here’s how the Diablo 4 loot system works, along with the Diablo 4 mythic items which will be the game’s top-tier of reward, as Diablo 4 ditches ancient items. They’ll work a lot like Destiny 2 Exotics in that you can only equip one at a time.
More recently, Blizzard released more information on the Diablo 4 skill tree. “Players will not be able to acquire every Skill Tree node,” Blizzard pointed out in the update blog on September 29, 2020 . “We’re currently aiming for 30~40% of the nodes filled in for endgame, so that players can have very distinct, and different ways they build out their character.”
The skill tree is divided into two sections. A literal tree, you’ll find active skills in the branches and passive upgrades on the roots, with separate skill points and passive points to spend in each section. The skill section will get you access to both active skills and upgrades for those skills, while the passive buffs get you more general character upgrades.
Blizzard also plans for each class to have its own unique mechanic. The sorceress, for example, currently has an enchantment system, which will let you slot normally active skills into passive enchantment slots for unique bonuses. If you use meteor as an enchantment, you’ll no longer be able to actively cast it, but meteors will passively drop on enemies, instead.
Diablo 3’s missing expansion
Reaper of Souls wasn’t initially pegged to be the end of an era for Diablo. According to a lengthy report by Kotaku an internal announcement at Blizzard back in late 2013 or early 2014 canned Diablo 3’s second expansion.
According to one source, executives had lost faith in Diablo 3. The game launched amid a perfect storm of controversy, managing to rile up fans through online-only connectivity issues (hands up if you remember Error 37) and item balancing that was skewed heavily by a real-money auction house. In the source’s own words, upper management thought it was “a giant fuck up”.
The Diablo developers at Blizzard Team 3 worked hard to turn things around, addressing complaints around balance, wiping the auction house out of the game entirely, and delivering the critically-acclaimed Reaper of Souls expansion. Fan reception was moving back in Diablo’s favour.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late for management, who had pre-determined that Diablo 3 was irredeemable. Team 3 was scattered across other projects – for those who remained, it was time for a do-over.
For a brief moment, Diablo 4 may have looked a lot more like Dark Souls than the isometric dungeon-crawler we know and love. Codenamed Hades (not to be confused with Supergiant’s new roguelike), Diablo 4 was to have the viewpoint shifted over-the-shoulder while retaining the series’ trademark looting.
As such a divergent take, Hades may not have even ended up with the Diablo name. We’ll never know, as the project was tossed out by Blizzard within a few months after failing to take shape. Around the same time, project leader Josh Mosqueira left Blizzard, perhaps due to the cancellation of his project.
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Most of the team on Hades moved onto new Diablo 3 content, working on the Rise of the Necromancer character update. A select few began work on a project named Fenris, which is widely understood to be the version of Diablo 4 currently in development.
Meanwhile, while the latest builds of Fenris have been isometrics, the discussion is still active on whether a return to Hades’ camera switch is best for the series.
What is Fenris, anyway?
One thing Hades sought to capitalise on, and that Fenris is allegedly driving towards, is a desire from fans to return Diablo to its grim graveyards and darkest dungeons. Diablo 3 is still a muted game, particularly when compared to Blizzard contemporaries like Overwatch and World of Warcraft, but it was a departure from previous games that were near-grayscale in their visuals.
Additionally, Fenris is allegedly aimed at being the most social Diablo game yet. Diablo 4 will possibly contain social hubs, where players can organise for instanced dungeons and Destiny-like strike events.
It’ll be a curious diversion from the franchise’s roots, but an expected one given the current landscape of gaming. Blizzard hasn’t been in the business of making strong single-player titles for a long time now, and currently manages a number of successful live games.
Kotaku’s report also suggests that long-term monetisation is still a hot-button issue for Diablo development. Many of Blizzard’s current titles have mastered the long-lasting extraction of funds from players’ pockets, from Warcraft subscriptions to Hearthstone card packs and Overwatch loot boxes. When Diablo 3 attempted this with the real-money auction house, it was a disaster, and Blizzard is likely keen on a less offensive way of keeping Diablo 4 profitable when it does eventually surface.
Diablo 4 may be a way out yet, or it might be just around the corner. Kotaku’s report claims that the Diablo 4 release date is 2020, but of course it could be some time later before we pick up our swords to go on some hellraising loot runs.
Kotaku’s report follows hot off the heels of last year’s Diablo: Immortal reveal. Much of the vitriol following the announcement of the mobile title, which is co-developed with Chinese publisher NetEase, was the idea that a Diablo 4 reveal was just around the corner at the time. The PC-centric BlizzCon audience wanted that to cap off the night’s announcements, not a mobile spin-off.
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Two sources told Kotaku that an announcement was pegged for BlizzCon as early as January, with plans for a playable demo on the show floor. When summer rolled around and things weren’t ready, the team was at least convinced a teaser was coming.
Blizzard’s statement has always been that no announcement was planned. And that’s a sound statement to make – with the fanbase already on edge, it makes sense to assure the fans that they weren’t robbed.
Open the gates
There appears to be increasing internal worry at the company over cancellations and letting things out too early. Projects like Titan gathered anticipation for years before being quietly cancelled, and the Diablo team has already gone through hell and back to get to where they are now.
Titan’s failure is still seen as an embarrassment internally. While Overwatch grew from that game’s ashes, sources claim the project still lingers over the company. No team wants to make the next game that spends plenty of time and money in development and amount to nothing – less so with the public finding out about it. With one reboot under its belt, the Diablo team appear very wary of avoiding this image.
But Diablo is one of Blizzard’s big-hitters. It’s a flagpole franchise in the games industry, weathering over two decades of shifting trends and audiences. So seeing it finally revealed, and looking so incredible, is a huge relief. We’ll finally be returning to the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. Although, from the looks of things, a lot more Hell…