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Diablo: Immortal is still early in development, but here’s what we know

Early details on Blizzard’s Diablo MMO for phones

Artwork of the six character classes in Diablo: Immortal Blizzard Entertainment
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Blizzard delivered one hell of an announcement at BlizzCon 2018: Diablo is coming to smartphones as Diablo: Immortal, a “full-fledged action RPG.” Reaction to the game’s announcement has been, at best, mixed. We played it at BlizzCon and thought it was competent, but not compelling, especially in light of the very good Nintendo Switch port of Diablo 3 that dropped that very same day.

In interviews with Blizzard, creators and executives stressed the Diablo: Immortal was still early in development, and like other Blizzard games, could change drastically over the course its creation. There’s still plenty we don’t know about Diablo: Immortal, but here’s what we learned about Blizzard’s next game in the Diablo franchise at BlizzCon.

It’s Diablo, on your phone

Diablo: Immortal is being developed “from the ground up” for Android and iOS mobile devices by Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase Games, Blizzard’s longtime partner and the co-operator of World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Diablo 3 in China. The game looks very similar to Diablo 3 at first blush; six of the seven classes playable in Diablo 3 are playable in Immortal, and they look just like the classes Diablo fans have come to know over the past six years.

The six classes in Diablo: Immortal (Barbarian, Crusader, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer and Wizard) play similarly to their Diablo 3 counterparts, though Blizzard is tweaking and remixing some of their abilities to suit the game’s touchscreen controls. Immortal’s updated abilities include the option for directional aiming of projectiles and physical attacks, and some abilities can be combined. For example, the Wizard class can drop an explosive ice crystal as part of one ability and fire a freezing beam with an ability called Ray of Frost. Those two can be combined; firing the Ray of Frost into the ice crystal will cause the beam to fragment and hit multiple targets. While only six classes have been announced, more — like Diablo 3’s Witch Doctor — are expected after Diablo: Immortal launches.

Blizzard is designing Diablo: Immortal to be “one-third old, one-third improved, and one-third new,” following the philosophy of game designer Sid Meier. While many gameplay systems from past Diablo games will return — like customizable, socketable loot — expect some things you’ve come to know about the series to change.

The game will take place during an unexplored time period

Diablo: Immortal is set five years after the events of Diablo 2 and the destruction of the Worldstone. Blizzard says that it wants to explore the 20-year gap between the second and third Diablo games. Characters like Tyrael, Malthael, and Leah and Deckard Cain will be further fleshed out, while Diablo’s minions Baal and Skarn, the Herald of Terror, will be featured.

Blizzard Entertainment

At BlizzCon, the developer also confirmed that characters like the Demon Hunters Valla (a playable character in Heroes of the Storm) and Josen will play a role in the game’s story, as will Jacob Staalek, who was introduced in the Diablo: Storm of Light tie-in novel.

Blizzard hinted that Diablo: Immortal will focus heavily on story through interactions with NPCs and ongoing updates to the game.

It’s more massively multiplayer

First gameplay footage of Diablo: Immortal shows up to 10 players joining up in outdoor areas to slay monsters and loot riches. Players will be able to socialize with larger groups of players in Westmarch, Diablo: Immortal’s staging area, and go on instanced, more challenging dungeon raids as a group of four. Of course, all this could change by the time the game launches, but for now expect bigger groups of players than Diablo 3.

You’ll probably want to take part in those instanced dungeons, because Diablo: Immortal will have boss-specific loot in addition to random drops.

What we don’t know

Diablo: Immortal does not have a release date. In an interview with Polygon, Blizzard wouldn’t commit to a 2019 release window, assuring us that the mobile game was still early in development.

We also don’t know how much it’s going to cost or whether the game will have microtransactions. We asked Blizzard if the game will be a one-time purchase — which seems unlikely — will be free-to-play or will follow a different pricing structure, and the developer said its primary focus is on gameplay. Price point and monetization will be determined later, Blizzard said.

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