Diablo is the world’s premier action role-playing game (RPG) series. Interestingly, it’s a game that’s effectively spawned many an imitator. However, very few other games have managed to come close to the original’s addictive, gear-gathering, dungeon-crawling grind.
Now Blizzard has made a big move that’s a bit unexpected. It’s set its sights on smartphones with Diablo Immortal, a mobile version of the demon-slaying franchise.
But there’s a problem. The move from PC to console to smartphone has been a rather controversial one. And because of this, the game already seems to be dividing the series’ hardcore fanbase. We’re not sure where we stand yet. But we do think that Diablo Immortal could be a genuine antidote to a lot of the horrible Diablo clones that plague mobile game stores.
Surprisingly, Blizzard has remained largely quiet about Diablo Immortal since its controversial reveal. Only in early 2021 were a select number of publications given access to an early alpha version of Diablo Immortal. The verdict? Well, according to IGN: “great – a proper new entry in the series, and not – as some feared – a watered-down mobile lookalike.”
We hope to hear more details about the game, its availability and a more solid idea about when it’ll be released at Blizzcon – this year rebranded as Blizzconline – which takes place on February 19-20, 2021. This is Blizzard’s annual developer conference where announcements, trailers for new games and previews are usually shared.
Until we’ve had a chance for a hands-on ourselves, let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about Diablo Immortal – as well as more first impressions from early testers of the game.
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Cut to the chase – Diablo on phones
- What is it? A mobile, touchscreen-controlled take on the classic Diablo ARPG formula.
- When can I play it? TBC
- What can I play it on? Android and iOS devices are the platforms announced so far
Diablo Immortal release date
Diablo Immortal doesn’t have an official release date yet beyond a “coming soon” placeholder.
Our best guess is that we might see Diablo Immortal release in 2021, as the game seems to be fairly far along in development and has even begun rolling out an early version to a select few lucky testers.
We’ll have to wait for news from Blizzard on an official release date. We’ve got everything crossed we won’t have to wait long and the developer’s Blizzcon event in February will be when more details are announced.
Diablo Immortal trailers
Diablo Immortal made an appearance at a gaming convention in China called ChinaJoy, with a brand new gameplay trailer (via BlizzPlanet). Across around two and half minutes of footage the trailer gives a glimpse of new models, UI and Diablo 2 villain Baal makes a brief appearance.
BlizzCon 2019 brought a gameplay and development update trailer for Diablo Immortal which shows some new character classes, gameplay mechanics and locations.
Check it out below:
Two trailers were revealed for Diablo Immortal during Blizzcon 2018 – one a relatively extensive look at gameplay, the other a cinematic focusing on the story.
Feast your eyes on both below:
Diablo Immortal gameplay and story
It may be a mobile game, but for the most part this is going to be the same Diablo you already know and love, albeit with controls designed to make the most out of a phone touchscreen rather than a mouse or controller.
Developed cooperatively between Blizzard and Chinese devs at NetEase (the company which co-operates Overwatch, Diablo 3 and Warcraft in China), the game will be set five years after the events of Diablo 2, and will explore what happened after the Worldstone was destroyed in that game, and the path taken to the dismal world of Diablo 3.
The likes of Tyrael, Malthael, and Leah and Deckard Cain will all feature in the story, as will the demon hunters Valla and Josen who appeared in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. In terms of foes, expect appearances from Diablo’s buddy Baal and Skarn, the Herald of Terror. Story beats will be dished out via non-playable characters, with additional storylines landing through updates to the game.
Built from the ground-up, Diablo Immortal will introduce new abilities and techniques not yet seen in a Diablo game. While six familiar classes will be present (Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer, Crusader and Wizard – with the Witch Doctor notably absent at this stage), they’ll be able to work together in all new ways.
Abilities will be able to be combined to make cross class co-operative play more exciting. A Wizard for instance will be able to freeze a foe with ice crystals before firing a beam called the Ray of Frost into the crystal. When used individually, the Ray of Frost and ice crystals can only take down one baddie, but if the ray is fired at the crystal, it fragments the beam so it can hit multiple enemies.
Players will be able to use Ultimate Abilities (charged through repeated basic attacks) and Legendary items in order to enhance their powers and unleash well-timed devastating attacks that could give them the edge in a difficult battle.
Projectile and melee attacks will also be more clearly directional now—many attacks will include a a directional cone within which to fire them off, which will likely be handy when attempting to trigger the combo moves described earlier.
The other big change for the game will be the amount of players who can team up together. Previously, this has topped out at four for Diablo 3. But footage of Diablo Immortal shows as many as ten players banding together to battle foes. Early reports indicate that these large scale battles will be locked to open world areas, with instanced dungeons (and the boss specific loot they offer) instead tied to four-player maximum parties, though a recent trailer from ChinaJoy looks like it has six-player parties available.
There also seems to be a greater emphasis on environmental and platforming obstacles in Diablo Immortal. The gameplay clip showed levels in which players had to abseil down a chasm while battling the forces of darkness, and another where they travelled along what appeared to be a river in a raft, taking on baddies along for the ride.
The question is how similar will Diablo Immortal be to previous Diablo games?
Let’s take a look at the early review of Diablo Immortal on Forbes, which should provide an initial answer to that question:
“So, it’s stripped down. But it plays well with the simplified controls and loot system, and the game essentially looks pretty close to Diablo 3, albeit a bit lower spec.”
“This is a totally new game, to be clear, not a port. It has a new story and a surprising amount of voicework attached to it, and you will be fighting familiar enemies, yes (Fallen, spiders) but also new ones (Gargoyles). The game is not terribly difficult at the moment, and I haven’t died once, but it is slowly getting harder in time.”
So it’ll have everything you know and love about Diablo, but will still feel fresh – hopefully. You’ll fight enemies, level up to acquire new skills while dearly wishing that the next felled foe will drop a more powerful weapon, armour piece or accessory to make your coming battles easier. It’s an addictive loop that has made Diablo one of the most revered franchises in all of gaming.
Diablo Immortal reception and controversy
Diablo Immortal’s announcement was met with, at best, a mixed reception. It’s been several years since Blizzard released a mainline Diablo game, and so the trailer seemed a tease for those expecting a full PC or console release. As such, the backlash was immediate, with some accusing Blizzard of cashing in on fans’ goodwill, and that the game was merely a reskin of co-developers NetEase’s previous mobile ARPG titles.
Blizzard has looked to allay fears, saying that it’s taking as much care with Diablo Immortal as any of its titles, and assuring fans that it’s an all-new game worth their time.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack defended the decision to create a mobile game stating that while Blizzard would like its core fanbase to give the mobile release a chance, it’s understood that “every game is not going to be for every person”.
Brack added that as a mobile title, Immortal will, of course, be “different” and that it’s not trying to replicate the PC experience” but promised “it’s going to be a good, authentic experience for the Blizzard games we bring to that platform.”
However, so great has been the animosity that Blizzard has had to show its hand for further titles earlier than expected. Diablo 4 was officially announced at Blizzcon 2019 but, previous to this, Blizzard revealed that Immortal was not the only Diablo game currently in the works.
In another interview with IGN, Brack said that the fan reaction to Immortal’s reveal had taught Blizzard “a huge number of lessons”. Brack acknowledged concern that Blizzard was moving away from PC releases in favor of mobile but said that this mobile release “doesn’t mean we’re not going to be continuing to make awesome PC games and awesome console games like we have in the past”.
Diablo Immortal pricing and in-game purchases
Just exactly how Blizzard will be selling Diablo Immortal is yet to be revealed. While many fans are hoping for a one-off, single payment, that seems unlikely given how the lucrative mobile gaming market has been established.
We’d imagine that Diablo Immortal will be free to play, and will include some sort of in-app purchases, be that access to additional classes or, more likely, stat buffing items and cosmetic adornments for your heroes.
In an early test of the alpha version of the game, one reviewer wrote for IGN:
“I wasn’t able to spend real money during the alpha, but I felt no compunction to do so, nor did I feel like I was missing out on anything by purely playing Immortal free-to-play.”
“This game has an awful lot of compelling gameplay and content for free, and all future content will also remain free, whether it’s new gear, areas, features or even classes. The proof will be in the playing, of course, but at this point the real-money options seem like they won’t be necessary to enjoy Diablo Immortal, but instead will be a nice bonus for those that are already in deep.”
There’s no saying whether the method of payment will stay the same in later iterations, but this is certainly an encouraging appraisal so far.
Diablo Immortal news and rumors round-up
During a recent investor call, Activision announced that there are plans for Diablo Immortal Alpha Tests later in 2020. Activision reported (via Seeking Alpha) good progress on the game and “encouraging” results from internal play tests.
For the next stages Activision is planning to hold regional alpha tests in order to garner more “invaluable” feedback. An investor presentation from August 2020, it’s stated that the game is “due to expand internal testing with a company playtest in the coming weeks”.
August 2020 Update
After some radio silence, a Diablo Immortal update appeared on the official Blizzard site. Written by Lead Designer, Wyatt Cheng, the update says that the development team is still “hard at work” on the game and, in light of the ongoing pandemic, has transitioned to working from home.
Cheng touches on upcoming internal testing which will see Blizzard employees from around the world try the game out for themselves and provide feedback to the team. After this has been completed, the team will then “focus on working through the feedback” before sharing any more with the world.
Rod Fergusson is overseeing the Diablo franchise
The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson has announced he’s leaving the Gears of War developer to oversee the Diablo franchise at Blizzard Entertainment.
Fergusson officially made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that he will be joining Blizzard in March where he will, no doubt, join the team in developing the upcoming Diablo 4 and Diablo 4 Immortal.
Check out his tweet below:
Starting in March, I will join Blizzard to oversee the Diablo franchise. Leaving is bittersweet as I love our Gears family, the fans, and everyone at The Coalition and Xbox. Thank you, it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you all. pic.twitter.com/0FuO3RFYSQFebruary 5, 2020
Image Credits: Blizzard Entertainment