Diablo 3

My HOPES (and FEARS) for DIABLO IV

diablo8 - My HOPES (and FEARS) for DIABLO IV
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I'm sorry in advance. This is a long read.

I've been been a fan of games and Blizzard since the mid-90's.

I still recall the months leading up to the release of Warcraft II, and how incredibly hyped I was. When the game finally came out, it was everything I'd hoped for and more, and in spite of me not understanding nothing but a few words here and there (I'm a Dane, and at that time I was about 8 years old, so my English vocabulary was still in its infancy), I still LOVED every little bit of it.

I was lucky to have the somewhat similar experience, when Starcraft came out, and then I jumped the Diablo bandwagon, when Diablo II came out in 2000. Just as Warcraft II and Starcraft had been my favorite games for the better part of a year respectively, Diablo II was, and still is (in my opinion) an absolute masterpiece. I'm tempted to hail it as Blizzard's finest game to this day.

When Diablo III came out in 2012 I was overjoyed. My friend and I had cancelled all plans for the better part of three days and we plunged headfirst into the game and finished it after a rapid gaming marathon. The feeling it left was … good, I guess. But I couldn't quite figure out why it was that 'good' just didn't feel, well, good enough. There was something missing. I felt kinda cheated. It didn't feel earned when we finished the last boss battle, and as months passed I was able to more fully understand where this frustration was coming from and how it had manifested.

These feelings of frustration didn't just stem from the experience with Diablo III. They had a sort of familiarity to them, and I soon realized that this wasn't the first time that a Blizzard game had left me like this. But it was a newer thing: It definitely didn't happen with the holy trinity (Warcraft II, Starcraft, Diablo II), but in hindsight, I had had a similar sense of disappointment with Warcraft III and, to a lesser extent, Starcraft II.

I've spent way more time giving thought to this, than I'd actually like to admit, but it's lended itself to a sort of clarity, and I've found the culprit:

Somewhere down the road, the Blizzard games lost their PATIENCE. When I think back on Diablo II, half the fun and brilliance of that game lies in its utterly fantastic pacing of everything. There is a sense of urgency, but – unlike in Diablo III – it doesn't feel rushed. The skies aren't torn asunder from the get go. The tempo takes time to ramp up. You're allowed to have the feeling that something is way more wrong than what gives, before it's spelled out before your eyes. The slow build of Act I, the cleansing of the Monastery and the take down of Andariel marks the beginning of a perfectly executed dark fantasy journey, in which the stakes slowly but surely arise.

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It's the music: it's not all late romanticism bombast, coming in at full force already from the menu. It's in the monster design that knows how to hold back. It's (and this one's important) the character building. There are actual consequences to the choices that you make in Diablo II, whereas they are all but gone in Diablo III. Don't like the skill set combo you chose? Fine, revamp and choose some other skills. Have your cake and eat it too – who's got time to build a new character instead, right?

Sometimes, when I'm in a more cynical mood, I dismiss these thoughts with the bare notion that it's no more and no less just a question of age difference: I was 12 when Diablo II came out and 24 upon Diablo III's release. Kids are wowed more easily (right?) and as we grow older, the really spectacular experiences and wider and wider in between. We've seen things.

But I refuse to let this be the answer. I think some time during the mid-aughts, Blizzard sort of stumbled and began to question and doubt their ability to gain and withhold people's attention. The design philosophy and aesthetic of their past many releases indeed does reflect this notion. It's games that features a fire-on-all-cylinders approach to story-telling, overblown visuals, constant showdown-centric gameplay and music that (while extremely adeptly and expertly produced and executed) features little of the dynamic and leit motif's that made games like Warcraft II so lovable an memorable. Doubt me? Try humming the first three tunes that comes to mind from the Warcraft II soundtrack. Yeah? Now try doing the same with Diablo III. Yeah. I thought so. I'm not saying music is everything. But it's symptomatic of a larger issue at hand.

I'm still madly in love with Blizzard's worlds of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. But I think they could be more. I don't want them to be regressive and repetitive in their game designs. But I think that there are some valuable lessons to be learned from past games, that could be applied while venturing boldly into the future.

PLEASE, Blizzard. Let Diablo IV reflect this. Let Diablo IV have the slow, menacing build, doing away with the frantic pace of the last story. Let Diablo IV have character building with actual consequences, punishment and reward. Let Diablo IV have conflict that doesn't mistake scale for drama. Let Diablo IV have the brooding, gothic visual aesthetic and the guts (sorry) to let dark, industrial chamber music usurp the full orchestral bombast. Let Diablo IV show the fans that it has faith in them actually wanting to invest time in an immersive world that needs not hammer away its point to keep people satisfied.

Do these things and I think Diablo IV would be that much closer to having a chance at achieving the same glorious heights as II.

If you came this far, THANK you for reading all of this. I hope this resonates with you. And I hope, should anyone from Blizzard come upon this post, that you see it for what it is. A giant love letter to the one game company that showed me that games can hold as much depth as any other medium.

Peace!

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