Diablo Immortal Updates

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The short version is – Diablo Immortal is 100% in development and it will be released…eventually. The details about this release are the most complicated ever because there are so many factors and with the coronavirus now things might get delayed even further. But, the important thing to note is that, and this is what everyone who’s in contact with the developers has confirmed, the biggest problem Diablo Immortal has had with such a long development period was that the game was announced too early. Yeah, it was announced just as the production was starting and they only had some test gameplay footage, probably from the game’s pitch. So, yeah…that happens.

The other big problem Diablo Immortal faced right at the start, with the announcement, is that typical Diablo players are PC players and they want a PC experience of the game. Needless to say the announcement at Blizzcon 2018 was harshly scrutinized and the fans did not hide their disappointment. 


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Who is making this game and why is it taking so long?


Diablo Immortal was first announced in November 2018 and the planned release for some time in 2019. However, nobody has any real insight into the development process and it is presumed by a large part of the community, mostly on Reddit, that the game started production not long before that announcement. This would mean that they would release it after 1 year of development. Now, this is doable, of course, but there is another problem Diablo Immortal Reddit fans also speculate about, and that is the current state of Blizzard.

Diablo Immortal is being developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the owners of the Diablo franchise of course, with the help of NetEase. Now, while this is good news, some fans from the community have brought up a very good point and that is the financial state of Blizzard and their talent dissolution with the Activision merger and split. Their point is that Blizzard now needs a definite hit, a game that would put them back on track, and this is why they think the game is being delayed.

This could be a valuable explanation, for Blizzard has had a history of revolutionizing genres and the entire industry several times, especially in terms of monetization. They might be figuring out how to best approach Diablo Immortal mobile game, as a premium purchase, or a free-to-play game with microtransactions, or a combination of the two, etc…


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Why work with NetEase on Diablo Immortal?


NetEase has worked on many Chinese releases of Blizzard’s other games and the development is steered towards bringing the core Diablo experience to mobiles, adapting it right. Also, and this is a pickle when adapting a game to mobile, the first thing a developer or a publisher needs to factor in are the targeted audiences. Contrary to what many believe, not all people on earth play games on their mobile devices. In fact, not all regions are that oriented to high-end mobile devices, like Smartphones and such.

This naturally affects game design, for it is being developed and designed for certain audiences from the demographics and regions that prefer using mobile phones as their gaming platform of choice. Also, the targeted audiences need to be people who would not play Diablo on other platforms, for Diablo 4 is coming as well, and there is no sense overlapping the two releases to the same audiences.


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Mobile Games take longer to make?


All this wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t an official confirmation by Mr. Yang Zhaoxuan, the CFO for NetEase, who said that the game is “Pretty much ready” in February 2019, just four months after it was first announced. He stated that the 2019 release date is a go, but he still indicated that Blizzard has the last word. In November 2019, Blizzard disappointed many of the fans by postponing the release. They just stated that it takes more time to produce the Diablo quality for mobile platforms and that they have “ambitions goals” for the release, which might supplement the Reddit community theory.

So, if we want a good game, why are we angry that they are taking their time?

The community’s discontent is being expressed in several ways. Some are saying that the game got the “Destiny Treatment”, which is a symbol of development with problems and hardships. Some Reddit posts have even gone that far to say that Diablo Immortal will be a revamp of some other unreleased game from Activision or something like that.

Firstly, Destiny has had a very rocky start and development problems, and when it came out if was underwhelming and it needed constant work. But, after several years of working on the game along the way, it is now a pretty decent experience. Secondly, Blizzard has a history with long developments and delays, like with Heroes of the Storm, which were announced in the ‘00s when DOTA 1 was popular. It was announced as Blizzard DOTA and then changed name and production teams and came out in 2015, some 10 years after it was first rumored. Some games even got canceled, like StarCraft Ghost, which got some development material, that recently appeared on the web in 2020 as a playable DEMO in MS-DOS.

None of this will be the case with Diablo Immortal mobile. The game won’t be canceled as it is in development and 100% confirmed to be coming our way. Secondly, we have to presume they are taking the time to develop it because they do not want the “Destiny” scenario. And, well, it is not logical to think that they are postponing the release of the game which would bring them financial profit, without a good reason. So, Reddit fans can relax, it’s not a conspiracy to make everyone crazy for Diablo Immortal.


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At which stage is the development now?


Diablo Immortal development update was last given on November 1st, 2019, six months ago, and it rocked. It blew everyone away and silenced the naysayers and the haters. The gameplay trailer showed impressive visuals, models, textures, and graphics, which are an improvement from the Diablo 3 experience. This raises the question about system requirements, but knowing Blizzard, the game will be highly customizable, meaning it will be able to adapt to all kinds of mobiles.

The latest Diablo Immortal development update trailer has shown us new zones:

  • Wortham
  • Dark Wood
  • Tamoe Mountain
  • Ashwold Cemetery

Besides new zones, they also promised new stories, new dungeons, and the whole nine yards. A new game that, even though many speculated was just Diablo 3 mobile, is made from scratch. The narrative will follow a story that was not yet told, as the game happens after Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and before Diablo III, somewhere in-between. If you’ve played Diablo II you know what happens, if not then:

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The world stone was shattered but the fragments still contained the corruption, which is to be harnessed by Diablo’s minions to bring about his return. After the shattering and the banishment of the Lord of Terror, the world is left in the aftermath and the Archangel Tyrael is dead. The Worldstone fragments taint the land still and ancient evils now rise attracted to the corruption. They mean to harness the power of the fragments and control humanity.

There will be familiar and new faces and zones in Diablo Immortal. The starting zone is Wortham, but we will go to the jungle island of Bilefen, the Ancient Library of Zoltun Kulle, and many other interesting places from Diablo Lore, which were not ever visited before. Also, players will be able to choose their path through the world and what to do, according to the official reveal from the developers. The official reveal on the official Diablo Immortal site says: “Will you choose to help Valla and her teacher in the Shassar Sea, or delve the tomb of Fahir, an ancient disciple of Akarat? Or storm the Countess’ Forgotten Tower and stop her dark reign once more? The possibilities are many. The choices are yours.”


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Mobile Gaming VS PC Gaming


The core of the Diablo experience was and always is the action RPG element, which is entirely transferable to virtually any medium and platform. People were first introduced to dungeon-crawlers and role-playing games via consoles, so PC isn’t the first platform for it at all. Some people are preaching about Diablo as a PC exclusive experience because they argue that ARPGs and dungeon crawling originated there, but the fact is they did not. However, the genre did achieve its greatest expansion on PC, and it is the possibility of more complex gameplay that is the reason.

This much is true. PC gaming offers the widest range of gameplay diversity in terms of controls, options, and player engagement. After all, you can’t do the same things with your two thumbs as you would do with a keyboard and a mouse. This is one obstacle around which many developers of mobile games have wrapped their brains around ever since the beginning. And, over the years, there have been a lot of innovative ways to transfer the experience of PC gaming to mobiles with as little loss as possible, but so far none of them have managed to create the same atmosphere.

What mobile games have done is create a sort of a unique experience with its pros and cons, benefits, and flaws. No mobile game can ever catch up to a PC gaming experience in terms of player-engagement in controlling and issuing commands. On the other hand, mobile gaming has that one definite advantage over the PC – it’s mobile. You can lie around in your home, sit in your favorite armchair, lie down, or even sit on a toilet and play. And, if you have good connectivity, you can play wherever you go, standing in lines, in the waiting rooms, etc…


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What does the Diablo Immortal Reddit community say about this?


It is here where the Diablo Immortal Reddit section gets interesting, as people are concerned about the helping mechanics typically present in mobile gaming that make up for the lack of control schemes and command diversity. Recently, some people who have tried Diablo Immortal on Blizzcon 2019 and via other means came out with their impressions of the game.


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How much are WE playing and how much will the bot help us out?


Fearing that Diablo Immortal mobile experience will take too much away from the original gameplay, in terms of controls at least, the Reddit community has been comparing the situation with Call of Duty Mobile or similar shooters. When a shooter game is ported or developed for mobiles, one obstacle comes before all else, and that precisely the controls. Three functions are mandatory for any FPS game, and that is movement, aiming, and shooting, and all are required at the same time in shooters. But, mobile gaming is typically done with only two thumbs, so the problem was always about what to do with the third. Thus, developers have solved this problem long ago by incorporating auto-shooting. You just move and aim, and when you have a hostile enemy in the corsairs, your weapon will be automatically shot by a bot.

Of course, this is not an ideal solution because sometimes you do not want to shoot right away, as soon as you spot someone, as you give away your position or other reasons. But, Diablo Immortal is not a shooting game. It is not an FPS but a dungeon-crawler ARPG. The primary function is the movement, which is entirely done with one thumb. The secondary function is attacking, whether it’s with a weapon or a spell, or any ability. This can be done with the other thumb. Now, the question remains about the potions and other utilities. While you can use them with your thumb, you would have to give up attacking at that point.


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How are you going to fit the entire UI onto the Smartphone touchscreen?


Mobile phones have large screens, typically around 6 inches, but that’s still a lot less than an average of 20+ inches for PC monitors. So, stuffing many abilities, utilities, and other UI factors in it will reduce it even more, and the question remains how much of a problem with that lack of visibility be? This can be a problem because, in Diablo series, ranged enemies are aplenty, many of whom shoot at you and are not even present on the screen, the PC screen. Since the Diablo Immortal gameplay video from BlizzCon 2019 doesn’t show any UI elements, just the core animations, we cannot be sure about this.

There is an example of in-game footage on the official Diablo Immortal website, and it looks like they will fit the UI without any problems. It shows the traditional ARPG dungeon-crawler mobile game control layout, with the movement cursor being set at one side and the abilities on the other, inter-changeable presumably. There are taps for 4 abilities you can set, like in Diablo 3, with one additional tap as the Attack icon. Above them are two icons with potions, and then the map is in the top right corner. Player statistics are in the top left corner, and enemy statistics are placed at the very top of the screen, in the middle. Diablo Immortal game perspective looks perhaps somewhat farther away than in the original series, and at a bit of a sharper angle, meaning the view field is increased while the characters are smaller. This means more vision and smaller models, which can make the game a bit easy on the Smartphone system specifications, but if more details can fit onto the screen, than perhaps not.

Diablo Immortal classes revealed so far:

  • Crusader
  • Wizard
  • Monk
  • Necromancer
  • Demon Hunter
  • Barbarian

These 6 are confirmed so far by Blizzard officially, along with new abilities and ultimate abilities for each of the classes. Our guess so far is that the core abilities for the classes coming will mirror Diablo 3, if not entirely then at least up to a certain point. However, the new abilities shown in the Diablo Immortal gameplay trailer from November 2019 show improved animations in some abilities we recognize, some new ones, and the best reveal of all – the Ultimate Abilities. Ultimate Abilities will require charging, which will be done by basic attacking. Once it builds up, the player can activate it to augment basic attacks for a time, in a different way for each class. These will be truly OP, as the Wizard’s basic attacks become Winter’s Remorse orbs, that blast through everything, for example.


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Gameplay features known so far


Blizzard also announced Legendary Items that will alter skills and abilities in for characters in Diablo Immortal. According to their official statement, these will even change Scorch’s fireball to a Frozen Orb or change arrows into grenades, or even more. Looking at it thus far, it seems that all these abilities and features will fit nicely into a Smartphone User Interface layout shown in the gameplay videos.

New enemy – Skarn, Herald of Terror

They’ve also announced the new ultimate enemy in Diablo Immortal, and that’s Skarn, Herald of Terror. Skarn is a demon, one of the former lieutenants of Diablo, who is now rallying a new army of demons. He intends to gather all of the fragments of the shattered Worldstone and use the corrupted energy to bring back Diablo, resurrect him. However, it’s not just Skarn that’s rising to seize the chance to spread corruption. There is also a Coven of dark cultists, with ominous intentions. There are also familiar Ancient Horrors to all Diablo 2 fans returning now in Diablo Immortal, like Vile Mothers, the sickening beasts with razor-sharp claws, and many more.


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Massively Multiplayer Action in our pocket


So, how well is this game going to pan out on mobiles? Well, if the core of the game remains unchanged, and the action is the same, with the same monsters, characters, classes, and all Diablo hallmarks, then what’s the big fuss? It surely seems like Blizzard and NetEase will find a good way to fit this game onto a mobile platform, both Android and iOS. Plus, the new things they are bringing, like mounting, ultimate abilities, new skills, and the new story campaign just makes it that much better.

Co-op play will also be available for Diablo Immortal, like before. You can find friends in Sanctuary and join up to go on adventures and slay demons together. The multiplayer system is still not shown, but Blizzard aims to make an easy and comprehensive method to drop in and out of groups, participate in dynamic events, and even boss fights as shown in the gameplay trailer. Presumably, the same rules apply as in all Diablo games, with more allies, the enemies grow stronger but the reward grows as well.


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Did they finish the game back in early 2019 and then started from scratch?


NetEase announced in early 2019 that the game is virtually done and ready, with Blizzard soon denying. Since then it is like the game was taken back to formula and they started from scratch. While there have been no official comments on this, the fans from the Diablo Immortal Reddit community speculated several things. Important to note is that NetEase is reportedly only doing a part of the development.

Diablo Immortal is not developed by NetEase and published by Blizzard! Blizzard is also a part of the development and probably the majority holder in this respect. NetEase is probably there for their mobile gaming experience. They have also worked on many Blizzard games and their transition to the Asian market, like Warcraft 3, WoW, Hearthstone, and more. So, this statement that the game was ready could have been a miscommunication problem, or perhaps they’ve meant their part of the work was done, or perhaps Blizzard made a last-minute call to withdraw the game and work on it more.

As mentioned, Blizzard always had high standards and many of their games have revolutionized the genre and the gaming industry in total, setting standards that many follow today. Also, with the initial community reaction being so negative, it could be that they’ve decided to get back at it and make sure it’s done properly. Whatever the case, everything points to Diablo Immortal will rock.


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What are the improvements known so far?


Attack direction

Diablo Immortal already boasts several gameplay improvements over Diablo 3, and earlier installments by extent. Firstly, now melee, ranged, AOE, cone, and all other attacks will be much clearer as they will all get a nice and comprehensive animation for the direction and the affected area.


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How many people will play together in multiplayer?


According to online sources, Diablo Immortal will allow up to ten players to team up, where Diablo 3 had 4 players max. The screenshots and gameplay trailers show this, so it is not that big of a leap to assume Blizzard will expand the player cap. However, some sources say that these large battles with up to 10 participants will be limited to open-world areas, while others say it will be allowed in all aspects of the game, dungeons, boss fights, etc…


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When can we expect Diablo Immortal mobile, seriously?


That controversial reception at BlizzCon 2018 and the harsh fan reaction has taught Blizzard many lessons, according to the world of Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard. He said that firstly “every game is not going to be for every person”, regarding the decision to make a mobile game. He defended the decision to port Diablo to mobiles and is on board with Diablo Immortal development, of course.

Brack says that Diablo Immortal will be a different experience. It won’t attempt to replicate the PC experience, but he promises it is “going to be a good, authentic experience for the Blizzard games we bring to that platform”

And, speaking about platforms, it is coming to both Android and iOS. Diablo Immortal release date is still not announced, but all unofficial sources hope for a 2020 release. Either way, we can’t be sure at this point, as Blizzard’s next big project is World of Warcraft Shadowlands, due December 2020, or earlier. Diablo mobile can come before, but it is more likely coming after that.

First Diablo Immortal beta tests and the next news are expected to come in the Summer, June, July, or August. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic and the isolation are slowing down the development, as we all feel the consequences of that. So far, Blizzard did not say the upcoming ARPG will support controllers, but mobile device emulators (BlueStacks, Nox, etc…) are still a go.

Blizzard usually gives development updates quarterly, so we expect some good news come Summertime, with at least some new development updates, gameplay material at least, and the Diablo Immortal beta test schedule dates. We will follow the situation closely and come back as soon as there is more news on this.