If you've played the Diablo IV beta, chances are you got to try out multiple classes and their different builds. And it's almost certain that some classes felt more powerful than others. While that may be the case in the beta, Blizzard is hoping for a more balanced experience for the official release of Diablo IV. No matter what class you choose or the class fantasy you wish to pursue, Blizzard wants you to be viable all the way up to the substantial amount of endgame content.
We learned quite a bit of new information on Blizzard's approach to all things customization, including how players are able to fulfill their class fantasy through different builds and forms of expression via cosmetics. To learn more about Diablo IV's offerings, we participated in a group interview with Lead Class Designer Adam Jackson and Lead Game Producer, Story and Narrative Melissa Corning.
Blizzard Wants to Fulfill Your Diablo IV Class Fantasy
Both Jackson and Corning have made it clear they want all styles of play to be viable and accepted in Diablo IV. With five separate and distinct classes, and each with myriad builds to choose from, a common word in the interview was "class fantasy." Druids, for example, are shapeshifting casters that can turn into werewolves (or the chunkier werebears), as well as cast nature magic such as tornadoes.
Every time that we're making changes, and we listen to player feedback and see what's going on, that's what we're driving towards. -- Adam Jackson, Diablo IV Lead Class Designer
Casting tornadoes and mauling demons as a werewolf can only take players so far, though. There's an undeniable truth that players will seek out what is considered "meta" and scour the internet for guides in order to pick the best build possible. The best build might not stick to the class fantasy you want to pursue -- if you want to be a fire-flinging sorcerer, but it's not viable, you might be out of luck. Thankfully, Blizzard has taken special consideration of this and hopes to create a class experience where, no matter what avenue you choose, it will work.
"But what we do want in our goal, in our design is that we want all the fantasies and the ways to play that we promise you out the gate," said Jackson. "We do have like a balanced philosophy of that you should be able to complete all the content in the game, and hopefully relatively equal to all the other classes and specs as far as their power level."
Jackson describes their approach in two tiers. The first tier in Blizzard's approach to class choice was, as he mentioned, relatively equal power across all specs. Narrowing down the scope to single classes, the second tier to this approach is for all specs within a class to be "relatively equal" in power as well. Jackson acknowledges some specs will have pros and cons and feel different from one another, but overall, playing how you want isn't going to punish the player.
"Will we get it completely perfect every time? No, probably not," said Jackson. "But every time that we're making changes, and we listen to player feedback and see what's going on, that's what we're driving towards. And by designing all of our content in such a way that we expect, that we know all the main builds and fantasies that we're giving to you are going to be able to be functional into the late game. That is kind of the bar that we set, so that way you can be assured that you know, 'Hey, I want to play this way. It may not be the way that you know, the most popular streamers, or whatever, online are telling me to play. But it's good enough to work, and I've made my own expression and build that feels awesome to me.'"
Of course, even if you choose one specific route on your skill tree, you're not obligated to stick with it. Players can respec and test out new builds as they see fit, though it'll come at a cost of in-game money. The first several dozen levels in, players will have an easy time changing up their skillpoints at little cost. It's in the late-game where Blizzard expects players to commit to the build they've made. Late into your experience in Diablo IV -- especially in late-game -- the cost will increase and thus the choice you make is a bit more difficult.
Likewise, refunding Paragon points will come at a similar cost, so the choice to refund and reallocate points will be more difficult. As this system is introduced later on in Diablo IV when players are more committed to their build and fantasy they want to pursue, it's presented in such a way that it won't overwhelm players. Though the Paragon board looks rather convoluted to many, Jackson says it will be difficult to make the wrong choice with your hard-earned points.
Look How You Want in Diablo IV
Looking stylish while slaying foes in Diablo IV is half the fun, and thankfully, Blizzard was sure to include so many different customization options and an improved transmogrification system this time around. In previous games, how you looked was mostly out of your hands. Diablo III included male and female options for its classes, as well as the transmogrification system and dying armor different colors. This is taken a step further with, first and foremost, the ability to customize your face, hair, skin color, and more. The team's approach for Diablo IV was to work with cultural representatives because they "really wanted to embrace diversity and inclusion."
Corning hopes that by giving players more customization options to truly personalize the way their character looks, they will feel a greater degree of immersion and ownership. This might be a hard task given that Diablo IV is a top-down game with a lot of action on screen. You're not going to be getting a lot of close-ups on your character in combat, but the team at Blizzard was sure to highlight your character in other ways. When grouping with other players, you'll be met with a screen of you and your friends standing around together so you can flex (or roast) how stylish they look.
Every single piece of equipment in the game right now is specifically designed to fit within the vision and the feel the Gothic Horror kind of style of the game. -- Melissa Corning, Diablo IV Lead Game Producer, Story and Narrative
"And we do that in other places too. Like you know the profile [screen], we zoom in very close," said Corning. "There's actually, you know, in town, we zoom in a little closer, there's a zoom option on the emote wheel that you can get closer. There's a lot of just other like little places in the game where we tried to really let your characters individual looks shine."
Diablo IV contains a battle pass, and while it won't grant players gear that directly affect performance in-game, it will give you a chance to stylize your class even further. There's also a shop which, likewise, features cosmetic armor sets players can buy with premium currency. Players will see more ways to style themselves than ever before in a Diablo title, so many fans are hoping these armor sets aren't goofy and immersion-breaking.
"Every single piece of equipment in the game right now is specifically designed to fit within the vision and the feel the Gothic Horror kind of style of the game," said Corning.
When asked if pets (a fan-favorite from Diablo III) would make a return, there are currently no plans to include them. That said, Corning acknowledges the team has heard feedback on this point. While fans shouldn't hold their breath, there are still plenty of other cool cosmetic options available in Diablo IV.
With so many different ways to play your favorite class, there's undoubtedly something for most Diablo IV players. It might take a bit of time to find out just what kind of Necromancer or Barbarian you want to play, but you can rest assured Blizzard is watching to make sure you have a good time while also looking super stylish.
You won't have to wait long to customize a character of your own, either. Diablo IV just went Gold and is ready to launch on June 6, 2023. If you can't wait that long, you can also look forward to one last try before the actual release, during the "Server Slam," which is available for everyone to try starting in mid-May.