Blizzard has released over six minutes of new pre-alpha gameplay footage for Diablo IV as part of a quarterly update that aims to demystify some of the locations that players will be able to explore in the upcoming dungeon crawler’s chief location of Sanctuary.
The new locations include the Scosglen Coast, Orbei Monastery, Kyovashad, and “Forgotten Places in the World,” an extremely creepy tileset that was seemingly designed to hearken back to the darker days of the original Diablo games and look best on an OLED set.
Is Diablo IV shaping up to be another late April Fools’ joke like Blizzard’s other Diablo game, Diablo Immortal, a free-to-play installment of the franchise that is releasing exclusively for smartphones? Check out the videos below and decide for yourself.
Matt McDaid: For the Scosglen coast the Environment Art team set out to tell the story of untamed, wild shorelines and headlands.As you transition toward the shores from inland, the coastal biome is first evidenced by the longer, more directional grasses that react to the driving offshore winds. The beaches are bleak and littered with seaweed, kelp and rotting carcasses. Rugged clifftops ascend high whilst promontories are carved by the continual pounding of waves below. Through the process of creating our biomes, the Environment Art team has set out to communicate that this coastline is rife with peril.
Matt McDaid: The Orbei Monastery is an isolated and secretive feature in the rural Dry Steppes. While the Zakarum’s presence has diminished, the Orbei Monastery carries evidence that places of worship for the Zakarum can still quietly function. Since the location here is in the desiccated plains of the Dry Steppes, we aim to push the notion of dusty grasslands with sparse vegetation. We’ve made the conscious decision to add dark rocks that complement the pale blonde and rusty grasses. Poplar and Saxaul trees cling to the ground which really helps provide parallax movement on screen. This contributes to greater depth as elements in the foreground move quicker than those further back in the scene.
Matt McDaid: Our goal with Kyovashad is to really drive home the idea that this medieval settlement feels oppressive, frigid, and harsh. However, we still need to convey that this is a place of refuge afforded to those who reside within its boundaries. This is a militaristic settlement, so it is important that we give it a heavily defended presence straight off the bat. We believe it appropriate to provide a gradual buildup of smaller defense structures upon approach to the settlement. Doing this hints to you that something greater lies ahead. Upon reaching the gates you are confronted with steep stone, perimeter walls and a deep cavernous moat that wards off any unwelcoming visitors.
Forgotten Places in the world
Brian Fletcher: This tile-set is an example of how we have ‘returned to darkness.’ We want to take you deep underground to the darkest recesses of Sanctuary, where a mysterious (and gross) corruption has taken root. This ancient temple is a great place to push some primal horror vibes. The fixed camera is one of our best tools since it allows us to place assets in the foreground without blocking the playable space. Because we always know where you are looking, we can dial in and customize the layouts, vistas, and foreground elements to make sure there’s a good composition. The spider legs are placed in specific locations for their unnerving silhouettes twitching in the background. Our dungeon design counterparts give us some great layouts to play with, which allow us to push the depth of each scene. We want you to have the impression that the dungeon goes on forever, and you’re only seeing a small part of a large underground labyrinth.
Brian Fletcher: The world of Diablo IV is incredibly large, utilizing numerous unique tile-sets to cover all the various zones, biomes, and cultures. In order to create so much high-quality content, we found clever ways to reuse our tile-sets and add enough variety to cover 150+ dungeons. All while providing fresh experiences each time. One way we can do that is by dressing up tile-sets with various themes. This next dungeon is a hidden druid resting site overrun with demons. As you travel through the dungeon, you’ll see that it is covered with many druidic cultural items, such as talismans and charms. We place a lot of these items on a layer that can be turned on or off, depending on what the theme of the dungeon is. In one dungeon it’s a druid burial site, in another, it’s an uninhabited dark cave. Adding these sorts of details is a great way to add a lot of visual interest as well as visual storytelling. These assets were made by several teams, so this is a great example of many groups coming together to contribute to a final environment.
Brian Fletcher: New dungeon features such as seamless floor transitions or traversals are exciting, but my favorite new feature is what we call tile-set transition scenes. These are scenes that allow us to connect two different tile-sets together in the same dungeon. Imagine running through a crypt, only to find a hole in the wall that seamlessly leads you deeper into a vast underground cave network. All while keeping the randomized layouts that change with each dungeon run. In this final video we show two tile-sets joined together by a tile-set transition scene. The first floor of this ruined keep remains dry and fairly intact, but as you journey deeper into the dungeon, you’ll discover that the lower levels have decayed from the endless floodwaters pouring in. This swampy ruin is perfect for the drowned to move in and fortify themselves deep below. You’ll have to fight your way through their defenses and climb across the rope to transition deeper into the flooded ruined tile-set.
A final video titled “Environmental Art” cements the idea that Diablo IV will feature a darker aesthetic that’s more in line with the original Diablo games. Blizzard still hasn’t settled upon a release date for the title, but it reportedly won’t be out until 2023 at the earliest.