A couple of weeks back, we got to sit down with Diablo 4 developers as they talked us through the title's robust endgame design. The roundtable touched on just about everything that you can expect from the action RPG once you've completed the main campaign — and we must admit, we came away from the discussion fairly impressed.
Indeed, there's a lot of potential here. More hardcore Diablo fans will know that the quality of endgame activities is hugely important in keeping players engaged. Some will stick around for the story quests and call it a day once the credits roll — and that's fine — but it's that secret endgame sauce that entices people to come back time and time again.
However, endgame goals can take a while to properly manifest — just ask Bungie, or even Blizzard itself. Until we're actually playing Diablo 4's high level activities, we won't know for sure whether they hold up, but at least on paper, it all sounds pretty great.
As you probably already know, Diablo 4 features a large open world map — a first for the series — and that fundamentally changes how endgame content is implemented. Blizzard says that one of its biggest challenges during development was determining how to utilise the open world in entertaining ways — and it's arguably the endgame side of things that pushes the envelope.
Once you're through the campaign, the open world offers up two key activities: 'Helltide' areas, and bounties. The former sees parts of the map devolve into demonic battlefields, where monsters spawn in much greater numbers. Cleansing these areas nets you a currency that can be exchanged for rewards, but perhaps most importantly, Helltides are supposed to refresh your exploration of the open world — a worthwhile distraction from grinding specific dungeons.
The bounties, meanwhile, come from the sinister-sounding Tree of Whispers. Blizzard didn't tell us too much about how bounties work, but in theory, they'll give you a good reason to roam Sanctuary in search of powerful enemies and lovely loot. Diablo 3 players will probably want to see a bit more variety from the sequel's bounty system, so hopefully there are plenty of unique objectives lined up.
But as alluded, the meat of Diablo 4's endgame seems to hinge on dungeons — or more specifically, Nightmare Dungeons. Blizzard was quick to remind us that the game features over 120 dungeons, and any one of them can be 'upgraded' to a Nightmare version. These increasingly dangerous delves boast additional, challenging objectives, deadlier demons, and, of course, endgame rewards.
It's likely that Nightmare Dungeons are where you'll go to put your latest character build to the test. Blizzard told us that these lairs can become extremely challenging if you push them far enough, so they'll probably end up being a barometer for your overall progress.
Speaking of overall progress, dungeons also play a part in establishing your game's difficulty level. So-called Capstone Dungeons need to be conquered in order to raise your world tier. In other words, you essentially need to prove to the game that you're ready for the next phase — which is arguably a more engaging process than simply selecting a higher difficulty from a menu (and then finding out that it's actually too hard for your current character).
Everything Blizzard told us about Diablo 4's endgame wraps back around to the team's chief design goal, which was brought up several times during the discussion. "Play your way" is the action RPG's slogan, and it certainly feels like Blizzard wants that to be the case both in terms of character building and the rotation of endgame activities.
The developer doesn't necessarily want players to repeat the same activity over and over again in order to develop their hero. Instead, it feels like Blizzard is trying to tempt players into hopping between different kinds of endgame content — all of which boast worthy rewards in the form of tasty loot caches.
And that's really our main takeaway from our time with Diablo 4's lead developers. Blizzard is clearly trying to prepare a relatively wide range of endgame activities in the hopes that the variety keeps things fresh. And on top of it all, the team is promising long term live service support.
Ah, the dreaded words. But Blizzard does seem to have big plans for additional content and updates. We were told that alongside dedicated seasons — each hosting their own challenges — Diablo 4 will benefit from regular tweaks and adjustments as part of its live service model. We get the distinct impression that Blizzard wants to treat this a bit like an MMO, and while the developers were hesitant on the topic of DLC or expansions, the team sees Diablo 4 as a platform that's always evolving.
What that actually means for the game weeks, months, years down the line, we'll obviously have to wait and see — but as its endgame promises confirm, Blizzard seems to be revelling in crafting an ambitious new direction for Diablo.
There's no doubt that Diablo 4 has our attention after attending this endgame discussion, but what do you make of its plans? How are your Diablo 4 hype levels holding up as we approach its June release date? Start planning out your hero's endgame abilities in the comments section below.
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In my opinion, amount of end-game activities is good for the initial launch, afterwards we'll get much more in seasons anyway.
Great stuff Robert. Going to be a time sink but worth it. Day one.
@ShogunRok Just so I am clear, are there no procedurally generated/randomised areas in D4? So dungeons will always have the same physical layout?
Day one ! Top 5 franchise all time for me. Be playing this for years and years. It’s looking so good and patches updates etc etc will make it feel perfect in a year or so, these games tend to change a lot as time goes on. Super Excited for it.
Diablo endgame task is simple. Collect all set items. So give me random dungeon or random area, where I can slay tons of daemons in hope for good loot and nothing else is needed. Stick you dogs, horses and other meaningless live service up your ass and just let me play the game as it is. Alone.
@kyleforrester87 From what I understand, there are procedural elements, both in the open world and in dungeons — but it's not the environment that changes. It's objectives, events, 'enemy types, that kind of thing.
I think, at least for the most part, the environments themselves are static, but I'm not sure, for example, if the Nightmare versions alter the actual topography of a dungeon in any way.
Honestly would this be a good game to start the series with? It honestly is looking kinda interesting but I’ve never really cared for Diablo before.
@Ryne-Gaia It depends on what you didn't like about previous Diablo games, but without knowing that I would say yes as the open world does make it feel different enough. There is so much to do that I am sure you will find something interesting.
@Tasuki I just have never really looked at Diablo and been like WOW ITS DIABLO. Like when there was all the controversy around Diablo 3 I was like cool who cares.
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