How Diablo Immortal Does (and Doesn’t) Change Traditional Diablo Games

While Diablo Immortal is bringing Diablo to a new platform, the upcoming game won’t change the franchise formula entirely.

Diablo Immortal
Photo: Activision Blizzard

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After maintaining something close to radio silence for what seemed like years, Blizzard has finally unveiled new information on Diablo Immortal. However, since it’s been so long since the company last talked about the game, there’s a good chance you might require a refresher regarding the various ways the project is (and isn’t) a typical Diablo game.

During BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard achieved internet infamy with the announcement of Diablo Immortal: the series’ first mobile title. Fans in attendance responded with a resounding “Is this an out of season April Fool’s joke?” It was not, and gamers started to lose faith in Blizzard (which certainly hasn’t been helped by subsequent lawsuits and controversies). Ever since the disastrous announcement, Blizzard rarely discussed Diablo Immortal and instead focused on titles like Diablo 4 and Diablo 2 Resurrected. Earlier today, though, Blizzard not only announced that Diablo Immortal would finally launch on June 2 but will be available on PC as well as mobile devices. What a difference several years of fan backlash and industry shifts can make.

Blizzard also took the time to introduce some new Diablo Immortal features. Not only are many of these additions necessary for the sake of the recently confirmed PC experience, but several are franchise firsts. Since the answer to the seemingly simple question “What is Diablo Immortal?” has changed quite a lot in a very small amount of time, here’s everything we know so far about Diablo Immortal and how it differs from (or sticks to) the franchise’s formula.

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Diablo Immortal is Free-to-Play Across All Platforms

When Blizzard first announced Diablo Immortal, the game was introduced as a free-to-play experience for mobile devices. While the game is being ported to PC, its initial price point is staying the same.

Unlike other Diablo titles, Diablo Immortal will be free-to-play for all platforms. However, as with all free-to-play games, Diablo Immortal’s price tag raises the always important question, “How will the game be monetized?” It turns out that Blizzard answered that question way back in 2020 via a blog post. The article detailed certain Diablo Immortal items players can purchase with real-world money to support servers and development. Those will include Crests, which can be used to make Rifts easier or guarantee Rune and Legendary Gem drops, and Specialized Reforge Stones, which can guarantee the results of stat rerolls. According to this blog, Diablo Immortal will also ship with a Battle Pass that includes free and paid tracks with different rewards.

While Blizzard didn’t mention the cash shop or Battle Pass in the recent announcements, it’s probably safe to assume they will remain key pillars in Diablo Immortal’s monetization.

Diablo Immortal Is Actually an MMOARPG

While the original Diablo games were primarily single-player adventures, they also allowed for co-op multiplayer through Blizzard’s burgeoning service. Diablo Immortal takes the next logical step.

Diablo Immortal is touted as “the first MMOARPG” entry in the franchise. What does that mean? According to one of the game’s first deep dives, players can go at it alone or team up with allies in “persistent shared zones,” instanced dungeons, and more. In other words, players will bump into other gamers while exploring the world of Diablo Immortal, and they can also join forces in organized groups to complete devious challenges. Like in other MMOs, Diablo Immortal players can also join guilds (the closest past Diablo games have to this feature is Diablo 3’s clans).

If you want a good approximation of how Diablo Immortal will play as an MMOARPG, you should probably try Lost Ark: a successful recent entry into that genre that likely influenced these changes to Diablo Immortal‘s design and availability.

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Diablo Immortal Will Allow for Cross-Play and Cross-Progression

Since Diablo Immortal was initially intended to be a mobile-only title, those following the game weren’t really concerned about cross-play or cross-progression in mind (you don’t exactly have to worry about connecting gamers on different platforms if they can only play a game on one kind of device). However, the decision to release Diablo Immortal on PC obviously changed that conversation.

According to that recent announcement, Diablo Immortal will support cross-play and cross-progression. Players can team up whether they play on PC or mobile platforms, and if they start their adventure on a computer, they can log into their account via a smart device and continue from where they left off (and vice versa). Diablo Immortal was initially envisioned as a game everyone could play on the go, and it’s good to see that idea wasn’t cut to make room for a PC port.

Admittedly, many gamers wanted Diablo Immortal playable on PC because that has been the franchise’s main platform. Diablo 1 was originally only playable on computers (though it was later ported to PlayStation). Even though Diablo 3 was ported to multiple non-PC platforms, cross-progression wasn’t added to the franchise until Diablo 2: Resurrected. However, even that game lacked cross-play. Diablo Immortal will mark the first entry where gamers can team up regardless of their platform of choice.

Diablo Immortal Will Feature Zones, Rifts, and Raids

In the past, Diablo games have launched as complete experiences. That doesn’t mean recent entries were shipped incomplete, but rather that older entries in the series were released before the rise of downloadable updates and regular DLC updates. Diablo Immortal is really the first game in the series developed with those concepts in mind.

When Diablo Immortal launches, players can look forward to eight large zones (which is two more than were included in the game’s 2020 alpha test). However, that number might not last for long, as that article also states developers will likely add more zones to the game post-release. Earlier Diablo Immortal articles also discussed Rifts, which are a Diablo endgame tradition full of challenges and loot. While the recent announcement doesn’t mention them, Rifts will likely continue to be a large part of the game since players will use them to farm Runes. Again, those are all concepts that most Diablo fans will likely be familiar with, but Diablo Immortal will include a few challenges never before seen in the series.

In older Diablo games, every area and boss could be beaten solo. Teaming up with other players was optional (and sometimes considered to be the preferred way to play the games), but co-op in older Diablo titles really just existed to add a little spice to the experience. Diablo Immortal will introduce the franchise’s first multiplayer-mandatory challenges. For instance, the game will feature a standard MMO design staple: live events (which will pop up occasionally and encourage player cooperation). Gamers don’t technically have to form parties to complete those hellish fights, but multiple players will be participating in them at once. Diablo Immortal will also add raids to the franchise. Another MMO staple, Diablo Immortal’s raids will test player skills and cooperation. The first in-game raid, the Helliquary, will launch with the game.

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As with zones, players can probably expect more live events and raids as Diablo Immortal post-launch development continues. 

Diablo Immortal Offers Traditional, Touch Screen, and Keyboard Control Options

On mobile devices, Diablo Immortal will offer a variation on the usual touch screen controls you associate with those platforms. On PC, Diablo Immortal will feature an array of control options that may surprise longtime fans of the franchise.

Diablo 1, 2, and 3 veterans should feel right at home playing Diablo Immortal on PC, as it will use the same mouse/keyboard controls that helped the franchise become a revolutionary role-playing experience years ago. The left mouse button will let players move around and attack enemies, while the keyboard will control abilities and potions. However, players who want a more contemporary mobility system can also use the W, A, S, and D keys to move their Diablo Immortal character around. It might not sound like much, but that helped revolutionize mouse-driven character controls.

Diablo Immortal will also work with controllers right out of the box, too, just in case players want to recreate their experience playing Diablo 3 on the Nintendo Switch. Regardless of control preferences, though, the PC version of Diablo Immortal will require players to use a keyboard for community chat channels.

Diablo Immortal Could be the First Diablo Game With a “T” ESRB Rating

The Diablo franchise is fairly gory. In fact, some franchise fans once criticized Diablo 3 for being just a little too colorful and cheerful for their liking. Those same fans may want to brace themselves for what Diablo Immortal may have in store.

Every previous Diablo game has been rated M for Mature (largely due to copious amounts of blood and violence). According to its trailer, though, Diablo Immortal is rated either “Rating Pending” or T for Teen. Judging by the snippets of gameplay, blood in the game certainly seems to be kept to a minimum. It’s still there, but it’s relegated to the tiniest of crimson clouds. That doesn’t necessarily mean Diablo Immortal will be less fun or action-packed than its predecessors, just that it won’t be as violent.

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Confusingly, Google Play claims Diablo Immortal is rated M for Mature while the Apple App Store version provides a T rating. Did Google Play not get the memo, or is the T for Teen rating inaccurate? Could different versions of the game have different ratings and be “censored” accordingly?

Diablo Immortal Will Feature Familiar Character Classes (as Well as Some Potential Surprises)

Combat in Diablo games often asks players to rely on class skills if they want to survive. Each class has unique skills, but different entries in the franchise approach the design of those classes in different ways.

Judging by older articles (as well as players who participated in the game’s recent beta tests), class skills in Diablo Immortal will primarily function as they did in Diablo 3. Gamers will be able to slot in a primary attack, several utility skills, and an Ultimate ability. Skills will automatically become stronger the more you level up, which might disappoint fans of the skill trees in older Diablo games. Moreover, Diablo Immortal will utilize the Paragon system from Diablo 3. That means that once players hit the level cap, they can funnel points into Paragon trees that focus on PvP, treasure hunting, and more.

At launch, players will be able to choose one of six classic classes: Barbarian, Crusader, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer, and Wizard. Since Blizzard will continue to support Diablo Immortal after launch, this pool of available classes might grow over time (fingers crossed for the return of the Druid or Amazon classes). However, we might also get to step into the boots of classes unique to the mobile title. In January of 2022, dataminers leaked a brand new class, the Blood Knight, and posted its models, animations, and spells on the internet. If those leaks are true, players might get to play as a vampiric battlemage in the near future. More importantly, Blizzard might have even more never-before-seen classes waiting in the wings.