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Hardcore PC gamers hating on mobile games is nothing new. But the backlash Blizzard has received since announcing Diablo Immortal, which is basically Diablo III on mobile, has been astounding.
A few weeks ago, Blizzard published a short blog post designed to respond to the rumors flying around that Diablo IV would be announced at BlizzCon. They revealed that they actually have multiple teams working on multiple Diablo projects, and said they’d announce some Diablo related news at BlizzCon but were keeping the bigger news in reserve until it was ready.
Very optimistic fans were still hoping for Diablo IV, most were expecting a remaster of an old game, but no one was expecting them to announce a mobile game developed by Chinese company NetEase. Many Blizzard fans threw a bit of a tantrum, including one particularly vicious one who asked the Diablo panel a question live at BlizzCon.
“Just wondering, is this an out of season April fool’s joke?”
The panel meekly responded “no.” They tried to turn the resentment into a joke asking, “do you guys not have phones?”
Diablo Immortal is set in the 20 years between Diablo II and III, and on the surface, it’s very similar to Diablo III. While the primary difference is the obvious touch controls, it features a similar look and feel. It even mostly sticks to the same familiar characters as previous games.
Those who attended BlizzCon were treated to a 15-minute hands-on demo of the game, and most felt that it was pretty good, including Kotaku correspondent Nathan Grayson. He played through swamp and cathedral environments where he defeated swarms then challenged bosses, and he found that “bashing enemies until their gold-engorged guts exploded felt surprisingly great.”
During a battle, the player can deploy their character’s main attack or one of four skills, which can choosen from a set of twelve that are unique to each class. Grayson found that despite some input lag, the overall experience was pretty enjoyable. The game does lack in certain departments, however, such as the absence of mana and resource systems which have been replaced by a frustrating cooldown mechanic. Loot is also very generic and equipping new things to a character didn’t change their appearance, but apparently, that’s something the developers are still working on.
“Our hope is that our existing hardcore fans will play this game and love it, learn new things about the lore, but engage with a similar kind of gameplay that they know and love,” a Blizzard spokesperson told Kotaku. “The main difference now being that they can walk around with this in their pocket and play it anytime, anywhere.”
The game isn’t original or exciting to most fans, sure, but why do so many people hate it? Bethesda also recently announced a mobile game, Elder Scrolls: Blades, when most fans were hoping for Elder Scrolls VI instead. That was pretty popular.
One difference is that Blades can be played on PC, and even though it doesn’t have the depth of a proper PC title it stills gives players that option. The biggest difference though is that Bethesda told fans that Elder Scrolls VI would be coming. Diehard Diablo fans feel cheated out of Diablo IV, which could be years away for all we know.
Particularly angering fans is that the gameplay and controls are pretty much identical to a game NetEase already made, Crusaders of Light. While Blizzard has reassured fans several times that “Diablo Immortal is purpose-built from the ground up” it does play exactly like the NetEase game with skins that are basically identical to those used in Diablo III. It’s like Blizzard found a Diablo III rip-off that had been thrown on the app store and wanted to make a buck from it, too. The thing is, Crusaders of Light also happens to be a pretty bad game, and it would be a real dark time in Diablo history if Diablo Immortal doesn’t fix its problems.
Additionally, no real progression system has been properly outlined, nor any story or character development path. All the depth from the previous games that players loved so much – well, it looks like that’s just gone. Blizzard failed to make any sort of convincing argument about how they’re going to keep some of the magic on mobile.
They also haven’t said how they’re going to monetize the game, leading most players to believe it will be microtransaction based. Microtransactions are simply the way nearly all mobile games work, but it just isn’t the way Diablo games work. A lot of the enjoyment from Diablo games comes from collecting items and developing new upgrades and abilities, and if these things are behind a paywall, that would suck.
Basically, six years after Diablo III, Blizzard is releasing a Diablo game that’s worse than all the previous ones.
“They love what they love and want what they want,” Blizzard said regarding the angry fans. “That passion, it’s actually what drives us, and we feel it too. It’s why we make games and why we’ve made games for almost three decades now—and why our community is so passionate about our franchises. I understand their feeling and wish we could share more about all the amazing things we’re doing, not just with the Diablo franchise but across the company as a whole.”
Amusingly, Blizzard has been working very hard to try and censor all the rage spreading across the internet. They have repeatedly been deleting negative comments on their YouTube trailers of the game. In defiance, one fan said, “You can delete our comments, but we can comment again, anytime, anywhere, because we have phones.”
What’s even more interesting than the deletion of comments is the removal of dislikes, possibly through making the videos private then un-private and other weird tricks. You wouldn’t think it possible, but according to Kotaku the gameplay trailer had 132,000 dislikes, but when I checked it myself a few hours later it had only 95,000. It’s since risen to 110,000 at the time of writing. The cinematic trailer has increased by 85,000 dislikes to reach 300,000 in the same time. For comparative purposes, the ratio of likes to dislikes is roughly 1:45.
The thing is, Diablo Immortal would be a perfectly good game if it wasn't carrying the Diablo name. It'll probably be one of the better mobile games, but there's almost no chance it can live up to the Diablo name and the fans' expectation of quality that comes with it.
Hopefully, Blizzard will do the smart thing and concede that Diablo Immortal was largely a bad idea. They could easily rework the game to run on PC as well (even if it isn’t as detailed as previous Diablo installments) and then release a trailer or even just a screenshot and rough release schedule for Diablo IV. That would certainly aid in appeasing fans.