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DiabloDec 23, 2020 4:30 pm CT

Diablo 3’s influence is all over Diablo Immortal — but it’s still its own game

It’s untrue to say that Diablo Immortal is just a port of Diablo 3 onto mobile devices. The game’s itemization and mechanics are similar, but definitely different. The multiplayer world players will be exploring in Immortal is one set decades before Diablo 3, where we’ll learn how the post-Diablo 2 Sanctuary ended up the way it is by the time we see it in D3. But it would also be somewhat foolish to ignore all the ways that the games are similar, ways that speak to the chain of ancestry between the two.

Diablo Immortal may be set before D3, but it’s coming out after it, and it’s definitely inspired by its predecessor, from its gameplay mechanics to its art style. Most notably, every class in Diablo Immortal is also in Diablo 3: Barbarian, Monk, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Crusader, and Necromancer. We may be playing them differently, but we’re still playing them.

I mean, except for the Witch Doctor. Poor Witch Doctors. Press X to pay your respects, friends.

Immortal puts familiar classes in an unfamiliar setting

That omission aside — and it’s not really surprising since the Necromancer in D3 basically pulled a lot of spotlight off of the Witch Doctor — it’s hard to look at Immortal’s slate of classes and not think Diablo 3 more than, say, a unique game. Immortal made the decision to not try and reinvent or even really innovate much in terms of class selection.

I’m not really sure they should have, either. The Diablo 3 spate of classes are a tested and solid assortment of options, with some — like the Barbarian, Wizard, and Demon Hunter — being outright spectacularly fun to play. While Immortal isn’t playing exactly like its older sibling, there’s a lot it can do to preserve the flavor of these classes, making for a fun and engaging MMO experience.

And I think that key difference between the two games is exactly why keeping the classes from Diablo 3 was the right call. Players are already going to be adjusting to a whole new playstyle in terms of grouping up to finish content and playing in bigger groups.  Making them also learn a whole new class when you could just give them the six they’ve already spent the past eight years playing (and enjoying) removes a barrier to entry.

This isn’t just a Diablo MMO, it’s a Diablo MMO on phones and tablets. The mechanics are inspired by Diablo 3, but don’t actually replicate them. There’s a whole new control scheme unlike anything we’ve seen in a Diablo game up until now, so it makes sense to keep the cast of characters familiar.

The look and feel of Diablo 3 in a mobile format

Another way that Immortal resembles its immediate older sibling more than Diablo 2 is in terms of its art style. It doesn’t ape it slavishly — there are differences, to be sure — but Immortal does bear a striking resemblance to the 2012 ARPG it’s following. More than a few people have already basically said it looks like a port, and while I think that’s going a bit far, watching people stream the game and seeing ol’ Deckard pop up… the look and sound is unmistakably similar.

And it’s also unmistakably deliberate. Much like the class selection, itemization, and mechanics, the game is very much trying to make you think of Diablo 3 when you’re playing it. That’s not accidental: it’s the result of many, many decisions along the way. And mimicking Diablo 3 definitely isn’t a bad decision.

This type of mobile game is an untested idea for Blizzard. Taking Diablo to phones, making a Diablo MMO, both of these are ideas that are somewhat controversial. Making it a game that shares a lot of its DNA with its astonishingly successful predecessor is not something that happened by mistake — Blizzard didn’t wake up and find that oops, Immortal bears a striking resemblance to Diablo 3: they worked with NetEase to craft the game to evoke these comparisons. Even though Diablo Immortal is a big departure from previous Diablo games in term of format, Blizzard has ensured players still recognize it as a Diablo game — I believe Immortal has done a good job in preserving the Diablo elements through the transition to this new format.

Plus, as a prequel game, it makes sense to feel like you’re leading into the game you’re technically following. The class selection and art style, by evoking that, make the sense of continuity stronger.

And hopefully soon we’ll all get to play it and find out how well they did.

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