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Diablo > Diablo 4Jun 11, 2024 4:00 pm CT

Diablo 4: Vessel of Hatred will reintroduce Mercenaries to the game

Mercenary companions had become a staple in Diablo — these hirelings were missing from Diablo 4, but will be added to the game in the upcoming Vessel of Hatred expansion. Details are scarce — in fact, we don’t have much more than the preview image above — but the developers have, at least, announced that they’re coming.

But what will Mercenaries be like in Diablo 4? Let’s examine how this system worked in previous titles from the Diablo series, so that we can better speculate on how exactly Mercenaries might function in Diablo 4.

How did Diablo 2 Mercenaries work?

The Mercenaries in Diablo 2 were random heroes that you could hire on each Act of the game, and they could be permanently killed — prompting you to hire a new one. They were locked to the specific Acts of the game you hired them on: in Act 1 you could hire Rogue Scouts, whereas Act 2 had Desert Mercenaries (with Paladin-like mechanics), Act 3 introduced the Iron Wolves (whom we meet again in Diablo 4), and Act 5 had the Barbarians of Mount Arreat, who looked and fought similarly to the playable Barbarians. Act 4, Hell, was the only one where you had to go alone.

Mechanically, all mercenaries of a class shared the same set of abilities. You could pick from different abilities when hiring them — i.e., you could hire a Rogue that imbues her arrows with Fire rather than Ice. Mercenaries also had their own sets of gear that you could equip them with.

Each Mercenary had their own randomized name, picked from a specific subset of names. Certain NPCs in later games reused those names and classes — implying that they were the exact same mercs you could have hired back in Diablo 2, and that they had eventually gone on to do greater things in the story.

How did Diablo 3 Followers work?

As an evolution over the mere randomized mercenaries from the previous game, Diablo 3 introduced three named characters as your possible Followers: Kormac the Templar, Lyndon the Scoundrel, and Eirena the Enchantress. These were more lore-focused and integrated into the narrative of the game than the mercs of the previous game: each had not only a specific name and appearance, but their own backstories and reasons to join the fight.

They would periodically chat with the player about the events that were going on in the story, and you could even embark in side quests that developed their own personal stories even further. In fact, an older Lyndon is back in Diablo 4 as a quest giver in the city of Backwater in Hawezar, commanding the other Scoundrels in the region.

But besides the story side of things, they also had their own gear they could equip, including new follower-only items. Each had a set of follower-only skills they could use — and you could customize them at any moment in a dedicated follower skill tree, rather than just picking from different skills when hiring them. Another big change was that they could travel with you to any of the Acts of the game — so you could just pick your favorite Follower and take them with you throughout the whole game if you wanted.

Spiritborn poised to attack

How will Mercenaries work in Diablo 4?

These few lines from the Diablo 4 blog are all the details we have so far:

Discover and recruit new Mercenaries to join you on your quest. These powerful allies fight alongside you, grow in power as they progress, and help you in combat with unique abilities.

…which isn’t much, granted. All that’s confirmed is that they’ll level up and have their own sets of skills. Not even gear is confirmed — but it’s a pretty fair assumption that they will be able to equip it.

Based on their distinct looks, it’s also a good guess that they’ll have their own backstories and personalities as well, and be somewhat involved with the story of the expansion. We have four very unique-looking characters, including:

  • An archer man, who might be a Rogue or similar — or perhaps a more nature-oriented variation of the archetype, like a Ranger or Hunter.
  • A big man with a shield, who might be a Paladin, Crusader, Templar, or some new variation of the “holy warrior” class style.
  • An older woman who looks like she might be a Barbarian.
  • A young satyr-looking boy wielding fire magic.

The satyr boy, in particular, jumps to our eyes — he’s definitely an uncommon look when compared to previous Mercenaries we’ve had. Might he be part of some demonic race, yet has decided to ally himself with us nonetheless? What purposes does he have? There are intriguing possibilities there.

Regardless, at this point all we can do is wait for more information — and speculate away. It looks like the Diablo 4 iteration of Mercenaries will have story implications, but we hope they’re also fun and innovative when it comes to gameplay, actually adding to the experience rather than being something you can just ignore.

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