Diablo 4, a mainline entry in the franchise, is reportedly in development under the code name “Fenris.”
In a comprehensive article that interviewed 11 current and former Blizzard employees, Kotaku reported this development. Following a canceled second expansion to Diablo 3 that was supposed to follow Reaper of Souls, many team members began working on the project, which sources claim is the current incarnation of Diablo 4.
A major pillar for the game and its art direction is reportedly “Embrace the darkness.” Reportedly in development since 2016, many who have seen it are optimistic about the direction that it’s taking. Though still in early development, the game is expected to be released in 2020 or later. It’s unclear if the game will to come to PC first, or if it will be released simultaneously on consoles.
The team has reportedly been deciding if it will keep the isometric camera angle from past Diablo games, or use an over-the-shoulder, third-person view that was experimented with in another canceled Diablo project, code named Hades. However, recent builds of the game are reportedly isometric.
“There’s a lot of people who felt like Diablo 3 got away from what made Diablo “Diablo” in terms of art style and spell effects,” said a current Blizzard employee, who claims the game is aiming to be more like Diablo 2 than its immediate predecessor.
“They want to make this gross, make it dark, [remove] anything that was considered cartoony in Diablo 3… Make what people were afraid of in Diablo 2, but modern,” said another employee.
A current focus of Fenris is to introduce “light MMO elements” into the series, taking social inspirations from Destiny. When speaking about if there would be a “strike” equivalent in Fenris, one person familiar with the project said, “What if we still had a core Diablo game that just happened to have a bunch of people on the map to do other cool stuff?”
There have reportedly been plans throughout 2018 to announce the game. “In January, they were still full set on, ‘We’re going to do this right, we’re going to have a playable demo,’” said one source. “By the time we’d hit May, that game wasn’t far enough along. It’s normal problems. Things going slower than they’d like.”
As to why Blizzard canceled the alleged second expansion to Diablo 3 in the first place is currently unclear, though it appears management wasn’t confident in the title following its rocky launch in 2012. The move reportedly surprised many within the team that made Reaper of Souls, which was met with a highly positive reception in 2014. However, Blizzard itself claims it launches only about 50% of its total projects – if Fenris will be one of those projects remains to be seen.
The other allegedly canceled project, code named Hades, was supposed to take the franchise in a “very different direction.” It was reportedly Diablo’s take on Dark Souls: a gothic, difficult dungeon crawler. It would act as a departure from the mainline series, and many at Blizzard felt it wouldn’t have ended up being labeled Diablo 4. Allegedly the team’s primary project for two years, it was ultimately canceled in 2016 after a rocky development and following Diablo 3’s console lead designer Josh Mosqueira’s departure from the company.
Other topics touched on in the report include Blizzard allegedly looking at cost-effective measures while making games, Activision’s influence on Blizzard, various canceled projects, personnel changes, dissatisfaction within the developer and more.
Though unconfirmed, previous reports indicated that Blizzard pulled a Diablo 4 announcement from Blizzcon 2018, though Blizzard claims otherwise. Multiple unannounced Diablo projects that aren’t Immortal have been confirmed to be in development, though a proper Diablo 4 hasn’t been explicitly confirmed by Blizzard.
Colin Stevens is a news writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter.