Like so many, I’ve had a strained relationship with the Diablo franchise. I came into the series on the later end of Diablo 2. But just because the game was already old, it didn’t lessen my love for it at all. I plugged untold hours into the world of Sanctuary. I ran my MF Sorc to get gear, assembled Dol+Um+Ber+Ist to get Chains of Honor on my Smiter-din, solo’d Uber Tristram, and turned in more Stones of Jordan than I care to count. If that sentence made absolutely no sense to you, suffice it to say I played a LOT of Diablo 2.
So when Diablo 3 was announced, I was over the moon excited. Except, something nagged at me the entire time. Every time a new trailer or screenshot came out, there was excitement, but something else. If this was the sequel to Diablo 2, why did it look so different? Was this just the effect of improved graphics? Nevertheless, I jumped in at launch day and my overall impression was that the game was fine. Just fine. I knew even then that there was no way I would put the same time and love into D3 that I had its predecessor.
As I got deeper into the game, I became convinced that this was just what a more modern Diablo 2 would be. Somehow, the magic was lost in the new version of the game. The graphics were rounded out and smoother, taking away the Gothic aesthetic in favor of something that looked more like World of Warcraft. The game play was smoother too, but something was lost in that as well. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but there was something exciting about those panic inducing latency spikes that would accelerate an enemy to 200 miles an hour as he charged you.
And so, I checked out of Diablo 3 a few weeks after release. I would go back from time to time as new content was added, but never would I spend time with it like I did with D2. Games like Path of Exile came and went, claiming to be ‘what Diablo 3 should have been.’ However, they just felt like boring Diablo 2 clones to me. I became disillusioned with the whole genre, convinced that Diablo 2 was lightning in a bottle that could never be recaptured.
Fast forward to now. Diablo 4 is revealed, officially laying to rest the world’s worst kept secret. Rumors had been spreading that the game would be an homage to D2. Is it still considered an homage if it’s from the same franchise? Shouldn’t they all be homages to the ones that came before? Either way, I scoffed at the notion. “Sure, I’ve heard that before.” I thought to myself. Then the reveal trailer dropped.
Immediately, you get vibes of Diablo 2. As our treasure hunters run through the vault, a wayward acolyte solves a door puzzle, and one can’t help but recall Marius following the wanderer into Tal-Rasha’s tomb. The movie takes a dark turn as we discover the temple isn’t what it appears. No, in true Diablo fashion, it’s a gateway to hell. One in which a great evil can be summoned. I, like many of you, expected we were about to see Diablo (or maybe Mephisto) return through this gateway. However, what a pleasant surprise to see the creator, Lady Lilith return.
Lady Lilith: Abridged
For those who didn’t spend untold hours playing Diablo 2, Lady Lilith was a secret boss that could only be accessed by hunting some incredibly rare items. She was a re-skinned model of the game’s first boss Andariel, only with her stats cranked up to 11. There wasn’t much more to her than that. Being a secret boss, she dropped some cool items, but didn’t have much lore to her.
That makes her the perfect candidate to be our big bad this time around, as Blizzard won’t have a lot of rigid lore to stick to around her. They’ll have a couple of guidelines and they can take it wherever they like from there. Her appearance through the gateway of blood was jaw-dropping, her character model looks incredible, and I am officially excited to get back into Diablo.
So now we begin the road to release. It’s one that will no doubt see a ton of blind hype, and a ton of blind pessimism. Blizzard’s track record with this franchise is a resounding 2 out of 3. Diablo 1 and 2 are classics, Diablo 3 is acceptable. However, it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” industry, and ‘acceptable’ is not the standard people hold Blizzard to.
So when I saw the reveal trailer and the first game play video, I got excited, but the pessimist in me tried to temper that. “Remember, you were excited for D3!” it yells. But I don’t have that same nagging worry that Diablo 3 gave me. The art style looks dark and Gothic, full of hard contouring, and less cartoony viscera. The game play looks fluid, and the player’s moves look fun and impactful.
But more than that, I need something to be safely excited about. In a world where I have to second guess and worry about everything that comes out, it’s nice to just relax and get hype for something again. As pumped as I am for Jedi: Fallen Order, EA’s track record gives me pause. As exciting as Cyberpunk: A Very Keanu Holiday Special is, I still have to wonder if CD Project Red will be able to pivot away from The Witcher. As cool as Final Fantasy 7 Remake looks, when’s the last time Square-Enix didn’t end up disappointing? And so I’ve decided to allow myself some blind optimism. I’ve decided this title is one I’m going to plunk down my money for and eagerly count down the days to release. Simply put, I’ve decided to stop worrying and love the hype.
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