Diablo and Blizzard fans were crushed (to put it lightly) when it was revealed to them that the next Diablo release won’t be the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Diablo 3, but instead a mobile game seemingly intended to tap into the series’ growing Chinese fanbase.

With rumours swirling about a Diablo 4 for so long, players were left pretty angry at the complete lack of news of a sequel, and wondering just what’s taking so long.

The real reason for the delay, it turns out, is related to another popular gothic series: Dark Souls.

It would seem an odd choice to completely revamp the successful formula of one of the biggest game series of all time, especially off the back of a game as solid as Diablo 3. But, according to some anonymous ex- and current employees who recently spoke to Kotaku, the plan was to pivot Diablo away from its top-down roots, and towards the third-person combat of the Souls series.

The successor was apparently given the code-name ‘Hades’, and was in development alongside some of Diablo 3‘s downloadable content, but was cancelled in 2016 as the team quickly realised they couldn’t make the pieces fit.

“It was not shaping up at all,” one of Kotaku’s sources claims, and the cancellation coincided with the departure of the the project’s lead Josh Mosqueira – although it’s unclear in which order those events took place.

Diablo: Immortal is not the direction fans were hoping for

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The saddest part of this is that a second Diablo 3 expansion (a follow-up to the well-received Reaper of Souls) was originally planned, but was cancelled in favour of diverting resources to ‘Hades’, with Blizzard apparently wanting to move on from Diablo 3 as swiftly as possible to wash away the taste of its very rocky launch – one plagued with game-breaking bugs and perceived money-grabs.

“What they told the team was, ‘You’ve finished Reaper of Souls, it’s really good. But we think the best thing for the IP is to move to Diablo 4 in whatever form that’ll be,’” Kotaku quotes an ex-employee. “The overall sense on the team, at least in my impression, was that there was a vote of no confidence from the executives. They thought Diablo 3 was a giant fuck-up.”

Of course, a series of tweaks have since served to turn Diablo 3 into the game many fans always wanted – one that is still launching on new platforms like the Nintendo Switch even now. It’s a real shame, then, that a lack of confidence from its creators meant that we never got to see the final content they had planned for it.

“A lot of people felt stunned by it,” the anonymous source says. “To have them pull the plug without really seeing how Reaper did really stung.”

“In their mind [Diablo 3] was irredeemable.”

Hindsight shows that Blizzard may have jumped the gun in abandoning Diablo 3 so quickly, and wasted a bit of time trying to take its sequel in a different direction. But, with work now having started on a true Diablo IV release, they seem to be focusing in on what long-time fans expect from a game bearing the ‘Diablo’ name: darkness, and dread.

“There’s a lot of people who felt like Diablo 3 got away from what [makes a] ‘Diablo’ in terms of art style and spell effects,” another of Kotaku’s Blizzard sources states, foreshadowing a move away from the bright ‘Blizzard’ aesthetic that we see in games like World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Diablo 3, and back to what made fans fall in love with the series to begin with.

“They want to make this gross, make it dark, [and get rid of] anything that was considered cartoony in Diablo 3… Make what people were afraid of in Diablo 2, but modern.”

If Blizzard manage to pull it off, Diablo 4 might just be worth the long wait after all.

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