Diablo 4’s Open World Offers “More of a Branching Story” with a “Beginning, Middle, and End”

Players "say they want open worlds and free choice. But they also want to be told where to go," as per franchise GM Rod Fergusson.

Posted By | On 14th, Nov. 2022

diablo 4

Blizzard Entertainment’s next big release is Diablo 4, the long-awaited sequel in the action RPG looter series, which features a new threat in Lilith. It also has an open world full of camps to liberate and over 150 dungeons to explore. But it doesn’t quite have the sense of freedom that many might expect.

In a video interview with IGN (transcription by PC Gamer), game director Joe Shely and Diablo franchise general manager Rod Fergusson talked more about the open world. Long story short, don’t expect something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

“One of the concerns about putting ‘open world’ in a big neon sign and flashing that sign is that people have that notion of the Breath of the Wild kind of, ‘Oh, it’s completely organic and I can go anywhere and do anything and eventually I can figure it out for myself.’ That’s not really our story. Our story allows for non-linearity, but there is a story. We wanted to have a beginning, middle, and end. We wanted to start a certain place, we wanted to end at a certain place,” said Fergusson.

Described as “more of a branching story,” Diablo 4 allows players to choose the order they play through the important bits. So if you replay the game, you can change up the order for some variety. Of course, there’s also plenty of side content to indulge in.

As Fergusson noted, “That’s the nice thing about the open world, there’s a lot of side quests, there’s a lot of things in the world that you can go and do that isn’t on the campaign golden path. And the fact that the golden path is a branching path that you can decide when you want to do those branches and what order.”

Interestingly, the development team had to reduce some of the content due to the world becoming “too dense,” reveals Shely. “As you’re going through [the game world], there’s lots of stuff to do, whether you’re mounted, or you’re navigating through on foot.

“We actually had so much stuff that getting through it on a mount was challenging, and so we had to say, okay, let’s make sure that the roads actually are connected to good places, are a good way to travel through this area so that you can get through, get to places that you’re going expediently, and also have the opportunity to go off the path and see interesting things.”

Fergusson noted that while working on Gears 5 at The Coalition, the team met with open-world designers for other titles, who revealed that the idea is “a little bit of an illusion.” “[Players] say they want open worlds and free choice. But they also want to be told where to go.”

Diablo 4 is out in 2023 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and PC. Rumors indicate that it could launch in April 2023, with an open beta allegedly happening in February 2023. A reveal may happen at The Game Awards on December 8th, so stay tuned for further updates.


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