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Back in the day, Diablo was the series to emulate if you were making an action-RPG. But with the franchise pretty much dormant for many years, we now have another big player on the scene - Path of Exile. And as a result, there’s now this PC Gamer article that lists a number of things Blizzard’s upcoming Diablo IV can do to reclaim its throne.
Embrace live service gaming
Diablo 3 launched before the explosion of live service games and comes with a price tag, but with its seasons and stream of updates it certainly fits the model. Blizzard never seemed to figure out how best to use it, though. Compare it to games like Fortnite and Hearthstone, and Diablo 3 is conservative and static. Balance changes and seasonal rewards haven't made up for the fact that we're still playing with systems and fighting through locations that were designed nearly a decade ago.
I doubt Diablo 4 will be free-to-play, and I pray it won't come with a battle pass, but there are plenty of other things that it can borrow from the competition—most importantly, the agility of other live service games. Path of Exile's seasons, known as leagues, have allowed Grinding Gear to design enough new systems and experiments to cram inside multiple new games. Whenever I think I'm done with it, a weird new league appears and I jump straight into character creation. The leagues haven't all been winners, but then they end and it's onto the next new thing. The stuff that's well-received then gets permanently added to the main game, allowing these experiments to leave an indelible mark.
With Diablo 4 featuring a shared world that calls to mind an MMO, the Diablo team might look to World of Warcraft for inspiration. It's always in flux, and something new always seems to be around the corner, waiting for people to get bored. New raids, storylines, event quests—Azeroth's inhabitants are kept busy. It's so different from how it started that Blizzard now maintains World of Warcraft Classic servers, running two distinct versions of the game. It'll be a tricky balancing act, though, because it might be a mistake for Diablo to venture too far into MMO territory.