Fresh from announcing the expansion to Diablo III at Gamescom, game director Josh Mosqueira and art director Christian Lichtner talk to Bengt Lemne about what's new in Reaper of Souls.
Mosqueira, who recently took over as Diablo III's game director after Jay Wilson stepped away from the role, started the ball rolling. "Goal number one was to really capture and deliver on the promise that is Diablo, and that really starts with epic heroes," he explained.
"Whether you're the Crusader or the Barbarian, you're playing a bigger-than-life hero and you're fighting against the forces of darkness. For this expansion we're introducing a brand new villain - Malthael, the fallen angel of wisdom - and his legion of death angels. But at the end of the day what we thought was super important for us to get right with Reaper of Souls, was loot. We've done big changes to the loot system. We're essentially going to drop less, better and more epic loot."
Lichtner, the game's art director, then explained the other major addition coming in the expansion: a sixth character class to appear alongside the Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Monk. "We also have a new class, which is the Crusader. So that was really exciting for us, because we love our five classes that we have right now, but we really were missing this tanky, big, armoured version of a character, and the Crusader is really the answer for us on that."
Mosqueira then elaborated on some of the other changes players can expect to see, and explained why the time was right to make the changes to loot sytem: "We're not just making changes to loot, we're also introducing a new paragon system... we're really revamping all the endgame options. So it felt like a really good moment for us to inject a lot of new blood into the system, and really provide a longterm platform for players playing Diablo into the future."
For those who may not have significant amounts of time to invest in the game, new random dungeons should offer fans the chance of a quick fix, as well as the opportunity to earn new loot: "It's all the awesomeness of Diablo condensed into fifteen and twenty minutes of gameplay," said Mosqueira.
During the conceptual phase of development, Mosqueira and his team used the phrase "haunted apocalypse" to define many of their ideas.
"We really wanted to feel Westmarch, something evil has happened here, and the city has become more than just a ghost town, where the dead are just hiding in the shadows and ready to come out at you. I think one of the magical things about Diablo is that gothic setting, that sort of feeling that it's a world that's barely lit by candlelight, and that you're the brave adventurer going forward into that darkness. I think Westmarch is a great, great platform/setting, for us to deliver that," the game director told us.
Lichtner then added: "It really goes back to the basics of what we feel Diablo is really about. And also in Westmarch we also have the opportunity to have a seamless integration of the exteriors and the interiors, so as you go through the city and fight, you'll be able to go inside of the buildings, fight monsters or do whatever, and then walk out again and continue your struggle to fight evil through those streets."
The most prominent feature that players will encounter, loot and Westmarch aside, will be the new class: "The Crusader is going to be integrated into the story in very much the same way that the other characters were integrated," Mosqueira told us. "I just like the tactical variety. Melee, short-ranged. It's just great back and forth, and you really have a lot of cool options as a player."
"In addition to that, we want to make sure that it fulfills a certain fantasy when you're playing the game itself," added Lichtner. "Each class we introduce and rollout, we're always concerned about making sure that if you're a ranged character, that this is really feeling like the ranged class and it has a fantasy attached to it. In this case it was a fantasy of really making sure that you had an armoured class. You can sort of tank it. You have a shield. You have a flail. You go to fight, literally, the Angel of Death."
As it's a Blizzard release, we've got no concrete release details. We expect that this new chapter will be launch sometime in 2014 on PC and Mac. It's been a busy time for the studio of late, what with the recent release of the console version of Diablo III, and the announcement of this expansion. For more details, screens and trailers for Reaper of Souls, check out our preview by heading this way.