Blizzard on the Darker Act Five and the Crusader


Nothing new from any of the Blizzard twitter feeds today, and the CMs are not answering many questions in the forums either. As they told us yesterday, they’re letting the info come from the devs via interviews at Gamescom, which runs through Sunday.

Bonus info: Act 5 will not just take place in Westmarch. Translated from a Blizzard CM on the Polish Battle.net forum:

Act V is not only a city of Westmarch – will also traverse the rotten swamps Blood Marsh and reach the mighty fortress of Pandemonium 🙂

621757_10152168511369478_1749185200_oAs for the US Blizzard CMs, Lylirra is busy in Germany, but Vaeflare and Grimiku shared some infos. Grimiku first, talking about what the Crusader is like.

This is what the Crusader looks like.

We wanted the iconic Crusader image to be heavily armored, wielding powerful melee weapons, giant pauldrons, and holding a massive tower shield. While the Crusader has a lot in common with other holy knights (like unyielding zealous determination), there are some differences that we try to convey through storytelling, and imagery. For instance, the Crusader tends to wear darker, battle-scarred armor, and their demeanor is that of a veteran soldier with a lot of experience.

Click through for discussion about how Act Five is really very dark and gruesome, with a story to match the visuals. (And clearly influenced by all of the “too colorful” DiabloWikiArt Controversy complaints we heard about D3 from the very first reveal.)

Vaeflare: As far as “darker content” goes: it really is darker. For instance, part of the gamescom demo that attendees can play features part of Westmarch, and within that extremely eerie and overrun locale there is an area where the entire floor is covered with bodies. You quite literally have to wade through a knee-deep carpet of pale, rotting corpses in order to pursue your next objective. When you walk through, the sounds are truly wrenching, and the ambiance of it is enough to make even the Mad King Leoric wish he’d thought to decorate similarly.

That’s gruesome, but I don’t know if it’s the “dark” that I have in mind.

In terms of the story – fill our heroes’ hearts with hopelessness, desperation, despair. Part of accomplishing this involves ensuring that hero is not treated as an errand-runner. S/he must decide what last-ditch efforts will be made to save humanity, instead of being told “go do this, go do that.”

Vaeflare: I can’t really give away the details of the story of Reaper of Souls beyond what has already been revealed at gamescom, but I truly feel that it too is quite a dark chapter in Sanctuary’s history (I mean, you’re not just fighting demons this time around, but the Angel of Death himself.)

press-04If you’re interested in the lore-side of things, I also highly, highly recommend you check out Diablo III: Book of Tyrael once it is released. In my free time I eagerly devour each and every new book we put out, and this one in particular is a fantastic bridge between the events of Diablo III and the start of Reaper of Souls.

For those of you who are curious about some of the colors used in Reaper of Souls, I actually just put some of the screenshots from our reveal article up on our Diablo Facebook, and one of them actually shows a portion of the dead body area of Westmarch I was talking about in my previous post. I found it how creepy the whole area looked, especially considering the stark absence of blood.

Does the darker and more gothic design of Westmarch encourage those of you who aren’t big fans of Diablo 3’s color palate and layout? It looks pretty good in the screens and gameplay trailer, but hard to judge from just a few views. It’ll be interesting to hear what players think when we start getting some hands-on reports from the demo machines at Gamescom. If anyone’s spotted (or written) any so far, likely on non-English European sites, throw a link in comments and we can translate and news them up so everyone will see.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Crusader, Lore and Story

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  1. Regarding the active and passive skills of the Crusader a french site made a list based on the Gamescon demo

    Here are the links (yes it’s in french and i don’t have the time to translate infortunately) :

    Act : http://diablo3.judgehype.com/croise-aptitudes-actives/

    Pas : http://diablo3.judgehype.com/news/reaper-of-souls-liste-des-aptitudes-passives-du-croise/

  2. To me, the graphics and color palette was annoying at first, but I’ve come to realize that it isn’t the graphics that makes D3 “not dark” – it’s the absence of Matt Uelmen’s awesome and ambient soundtrack. Seriously, no game will ever again recreate the creepy and terrifying atmosphere of the Catacombs in D1, I’m sure of it.

    As far as D3 goes though, this does look like an improvement to the atmosphere. However, as stressed in other threads, if the storytelling is done in the same way as D3C, with lots of cut-scenes, holograms etc, it will completely ruin any atmosphere created by this darker palette/scenery.

    • I’ve tried playing D1+D2 soundtrack in the background while playing D3 with darker filter and it was really, really “dark”, at least for me:)

      • Awesome idea, I’ll try that out! (wonder why I never thought of that myself…)

      • I was telling a friend of mine who never played the orginial 2 games about the music of Uelmen and I played him some of the music of d2 while playing the game.

        I played him mephisto track while playing in halls of agony in act 1 and played monastery soundtrack while venturing in the cathedral levels in act 1 as well. His jaws dropped. No exaggeration.

      • Download D1 music, get a really squishy character in inferno, join a game on an MP level barely survivable, start in A3 Keep, start music, move… Brings back good memories 🙂

    • Pretty much this. I’m sorry but without Uelmen it’s a giant decrease in quality. Diablo 3’s soundtrack is awful, uninspired, and lacks any kind of identity. I know many people probably don’t care much about it, but the music had a giant role in the first two games.

      And as you note… the storytelling (and story) were just not done well at all. The Azmodan holograms are just stupid, especially when you have to see them every time you replay the act. Not really sure what Blizzard was thinking. I also do not like the detachment between the character I’m playing and myself. In D1 and D2, I felt more like I was that character (barb, sorc, etc.).

      • I wouldn’t agree that the music, in of itself, is awful. It’s a well arranged mix of score and ambiance. However, the point about lack of identity I think hits it right on.

        The difference with D2 and Uelmen’s work IMO is that the music was iconic to specific areas. From the Rogue camp to the Blood Moor, into the crypt and A3 tracks. It just… fit and is apparent how he really tried to capture a feel for the player venturing into these areas.

        I can still feel the somber notes of stepping into the Rogue camp, and the soft guitar of Wilderness. The rhythmic drums that fade in during Crypts, the off-note strings that give a sense of danger in Monastery.

        The D3 music is re-used throughout all acts, for the most part, so it makes it feel more generic and less involving. Some of the ambient tracks also have … I dunno, seems like no purpose, just effects.

        If you feel like popping the classic soundtracks on the web, the classic bnet player is still online: http://classic.battle.net/window.shtml

        • Thanks for an official link to the soundtrack

        • I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything written by Russel Brower (Blizzard’s main composer these days) that didn’t sound like it was written with the sole aim of sounding as expensive to produce as possible. His great at orchestration, which is why he’s working at Blizzard, but as an actual artist I think he may be one of the worst composers in videogames right now. Excluding indie games and other non-AAA releases anyway.

    • Pretty much this. I’m sorry but without Uelmen it’s a giant decrease in quality. Diablo 3’s soundtrack is awful, uninspired, and lacks any kind of identity. I know many people probably don’t care much about it, but the music had a giant role in the first two games.

      And as you note… the storytelling (and story) were just not done well at all. The Azmodan holograms are just stupid, especially when you have to see them every time you replay the act. Not really sure what Blizzard was thinking. I also do not like the detachment between the character I’m playing and myself. In D1 and D2, I felt more like I was that character (barb, sorc, etc.)..

    • This a million times. Wish I could give you more thumbs up. I’ve been saying this for ages. The atmosphere in games is visuals and sound [voices and music] . We don’t notice it and it’s subtle but it’s very powerful. It’s the like the smell of video games.

      I’ve asked several times if blizzard can do what they did in mists of pandaria with jermey soule. They featured a lot of his tracks and he’s not on the blizzard sound team.

      Do the same with Matt blizzard. Honor him and honor us the fans by letting him contribute to one of the closest and dearest projects to his heart. Sadly I know this will never happen. I wish they didn’t use those tracks he composed for the blizzard north version of d3 and ended up in wow burning crusade.

      Sorry for rant but I had to let it out. I leave you with this, compare abdul-hazir audio logs with narrator from D1. Skip to 1:30

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUSaDzuWN14

      • I think the D3 music is good… it’s just I’m still waiting to hear it in the game. The D3 soundtrack is great, so my complaint is entirely about the style and presentation, with just ambient noise 95% of the time and only brief pieces of “music” timed to key events or location changes.

        How about a middle ground? If Bliz now thinks that the D1/D2 style of 5-8 minute looping songs in a given area is too limiting or repetitious, and most fans think the D3 style of ambient noise with occasional music is boring… can there be some compromise? Much of the time ambient and atmospheric noises, but much more active “music” than we hear in D3?

        Or do you guys want a full on return to D1/D2 and “songs” for each area on an infinite loop?

        BTW, I conducted a long interview with Matt Uelmen last year and brought up this issue, but he’s always very politic in his on-the-record comments about anything at Blizzard or in D3, so he wouldn’t really dive into the issue. Alas.

        http://diablo.incgamers.com/blog/comments/matt-uelmen-interview-from-condor-to-torchlight-2

        • “Or do you guys want a full on return to D1/D2 and “songs” for each area on an infinite loop?”

          Hell yes I want this. But only if it’s true D1 and D2C style music – meaning no grand orchestral music. For god’s sake someone at least *try* to get back to D1’s brilliant ambient-industrial style. I’d take a pale imitation of D1’s music style over anything in D3 any day.

    • Agreed. They need better music to bring out the immersion a lot better.

  3. Athene reads some of the Crusader pasives in the updated video you posted, and he also says there’s that passive that allows the wield a two handed weapon.

    • Full list of passive and active skills in the next news item, so I took out the one mentioned here in the original draft.

  4. There is a reddit gameplay review (in english) from someone at Gamescom (http://www.reddit.com/r/Diablo/comments/1ktjhu/personal_review_of_reapers_of_souls_after_around/) which mentions there’s at least one new gem (Diamond) and Toughness is now officially part of the inventory screen (it’s probably EHP or something similar).

    • There’s an inventory screenshot showing Toughness, so yes. Speculation is it’s some EHP-esque stat of more use to players than current displays.

  5. I don’t think D3 can ever be considered dark with its art style and dubious textures. Bodies look like rubber, blood looks like paint, cinder blocks look like they’re made of plastic or legoes. Same deal in SC2, although their environments had detailed textures at least. And it looks like A5 is gonna be the blue act.

    • Agree. Blizzard and their CMs talk about dark, but it doesn’t matter if they just use darker colors now. They are stuck with their cartoony artstyle and cute monsters. And no real light radius.

      And of course, Matt Uelmen’s music which is half the game.

  6. man my words.Matt Uelmen’s soundtrack was 50% off the game

  7. When talking about their graphics, I still think they haven’t really figured out yet that there is a distinction to make between the visual motif (what is shown?), the art style (the way it is abstracted from photo-reality, also perspective and tone) and technical aspects (such has polygon count, animation, randomization, etc.).

    They could probably not only have the floors covered with dead bodies but stack them all the way to the ceiling of the room and wouldn’t get anywhere close to D1’s ‘gothic-horror’ atmosphere with that. Ill-proportioned low-poly characters, washed-out ‘painting-like’ terrain textures, UI text and item markers everywhere, oversaturated glows drowning everything that’s supposed to be the tiniest bit mysterious, and a rather bizarre and futuristic art style exployed by monsters, higher-level armor and setting destroy every illusion of a gothic horror atmosphere and make the whole graphic concept a WoW clone.

    • Agreed. I always found it interesting that Blizzard always seems to take “dark” to only mean either color choices or amount of gore. But it doesn’t really work that way, just like a comedy doesn’t become a dark comedy by turning down the brightness on your TV.

  8. I thoughr D3C did a reasonable job of dark, it’s certainly not bright and cheery as some would have us believe. However I’m really pleased they’ve gone even darker with Westmarch. Graveyards, mists, moody lighting and I hope the music is just as foreboding.

    Something like this.

    ulpco3_RSKI

  9. You guys ought to admit that “darkness” was first specially spoken as colors when the “art debate” started… So yeah…

    • i’d disagree with that, simply because i was around before d2 came out, and even then people talked about the lack of darkness in d2. and at that point it wasn’t about colors, it was about atmosphere… people didnt seem to have the hugest problem with the colors if i recall. it wasn’t until diablo 3 when everything started to look ‘cartoony’ as people say, that the talk specifically turned to the art style.

  10. D3 music comes off as meleancholy and serious. There’s no mystery or horror to it, like in d1 or d2, you would hear sounds that you could not identify. D3 music is over the top and epic. It’s nice to the ears, but does not convey the same mood. Act 4 music in d3 takes this philosophy to the extreme and I find it cheesy.

  11. Having a darker palette does not help the expansion in my opinion, the graphics are just fundamentally so non Diablo like, non menacing. It’s a combination of the colors, textures, proportions, effects and the like. They all work together to make Sanctuary look like such a light world. It is quite a feat when you manage to make a mangled corpse(which are present, granted) look trivial.

  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VUDBEFvwto

    a little bit annoying if you cant understand spanish, starts in the middle
    some talk with 2 devs

  13. Russel Brower did music for Tiny Toons and Animaniacs before coming on board for the Diablo 3 project. They must have hired him on the spot when they looked at his resume.

  14. It’s all for naught when we are certainly going to get something in lines of this:

    “NO ONE can stop Death!”

    “You will NEVER stop me from bringing DEAAAAATH to these cursed NepHALIM!”

    “You will fail, Nephalim! My wretched minions are alredy knocking at the gates of hell! You will not succeed in stoping my secret plan!”

    “There is no escaping Death, Nephalim!”

    etc.

    • Some times less is better and I’m not sure why they don’t realize that. Diablo in diablo 2 and 1 said almost nothing but he’s more menacing than chatty diablo. The psychological terror was realized from seeing all the corruption and madness he brought and through the tales you hear from town folks.

      Also I personally didn’t like how they portraid tyrael in d3 instead of the enigmatic powerful angel we got that blabbery weak dude…sigh.

      • No doubt. Subtlety and foreshadowing go a long way.

        Ever remember your first time going into Duriel’s chamber? Oh, let’s go find Tal Rasha then… lag…. then “looking for Baal???” then frozen panic ensues.

        D3 is too brash and in your face the whole time. Stupid popup dialogs… rated “M” for Metzen.

        It would have been way more terrorizing if Diablo actually appeared in front of you (ie, you close a hellrift) and takes a swipe at you, taking 50% HP and then disappears without a word. Or, you know, when you went to the realm of terror he didn’t say anything, instead of letting you know how to get out… *facepalm*

        I hope they learned a lesson with the story lashback. If the Angel of Death appeared of out nowhere and then reaped an NPC right in front of me, then disappeared, I would be… concerned for my safety.

        • Or have Diablo just cackle insanely and mock you but not say a word.

          Or the thing where you have the Death Maiden appear and kill people. She isn’t appearing in a cutscene just to taunt you. You’re chasing her, and can actually damage her for a few seconds (or even kill her if very overgeared). Otherwise, that damage stays when you fight her for real. That’d be fine.

  15. QUOTE

    Russel Brower did music for Tiny Toons and Animaniacs before coming on board for the Diablo 3 project. They must have hired him on the spot when they looked at his resume.

    Animaniacs is amazing though.

  16. I prefer the D1/2 musical set up a lot but, I’m not going to lie, I think it also works best within the confines of those games.

    D3 has gone with a general “wow”ish look that I’m not fond of but, I think, their way of doing music fits their new look better than the old one would (clearly some people disagree with me, as shown by everyone playing D3 to the accompaniment of old tunes). I just don’t see them creating the same sort of evocative atmosphere with these graphics, no matter how “dark” they make the color pallete or how macabre they make the scenery, and I think that having the old music with this new art style would produce a weird stylistic dual identity that I’m not down with. Ideally though, even with the new look, it would be nice if they toned it down a /little/ and had somewhat more identifiable location/event music in the game.

    My take, at least.

  17. Am I bad person for having pressed Ctrl+M when loading up D2 and leaving it that way?

  18. QUOTE

    I prefer the D1/2 musical set up a lot but, I'm not going to lie, I think it also works best within the confines of those games.
    
    D3 has gone with a general "wow"ish look that I'm not fond of but, I think, their way of doing music fits their new look better than the old one would (clearly some people disagree with me, as shown by everyone playing D3 to the accompaniment of old tunes). I just don't see them creating the same sort of evocative atmosphere with these graphics

    Just get darkD3. It helps a lot:

    http://www.darkd3.com/

  19. Do we know anything about d3x

  20. Act Five looks like “Corridor Gaming”. Looks really boring. Hopefully it gets better when we open up more areas. I doubt it though.

  21. D1 had the same “one color scene” they seem to reproduce. First levels were blue (cyan), next brown, next violet and last red.

  22. I, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, The God, declare that having slightly changed palette and incredible number of so flashy effects is sure way to more dark and brooding feeling. D3Dark does look way better, but less flashy and loud effects, together with atmospheric music and ambient effects (and no more small-talks with plebeian followers) would contribute more.

    The God declares that D3 would never be on the same level (atmosphere wise) as D1/D2, as it is designed for different audience – no unique terror when exploring dark depths in d1, no sense of corruption and decay from d2 – it was left out on purpose.

    The good suggestions were made in this thread, though

  23. QUOTE

    The God declares that D3 would never be on the same level (atmosphere wise) as D1/D2, as it is designed for different audience - no unique terror when exploring dark depths in d1, no sense of corruption and decay from d2 - it was left out on purpose.

    I disagree. If you pay attention, the art design team included a great deal of bleak and horrific details to many of the game’s areas. In terms of the art assets, I’d say the game far exceeds D2 in the inclusion of “horror” elements. The problem is that several things dull the impact of that art – the game’s odd soft-filter effect (sharpening filters make the game look SO much better), the unnaturally bright palette, the inane chatter and silly story, the bombastic yet generic sound effects, the barely-there music. But I don’t think any of those things were the fault of the art asset dept. – I think they really did their best!

  24. QUOTE

    But I don't think any of those things were the fault of the art asset dept. - I think they really did their best!

    The God never blamed art department. The decision that nemesis is butterfly queen, and that combat should be ‘visceral’ (likely meaning: ‘shiny and full of particle effects’), and that there should be voice-over 95% of the time didn’t come from them.

    Some graphical details are stunning (great beasts moving in background of act 3). Act 1 is eye-pleasing graphically, too.

    But what happens in front our screen and in our ears is not. Constant bragging and a story based on butterfly queen playing an unnecessary arch-villain (with irritating voice with lots of effects on it) is what makes Act 1 non-atmospheric. The transformation of Tyriel from iconic hooded and winged angel without a face to a bald guy with a sword does – he IS on frontpage of d3 site – replace it with Tyrael’s-new-look and see what happens. No wonder Imperius looks mean and threatening and is favoured by new fans – we see bald guys with swords (depending where we live) each day, and masked, winged creatures much less (depending on where we live, again).

    The God agrees that graphics are good, for the most part. Atmosphere is not.

  25. Magdha is actually a brilliant, ingenious villain – she has incredible powers of destruction, she just mainly uses it to destroy the player’s ability to enjoy any scene involving her. So very cunning….

  26. Well… The rainbow below “I don’t know which” bridge in Act 1 is a bit too much….

  27. QUOTE

    Well... The rainbow below "I don't know which" bridge in Act 1 is a bit too much....

    We should start calling that, the “Rainbow” bridge… Or maybe, the “Kotick Bridge”, people here would understand hehe…

    I still say Music (or sometimes lack thereof as Flux says) would change a lot…

  28. QUOTE

    We should start calling that, the "Rainbow" bridge... Or maybe, the "Kotick Bridge", people here would understand hehe...
    
    I still say Music (or sometimes lack thereof as Flux says) would change a lot...

    Yeah, I totally agree with this statement. After my first playthrough I basically muted it. However, now that they are making the expansion darker overall with the darker and more gloomy atmosphere and environment, the dark Knight/paladin type i am hopeful, that they will do the same with the music aswell. I don

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