Guest Article: D3 Expansion #2: Skovos and Druid/Amazon?


news-skovos-exp2One of our long time forum users, Nobbie, has written a well-researched speculative article about the second Diablo 3 Expansion. No such product has yet been confirmed, but most fans expect it to be revealed soon, possibly in August at Gamescom 2015 (RoS was announced at Gamescom 2013). The main topics of speculation about an expansion are 1) where will Act Six take place, and 2) what will be the seventh class? (Assuming it is a full expansion like Reaper of Souls, rather than a smaller DLC type product with just a new class, new Rift tilesets, some new item systems, etc.)

In this article, Nobbie sorts through reams of Diablo 3 concept art, dev comments, and in-game hints and finds good evidence for Skovos (Greek-temple themed homeland of the Amazons), and numerous interesting ideas for what the next character class might be. Here’s an excerpt from his article; click through to read the whole piece with lots of gorgeous Blizzard artwork illustrating his arguments.

The Skovos Isles are a group of islands located in the Twin Seas. They consist of four main islands (Philios, Skovos, Lycander, Skartara) and are the home of the Askari, a matriarchal society.

d3_ros_tyrael_lorath_skovos_conversation_01smlThe isles possess a gorgeous, Aegean-looking ocean, clear, Roman/Greek-style temples and architecture, and a dense rainforest, the hunting grounds of the Askari. Don’t be fooled by the brightness, though, because Skovos has issues in common with Venice – it’s a sinking city as you can see by the text descriptions in one of the concepts, which creates the potential for sunken and partially-submerged dungeon levels. The contrast between the majestic, brightly-lit Mediterranean setting and the gloomy, rotting ruins for sure promises a lot of fun for exploring adventurers.

Skovos receives mention in Act 5, as Tyrael and Lorath Nahr discuss that a Horadrim expedition sent to the isles has not returned.

Here’s the full article by Nobbie. Guest Article: D3 Expansion #2: Skovos and Druid/Amazon?

Diablo 3 Expansion 2: Skovos and a new Druid-based Hybrid Class?

Introduction

The Diablo 3 Content Patch 2.2 is out, and Season 3 will be running at least 4 months according to Senior Technical Game Designer Wyatt Cheng. This puts us at August 2015, when the world’s largest computer games fair, Gamescom, takes place in Cologne, Germany. Last week Blizzard announced that they will be returning for gamescom from August 5-9, where you’ll be able to play their latest titles, including Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. The absence of Diablo 3 in the list of hands-on demoed games led to wild speculations that there may be no Diablo news at all, but don’t despair, dear readers, the exact opposite is rather the case here, and I’ll tell you why!

The premiere of Reaper of Souls (RoS) dates back to August 21, 2013, when the first expansion was revealed during a press conference in Cologne, Germany, at gamescom 2013. We saw the marvelous opening cinematic, learned that the crusader is the next class, and we were told what the main features are, with more details to follow in fall at BlizzCon 2013. So, two years have passed since then, and you can be 99% sure that the same procdure will be the case for the Diablo 3 expansion 2. The early ending of Season 2 and the length of Season 3 are further hints that the devs want these four remaining months to prepare for the announcement. It’s also no secret that the itemization of RoS has peaked with patch 2.2 and that the demand for news about future, expansion-size content is imminent.

Story & Features of the Diablo 3 Expansion 2

In my March blog I’ve made first educated guesses, mixed with some personal wishes, what the next expansion might have in store for us Diablo fans. Today I want to talk about another striking bit of information that’s been on the Internet for a couple of years now, and which may or may not be future game content.

Skovos Isles

During the Diablo 3 Second Anniversary Livestream we learned that the DiabloWikiSkovos Isles and the Golden City of DiabloWikiUreh were originally in the game but were cut due to their inability to “fit in”. While there’s only one official artwork for Ureh on the Internet, Skovos a.k.a. the Amazon Islands was internally fleshed out including a whole bunch of pictures by the Blizzard concept artists Peter Lee a.k.a. “Drawgoon” and Christian Lorenz Scheurer. Christian Scheurer also provided the dark, gothic vision of Westmarch which eventually made it into the first Diablo 3 expansion. Of special note is furthermore his Xiansai artwork, which may point to another expansion in Sanctuary’s northern hemisphere.


Can you say that Skovos has been fleshed out?

The Skovos Isles are a group of islands located in the Twin Seas. They consist of four main islands (Philios, Skovos, Lycander, Skartara) and are the home of the Askari, a matriarchal society. The isles possess a gorgeous, Aegean-looking ocean, clear, Roman/Greek-style temples and architecture, and a dense rainforest, the hunting grounds of the Askari. Don’t be fooled by the brightness, though, because Skovos has issues in common with Venice – it’s a sinking city as you can see by the text descriptions in one of the concepts, which creates the potential for sunken and partially-submerged dungeon levels. The contrast between the majestic, brightly-lit Mediterranean setting and the gloomy, rotting ruins for sure promises a lot of fun for exploring adventurers.

What happened to the Horadrim sent to the Skovos Isles?

What happened to the Horadrim sent to the Skovos Isles?

Skovos receives mention in Act 5, as Tyrael and Lorath Nahr discuss that a Horadrim expedition sent to the isles has not returned (see the picture above).


Smells like Mephisto’s Spirit – A potential Durance of Hate v2.0 entrance?

The Next Class: A Druidic Amazon Elementalist?

The Druid is a class that became playable in Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction (LoD); however, the devs made it clear several times that they don’t want to copy previous heroes unaltered. The barbarian and the wizard are the only exceptions so far, but every other class got a special “twist”: The crusader and monk both have paladin “DNA”, the witch doctor derives from the necromancer, and the demon hunter is a bow-amazon/trap-assassin hybrid.


Blizzard concept artist David Ko posted some Diablo 3 druid images – Note that they are obviously able to use bows and spears.

David Ko, a concept artist for Diablo 3, posted some druid artworks in his portfolio (see the pictures above). The left image suggests a barbarian kindred (as in LoD), but I’m inclined to believe that this was simply a personal deviation when the Diablo 3 barbarian was developed. That said, the usage of bows and spears may actually be planned as feature of a potential druid follower.


These watery temple concepts by Peter Lee may be related to the
deities of the Askari pantheon.

How might a non-barbarian, shapeshifting hybrid class from Skovos look like, and what’s the lore behind it? There are numerous possibilities how the devs could expand on the original LoD druid concept, and I’ll therefore briefly address just some of them:

  • While we were busy fighting Malthael in RoS, Evil befell Skovos (quote Tyrael (ingame): “I haven’t heard back from the Horadrim we sent to the Skovos Isles.” – Lorath’s answer: “Skovos is a dangerous land.”)
  • Possible scenario for the Shapeshifting part: A werewolf curse spreads among the Askari, turning the inhabitants of Skovos against each other. In this case the devs could simply follow the well-known World of WarCraft worgen lore: Many Askari take up the druidic arts (with the help of the druids of Scosglen) as a way to cope with their transformation, to help control their new animalistic side or even to learn more about themselves and their new powers.
  • The Bowazon & Javazon/Spearazon part: The super-natural expertise in wielding bows, javelins and spears is second nature to the Amazons, the warriors of the Askari. In regards to magic, amazons can wield prime and holy magic, so that some of them take upon the path of the healer, a worthy path due to the toxicity of many native plant species in their homeland.
  • The Elementalist & Healer part: According to the lore, amazons are able to instill their shots with the elemental powers of their deities, e.g. Karcheus‘ freezing wind or Hefaetrus‘ destructive power of fire. The curse that befell Skovos, however, brought with it a powerful side effect: Afflicted amazons can, after intense training, not only take on the form of fierce beasts (werewolf, werebear), but also that of large elementals (elemental body, similar to Ascendance of WoW shaman) or large plant creatures (healer body, similar to Tree of Life of WoW druids).
  • Alternatively, there may be no werewolf curse at all, and the Askari have simply developed a higher art of shapeshifting that combines druidism and shamanism. The Shirvallah shapeshift form (of the WoW druid) would be a perfect fit for the Askari high civilization.
  • So, the new class is – in the broadest sense – an amazon/druid/shaman hybrid, which in my opinion would be a very appealing “twist” on the classical druid as we know it from Diablo 2 or World of WarCraft. Additionally, the brightly-lit Mediterranean setting and the dense rainforest of the Skovos Isles would be a welcome visual counterpoint to the dark, gothic Westmarch in RoS. What do you think, sounds good? ^^

    Amazon, druid & elementalist combined = The dream hybrid?

    Amazon, druid & elementalist combined = The dream hybrid?

    Nobbie, the Lord of Construction

    Article originally posted on Nobbie’s gaming blog; reproduced with permission of the author.

  • All these arts and many other awesome concept pieces can be seen in our Diablo 3 concept art gallery.
  • My long-held suspicion is that we were going to get Skovos for the first expansion pack, but when the whole DiabloWikiart controversy kicked up shortly after Diablo 3’s release in 2008, and showed surprising legs over the next years of development, the devs figured they’d better go dark and gothic in the expansion.

    Westmarch concept art, 2006.

    Westmarch concept art, 2006.

    Thus Skovos, which would have looked awesome but not especially dark and gothic — with crystal beaches, city squares of gleaming marble, and also sunken temples and rainforests — got shelved for the “so gothic it shits bats” version of Westmarch, just to shut up the “too colorful” haters.

    There’s no proof for this, though perhaps Blizzard will elaborate on the development history when/if they reveal the expansion. But as you see in this article, there are many pieces of very detailed Skovos artwork from 2006-2007, created at Blizzard Irvine when the project was rebooted after Blizzard North shut down in 2005… compared to just one piece of Westmarch concept art from that time frame. (Obviously there is more art that hadn’t been released publically.)

    You see the Westmarch concept to the right, and it’s a lovely piece, but looks more like a high level concept art that’s not very similar to how the city was presented in the final game.

    What do you guys think about the likely setting and character classes for the upcoming expansion pack? Excite?

    Comments

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    1. I would love a Druid class with the same treatment the Crusader has had/gotten.

      Basicly it is the Paladin from D2 but besides some flying hammers and 2 simular named skills the entire hero is re-envisioned.

    2. I would REALLY love to see Amazon or a Druid in the game. I think it’s going to be a druid. I remember my excitement when ony question on Ureh and Skovos got picked during the stream, only followed by dissapointment when they said that there are no plans to implement neither Skovos nor Ureh (quick jump to that answer here: https://youtu.be/W4qXOmyqQf8?t=616). Ureh would be AMAZING. Just imagine going through different phased zones – Sanctuary, Hells and in-between limbo – battling your way to the Palace of Juris Khan.

      However, Lorath hints in the game about mysterious Horadrim sent to the Skovos Isles. It would be cool to see Skovos really. It’s several isles, and it would be exciting to explore each of these islands thoroughly, not to mention mysterious Tran Athulua.

      On the other hand, we have the woods of Scosglen. It would be fun to travel there aswell. Druid could be a fun hybrid class with transformations, summons and elemental magic.

      It depends on the story, of course, and on the plans that the developers have for Diablo 3. The whole fallen angel idea behind RoS surprised me when I learnt about it.

      Nobbie has interesting class concepts, and I’d love to see the druid/amazon hybrid in the game. Now THAT would be fun to play. 🙂

    3. Well researched and speculative, i wonder how objective that can turn out in the best case scenario 😀

    4. Druid was my class back in the D2:LoD days and I’m half Greek so I’d love to see architecture reminiscent of Hellas (Greece) in D3. I hope it is the Druid. Back in the day I lurked the druid forums on dii.net often.

    5. ROS had that ruins feel with the Adria section, but Greek theme of an overgrown city would be cool.

      What if the next class is a Horadrim? The order has been restarted. Obviously the story would not make sense for the first 4 acts, but otherwise could be cool.

    6. It sounds very well thought out.
      After receiving a mostly melee character in the form of the Crusader, I expect another ranged character in the second expansion. You can’t go pure magic or archery anymore. Alchemist or gunslinger wouldn’t really fit the lore. A rogue could be possible, but might feel like a mix of ranger and monk. The witch doctor uses voodoo, so a nature magic druid would probably feel more unique.

    7. A druid class would be great, but it would make sense two have TWO new classes being that each of the six, two per have a main stat for damage and having one new class, i guess…vit would be the damage stat just to keep everything even would be weird or having one of the existing three stats as a damage stat would also be weird. We’ll see. But i figure once all current sets are balanced and strong together as well as little by little they add new stuff but once that’s all set, lets say its all g50 able or whatever. A new set will come out and the games all set from there per-say

    8. Nice article. Lots of wishful thinking but well researched as well.
      I’m sold on the idea of Skovos for the next expansion. I like the idea of brighter and more colorful areas to explore. And being practically raised on Greek mythology it would be like going back home after along voyage 😉
      I’m not so sure about the whole “drui-zone” concept but it sounds different at least. We know that devs like to put a new spin on the old character archetypes and this would be their style. Never played druid in D2 so I don’t get the feel of the character but I’m willing to learn. To date there wasn’t a D3 class I wouldn’t like in some way so I think I will like a new one as well – whatever it turns out to be 🙂

    9. All speculation on my part, but taken from in game conversations and events:

      1: When collecting spheres in the festering woods, Leah reveals to the player via dialogue that her ultimate dream is to open her own little inn somewhere, to provide safety and refuge to travelers on their journeys.
      2: Leah becomes the vessel for Diablo. Imperius seemingly destroys her, and Diablo is of course destroyed by the player. Dianlo (and Leahs?) essences are trapped in the black soulstone.
      3: Mathael steals the stone, quite possibly uses the fact that Leahs soul is in the stone to modify it to suck up human along with demons. During the fight against the player, he absorbs it into himself, and tries using it as a weapon.
      4: When Malthael is defeated, Diablo is released. Except the shadow we see looks very human.
      5: Sometime after Act 5 (while the player is putting down some upstarts during Adventure mode) Tyrael sends a group of Horadrim to Skovos, & doesn’t hear back from them again.

      I think because of his defeat at the hands of the player at the Pinnacle of Heaven, Diablo’s soul has become secondary to Leahs, though it still obviously has a large impact. Wanting to create her own little sanctuary somewhere, she travels from Pandamonium to the relatively isolated land of Skovos. She essentially enslaves the population, and empowers them as Zoltun Kulle intended.

    10. FWIW, peterconcept.com, the personal website/portfolio (incl. the Skovos art) of Peter Lee, isn’t online anymore, and his devianART account doesn’t inculde Skovos either. You can still find it under “Drawgoon” on sonsofthestorm.com, though, which *may* be another hint that Skovos is next.

    11. Man would i love to see the druid back again. Absolutely my favorite class amongst all the diablo games and even the modded versions of d2. Them coming back would make my year and reinfuse me with ambition for the game.

    12. Im really surprised nobody has pointed this out but… since we can have either a male or female hero, doesn’t that invalidate the Amazon on the spot? 😮 (or did Diablo also have male Amazons??)

      I think the Amazon is much more likely to be a follower.

      My thought process for the Druid was that since we have 2 characters for each stat, Druid would be either Dex/Int/Str depending on spec/form (the stat on gear would change automatically). Or not, he could just be one stat, because it’s sort of an advantage over other classes.

      • D2 manual does the Amazon lore and says only female warriors since they fit better through the dense rainforests of their native island.

        http://www.diablowiki.net/Diablo_II_Manual#Amazons

        I’m sure Bliz could metcon that to allow a male Skovos warrior, but it seems unlikely they’d go that route, with the modern understanding of the term mostly based on the mythological female warriors. Then again, this game has a female Monk, so gender isn’t real locked in stone with class name.

      • Also, my speculated shapeshifter hybrid just has amazon skills, so.. ^^

    13. Give us the Pirates of the Twin Seas! Seriously. They’re already mentioned in the lore. Just give us dual-wielding, dirty-fighting PIRATES! (I’ve been begging for a Pirate class since LoD was in development.) Let them use combinations of daggers and class-specific cutlass-type swords. Or, better yet, class-specific hand hooks!

    14. SO, I have to say that this article was really thoughtful; well done. I’m impressed by the homework done by nobbie here.

      BUT, it does raise some red flags for me. First, I’m not a fan of WOW. Not even slightly. I’ve never wanted to even play WOW and mention of that game actually bums me out; it always has. Because we had 10 years of that and no diablo releases.

      I never really understood how Diablo was completely abandoned after the records it broke in sales and the loyalty of it’s fans were nothing short of epic.

      But, here we waited for a new diablo game, watching WOW players get expansion after expansion. I mean, seriously … How long was the wait for Diablo 3 after diablo 2’s expansion was released? It took forever … and pure diablo fans just had to give up and move on.

      Now, we’ve got a great game and it really took a while to get it where its’ at. So many iterations and revisions.

      But, if you, like me, waited on line the night before diablo was released to be able to play it the minute it launched … well, you’ve waded through some years of mediocrity dotted with moments of greatness on a slow climb up to where we are now; a great spot for a community that’s nearly burnt out.

      The developers are on a roll; they’re on fire but, is it too late? I think it depends upon how they handle what comes next. I know I’ll always want to play this game. And, I’ll struggle with how to balance my real life demands with the the time consuming tasks created by diablo’s developement team.

      Then we look at the game play we have now … monk, DH, Barb, Crus, Wiz and WD and the gap I see is not the Druid. Though the Druid may very well be the character they’re basing the next expansion on; I really hope not. I’d much rather see a necromancer.

      The druid, for me, was less fun to play in diablo 2 and might have been my least favorite class from classes playable in that verson of diablo. And when i look at the line-up we have now, It seems to me there’s not enough of the dark magic that WD and the Necro can bring to diablo.

      When I read here that the next class might be based on characters from WOW … it literally offends me. I can’t bare the idea that WOW players will get more WOW from our game now too. It’s like … not only will they be able to play the 10,000 versions of wow avaialbe to them in their own game, but we’ll give them some wow in diablo land, too. Just in case they weren’t fed enough.

      Diablo, for years, was the red headed step child of the blizzard gaming community and it really deserves the attention it’s been getting lately. let’s hope they keep the ball rolling and get creative about what true diablo fans REALLY need and want to see in the game.

      I mean, dear god … when are they going to wake up and say … “I think they might need more space for gear” This is getting redicous and they should wait for an expansion to allow us to buy tabs in our stash … they need to hot-fix that in game asap. It’s THE thing that’s burning me out most.

      • meant to write – *shouldn’t wait for an expansion to allow us to buy tabs in our stash

      • The reason why Diablo 3 has apparently been held back for years is the success of WoW, which peaked in 2008/2009 with the WotLK expansion. But times have changed: WoW subs are on the decline (or back to 7 mio., see the news from today), and Blizzard’s policy has changed accordingly during the past years. While WoW still pays a huge portion of the bills, the new stars are Hearthstone, HotS, Overwatch, and ofc our beloved Diablo. ^^

    15. Well, Nobbie … you seem well informed. I hope you’re right about a few things and wrong about others. but, only time will tell. I study every interview I can find with game developers. I even watch the play your way videos despite their futility, just hoping to glean some insight, into what lies ahead for the game. But, you may have a handle on it.

      Sometimes it dawns on me, that these Developers really are fans of the game and they want what’s best for us. But, despite their love for the game, they’re still not players in the same sense as we are.

      It’s difficult for them to even imagine the average player mentality; putting themselves in our shoes. Because, Wyatt might want to protect this game and it’s players but, at any point in his day … this guy can walk into a room (somewhere at diablo’s headquaters) and play with ANY SET UP ON ANY ChARACTER HE LIKES. It’s hard for him to truly understand why players are still holding onto a stack of SoJ’s from before ROS and MF gear and items that have been demoted. It’s hard for game developers to understand why anyone, at this point, would hold onto ANY gear that’s NON Ancient. But, for many of us, these items are worth holding onto, yet clog our tiny inventory to the point of nearly being unable to play with friends. No one wants to wait for you while you’re stress about which items to keep and toss.

      The NUMBER ONE thing that I need to hear is that we’re getting an option to add 50-100 tabs of stash space if we want to pay for it. That people who want to, will be able to spread out their gear in a neat, organized fashion and play. Play for hours unencumbered by constant Sophie’s Choice.

      New acts? New Items? a New class? Yes, yes, yes … but, without more space in our stash this game is hindered. And I’m not talking about another 5 tabs. That just wont cut it.

      This is a problem that can’t wait for another year.

    16. I was actually surprised that there was not a Necromancer class in ROS considering the importance of the Necromancers in keeping the balance life and death, Maltheal was seriously screwing it up. They also play a pivotal role in some of the lore in books in this regard.

      Also the Witch Doctor class was originally designed with the expressed purpose of not taking away too many Necromancer skills to leave room for a Necromancer class.

      Jay Wilson Quote:

      “I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at old classes. We are trying to design [the Witch Doctor] class so that if we did bring back the Necromancer, there’s room for him. We’re looking out ahead of time at what our EXPANSIONS are going to be, so we’ve got to keep room open for some of those other classes down the road.”

      I think you see bits and pieces of the original classes in all the Diablo 3 classes but its not a complete dismantling of our legacy class skills and abilities. It seems done for a reason.

      I dont know why there cant be a Amazon class brought into this game, the fact that she can only be a female warrior is part of her lore and its what makes the class unique.

      Any of these characters as a NPC, or worse yet a follower would be a slap to the face.

      I say bring back the Necromancer, Amazon, AND DRUID!

      You (blizzard) left the door open with design choices, now do it.

      • Sneakytails – “I say bring back the Necromancer, Amazon, AND DRUID!”

        I say the more the merrier with regards to bringing back MORE>

        But, I think what matters most is that, whichever class they bring, they do it right. It seems to take this team a long time to implement useful builds for the classes they introduce; sometimes years. So, I realize that bringing us an expansion is a huge challenge for them.

        It’s more challenging because, in order to be expansion worthy, they have to bring an enourmous amount of content; character class(es), a new act, new items and game features.

        Upgrading weapon damage and item stats is something I’m hoping they avoid this time around. I’d hate to see hard earned items in ROS become truly obsolete. This is something they’ve done in past expansions from LOD to ROS. This ‘upgrade strategy doesn’t serve the player base, though it may serve the designers as it forces so many items into obsolescence that I believe, it essentially is used as a tool to force the player base to clear inventory space … And put off the need for more stash space. Obvious to any player, the stash space is something that can’t be fixed in this way. And it’s a lazy solution for a pervasive problem.

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