Last year’s release of Diablo 3 was rough. Think the SimCity debut raised some flags? Child’s play. Diablo 3 sold 3.5 million copies in 24 hours, crashed servers, thrilled players, and got more people angry than any reasonable person could have predicted. World governments got involved when Diablo 3 came out. Seriously! The Korean Fair Trade Commission actually raided Blizzard’s offices in Seoul because of reports that the studio refused to give refunds to players that couldn’t sign on to the game as it was buried in the deluge of new players.
The action-RPG is having a rather bountiful season at the moment. Grim Dawn is in alpha, Path of Exile has an open beta running, and the recent Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 are ever-present options as well. Where, then, does the newly-released The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing fit in this melange of button mashing?
It’s a title made by Neocore, the Hungarian development team best known for their King Arthur series. Those games took the broad outline of Total War and mixed it up with a distinctive art style, unusual storytelling and quirks like choose-you-own text adventure quests; so it’s not too surprising to find that Van Helsing takes the basic model popularised by Diablo 2 and adds a few embellishments of Neocore’s own.
There’s also a set up for a new big boss right in Diablo 3. The Archangel Imperius, the fella with the fiery temper and the fiery sword, lives through the climactic fight in the battle in High Heavens in act 4 but it’s unknown what happens to him after that. As a character who’s seemingly always on the edge of completely losing his mind and who’s terribly powerful, what better way to add a new big bad to what’s mostly a finished story?
One year later, Blizzard has the twin luxuries of an industry with its attention elsewhere and a devoted audience still playing its highly divisive game. It can continue to tinker away, refining the game. People will have to wait longer for the big changes a major expansion can bring, though. “We do have a plan, an expansion plan for Diablo,” said Morhaime in November, “I don’t have any timeline to talk about. I think that the most important thing for us always comes down to the quality of the expansion, of the gameplay, and so that will be a big factor in terms of driving our schedule.” Both Hellfire and Lords of Destruction came out approximately one year after Diablo and Diablo 2, so a Diablo 3 expansion is already behind historical schedule. This is a game people had to wait four years for between announcement and release. The expansion may be coming, but the wait will likely be long.