I remember when Diablo 3 came out. One of the (many) talking points surrounding the game was its art style and the perception that Blizzard had made the art style lighter and friendlier compared to the gothic grays of both games previous ones. The review seemed a bit over the top and silly at the time, but here we read the latest quarterly development update for Diablo 4. It focuses on the art of the new game, and the phrase “return to darkness.” is used repeatedly.
Several artists take the reins in the blog post, taking turns talking about their chosen field, but it’s art director Chris Ryder who explains the first “return to darkness” as one of the mainstays of their art style.
The “return to darkness” pillar is a guideline in everything from dungeons to lighting, and embodies the idea that Sanctuary is a dangerous and dark medieval gothic world. Plus, we’re playing around with the iconic Diablo game camera, choosing where to add or remove detail to improve game space readability or heighten visual interest as needed. It’s a balancing act that results in a handcrafted look with a distinct visual style that spans Diablo’s lineage.
You can decide for yourself how successful it is. There are several short video clips in the post, showing the player running non-combat through various environments. Here is one:
It is certainly dark and disturbing. I think I used to vacation in Scosglen when I was a kid.
There’s also some discussion in the post about how they make the world a believable place, using realistic architectural styles and considering the lives of people who supposedly live in this low-fantasy world. Buildings along the Scosglen coastline have deep foundations to counter the wind and are made of local materials like stone, salvaged wood and thatched roofs. The villages also reflect a local fishing industry, with wharfs and slipways.
I am, as always, happy to see the development teams communicate openly about the game they are making, even when they still seem a long way off.