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(Pocket-lint) - Diablo 4 is on the way - there's plenty more hacking and slashing to be had, it looks like. The next game in Blizzard's mega-popular franchise was unveiled a good while ago, and its release is drawing ever closer, albeit very, very slowly.

The fourth in the action role-playing series will be darker than the last iteration - a return to the grittier roots of the original Diablo. So, here is everything we know about Diablo 4 so far.

What's the story behind Diablo IV?

"The first thing you will notice about Diablo 4 is we are going back to the franchise's darker roots," said Blizzard game director, Luis Barriga, during the opening keynote of BlizzCon back in 2019.

When Diablo 4 hits stores, it will have been years and years since Diablo III first came out, although Blizzard has released downloadable content and updates since. Indeed, the last release of the game, Diablo III: Eternal Collection, came out for Nintendo Switch in late 2018.

However, it's about time we got a new one - after all, this will only be the fourth Diablo in 26 years so is long overdue.

Diablo IV gameplay

In terms of the gameplay it will be a similar experience to Diablo III, it seems.

Blizzard showed a playable demo during Blizzcon so, as well as the gameplay trailer above, you can watch video of a one-hour playthrough that was posted online by Phillip Chu Joy.

The demo version highlights three playable character classes: the barbarian, druid and sorceress, and Blizzard has since also taken the wraps off a fourth - the rogue. There will be five classes in total, with the final one yet to be announced.

The barbarian is naturally a hardcore fighter, capable of using a greater variety of weapons than other characters. The druid can shapeshift (with both werewolf and bear form factors in the demo). The sorceress has a large amount of magic to play with, while the rogue specialises in ranged fire and subterfuge.

There is a new skill system plus, according to Eurogamer, a talent tree. While the biggest change between Diablo 4 and its predecessors is that the entire game will be set on a persistently online open-world map. You will be able to wander where you like, while other players can pop up in your game from time to time.

There will be shared raids, boss battles and the like, although you can also opt to play the game alone. As before, while it will be a loot-based RPG, there will be a focus on fast-paced action.

What formats will Diablo IV run on?

Diablo 4 has been confirmed as coming for PS4, Xbox One and PC. There is no word yet on a Nintendo Switch version, which might have something to do with the persistently online game world.

You wouldn't be able to play it offline on your travels, for example - something nigh-on mandatory for successful Switch games.

Now that the next-gen consoles have released, you can be super confident it'll appear on PS5 and Xbox Series X and S, too. In fact, by the time it comes out these will most likely be its default console versions.

Diablo IV release date

In terms of release date, Blizzard is keeping tight-lipped. Indeed, its only word as yet has been to say that it won't be coming anytime soon: "A game of this scope takes time. We’re not coming out soon, not even Blizzard soon." said Barriga (as reported by Forbes). The playable demo at Blizzcon 2019 was apparently just the "first early step in the journey".

That's obviously now a couple of years behind us, and we still don't have a firm release date, although we know it definitely won't be out in 2021. Even 2022 seems shaky, too, with a later date than even that perfectly possible.

Diablo IV pre-order deals

As there is no date for release and unlikely to be for a while, there are no pre-orders open for Diablo IV at present.

We thoroughly recommend you check out the Diablo III: Eternal Collection if you haven't already though. There are a few great deals for that knocking around.

That should keep you going for a while. Until we find out more from Blizzard, at least.

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Writing by Rik Henderson and Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 4 November 2019.