It has been nearly three and a half years since Blizzard first announced Diablo Immortal as the first smartphone-only entry in the popular PC and console action RPG series. So it came as a surprise this morning when Blizzard announced that the game’s June 2 mobile launch would be accompanied by a free-to-play open beta on Windows PCs.
“Community feedback has been imperative to the development of Immortal and has influenced the game in many ways, as you’ll come to see,” Blizzard wrote in an announcement post. “One recurring piece of feedback we especially took to heart was the desire to play Immortal on PC.”
The PC open beta will offer “full cross-play and cross-progression support” with the “uncompromised AAA mobile experience” from the get-go, Blizzard promised. But while the “built from the ground up for mobile” version sounds like it has been fully polished and tuned, the PC experience launching in June will be initially set up to “collect player feedback, make changes, and fine-tune this version of Immortal until we feel it delivers a finalized experience for all courageous adventurers.”
When the PC beta period ends, “all the progress and purchases you’ve made will be maintained,” Blizzard said.
A controlled mix of new and old
In a lengthy blog post detailing the PC porting process, Blizzard discussed how the development team went “back and forth” on whether a PC version was worthwhile in the first place:
On the one hand, we felt that we wouldn’t be doing the title justice by releasing a game originally designed for mobile on PC; on the other hand, we wanted to make sure the game reached as many players as possible—especially our most dedicated PC fans. In the end, the deciding factor was that we knew many of you would attempt to play this game through an emulator, thus leading us towards building a better experience.
After trying “several alternative setups” for the PC Immortal controls, the development team focused on “preserv[ing] major elements of the iconic Diablo control scheme” for Windows players. The tapping and swiping on mobile have been replaced on the PC with a scheme that will be familiar to any Diablo player: left-clicks for movements and attacks, keys for abilities and potions.
But Blizzard has also added a WASD control scheme “as an additional movement tool” for the first time in a Diablo game. This allows for “moving while attacking simultaneously” with charged abilities, as players can on mobile, while also easing the need for “relentlessly left-clicking for both moving and attacking,” Blizzard said.
Porting from a tiny mobile screen to massive PC monitors also meant scaling down the user interface elements and adding hotkeys for major menu functions, Blizzard said. And while the game will also support handheld controllers, a keyboard will still be needed to type messages to other players on PC.
While Blizzard says the Immortal-on-PC “experiment” will “feel a little different from other PC Diablo games,” it says that “seasoned PC veterans” should be “arm[ed]… with familiar tools as you journey back through Sanctuary.” Blizzard says over 30 million players have preregistered to try out Immortal across all platforms, which should ensure a robust initial player base for the game’s eight-player “warbands,” 150-person “clans,” and player-versus-player combat, which includes 1-versus-30 showdowns. The company also promises “the largest Diablo game we’ve released” at launch and says that “new content will be released regularly to players for free in the years to come, including new zones, dungeons, and character classes.”