The ancient domain of Pandemonium is a place of great history in the universe of the Diablo games. Players will visit it again in the 'Reaper of Souls' expansion, and find it much changed from when it was last seen in Diablo II. This preview Blizzard blog details why and how it is so different from before.
The last vestiges of an endless battle echo across the decimated terrain of an ancient crossroads. Once the epicenter of the Eternal Conflict, the war-torn fields that stretch before you now are eerily silent, save for the occasional scuffle of straggling soldiers and primordial scavengers that have made the best of this inhospitable expanse.
An abandoned fortress looms chillingly in the distance. Previously an outpost that stood as the last bastion of the Light before the Gates of the Burning Hells, it now houses a threat unlike any before.
Welcome to Pandemonium.
The Epitome of Endless Strife
Pandemonium is the scar of creation's birth, where angels and demons once fought fervently over control of the Worldstone. An ancient artifact with the power to shape reality, ownership of the Worldstone changed hands for eons—the High Heavens and Burning Hells trading blows, creating worlds, and then watching their inherently flawed creations wither away over and over again.
Those who are familiar with the events of the Sin War know that the renegade angel Inarius, along with the daughter of Mephisto, Lilith, stole away with the Worldstone, creating the world we now know as Sanctuary. With the artifact well hidden in this refuge, the battles in Pandemonium slowed over time and, eventually, ground to a halt.
Players will soon have the opportunity to revisit the estranged combat zone, but those who have previously walked the halls of Pandemonium Fortress will find it an entirely new experience. The battlefields have never before been traversed by Sanctuary's heroes, and though Pandemonium Fortress was once the base of operations in Act IV of Diablo II, the nephalem arriving now will find it much less hospitable.
Originally constructed by Tyrael to house and protect the Worldstone, one of the unique properties of the Pandemonium Fortress is that the structure takes on the appearance of those who control it. Though it's been conquered and reclaimed through the ages, without the ultimate prize that once lay within, the interest from both angels and demons in holding this keep has severely waned. However, such disinterest does prime the location for hiding away another artifact with the power to tip the scales in the Eternal Conflict forever.
Re-Imagining the Battlefield
Pandemonium has long been a locale our designers and writers have wished to explore to the fullest, and the previous excursion in Diablo II barely scratched the surface of what this realm has to offer. The concept of a nexus between the High Heavens and Burning Hells is a compelling one, but capturing the desired other-worldly feel without extending so far into the unknown as to be alien was a great challenge.
As Pandemonium was barely touched upon, there was a lot of room to draw outside inspiration. Everyone on the design and development team as well as any player who played Diablo II has an idea of what Pandemonium could be, and the idea of infinite possibilities remained strong among these concepts. This meant the best bet for fulfilling the fantasy of this location was to take all those ideas, mesh them together, and boil the resulting amalgamation down into a unified vision that makes you stop in your tracks and say, "Yes. That's Pandemonium."
Of course, it was important to make sure this zone felt like nothing else ever explored in Sanctuary, since it’s a place that the nephalem should find unfamiliar. It's a place where angels and demons have battled for eternity and so presented the question of what that would look like. What kind of inhabitants would remain in this land? Scavengers that live off the battlefield remnants, forgotten angels and demons that continue to fight forever, and unique creatures like the Realm Walker, an ancient beast burdened with the portal to an eternal prison, all resulted from these explorations in design.
Ultimately, Pandemonium needed to epitomize the idea of "The Eternal Conflict." This was, and remains in some ways, the center for the war itself. As the literal crossroads between the domains of all beings, every feature needed to be carefully placed and considered to create the kind of chaotic balance that could not be found anywhere else.
Pushing Boundaries – Encompassing Eternity
External zones are always the most challenging, but Pandemonium takes this to an entirely new level. Both the battlefields and the Fortress itself needed to encompass the feelings of being ancient and infinite without losing players in a way that would distract from gameplay. In particular, our designers carefully avoided the perception of being displaced or wandering in outer space. The challenge was in ensuring a sense of grandeur that could house colossal enemies, evoke the excitement of the unexplored, and still sell the basic idea of plumbing the depths of a massive, ancient fortress.
This sort of dungeon delving is hardly new to the Diablo franchise, let alone in Act V. Pandemonium Fortress needed to be different from the Ruins of Corvus in the Blood Marsh or Bastion's Keep at the edge of Arreat Crater. Instead of finding an earthly construct, you'll find this eerie keep maintains the notion of a militant garrison while distinctly lacking the trappings of what one would expect from a human site.
Getting into the perfect balance of extra planar and relatable took fare more than the thoughts of an individual. In speaking to Lead Level Designer Dave Adams, he shared some insight on "ideation days," a process that the design team utilized in exploring this space. "We break up into groups and try and create single scene events that take place on 240 foot by 240 foot tiles. Seeing what each group comes up with and how different those ideas can be is really amazing. We often use this to steer the direction on an area. We had a lot of awesome events that came out of that, and you'll experience them in the game."
Knocking at Death’s Door: The Last Stand
The Pandemonium Fortress has become home to the starring villain of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls™. Malthael hopes to end the Eternal Conflict once and for all, regardless of what consequences and costs his actions might have. It is time now, heroes, to stretch beyond the limits of what you once believed possible and stop the Angel of Death from destroying all you know and love.
We hope you've enjoyed our First Look series behind the scenes of Act V's locations. Can no one truly stop Death? Let us know in the comments below what you’re looking most forward to tackling on the Battlefields of Eternity or within Pandemonium Fortress, and we hope you join us in the fight to save Sanctuary on March 25.