A few weeks ago, Diablo 3’s developers let slip that their game might have a difficulty level harder
than “Hell” called Inferno. This week, Blizzard confirmed that this new difficulty level is making it into
the game. And they say it will present an endgame challenge of mythic proportions.
The game will of course still start with normal difficulty, which should present some tests of skill but
for the most part be a skeleton piñata party. Once you beat the game you gain access to Nightmare
difficulty, which contains more difficult monsters that you face down with the skills and gear you
acquired beating the game on normal. When you beat nightmare, you unlock Hell difficulty, which until
now had been the apex of diabolic difficulties.
But upon completing Hell difficulty in Diablo 3, you gain access to the new Inferno difficulty. In order to
even play on the Inferno setting, your character has to have reached the maximum level cap of 60, and
for good reason. Inferno-level monsters are super-charged to make the game a living nightmare… er…
inferno. Even the most powered-up, twinked out, twitchy-fingered dynamos of destruction are going to
be in constant danger playing on this fourth difficulty setting.
Monsters in Inferno will have more hitpoints, deal more damage, be more aggressive, and even use
some skills they don’t use in the previous three difficulties. Every monster in Inferno will have a “level”
of 61, higher than your character’s level. To contrast, in Diablo 2, monsters could only get up to level
87 in Hell, while characters could get as high as 99. This means that even the lowliest zombie in Inferno
could be as deadly as Hell Baal.
But by far the most important aspect of the Inferno difficulty is the fact that all areas of the world are
balanced to be of equal difficulty. Notice that I said all monsters have a level of 61 – that’s exactly 61.
To use Diablo 2 terminology, the monsters in the Inferno Blood Moor would be the same difficulty -
and have the same chance to drop high level item drops – as the ones in Inferno Worldstone Keep. This
uniform balancing is supposed to diminish the need for players to grind out boss runs or dungeon runs
over and over again. Instead, players will be able to keep doing play-throughs of the entire game or of
their favorite areas without worrying that focusing on some other area would be more efficient for item
This aspect of Inferno difficulty doesn’t seem to be getting nearly enough attention from the adoring
Diablo 3 masses. It will fundamentally change the entire end-game scene. It’s easy to visualize the
picture Blizzard is trying to paint: no repetitive boss runs, plenty of randomized quest content, and of
course the new skill system where you are never really “done” with your build. I foresee a lot of quality
time spent in Inferno for Diablo players in the near (please let it be near!) future.
That’s not all though. If you order now, Inferno difficulty also comes with its own exclusive selection
of items! Certain of the best items, including high-level runestones, will only be capable of dropping
in Inferno. There are also items with unique art that don’t drop anywhere else, so if you’re seen using
them, everyone knows you earned it duking it out in the Inferno (um, or else bought it with real money).
Of Blizzard’s recent announcements, this one seems to be the one that should stir up the least
controversy: Inferno is simply awesome. It provides a stiff endgame challenge, hours of additional
gameplay beyond the three traditional difficulties, and a great way of making the most profitable
endgame activities line up with the most enjoyable ones. Enjoyable, that is, if you happen to like getting
pounded on by a lone fallen shaman.