Diablo Immortal's new Tempest class is a goldmine for lore fans

Developers Ryan Quinn and Emil Salim detail the work that went into the game's upcoming character
Blizzard Entertainment

A storm is on the horizon for Diablo Immortal, and Blizzard’s mobile game midquel is about to welcome it with open arms. The new Tempest class is set to debut later in May, with a fresh playstyle, unique look, and a veritable mountain of lore behind it. I spoke with Diablo Immortal’s senior narrative designer Ryan Quinn and lead artist Emil Salim about what goes into bringing a new class to life and what made the Tempest in particular one of the team’s most rewarding projects to date.

New Diablo class designs typically alternate between dark and light, and Quinn and Salim tell me that after designing the Blood Knight, with its grim background and blood-soaked playstyle, every team working on Immortal wanted to make a light class next. They settled on a cleric-warrior, but not your usual holy, light-wielding do-gooder.

For starters, the team wanted to experiment with movement and build a class that moved in ways completely distinct from the other available classes. What kind of movement and how it looked and felt were all questions still lingering in the air, so the teams dug into the Tempest’s lore for answers. And they created a lot of lore. Quinn and Salim say that coming up with pages of background is pretty common when any of Blizzard’s Diablo teams work on a new class, but the kind of background they created for the Tempest was different. 

“For the Tempest, we said we want them to be from this specific place, this specific part of history, this specific culture, and to a certain degree, we wanted the Tempest to be a view on what the idea of empire can be or mean in Sanctuary, the world of ruined and doomed empires,” Quinn says. “So that referendum wound up increasing the amount of time that we wanted to invest in world building considerably.” 

Diablo Immortal takes place between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, and even though the team has to work within those narrative constraints – breaking the established canon is very much not allowed – Quinn and Salim tell me they had complete freedom to explore an area never seen and rarely mentioned in Sanctuary: the north, specifically the Cold Isles and the Pelghain Empire. 

Quinn tells me that after the supernatural hijinks of the Blood Knight, a return to Diablo’s high fantasy was in order, and the narrative team started thinking about what kinds of medieval awfulness they hadn’t yet explored in Diablo. Ecological disaster came up as a possible topic, and since Pelghain is a northern island nation, Quinn settled on constant deluges and cruel winds eroding an ancient land.

New lands means new cultures and ways of living, so Quinn says the team ditched the idea of light entirely for the Tempest. They wanted to explore what a holy person in Sanctuary might be like if they didn’t consort with angels and have skills based around light, and in a land beset with storms and natural destruction, a class of people revered for their power over wind and waves seemed like a natural fit. 

Salim tells me the amount of detail they were able to put into the Tempest’s background made this project special.

“I still remember exchanging so many ideas with Ryan, as we were building out the [Tempest’s] entire history,” Salim tells me. “I love that the approach was not just ‘this amount of work is the only thing that we're going to release in the game,so this is all we're going to focus on.’ That's not what we did. We actually built the entire universe around it and all of [the new region’s] history, and that informs  the actual look of the Tempest and how they play.”

Salim says Pelghain’s history as a cosmopolitan empire inspired much of the Tempest’s design, which, like real-world empires, pulls bits and pieces from different cultures around the world. The art team drew on Phoenician and Ainu culture for the class’ headliner faces, and a blend of North African cultures for the rest. Celtic art and its use of curves and fluidity inspired the way Tempests move and even the adornments on their armor, and their nature as a seafaring people gave the art team the idea of turning regular chainmail into something that faintly resembles fish scales.

The Tempest also wears a dual cape, but that just makes a cool flowing effect when they move.

Diablo Immortal screenshot showing the Tempest class, a holy warrior wielding two shortswords.
Each detail of the Tempest class had a ton of work invested into it. / Blizzard Entertainment

Accents you might hear in Cornwall or other old Breton regions inspired the Tempest’s voice, and Quinn says one of the things he’s proudest of is working with voice actors to create a tone in those accents that embodies the tension between the Tempest’s calm exterior and the raging power coursing through their bodies.

Speaking of voice lines, Quinn tells me one playthrough of Diablo Immortal as a Tempest consists of over 1,000 lines and plenty of retakes to get the sound just right, so don’t dismiss battle cries and the like as little more than filler sound.

“Getting to the end of that, hearing the Tempest and going ‘Yeah, you know what, this is different, but it's good different’ that's really, really rewarding. I hope players will see it the same way. From our early reactions, we’re starting feel like they will.”

That is, indeed, a lot of lore – and not even all of it. Quinn mentioned religious and social customs, and Salim outlined fantastic little details ranging from why the Tempest wears a horn to why they use leather straps in their armor instead of metal. (It’s because Pelghain culture honors the past and rarely changes when they find something that works.)

All this creativity has a practical use as well. From a class kit perspective, it provided the perfect material to mold those intangible movement goals into something functional. Tempests harness the powers that ravaged their homeland and turn them against their enemies, lashing out with water whips, literally surfing through hell, and summoning Zephyrs to do their bidding. Zephyrs are the Tempest’s passive minions that show up when they attack, and they work a bit differently from other minion-based classes like the Necromancer.

“Different builds will be able to do different things with those Zephyrs – blow them up, have them do multiple repeats of your active skills or echoes of your active skills – so there’s a lot of build diversity,” Quinn says. 

The way Zephyrs work also gives Tempests a more active playstyle.

“You're not standing behind somebody tanking for you. You’re darting in and out of combat, making you very kind of involved and meticulous about things like placement and distance.”

“That's also the reason why the Zephyrs are different from the Necromancer,” Salim adds. “Because early on, when we talked about the system design, [the team decided] it doesn't make sense for the summons to act the same way as the Necro, because then you're just going to end up waiting for your summons to catch up with you. And that doesn't work with the movement quality of the Tempest.”

Rather than letting the Zephyrs linger in the air alongside you, the Immortal teams decided these summons should, like a gust of wind, be temporary. A Zephyr shows up, does what it sets out to do, and then vanishes again while you carry on with your business. 

The Immortal team designed the Tempest so it’s approachable for newcomers and longtime players. In addition to the usual mini-dungeon where you can test class builds and the alternate plane that lets you tinker with the Tempest’s legendary items, you’ll get an origin story called Relentless Tide. This story lets the team bring all that worldbuilding off the page and into the game, as it covers the history of the Tempests – why they were pushed out of Pelghain, the social conflicts tearing their home apart internally while nature did the same to its exterior, and, of course, plenty of chances to see how the Tempest plays. 

All this lands in a free Diablo Immortal update that goes live on May 23, 2024, and you can start playing as the Tempest even if you’re brand-new to the game.


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Josh Broadwell

JOSH BROADWELL

Joshua Broadwell is a freelance writer with bylines for GameSpot, NPR, Polygon, and more.