Diablo IV, Blizzard’s upcoming loot-grinding RPG, featured a plethora of difficult bosses and trash mobs to kill during its early access beta last weekend. While players were stoked to jump back into the depraved world of Sanctuary to quell some demons, myself included, one jerk that the community is shooketh to face again is the overpowered flesh-carving menace, The Butcher.
The latest entry in the storied action-RPG series, Diablo IV tasks you with saving the grim-dark world of Sanctuary from the demonic clutches of Lilith, the Daughter of Hatred and the Queen of the Succubi. Last weekend’s beta gave us just a small slice of the devilish pie and, although there’s plenty to be cautious about in a game that required crunch to finish, I walked away from the experience convinced that this new Diablo is the perfect podcast game. That’s not a knock, either. The game provides a simple-yet-captivating loop that’s great for emptying your head and killing shit at the end of a long, hard workday. That is until the meat-cleaving Butcher shows up to cut you in half.
The Butcher is a staple enemy, appearing in most Diablo‘s the first one in 1996. A hulking beast wielding a large, bloodied cleaver, The Butcher is a boss typically encountered in certain scenarios, like just outside dungeons or at the end of specific quests. He was always a challenge to throw hands with, considering his massive health pool, high damage output, and relentless bloodlust. In Diablo IV, his savagery is no different. But this time around, The Butcher spawns in the most unexpected times. Rather than waiting around in a dedicated spot for players to line up and get carved to pieces, The Butcher shows up unannounced in dungeons, doggedly chasing you with his cleaver, screaming “Fresh meat!” and throwing his chain sickle to drag any runners back to his jagged blade. It’s terrifyingly nostalgic, and that’s the point. According to Diablo general manager Rod Fergusson in a Eurogamer interview, The Butcher creates some exciting, fun, and memorable moments.
“The Butcher hits the nostalgia note for everybody who’s ever fought [him] before, and especially in the way that it’s done [now],” Fergusson said. “The Butcher existed in Diablo III as a boss in an arena and that didn’t feel as true to the expression of what it was in Diablo 1, whereas this feels like a much truer expression that can surprise you and so it really plays off that nostalgia. But if you’ve never seen The Butcher before and you don’t know what it is, it’s still exciting and fun to play, and it still creates that really memorable moment because we’re seeing streamers and creators post their “What the heck is this?!” [content], which is awesome.”
It’s not so awesome getting killed, though.
Game director Joe Shely agreed with Fergusson’s sentiment, saying the team wanted to present encounters that force you to switch up your tactics on the fly.
“One of the things that can be really fun is changing up the players’ goals at any given moment, and the treasure goblin does that by running off with a pile of loot that you want, so you’re likely to opt into the extra danger [to get it],” Shely said. “And the Butcher does that by ambushing you and creating a situation where you’re likely to run and potentially run into other danger or navigate under pressure. So broadly speaking, in Diablo IV, we’re looking for other ways to add that kind of gameplay that changes the player’s experience on the fly. And the Butcher’s a perfect tool for that, because the essence of what players love about him is that ambush and that sense of fear, so he’s a perfect addition. And we want to add more things like that in the future as well.”
The community seems to have a love-hate relationship with this big-ole demon bully. Players across the internet, from Reddit to Twitter, have posted their copium after fighting him. One Twitter user thought it was “pretty funny” that The Butcher killed them in three hits. A redditor wondered whether he was “meant to be a troll by Blizzard” because The Butcher just disappears after bodying you. Another Twitter user said The Butcher was “the worst part” of the beta. While a different redditor proclaimed that The Butcher “scared the crap out of [them]” but that they found the encounter funny all the same. This ambivalence is echoed just about everywhere you go. The Butcher don’t play.
I can attest to this sentiment. During my time with last weekend’s beta, I’ve ran into The Butcher at least three different times in totally separate dungeons across Sanctuary. Talking my shit and plowing through mobs, I felt strong AF. I already exorcized copious demons, including the gigantic dragon-looking monster Ashava the Pestilent. So, when I saw The Butcher charging toward me with his cleaver and sickle, I thought it was going to be an easy, albeit grindy, fight. Just about every other enemy was no match for my shadow Rogue; I thought The Butcher was about to get, um, butchered by my twin daggers. I was wrong. The dude hit me once for almost 30 percent of my health, and it was at this moment I knew I fucked up. I tried to run away, but because The Butcher is both faster than you and has a chain sickle that can pull you back to him, there was no escape. I accepted my fate and watched as he escorted my Rogue to a fiery grave. I’ve never been more pissed nor more determined to get my vengeance. And that’s exactly what Fergusson loves about players’ interactions with the boss.
“What I love about the Butcher is that most of the stories around The Butcher are, ‘I didn’t know that existed, I was surprised, it killed me. What the hell?’” Fergusson said. “And then, ‘I played a bunch more, I got stronger; when he showed up, I had my vengeance.’ That overcoming, that showing of mastery, is a really cool kind of arc within an arc.”
Good thing the open beta that lets everyone jump into Diablo IV’s Sanctuary will run from March 24 through 26.
Still, The Butcher is no pushover. He’ll make short work of you if you aren’t attentive or prepared. In fact, The Butcher can go straight to Hell. He’s probably already killed you and me, though, so I guess we’ll see him there in Diablo IV.