If video game developers ever need a lesson on how to make their players go on a wild goose hunt (or, in this case, a mad cow chase), then look no further than Blizzard Entertainment.
After welcoming the massively successful release of Diablo 4, which has been well-received by critics and audiences alike, Blizzard is now stringing fans along by denying that a Secret Cow Level exists in the game only to hint at its existence, even going as far as to leave in-game items that may or may not bring players to a pocket world filled with demonic bovines.
And, while it's easy to believe that this obsession isn't grounded in reality, there's actually enough evidence to prove that a Secret Cow Level is in Diablo 4, or, at the very least, is being planned to be added to the game.
Though the Diablo general manager, Rod Fergusson, categorically stated that there isn't one, due to the game's serious tone, an army of dedicated players is convinced that Blizzard is pulling another prank. Their reasoning? A heap of data-mined evidence that points towards an elaborately hidden cow level, lying in wait to be discovered.
But, to fully appreciate this eccentric saga, let's revisit the origins of the Cow Level first.
Following the release of the first Diablo game way back when, the rumors of a hidden cow-filled level took flight, fueled by the existence of a clickable cow in Tristram, the game's main hub area. Despite the best efforts of the players and a slew of poorly photoshopped screenshots, it was later confirmed that this was just playground talk. However, it was too late as the game's developers had already embraced the humorous concept and included an actual hidden level in Diablo 2, the Moo Moo Farm. This was accessible only after a complicated quest involving the Horadric Cube, Wirt’s Leg, and a Tome of Town Portal. This farcical affair continued in Diablo 3 with a convoluted quest that led to a similar secret cow level, all the while continuing to playfully deny its existence.
Fast-forward to Diablo 4, and we have a community of players congregating on several Discord servers, including one that's named "Not Finding a Cow Level", as they unite in pursuit of the hidden bovine world.
Their primary discovery, as per the data-mined evidence, points towards a fountain surrounded by ox statues in Ked Bardu, a location in Diablo 4. Upon interacting with the statues, players are met with cryptic messages about cleansing offerings to 'The Oxen Gods'. Intriguingly, the game files also suggest a list of three specific items needed for the ritual - the Metallic Fragment, the Bloody Wooden Shard, and the Musty Tome, which are uncannily reminiscent of the components required in Diablo 2 to unlock its cow level.
While concrete evidence of these items in Diablo 4 is yet to be confirmed, it's believed that they drop from unique world events spread across different regions of the game's map. Cleansing these items at the oxen fountain supposedly grants a secret key that opens a cellar leading to the fabled cow level.
Despite the data-mined evidence, the painstaking search has yielded little success so far, leading some players to wonder whether the required elements have been introduced in the game yet. However, it's worth noting in previous iterations, the cow level could only be accessed after completing the game. Hence, it's plausible that similar conditions apply in Diablo 4, possibly involving defeating Uber Lilith at Level 100. Meanwhile, some zealous players have embarked on doing everything from cow-killing sprees, to meticulously noting cow spawns, behaviors, and interactions, all in the hope of triggering a secret event.
Some have even theorized that the Eastern part of the Scosglen map, which oddly resembles a cow's head, holds some significance to the puzzle - talk about obsessive!
At the end of the day, all the theories make sense if you think about it. It's even possible that the Cow Level will only open after one or both of the in-development expansions for Diablo 4 comes out. After all, the game is hinting at the return of at least one of the three Prime Evils in Mephisto. What if the two expansions all lead up to a confrontation against the Lord of Hatred, Lord of Terror, and Lord of Destruction and it's only after they are slain that someone is deemed worthy of opening the portal to the Secret Cow Level?
While all of this theorycrafting may come off as an eccentric conjecture born out of sheer desperation, it demonstrates the lengths to which players are willing to go in their quest for the truth. In the grand scheme of things, the quest for the cow level proves the allure of the mystery and the human instinct to unravel it.
In the end, one can't help but wonder if all this commotion is all part of Blizzard's design. It's already proven that it's willing to go to extreme lengths to market Diablo 4, which has gone pretty well for them. Not to mention, players just found out that Diablo 4 had at least four post-credits scenes. Less than a month into its release, discussions about Diablo 4 have taken over the internet, with everyone, including the company's president, Mike Ybarra, maxing out his Barbarian, because, why not?
As Diablo 4 dominates discussions all over the globe, it's mysteries such as the Cow Level that guarantee that it will stay atop everyone's minds for the foreseeable future.