I've long been mulling over exactly how a theoretical Diablo III should look...for years now. You see, Diablo is a 2D franchise entering a 3D world. And its graphical style, as trivial and superficial as the topic may seem, will affect the way the game feels to play (which many have probably noticed in 3D Diablo clones like Dungeon Runners that feel distinctly less satisfying).
But after reading that King of Fighers XII was completely hand drawn, the answer to updating a 2D isometric game suddenly felt obvious—just draw it out.
Backtracking for a moment, it's in my humble opinion that Diablo III can't go 3D and maintain its trademark click to kill feel. But even giving the benefit of the doubt to Blizzard that they could deal with this issue (maybe by maintaining the same camera angle), it's hard to imagine such tiny characters on screen in 3D without becoming cartoony. Picture the units in Warcraft 3—there's a reason that the chunky style works for this world—the eye can identify small units that have large, cylindrical arms and giant blocky weapons.
But this art style doesn't match that of the Diablo world. Diablo is carnal in that stereotypical RPG way. If a weapon glows, it's with patina. If a monster is ugly, it's not in the PG Crocks "ugly is beautiful" way. It looks like an ugly monster.
With these boundaries in mind, the solution of hand drawing (and sticking with sprites) seems perfect. Without the limitations of polygons—current screen resolutions combined with Blizzard's artistic talent could create a Diablo that we've only seen in our mind's eye, one that is essentially concept art imported directly into the game without the artistically-limiting technical compromises of 3D modeling. (In short, it'd look a lot like Diablo 2 with the gloves off.)
Granted, KoF's process involved starting with a 3D model, turning it to 2D and then filling in the shading gaps by hand. That's how their animations look 3D and 2D at the same time. So if Blizzard mirrored such a production workflow—and there's absolutely no reason to believe they would—we could have plenty of the 3Desque eye candy in a true isometric world, not compromising Diablo mechanics, but bringing an unmistakable level of greater visual depth to the franchise.
Sure, this is just one blogger's opinion. But a hand-drawn Diablo III feels like a Diablo limited only by an artist's pen. And the whole imaginary prospect seems very exciting to me.