Happy third birthday, Diablo III! Here’s that Cow Level you won’t shut up about

diablo 3 cow level
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III is three years old! Exactly three years ago today we were posting about the myriad bugs and error messages that plagued the game’s rocky launch. Despite the fear of many fans that the game was a lost cause, doomed to be a poor imitation of the series’ peak of Diablo II, Blizzard has really turned it around, and three years, one major expansion, and numerous, substantial patches and overhauls later, Diablo III is stronger than ever. To celebrate the occasion, Blizzard has launched a special event extending from May 15 to May 21, during which there definitely isn’t (read: totally is) a secret cow level.

The notion of a secret cow level has been a long-running inside joke in Blizzard’s Diablo series. Rumors of one in the original game prompted Blizzard’s developers to actually include one in Diablo II, despite their insistence to the contrary. After beating a given difficulty level, players could combine a few rare items to create a portal into the realm of the Cow King, wherein they would fight hordes of anthropomorphic, glaive-wielding cows. “There is no cow level” became a mantra within the community akin to “the cake is a lie,” and was even used as the level-skipping cheat in StarCraft.

Fans were eager to find out what Blizzard would do for the follow-up. Again, players could craft a special item called the Staff of Herding, which would allow them to speak with the Cow King’s ghost. Instead of sending players to battle more cows, however, he would open up a portal to a brightly-colored realm called Whimsyshire, full of rainbows, teddy bears, and unicorns.

The level’s design was a cheeky response from the designers to complaints leading up to release that the game looked too bright and colorful, forsaking the grim, gothic aesthetic to which some fans had become very attached in the course of playing the first two games.

A recent post on the developer’s blog, called “Debunking the Cowspiracy” (the puns continue throughout) reaffirms that “there is no cow level,” but also warns players to avoid any mysterious portals that pop up over the next few days, since “this activity cud be potentially hazardous to your health and, in the opinion of this humble civil servant, is a veally bad idea in general.”

A video posted to YouTube by Natsuma Z shows the secret in action. After finding and killing a rare cow enemy, a portal opens up over its corpse (just like a Treasure Goblin) to “Not a Cow Level,” a dreary field filled with hoards (herds?) of glaive-wielding cows, just as in the Diablo II level, along with a generous selection of radiant and resplendent chests. The bovine masses are led by an enormous Cow Queen (the “Bovine Potentate”), who is not too pleased about the intruders (intr-udders?) into her realm.

The secret totally-not-a-cow-level level is accessible from May 15 to 21 for players on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. PS3 and Xbox 360 players unfortunately don’t get to take part in the fun, but as compensation do get a nice +100-percent experience and gold bonus for the duration, which stacks with any other similar buffs.

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