The Diablo franchise has always been synonymous with dark, gothic atmospheres, addictive loot-based gameplay, and visceral combat. With exciting new features and a new story in tow, Diablo IV aims to recapture what made the previous games so beloved while evolving the franchise into a live service experience. With a new direction for the series and a new dark world to explore, Diablo IV is the shot in the arm the series needed to move forward.
As someone that has played countless hours of the Diablo series, with Diablo III sitting in the top spot and stealing precious hours from my life, I was excited to dive into this installment for the first time. Since the first trailer hit and I got a sense of what Diablo IV would bring to the table, I was eager to see if all the promises made would lead to something that could carry the series forward, especially with so many games clawing for the mantle.
Thankfully, my fears were calmed, and after I spent nearly a week cutting through the many creatures of hell, I am even more excited to see what the public will feel when they jump back into Sanctuary and dive into this new twisted story.
Diablo IV‘s narrative takes a nuanced and bold step forward by focusing on the return of Lilith, daughter of Mephisto and mother of Sanctuary. This central storyline weaves a complex and morally ambiguous web of relationships between Lilith, humanity, and Heaven, providing a compelling backdrop for the game’s events. The storytelling in Diablo IV has improved significantly from previous entries in the series, providing players with a more compelling and immersive experience.
“Diablo IV is the shot in the arm the series needed to move forward.”
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the narratives of past Diablo games. However, they always felt like they were the 90s comics of video games, worrying about being edgy without really fleshing out what the integrated lore means to the many characters that inhabit the world. Diablo IV changes that, bringing a much more nuanced and complex narrative to the universe, one where you will have a hard time coming to terms with the many sordid choices you will make along the way.
Players are treated to interesting side quests throughout the game that complements the main story. These quests are far from mere filler and feature excellent voice acting and unique twists that keep players invested in the world of Sanctuary. Even more than that, the engaging cutscenes in Diablo IV create a strong connection between the player and the story, making the narrative even more compelling and giving a real sense of purpose to the many challenges you will encounter along the way.
The dark atmosphere of Diablo IV is a return to the iconic roots of the series, reminiscent of Diablo II. This return to darkness is evident in both the main story and side quests, which often deal with grim themes and showcase the world of Sanctuary years after the events of Diablo III‘s story. This is also a much more integrated plot, making you feel like a true player in the narrative, no longer just a blank slate to inhabit the many classes and powers you will learn. This is the Diablo universe I always wanted to be a part of, and in Diablo IV, it finally feels well realized.
The world of Diablo IV is also massive, far more extensive than any previous entry in the series. Countless dungeons, quests, and areas will keep players exploring well beyond the main story, with the potential for more quests as things expand with post-launch updates. The added opportunities for climbing, ducking and all manner of acrobatics give new opportunities for the game world to feel dynamic, no longer like flat dungeons just there to slaughter demons, but more like a living, breathing universe that you can truly be a part of.
“Diablo IV’s gameplay and combat mechanics demonstrate a strong commitment to refining and enhancing the core Diablo experience.”
The simple fact there is one map makes this Sanctuary a much more realized place, giving a true sense of scale to the many happenings you will encounter. You no longer need to rely on a cut scene or voice-over to explain how far one point is from another, and you can simply walk or hop on your horse and travel there. It is a small thing that makes Diablo feel fully realized, much more so than ever before.
As we have seen in past entries in the series, players can choose from a variety of character classes in Diablo IV, each offering unique playstyles and abilities. The game launches with the Necromancer, Sorcerer, Rogue, Barbarian, and Druid classes, showcasing classic gameplay elements and innovative features that set them apart from their counterparts in previous Diablo entries.
The Necromancer embodies the dark fantasy of commanding the undead and harnessing the powers of death and decay. This class feels distinct and powerful from the beginning, allowing players to strategize and control battles from a distance while their skeletal minions attempt to take down enemies. Comparatively, the Druid takes a more nature-oriented approach, utilizing Earth’s powers and shapeshifting abilities to deal damage and control the battlefield. While the Druid may require more time to reach its full potential, the class offers a satisfying and diverse range of abilities once adequately equipped.
The Sorcerer—the one I spent the most time with during the review period—maintains its traditional focus on elemental magic, excelling at crowd control and dealing damage from afar with fire, ice, and lightning spells. On the other hand, the Rogue makes a triumphant return from the original Diablo, specializing in agility, stealth, and high critical damage. The Rogue’s ability to switch between ranged and melee combat adds versatility to the class, appealing to players who enjoy a dynamic play style.
Lastly, the Barbarian remains a staple of the series, embodying raw strength and resilience. While the Barbarian may feel less powerful compared to other classes in Diablo IV, its ability to take on large amounts of damage and engage in close-quarters combat makes it an essential part of any team composition. I have to hand it to the team at Blizzard: every class truly feels unique, and even though many have been seen in some way with past entries, they feel incredibly fresh, giving new ways to level up and build your character.
Sadly, this is also where I found one of the biggest gripes with the new systems, or at least how they are presented. Despite the engaging playstyles offered by each class, Diablo IV’s character creator leaves something to be desired. With limited customization options for facial features, body types, and visual flair, players may feel that their characters lack a sense of individuality. It does the job and gets you into the game, but when looking at games like World of Warcraft, or Elden Ring, it feels quaint in comparison.
Even with this small issue, the combat and play of the game feel polished to a fine sheen. Diablo IV‘s gameplay and combat mechanics build upon the franchise’s action-RPG foundation, making significant refinements that result in a more engaging and strategic experience. The introduction of limited dodge-rolling adds an element of mobility and evasion, encouraging players to think tactically during encounters with enemies. This dynamic approach to combat keeps players on their toes and rewards quick thinking and precise execution.
The game’s healing system has also been revamped with the use of consumable potions that drop from enemies during combat. This change discourages passive, continuous healing and keeps players actively involved in combat. Collecting and managing these potions adds a layer of challenge, as players must balance damage output with health management. This system encourages strategic decision-making and ensures that combat remains intense and engaging, forcing you to pay attention early on to make the most of every point you place.
“With the right updates and ongoing support, Diablo IV has the potential to become a standout title in the franchise.”
Buildcrafting and gear systems have always been a core aspect of Diablo games, and Diablo IV is no exception. The game offers a complex array of statistics, buffs, debuffs, status effects, and abilities, allowing players to create highly customized and unique character builds. This complexity is further enhanced by the vast array of loot available, with each item offering different effects and stat boosts that cater to various playstyles and builds.
Thankfully as we have seen in past installments, respeccing your character is easy, and while it can get more costly as you get high in level, the standard gold pickups make this a relatively trivial task, especially as you advance in the story. Diablo IV allows for an incredible level of customization, giving you the freedom to build any class or build you see fit. I have never felt the level of freedom I have with Diablo IV, making each new skill point a chance to build my character anew, trying new ways to tackle the forces of hell.
The grind and reward of finding new loot every step of the way is still there, with almost everything you fight or open in the world giving you something. You will still find the many tiers of loot, from common to legendary, each with a level, with the best stuff found later in the game or as you level up the world.
While Diablo III had its problems with loot often being useless while you were playing, it was a constant upgrade, either searching for the best or going to town to salvage the junk to get resources to upgrade your current gear. It is a gameplay loop that the series has been known for since its inception, and it is alive and well with Diablo IV, even if it has been refined a bit this time around.
Diablo IV‘s gameplay and combat mechanics demonstrate a strong commitment to refining and enhancing the core Diablo experience. With the game now bigger than ever, with more online and ways to team up with friends, the mechanics are tailor-made to experiment, finding the perfect build and class to fit everyone’s personal playstyle.
Speaking of other players, Diablo IV embraces a live-service model, integrating MMO elements into its core gameplay. This decision brings both advantages and drawbacks that are worth discussing. The online requirement for playing Diablo IV can lead to server-related issues, such as disconnections and lag, which can be frustrating for players. The live-service model also introduces exciting opportunities for player interaction and cooperation.
As players explore the world of Sanctuary, they can encounter others in spontaneous activities, contributing to a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. World bosses and public events provide thrilling challenges for groups of players to tackle together. These cooperative experiences make Diablo IV feel more alive and engaging, fostering a sense of community within the game. Although, for solo players out there, there is still plenty to do on your own, even if you need to be online to play.
Blizzard has also ensured that the after-campaign activities are plentiful and rewarding. As with previous iterations, the game teems with engaging endeavours to help you continue levelling up your character. From intriguing side quests to formidable world bosses that necessitate rallying your friends for victory to the adrenaline-fueled player vs. player zones where Seeds of Hatred and Red Dust can be earned for splurging on mounts and cosmetics.
If that were not enough, they’ve introduced the Codex of Power – an intriguing new feature. This valuable resource permits you to collect and store legendary aspects discovered hidden within dungeons, providing you with the potent capability to transform regular items into legendary ones, adding yet another layer of depth to your gameplay. Even from the time I got to spend with the game, I was blown away with the level of things on offer in the game, and with a promise of constant updates, along with a season pass, Diablo IV is looking to be a massive experience.
The live-service approach also includes cosmetic-only microtransactions, a more robust clan system, and seasonal updates. These features promise to keep the game fresh and dynamic, with new content, features, and quests to explore each season. While some may view microtransactions negatively, the cosmetic-only nature ensures that they do not impact gameplay or create a pay-to-win scenario and give players ways to build out their characters in new, unique ways, a la Fortnite.
“Even with the online and end game in mind, there is enough at its core that makes Diablo IV worth the investment.”
However, the inclusion of live-service elements raises concerns about maintaining the franchise’s identity. As Diablo IV leans more heavily into MMO aspects, it risks losing some of the qualities that made previous Diablo titles unique. I do worry that the game’s focus on live-service elements could detract from the core Diablo experience, although I saw no signs of this while reviewing the game. I should also note that during the review period, the store was not available, and I do have concerns about how the in-game economy will work when the game is fully out.
I am also concerned about how the game will change after launch. As I mentioned earlier, the team has detailed that there will be no pay-to-win monitization, but as the store was not available for the review, I will have to take their word for it. As we saw with Diablo: Immortal, there is the potential to change the economy, the PvP systems, or even what it means to max level, but until launch, we can’t say. There is a lot to be excited about, and cosmetics are never an issue with a game like Diablo, but much like the people reading this, we will have to wait for the game to hit the live servers to know for sure.
Even with the online and end game in mind, there is enough at its core that makes Diablo IV worth the investment. Even if there are skins or other items that are locked behind a season pass, if the level of support we saw with Diablo III is anything to go by, this is a game that you will easily sink thousands of hours into without a subscription, making anything beyond that simply icing on an already fantastic cake.
The loot system in Diablo IV improves upon the initial flaws of Diablo III‘s launch, emphasizing meaningful choices and nuanced item selection rather than simply equipping items with higher numbers. This encourages players to experiment with different gear combinations to maximize their character’s potential, a welcome change for those seeking greater depth in their gameplay experience.
Diablo IV also builds upon Diablo III’s post-launch improvements, such as the addition of seasonal content, continuous support, and the evolution of the game’s systems. This shows that the developers are willing to adapt and learn from their past experiences to create a more engaging and long-lasting experience for the players.
Diablo IV marks a bold new direction for the beloved ARPG franchise, successfully blending the dark atmosphere of its predecessors with modern live-service elements and innovative gameplay mechanics. While maintaining the essence of the Diablo experience, it also pushes the series forward, offering an immersive world filled with engaging combat, complex characters, and a captivating narrative.
Diablo IV is an exciting entry in the iconic ARPG series, offering a blend of classic Diablo charm and innovative online elements. Its dark atmosphere, engaging combat, and captivating narrative have the potential to make it a standout title in the franchise. I don’t know what Faustian deal was made, but the developers have seemingly found a balance between maintaining the series’ identity and integrating new features that will keep players hooked for years to come. With the right updates and ongoing support, Diablo IV has the potential to become the definitive Diablo experience for both old and new fans alike.