TL:DR Some aspects of the game are well polished, and some lack originality. In most cases, this is just another ARPG.
I played Diablo IV Open Beta (March 24-27), and Server Slam Stress Test (May 12-14) for a few hours and tried many different classes, except for Barbarian and Sorceress. As these classes have many similarities in skills and combat mechanics from previous games, especially from Diablo 3.
I completed an entire Act I and reached level 25 on a single character, just to see what the early game has to offer. This is my unbiased opinion about Diablo IV. Things might obviously improve later, once the game is out and implement many quality-of-life changes.
At first, I was quite impressed with the character customization screen. Although, this feature is quite useful to personalize your hero, it still lacks many settings. Many other ARPGs/MMOs like World of Warcraft, Lost Ark or even Wolcen do it better and provide much more freedom in creating your perfect hero.
Once I finished with the character, I started the game and watched a few in-game cinematics, done entirely in its engine – very impressive, there is nothing else to say. The High-res textures, the art style, sound design and music leave positive impressions for a few first minutes. Honestly, I was expecting to see more cinematics like this later, throughout Act I, but I was a little disappointed, because most late cutscenes were done without much effort – with no cinematic camera, and my character stood still most of the time. To see what I mean: look at the intro cinematic or when your hero is taken from the tavern to the barn.
First steps – Combat, UI, Starting zone, and Colors
After the game allowed me to control my character, I decided to follow the story line and kill few monsters just to see how the combat looks. And I’m not going to lie – the combat is really smooth, the animations are almost perfect, and your character feels really responsive to certain situations. There is only one question – where is gore? Most enemies I killed, simply Ragdolled and disappeared. There were no gibs, no blood splashes, nor bones or skulls flying around. It made no sense to me, and I felt no impact when I hit and killed most of the enemies. Diablo III in my opinion had the perfect “gibs” technology where each enemy died uniquely, and it was always satisfying to feel the power of your character and seek more foes.
But overall, the combat system and spells look great. Plus, you can now use Dodge/Dash ability to avoid enemies, escape ambushes and generally move faster. Definitely a good addition to the game (reminds me of the console version of Diablo III with the dodge rolls).
But what I didn’t like within the first few minutes is the starting location. When you make a new character/class, it is always the same snowy cave, with not many roads to take and the first few hours are filled with “50 shades of gray” washed-out color scheme. While the snow ground looks and sounds good when you walk on it, the location itself is super generic in my opinion – It is filled with boring wide-open empty areas, narrow rocks, small dirty villages and typical spider caves (ALL done in grayish colors). This made things even worse when I encountered some dark-gray-looking enemies, that blended with the surroundings, and it was hard at times to distinguish the mob type in front of you.
Even Undecember (a mobile game), in my opinion, does a better job with mixing color schemes.
Yes, I understand, Blizzard tried to return to the roots and reproduce Diablo II dark atmosphere, but in my opinion, they applied too many dark colors without balancing the scene (at least for Act I). While most dungeons are dark, like in D1-D2, they don’t scare you anymore and there is not much gore to complement the atmosphere. At least there are no more cartoonish visuals as in Diablo III and I like it (Hello the
Cow Pony level).
Another minor change I didn’t like was the UI. Just for pure esthetics and to give respects to the predecessors, D1-D2 had gargoyles, angels, demons and many engravings for each window – Not anymore. Diablo IV has absolutely generic barebone UI which indie companies like to use – with two basic orbs (Health/Mana), and typical panel to press your skills – there is nothing else to see here – no ping bar (although it can be opened with double CTRL+R now), no icons to open your inventory, map or skills and no potion slots.
Another downgrade regarding this new UI is the inventory itself. There is no item management (aka. grid system) anymore. Some may like it, some not. Every single item you now pick will occupy only one tile. While it certainly simplifies the process of managing your items and saves some time, I think this system played an important role in giving players a choice: which items to pick and which to leave behind.
Moreover, this UI felt like it was a rip-off straight from a console version, because most window tabs are in full screen, and you basically see nothing what happens to your character – keep in mind that you are now playing an MMO and there is no pause even if you play solo. I wish Blizzard would redo the UI for PC and make it more compact and well-intuitive to read all the important information about your character and navigate the map without going half/full screen. It feels like, Diablo IV was initially designed exclusively for consoles, not PC.
The story is great, dialogue system is not
Now for the story – it’s intriguing. The story in Diablo 1-3 was quite trivial and it served one purpose – to introduce you to the demons you need to kill and get to know the world better. Diablo IV feels different. You really try to understand what has happened here, why all these people look and act weird and what’s the whole purpose of Lilith here. There are plenty of lore, books, plaques and statues to plunge into this dark world and many questions remain to be answered.
You also encounter some old characters from Diablo III (Lorath Nahr for example) and listen to their stories too. Maybe at some point, players will even hear or encounter the legendary Deckard Cain in “any form”. If not… well, I guess Blizzard doesn’t respect their fanbase. It’s absolutely ridiculous to know, that he managed to survive hordes of demons and a falling meteor, but was killed by some stupid butterfly. Seriously, I would accept it, if Cain gloriously died by the hand of Belial or Azmodan, but Maghda? What the hell…
Anyway, the story is compelling, the voice lines and the script are great, but… there is always but: some dialogues are unskippable for some reason. Even when I talked to a random beggar to start a daily (blue) quest, I had to listen all his voice lines, while my friends were waiting for me outside for a minute or two. And one more thing – it felt like I was playing some walking simulator, not the action-packed game: roughly 70% walking in repetitive dungeons and open areas, 20% fighting, and 10% listening to the actual story.
Many features are missing
When I played the beta, I had many questions and inconveniences with the reworked UI and QoL changes in general. It feels like Blizzard never made Diablo III or World of Warcraft, because most “essential” QoL are missing! Was it so hard for them to make a list of “best practices” to leave players satisfied? I don’t know.
- You can track only one quest (unlike in most MMOs including World of Warcraft)
- You can’t share a quest to a distant player or friend. He must be close to you to proceed
- Some classes (especially Druid) are underpowered, while Sorceress and Necromancer deal an insane amount of damage
- There is no search bar in your friends list. You have to find your friends manually!
- And no search bar inside your stash. Be ready to find it all on your own
- There is no map overlay, and most UI tabs are full-screen (suitable only for console players).
- You have to listen all the dialogues because some NPCs have no skip dialogue option
- You can’t ping to other player (ex. drop a flag as it was in Diablo III). At least you can now add a pin, and other players will see it
- Since it is a semi-MMO – where is event calendar? How am I supposed to know when a specific event or World Boss appears?
- There is no option to show enemy HP, and no option to always-show your HP/resource in numbers.
- You can’t teleport to another player via Portrait. You have to use Town portal instead.
And many other subtle features. Will they manage to fix all these before the official release? I don’t think so. The devs will be busy polishing Act I and classes, while the rest of the content remains untested.
First of all, I must say that this game is not boring (at least not when you are not walking). While exploring zones, I encountered many random events that helped me level up quicker. Reminds me of Diablo Immortal, where you walk to your objective and suddenly you start an event for easy XP.
During my play, I also unlocked many different dungeons with a fixed layout that granted me some “aspects” upon completion. I must say that these dungeons are quite useful to level up your character and get extra bonuses, but they, in my opinion take too much time to complete. Plus, some of these dungeons require you to backtrack a lot just for a single piece of rock.
Speaking of collectibles: Statues of Lilith, completed side quests, dungeons, and discovered zones – this progression is not account-wide. So, if you plan to make a new character, prepare to do all that stuff from scratch.
What I didn’t like are the quests in general, including the story missions (but it is an MMO, Bro). In 80% chances, the game asks you to kill few monsters or clear a dungeon and return for a reward. Some quests are made purely for “walking simulator” experience. This is where you walk to one objective, then another, and another objective and then… walk back for a reward.
In my opinion, these kinds of quests make no sense. The quests in Diablo II and Diablo III were trivial. but they were fun to follow, and they had some purpose + lore. Diablo IV, however, tries to give only generic quests for XP and they are not tailored into the main story.
MMO = Trading? Not really
Unfortunately, there are not many ways to interact with other players regarding trading. But this time you can trade gold. Clearly, it is a good addition to the game, as vendors and crafting prices are relatively high. At times, it can be hard to decide – to salvage or to sell your items? Because gold seems to be valuable in this game, at least during leveling. Basically, think twice before spending all your gold at once.
As for the items, you can’t trade legendaries. Probably because Blizzard doesn’t want to repeat Auction House mistakes from Diablo III and thus remove “third-party” traders from the game economy.
And don’t worry, you can still trade common (magic and rare) items with any player. But does a player really need your blue junk when you can easily find legendaries after completing random events and killing monsters?
Personally, I have never used this feature to give other players blue or yellow items. It doesn’t make much sense to me as well as in Diablo III. In my opinion, World of Warcraft still has a perfect trading system since its launch in 2004.
I don’t know about microtransactions just yet, because Blizzard hid the paid-shop menus in the Open Beta. According to their feedback after the D-Immortal’s business model, Blizzard have no plans to make Diablo IV heavily monetized. It will (only) have cosmetic skins, Battle Pass, and probably some seasonal (premium exclusive) items.
Most MMOs have paid character transfers, XP boosters, Loot boxes, so Diablo IV may still include some of these in a distant future. Similar formula existed in Overwatch 1 – where you pay for the base/deluxe game, and you can pay extra for loot boxes with the currency and in-game skins. (Now Overwatch 2 is free, but you pay more for Battle Passes and loot boxes).
Although you already pay at least $70+ for this “premium” and “well-polished” game, Blizzard might still need more money from you to give you fan-service content such as: new seasons, expansions, classes, DLC zones (like in TES Online), premium currency, starter packs and more. If their plan fails to monetize this game, Blizzard will certainly change the rules, whether you want it or not.
Optimization is basically top-notch. Even with my pathetic GeForce 1050Ti I can comfortably play on high-quality settings 1080p and 60fps without any frame drops or stuttering. While this game is pretty much stable and my GPU wasn’t overheating, I think you still need a decent, at least 4-core CPU, SSD, and lots of RAM, up to 32 Gigs. System requirements state that you need at least 8 GB of RAM, but I don’t think it would be comfortable playing this game.
The loading was barely taking a few seconds to get into town, and there weren’t any noticeable lags or texture buffering. The fight with the World Boss also remained stable at 60 fps even with all the spells, particles, and animations.
Overall, Diablo 4 seems to be pretty solid in terms of optimization while providing good visuals and effects even on outdated hardware. Fun fact, this game even worked on my laptop with integrated graphics on Intel Pentium N5030 and 4 Gigs of RAM. Although it could squeeze only 4 frames per second, it still managed to load into town without crashing or completely freezing. That means that old GPUs and laptops can easily run this game.
If compared with Wolcen (CryEngine 3), Lost Ark (Unreal Engine 3), Path of Exile or Last Epoch (Unity) which crashed a lot on my PC and caused overheating, I’d definitely pick Diablo 4, because it feels more stable while the system requirements remain quite moderate even to today’s standard.
There is not much to talk about end-game content during the open beta phase, but it appears that Diablo IV is going to have a lot of different ways to improve your characters.
First of all, you can increase the difficulty (aka. World Tier) level to Torment in town, for additional XP and empowerment. This will make common zones more challenging, and you will get more precious loot. There is nothing else to say. Hopefully, the devs don’t repeat the same mistake in Diablo 3 (power creep) by adding Torment 16+ difficulties. Most D3 builds are way overpowered nowadays, so the game should have included Torment 20 already.
Second, judging by Occultist NPC, players will be able to craft Nightmare Sigils (from Tier 1 to Tier 100) which strongly reminds Greater Rift system. But this time, instead of random portals, players will use specific sigils to transform normal dungeons (which drop class aspects) into a Nightmare version. Nightmare dungeons will have challenging modifiers, high-rarity loot, and more aggressive enemies.
Third, Diablo IV is filled with World Bosses and players will need to kill them either solo (if you are Pro) or in a group for high-tier rewards, XP and achievements. It is purely optional, and the game doesn’t force you to fight these bosses. Most MMOs like Lost Ark have such system, so if you are looking for extra challenge, or just want to have some fun with random players, World bosses can help you with this.
And the last End-game activity are possibly Raids? Blizzard hasn’t confirmed yet about this activity, but this semi-MMO game definitely needs something like this. Moreover, even Diablo Immortal has Raids system, although it is heavily simplified and squeezed for mobile gamers. I wish, Diablo IV would have something like raids, where you could play the most challenging dungeons with 8+ players, similar to World of Warcraft or Lost Ark. Recent Diablo games desperately need an increased party capacity (hello 8-Player limitation from Diablo 2).
As a side note, Diablo IV will certainly have Seasons, just as in Diablo III, but how will they look like is still unknown. At least, we know, that Seasons will be tied to Battle Pass, and Blizzard will never miss a chance to update it to keep players for longer and suck more money from them.
Overall Pros and Cons
- Good visuals with many sharp and hi-res models
- Crafting and upgrading systems
- Class specializations
- Intriguing story with lore and high-quality cutscenes
- Sound design and music is top-notch
- Smooth combat and responsive controls
- Skills tree is straightforward, and you can refund points any time
- Bosses are fun and rewarding, especially when you team-up with your friends
- Decent optimization even on budget PCs (You still need SSD and more RAM for better experience)
- Legendary items have many different stats and unique bonuses
- Not much gore and impact from your attacks/spells
- Unskippable dialogues can be annoying at times
- Many QoL features are missing that are present in previous games
- It’s MMO – Consider it as another voluntarily job
- Global events don’t allow joining an entire server
- Trading is questionable
- Too many repetitive and large dungeons with pointless backtracking
- You must visit town to change difficulty
- You pay $70+ and still need to pay more for Battle Pass, Seasons, Skins and more in a future
- Some classic attributes were renamed and added new unnecessary mechanics
- UI is generic and not very convenient for PC players
- Many quests lack motivation and serve no purpose
Should you pre-order/buy this game?
It is definitely a hard question to answer. Personally, I wasn’t impressed the first time it was announced to the public in 2019. Judging by the gameplay trailers, it was a typical ARPG with loot and poor “washed-out” visuals. I played many ARPGs before – Lost Ark, Wolcen, Last Epoch, Diablo 2 Resurrected, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, Torchlight 1-3, Titan Quest and many other games. I saw all that before. And I guess, it is hard nowadays to impress me, because I’m old.
Diablo IV is not a unique game anymore. Diablo III and other competitors have much more interesting features than this game, which players have been waiting for 10 years. Of course, Diablo IV delivers a high-quality story with varied end-game content to keep players engaged, but there are some other things to consider the purchase.
The game costs over $70 in most of the regions, including CIS countries – yes, even Ukraine or Georgia has to pay $70 to play this game. Are you nuts, Blizzard? The average salary in these countries is below $300! Anyway, in my humble opinion, the price tag is unreasonably high, and for a few reasons: First, the game is definitely unpolished (aka. Early Access) and lacks many features from the previous games. Second, even if you purchase the game, you may need to pay few extra bucks later – to unlock Battle Pass, Skins, Seasonal Bonuses? who knows what else. And last reason, it is clearly an MMO, and they clearly will push more “live-service” or expansions later. Honestly, the $30-$40 price tag would be more than enough for that game – Many more players will be able to access this game, spend some money in the in-game shop if needed and invite their friends if they like – it is win-win.
Speaking of Preorder/Purchase bonuses – there are basically none, well, except for a few cosmetics for outdated Diablo III, World of Warcraft and P2W Diablo Immortal. You will also receive (from Deluxe) Premium Battle Pass, but nobody knows what’s inside it, right? Not until the game is released. And how long will this Pass last? Probably 2-3 months, if compared with other games, like Destiny 2, Diablo Immortal or Overwatch 2.
Another reason not to buy this game (for some of the players!) would be the MMO aspect in general. It’s not World of Warcraft for sure, with tons of daily quests, crafting routine, raids, or calendar events, but consider Diablo IV as your voluntary job. Diablo III certainly has less content, but it is straightforward, and the game doesn’t force you to compete with others (except for leaderboards or paragon points) – you create your own plan and play just for fun.
I’m still looking forward to playing this game and see what it has to offer. But right now, I don’t feel very excited or hyped to make an instant purchase. I think it deserves a solid 7/10 score at most, given the current state of the beta.