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Diablo IV

Diablo IV

Written by Elliot Hilderbrand on 6/9/2023 for PS5  
More On: Diablo IV

I have taken my time with Diablo 4. In previous installments, I have found myself rushing from one act to another, trying to level as quickly as possible. All I wanted was to be at the endgame, grinding for that sweet, sweet loot. Something was different this time. Perhaps it’s my age, I’m no spring chicken; it could be because I knew I would be writing a review. But Diablo 4 has made me slow down and appreciate the little things. I pick up every side quest I find, I watch and listen to every word spoken. I feel like I am my character, Otto, the druid who looks a little to close to my actual appearance. I was afraid, after the last Diablo game was released, the one on mobile, that I might no longer enjoy my time in Diablo’s world of Sanctuary. Not to worry, it turns out.

I think there are a few reason why I found myself taking my time and really experiencing everything Diablo 4 has to offer. The world itself feels different. As one fluid map, I don’t feel like I am just being transported from place to place to fight bugs, monsters, crawl through dungeons just to reach the end, or whatever fetch quest I’ve been sent on. Instead, I feel like I’m searching for ancient ruins with a local druid, only to find the opening blocked by some plagued bushes, forcing us to find another way in. Once inside, we learn that this isn’t a library, but a graveyard for those that have come before us. We now have to fight our way out and get back to town to warn the village. The world of Diablo 4 feels more alive than it has in any iteration before. 

Not only do I care about the world I’m playing in, but I also care about how I level through it. The choices are endless, and I don’t just mean when it comes to classes. Each class has so many choices to make, the worst part is that most of them feel fun and I want to try them all. I’m sure some styles of leveling are better than others, but I'm doing my best not to care, with limited success. I’ve spent most of my time playing as a Sorcerer or Druid, and I can’t stop wanting to try something new. As a druid I can be the person who goes around with wolves, snakes, and crows doing most of my dirty work, or I can decide to shapeshift into a werewolf and take care of business myself. Both are fun, both offer something different, and I can switch between them without having to change to a different character.

Once I hit the level cap with one character I want to try it again with another. Diablo 4 continues the Diablo legacy of being friendly to playing more than one character. Once you finish the campaign the first time, you can skip it on the following characters, instead of going straight to the open world part of the game, if you want. You can also use your mount on all characters, once you’ve unlocked the feature, something that I was very thankful for. The renowned system, potion capacity, gold and obols are all carried over from one character to the next. All the alter of Lilith buffs also carry over, you can still activate them on a new character for additional benefits. Diablo 4 wants me to invest time, and thankfully it doesn’t force me to do everything from scratch. I hope Blizzard will find a way to let some of these features to help aid in the transition from season to season as the game ages. 

Once you finish the campaign you are far from being done with Diablo 4, some might even say the game is finally starting. Diablo has always felt like two games, the leveling and the endgame, or seasons. Some of the endgame content like the Tree of Whispers is open to me now while we wait for the first season begins in earnest, sometime around a month from this review's release. I did find the ending satisfying but perhaps found the end fight to be a little easier than I expected it to be. I hate to talk about the plot of games, there’s nothing like ruining something for someone else. I will say this one is the best of the series to date. It is worth taking your time to watch the scenes play out, wait to skip them on the second playthrough.

There are a few items that did not gel perfectly for me. I loved how the map and world look and feel. There are some great NPCs, but many of them offered little to see or experience. Towns look and feel as they should on first glance, but end up feeling dead a lot of the time. Some NPCs have their feet glued to the floor, never moving, never adding anything other than simple line, frequently worried and positive that, ‘we should really stop Lilith.’ I’m trying, now let me sell off all the crap gear I’ve collected in the last half hour. Diablo 4 is the biggest game in terms of scope and story; I do not like that the endgame content begins before I reach the level cap, in fact, it starts at the halfway point of leveling. I would have preferred the level cap to be lower to match the content, and then focus on the endgame leveling system. Playing with friends is easy, usually. There was only one hiccup while trying to form a party with friends. It took around a half hour to get all four of us in the same party and chat, a minor inconvenience at worst.

After hours upon hours, this is still an ARPG. It’s still repetitive. There are only so many monsters to slay before it feels like I’m just pushing buttons. That feeling of repetitiveness went away when I limited myself to a few hours a day; I always looked forward to my next session when I left myself wanting more, but found after a few long sessions, I was ready for a bit of a break.

I’m fine with the current array of microtransactions; there doesn’t seem to be any pay-to-win out of the gate. Will that change? I don’t know, wouldn’t be surprised if it does. While the cost of horse armor is $25 it doesn’t mean much to me, if you want it go for it. Currently, the shop doesn’t hurt Diablo 4.

One thing I really enjoy about Diablo IV is the social aspect; the open world feels more like an MMO. It’s not claustrophobic, doesn’t feel like it’s broken up. Acts lead into one another and help push the great story further. Diablo 3 felt like it required playing with someone else, Diablo 4 didn’t feel that way while playing through the campaign, but I can see that changing in the back half when seasons begin. I’m not sure how the endgame or seasons will feel when they come, but I am hopeful. I know I’ll play through the first season with friends and gauge that experience with trying the next one.

Before playing Diablo 4 I was worried.  I was unsure if Diablo 4 would feel like the previous mainline entries or if it would be something closer to the mobile one. But Diablo IV appeals to me; someone who feels like the ARPG genre hasn’t offered much change in the last few big ARPG titles released. The world, the classes, the story, it's great.

Diablo always feels like a tale of two games in one. You level, you play the endgame. While season one isn’t here just yet, I can say the first part of the game - the leveling - was excellent. A great story, beautiful environment, and a blast to play with friends. I still feel like only time will tell how Diablo IV looks and feels in a year, or even after the first season, but with this first salvo, it is definitely starting off strong. 

As the fourth entry to a series, I am beyond impressed with Diablo IV. The developers have managed to find a way to make the ARPG genre feel new and refreshing. I was worried about a lot of common tropes I see in the genre, but that was not an issue. My biggest gripe is the world is so big that having to walk around it instead of using a mount for so long was the worst part. How will the seasons play out? Will I want to play every season, or just the first couple? That’s not something I can predict right now, but my guess is Diablo 4 will have me sticking around and jumping into a new season every so often for the next couple of years.

Rating: 9.5 Exquisite

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).

While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).

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