The launch of Diablo IV has been incredibly smooth, and nothing short of miraculous. It’s one of Blizzard’s best launches in history, to include a reasonable waiting time in the queue and minimal lag. This only enhances my experience with the game pre and post-launch. This is easily Blizzard’s finest game in many years, and one of the best Diablo games yet. With cross-play, cross-progression, strong character customization, and a story worth paying attention to; there’s a lot to like here. Diablo IV is devilishly good, with strong systems that carry it well into its endgame.
Taking place 50 years after the events of Diablo III, Lilith, the daughter of Mephisto has taken it upon herself to fill the void that the prime evils have left, and take Sanctuary for her own. It’s a tale as old as time, and has echoes of the events of Diablo II , yet manages to be enthralling adventure for the 20 or so hours it takes to complete it. Diablo IV ‘s cutscenes are also some of Blizzard’s most detailed work, and feature bloody and displays of brutality. A strength of the writing is that this is also the most invested in a Diablo story I’ve been.
The Diablo series is what gave birth to the term “action RPG” (ARPG), where you’ll either click endlessly to deliver devastating attacks or press hotkeys to unleash powerful spells. Seeing the numbers go higher and wash, rinse, and repeat your way across the map is a series staple. It’s a simple premise with complex mechanics that I never tire of as I mindlessly dungeon crawl.
At launch, there are five character classes to choose from: Barbarian, Necromancer, Rogue, Druid, and Sorcerer. The Barbarian is a tanky character that utilizes rage to hit the hardest. The Necromancer summons the dead as an army to do their bidding, Rogues specialize in bows and daggers for ultra quick attacks, Druids harness nature and transform into creatures, and lastly Sorcerers cast magic of lightning, ice, and fire for lethal combinations. Each class is obviously and decidedly different, but functions well enough on its own without requiring to play with others, so there’s no such thing as a “bad class”. All classes have their own skill trees, but utilize their own upgrade systems, too. Once you complete the campaign with one character, all future characters get a “skip campaign” button that can jump straight to a post-story world. Created an alternate character first like I did? The button will show up for them too, it’s rather smart.
A deviation from prior games, Diablo IV sets you off in three directions allowing you to play any of the first three acts in any order. You’ll also have main quests, side quests, and priority quests. This opens up the game in pretty significant ways, giving the player more freedom and choice, but not locking them into a linear path. These quests also feature a healthy amount of dialogue, letting the character choose a response and be able to inquire further. The number of quests are staggering, and each of them are interesting in their own right, even if they can be distilled down to fetch quests or just kill everything types. This is the kind of game that you should know what to expect when going into it, as there aren’t many surprises or variations on what you get here.
In addition to tackling the first three acts and quests in any order, is the fact that you now have an open-world to explore. There are five massive regions, from the snowy Fractured Peaks you start in to the Scottish-themed Scosglen to the craggy Dry Steppes. There’s some real diverse biomes that make you feel like you’re crossing vast distances, and it’s easily the biggest and best Sanctuary has been. With a world so big, walking around on foot isn’t great for all of it. Thankfully, after the completion of Act III and a few quests into Act IV, you get a horse mount that is permanently unlocked. And even better, is that mounts are then unlocked for all current and future alternate classes you make. I recommend that you wait to really explore and uncover the map until you get your mount, then you can gather renown from other region and find the Altars of Lilith collectibles. It will be a far more enjoyable experience this way.
After completing the story, which spans six acts, there’s a whole world of activities to participate in. There are dungeons to complete, strongholds to conquer, waypoints to unlock, world events to participate in, and world bosses to fight. World events and bosses are repeatable, and dungeons are too, but their rewards only unlock once. Strongholds, once completed may even unlock a waypoint and a town to teleport to. Diablo IV is not short on things to do, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The game is split into three phases, with levels 1 to 50 as the “main game”, Mid-Game is levels 50 to 75, and Endgame is level 75 and beyond. What Diablo IV does different this time, is level scaling, which does keep the power fantasy on a leash.
After level 50, is when the game really opens up, even beyond completing the story. You’ll gain access to paragon boards, which lets you invest a new set of points into enhancing your character even further. You’ll also get a new kind of currency that lets you partake in Nightmare Dungeons, harder dungeons with modifiers and a limit on resurrections, with greater rewards over traditional dungeons. Whispers of the Wood is an endlessly replayable series of challenges the net you rewards caches of your choosing. And randomly, the skies will darken and rain blood, beginning a Helltide Events. These events spawn tougher world enemies that drop a currency that can be spent on chests randomly placed in the area to drop higher quality gear. For something labeled as “mid-game”, it feels like endgame and manages to compel me to play more than I normally would.
The game is designed to be played with people, and there’s ways to play in co-op with strangers you come across, even without a matchmaking feature. The level scaling mentioned earlier allows anyone to play together, regardless of level, and regardless of campaign completion. And in practice, this is a lot of fun, even if campaign progress is only saved to the host. Dungeons on the other hand, get completed for all party members, even if they didn’t go into the dungeon. This is a trade-off that makes sense, and there’s some really smart decisions here.
While there’s a lot to like, and even love, there are some things missing from Diablo IV that would improve it. I’d love to see an overlay map return, so that I don’t have to obscure what’s on screen or stop attacking just to see where in a dungeon I haven’t explored yet. I’ve amassed a lot of gems, and not having a separate inventory to store them seems like a big miss. While it would be nice, the lack of a loot filter makes it problematic in later tiers. You can mark loot as junk, you can’t mark loot you want to keep as a favorite. For whatever reason, mounts have a cooldown even when out of combat, and a lot around the mounts could be improved. Lastly, if you’ve uncovered the whole map with one character, that should apply to the rest of them, but that’s not the case today. None of these issues are game breaking or actually a problem, but they would improve the quality of life.
The visuals of Diablo IV can be likened as a mix of styles from the dark gothic of Diablo II and Diablo III ‘s color and style. They mix well to feel reminiscent, but totally new. The game on the whole is visually dense and high fidelity graphics, and when in a party with different classes, the particle effects on display will have you in awe. The game runs extremely well, utilizing DLSS 3 and DLSS Frame Generation. At any time I’m well over 200 frames per second, and never dipping below 150fps, it’s some incredible tech and looks extremely good. Blizzard even plans to implement Ray Tracing in the future, and while it will be a hit to performance, I can’t wait to see it. This is a game designed to run on a variety of PCs, and seems well optimized.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG RYUJIN II 360 ARGB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.SKILL TRIDENT Z5 6000MHZ 64GB (32×2) DDR5 RAM
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)
The Diablo series continues to be timeless, and Diablo IV is no different, becoming an instant classic. There are so many systems in play at any time, whether it be the skill tree, paragon boards, glyphs, or elixirs, it all comes together – the devil is in the details. There’s so much game here, and there’s hundreds of hours of content, without the Season Pass even being live yet. And with everything leading up to and after the launch of the game being so smooth, the game is set for success. The complexion of Diablo IV could change in a year, or even six months from now. Though, as it stands currently, Diablo IV is a hell of a good time.
A Battle.net code for the Ultimate Edition was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes