Diablo gave birth to the ARPG genre over 25 years ago, and Diablo 2 defined what it means to be a good ARPG just 3 years later. Diablo III made the genre more mainstream and…well, not much else. But times have changed and there have been a number of excellent ARPGs released between Diablo and Diablo 3 that managed to give the series a run for its money. Games like Grim Dawn, Path of Exile and Last Epoch took the fundamentals Blizzard established and made it their own. 10 years after the last installment, Diablo IV is here to reclaim its ARPG throne. Bossman Ayush may have given it a glowing review in his review (linked below), but I’m a hard man to please. There’s a lot I have to say about Diablo IV, so let’s get on with it.
Home is where Hell is
Fifty years have passed after the events of Reaper of Souls and Sanctuary is still a literal hellhole, claiming its place alongside Gotham City as one of the worst places to live in. The eternal battle between Heaven and Hell rages on but we have a new player in town. Lilith- Mephisto’s daughter, the mother of Sanctuary, and the former lover of the fallen angel Inarius has made her presence known. As all hell breaks loose, fragments of humanity struggle to survive. Just another day in Sanctuary.
I never expected to say this, but Diablo IV’s story…is actually decent. Granted, the story is the least important aspect of an ARPG, but it doesn’t hurt to have an engaging narrative. Diablo IV’s story won’t win anyone over, but it gives you more incentive to slay millions of ungodly beings throughout the lengthy campaign. Big kudos go to the folks who wrote Lilith, who comes across as a ‘fleshed out’ big bad. Following Lilith’s campaign of carnage, getting to meet interesting folks and wallowing in their suffering provides for a decent campaign. The excellent cinematics and well-directed in-engine cutscenes help as well!
Two Steps Forward…
Compared to its previous iterations and competitors, there are a lot of things Diablo IV does better, and some things it comes up a bit short on. Diablo IV nails one of the most important elements of an ARPG- combat. The combat, regardless of which character you play, feels extremely satisfying and highly addictive. Diablo games always had combat that felt good but Diablo IV takes it to a whole another level and polishes it to a shine. Barbarian, Druid, Rogue, Sorcerer and Necromancer, the five characters Diablo IV shipped with all feel good to control and kill even better. You click on things and the said things die in a very satisfying manner. Whether you’re taking a gigantic axe to the face of demonic forces or blasting them from afar with colorful spells, it feels amazing on both the mouse and keyboard and on a controller. An absolute joy it is!
Then there’s the amount of content available at launch. Aside from the lengthy
single-player campaign, there is a shitload of optional dungeons (that actually reward the player), Nightmare dungeons, side quests, world bosses, paragon levels, random events, Helltide events, and more. Then there’s the first Season beginning on July 20. Even if you’re a casual player, expect yourself to put in 50 hours minimum. Is the content worth full price with no regional pricing? Well, it depends on where you live. In India, paying a whopping 5,599/- INR for the base edition is quite an ask.
Another thing Diablo IV aces is the presentation. The universally-hated art design from Diablo III is gone for good. Diablo IV looks and feels like the natural evolution of the series, rather than an aberration. The art design is dark, and gloomy without coming across as drab, and the visuals are of high fidelity. Even though you view the game from a bird’s eye point of view 99% of the time, Blizzard has put time and effort into designing each piece of equipment. There’s a reason why Diablo IV drips are trending these days.
Few Steps Back
Now we address the Baal in the dungeon. Diablo IV, like its predecessor, is an always-online game. Actually, it’s more akin to an MMO this time around. You’ll need to be always online to play even the single-player content and a lot of end-game stuff in the game is made with co-op play in mind. Now, in a perfect world, this wouldn’t be that big of an issue. But that is not the case. Even though Diablo IV plays perfectly fine on the Steam Deck and other high-end portable handhelds, the always online nature of the game means that you won’t be able to play on the go smoothly. It’s such a bummer too as the game would fit perfectly that bill.
Moreover, people with poor internet connections are going to have issues with latency, disconnects, and the like. Players from third-world countries will be able to relate to this. Furthermore, the DDOS attack that happened last week further proves the downsides of an always-online game. There are also plenty of reports from players who’s had their hardcore characters getting killed permanently due to network troubles and server issues from Blizzard’s end. I guess it’s a curse protectors of Sanctuary will have to live with.
Another gripe I have with the game is its reliance on microtransactions in a premium-priced game. Even though the microtransactions are cosmetic-only, Blizzard is selling items ranging from $1.99 to $99.99. Furthermore, Blizzard is planning to add a Battle Pass to Diablo IV Seasons starting with Season One with 63 tiers of items locked behind a paywall. There’s also an option to purchase tier skips at an additional cost with the Accelerated tier, priced at $25. Even though these are completely optional, I’m an old-fashioned guy and I like to call out bullshit when I see some.
Then there is stuff like the completely unremarkable and pointless open-world design, unable to customize individual UI elements, the lack of a map overlay, the divisive level-scaling, repetitive boss fights, and unintuitive UI elements that bring down an otherwise excellent gameplay experience.
Diablo IV is undeniably a good game with amazing combat, varied skills, lots of build variety, and an excellent presentation. It may not have the same amount of content as other indie ARPGs out there, but what it does have, it very much nails. Even though the MMO nature of things, combined with the lack of QoL features, a boring open world, and bad pricing hold back the experience somewhat, the polished moment-to-moment gameplay makes sure that Diablo will always have a spot among the best ARPGs in the market.
FINAL RATING: 86/100