Diablo 4 review: a hell of a hack-n-slash RPG

diablo 4 review a hell of a hack n slash rpg 397268

Diablo 4 promotional image of Lillith.

“Diablo 4’s wealth of loot and meaningful customization systems make up for most of its frustrating MMO concessions.”

Pros.

  • Frenetic combat.
  • Endless sights and experiences await.
  • Captivating narratives that delve into the depths of imagination.
  • Extensive options for personalizing your character.
  • Meaningful progression.
  • Cons.

  • An infuriating setup that constantly requires an internet connection.
  • Slow start.
  • On my way to the bustling streets of Kyovashad, a shimmering azure symbol caught my attention, leading me towards a damsel in distress. Little did I know, this marked the beginning of a series of captivating escapades in Diablo 4. My task? To find a lost monk who had vanished during his journey to the northern village of Menestad. Filled with curiosity, I eagerly embarked on this quest, ready to embark on a thrilling adventure.

    During my journey, I stumbled upon a radiant cave entrance that beckoned me to explore its depths. Once inside, I valiantly vanquished countless adversaries and amassed a wealth of riches that would rival even the treasures hidden within Tristram’s ancient cathedral. After embarking on meticulously crafted quests, exhilarating open-world events, and immersive dungeon expeditions for approximately 20 hours, my formidable level 35 Druid had effortlessly traversed all five expansive regions of the open world. Astonishingly, I had not even come close to embarking on the initial quest of the first act in the main storyline.

    The thing that really grabbed my attention were the numerous hidden corners and crevices of Sanctuary, a realm teeming with captivating narratives that defied my expectations for a game primarily centered around slaying demons for the sake of leveling up. By the time I approached the threshold of level 50, I had already conquered most of the main storyline and witnessed a multitude of dark and compelling tales unfold, brought to life through immersive writing and captivating voice performances that one would typically find in a high-profile role-playing game.

    Honestly, I am eagerly anticipating my return to Diablo 4 for yet another exhilarating adventure, eagerly awaiting the moment when all my comrades can join me in the quest.

    Lilith in chains

    Similar to its predecessors, Diablo 4 immerses players into a haunting RPG adventure, as they venture through gloomy dungeons, battling hordes of foes and acquiring precious treasures. This installment, however, introduces a myriad of enhancements, transforming it into a contemporary MMO designed to captivate players for extended periods of time. In order to achieve this goal, the RPG amplifies the already commendable features of the series, akin to equipping a character with an upgraded ensemble of equipment.

    The realm of class personalization in Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3 has undergone a remarkable evolution, leaving behind the past and venturing into uncharted territories.

    The lore of Diablo’s Sanctuary is steeped in dark tales, and this becomes exceptionally evident in Diablo 4. The enigmatic yet undeniably wicked main antagonists captivate with their cunning strategies, enhancing the entire campaign. Additionally, the exceptional attention to detail in graphics, music, and sound design surpasses expectations, despite the frustrating requirement of being always online. An early demonstration of its remarkable fusion of action, world-building, and narrative unfolds in a captivating side-quest at the beginning zone. Here, I found myself venturing into a frozen clearing, in search of a villager’s missing husband, only to discover him gruesomely bound and tormented, his desperate pleas for more devastation reminiscent of the chilling essence found in Hellraiser.

    Diablo 4’s five zones are brimming with such captivating moments. Among them, there is a particular zone called Scosglen, which is undeniably influenced by Celtic aesthetics. The element of body horror in this zone is seamlessly integrated into the overarching plot, showcasing the distinct essence of the series. It must be emphasized that Diablo has reached unprecedented levels of darkness in this installment, surpassing even the brooding Gothic atmosphere of Diablo 2 in terms of thematic impact.

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    Naturally, a Diablo game wouldn’t be complete without intricate character classes that allow for ample customization to suit your unique playstyle once the battles commence. The customization options in class selection have evolved significantly from Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3, particularly in the later stages of the game. This is primarily attributed to an expansive skill tree that is specific to each class, offering a comprehensive and forgiving framework unlike anything seen in Diablo 4’s predecessors. The classes have been intricately divided, providing abundant opportunities to delve into various skills and passive enhancements that often encourage specific gameplay styles. This becomes even more apparent as you progress to higher levels, where you unlock game-altering abilities such as the Ultimate and Key Passive skills, which have the potential to fundamentally transform the way a character functions.

    A player attacks druids in Diablo 4.
    Activision Blizzard

    Bestowing my Druid with a Key Passive ability, I granted him the power to unleash a mesmerizing combination of Storm spells and their elemental counterparts. Whenever he flung a lightning bolt, the recipient would be at risk of encountering fissures bursting from beneath their feet, inflicting double the usual damage. To amplify the chaos, I paired this ability with one of the Druid’s four Ultimate powers – a spell that summons an entire thunderous tempest, complete with swirling tornadoes. The amalgamation of these extraordinary abilities resulted in a thrilling game of chance, where a fortunate roll of the dice would bring forth cataclysmic destruction. Witnessing a minor earthquake and enduring the wrath of the tempestuous weather I conjured, my adversaries faced an unpleasant fate indeed.

    Class progression is enhanced by a myriad of beneficial enhancements; every class kit includes an additional tertiary progression system, alongside skills and equipment — and the mechanics of these systems differ greatly from class to class. Take the Druid, for example, who unlocks their Spirit Boons through a comprehensive side-quest chain and establishing a stronghold for Druids in Scosglen. Upon completing this, I gained access to a specialized resource that significantly amplified my power in specific ways, surpassing what I would have achieved by skipping the quest entirely. Moreover, each of the four Druid totems possesses its own unique theme, allowing me to adapt my Spirit Boons to suit various playstyles. Thankfully, there is minimal repercussion for experimenting with different approaches to your class, apart from a nominal fee for refunding skill points at higher levels.

    Gimme the loot

    The level of intricacy and complexity in this class surpasses anything I have come across in any other ARPG, excluding Path of Exile or maybe Lost Ark. However, it is still quite uncommon to encounter items that possess such individual power that they completely transform your gameplay in the early stages. The absence of that exhilarating “wow” factor in Diablo 4’s loot during the initial 20 hours felt like a sudden departure from Diablo 2, leaving me resenting the fact that I was immersed in an always-online pseudo-MMORPG rather than a single-player RPG that didn’t have to concern itself with balancing countless online player characters.

    Embrace the journey of patience as it gradually unfolds, for the rewards that await are a testament to the dedication put into shaping your character.

    At later levels, I found I’d accumulated enough legendary gear pieces and high-level gems to deliberately hone in on a specific playstyle that’d have been unachievable had I not had those items equipped, and I have to laud Diablo 4 for how much customization exists at those higher levels. Embrace the journey of patience as it gradually unfolds, for the rewards that await are a testament to the dedication put into shaping your character.

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    Each piece of equipment in Diablo 4’s arsenal typically has a limited impact on specific traits and statistics, mainly within your class’s skill tree, rather than introducing entirely new mechanics. While you won’t stumble upon a flaming sword or a weapon that unleashes lightning bolts, there is a chance you might come across a staff that enhances the potency of your Druid’s poison spells or alters the effects of your lycanthrope abilities. Fortunately, this approach seamlessly integrates with Diablo 4’s robust class system. Moreover, thanks to the upgrading system, the game doesn’t feel like a monotonous cycle of acquiring loot, where you constantly discard your best gear in pursuit of marginal increases in your character’s statistics.

    Diablo IV characters stand in a cathedral.
    Activision Blizzard

    Instead of relying on Diablo 3’s conventional crafting system, players now have the opportunity to enhance their current gear, infuse legendary “aspects” with impressive stat enhancements obtained from conquering dungeons, and even augment their prized equipment with gem sockets, ensuring their longevity. This newfound freedom allowed me to truly shape my Druid’s playstyle, especially after stumbling upon a satisfying skill rotation that became my go-to strategy in every battle.

    It’s a big world after all

    Diablo 4’s vast open world offers an impressive array of diverse content, allowing players to freely explore in any direction and discover an abundance of engaging activities at every turn. Moreover, as you progress and increase in level, additional regions will unlock, expanding the adventure. Although the review servers lacked player population, preventing encounters with formidable bosses like Ashava, I never experienced a sense of inadequacy when facing quests or dungeons solo.

    And oh boy, are they abundant in abundance.

    Unlike Lost Ark, which uses sea routes to separate its open world and offers extraneous activities like customizable fortresses, Diablo 4 takes a different approach. It focuses on its core gameplay loops, making it a great option for solo players. The world of Sanctuary is teeming with activities that shower you with loot, lore, and plenty of gore. Whether you’re playing alone or with a team, you’ll encounter dynamic world events, towns, and quests in the static overworld that is shared by all players on the server. If you’re up for a challenge, you can even enter more difficult instances of the shared world through World Tier, which rewards you with better loot and tougher enemies. However, the classic dungeon-crawling experience that fans of Diablo and Diablo 2 love can be found underground, within the numerous procedurally-generated dungeons and cellars scattered across the map.

    A player attacks druids in Diablo 4.
    Activision Blizzard

    These encounters bring great satisfaction, particularly because each dungeon incorporates a tileset that matches its respective region and concludes with a distinctive boss featuring exclusive mechanics. Although story quests offer an alternative to dungeons, they remain the most efficient method for leveling up and acquiring valuable loot, despite the potential repetitiveness and grind associated with traversing every dungeon in order to fully explore the world map. Fortunately, a vast array of demons, beasts, and undead creatures awaits your slaying no matter which path you choose.

    The way Diablo 4 manages its expansive open world, divided into five unique regions, has left a profound impact on me. As the main quest progresses, a delightful surprise awaits you – your very own mount. This newfound ability to ride, instead of relying on foot travel, proves incredibly useful in traversing the vastness of this world. Nevertheless, I must admit, there was an exhilarating joy in sprinting across the entire world on foot, mercilessly slaying every foe in my way, and amassing an abundance of loot to enhance my equipment numerous times over.

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    After dedicating nearly 1,000 hours to The Elder Scrolls Online, I initially felt disheartened by the presence of a level-scaling system that seemed to diminish my progress in a way that felt all too familiar. However, as I continued my journey, this system unexpectedly grew on me. It offered a unique blend of challenge and enticing rewards wherever I ventured. Furthermore, I was astounded by the seamless implementation of this system when players of varying levels collaborated and battled hordes of monsters together.

    Diablo 4 has truly revolutionized the hack-n-slash ARPG genre, presenting remarkable advancements and delivering an absolute blast of entertainment.

    Harnessing the intricate art of mechanical sorcery, Diablo 4 impressively treads the fine line of ensuring adversaries remain persistently formidable, regardless of your location or your character’s level. Simultaneously, it instills an unmistakable sensation of progress as your character ascends to the pinnacle of power, mastering every skill in their arsenal.

    Equally as impressive as the gameplay’s balancing act, Diablo 4’s audio design commands attention. The eerie and captivating tones from Diablo 2’s soundtrack make a triumphant return, accompanied by an experimental, diverse, and ambient musical score that occasionally bursts with energy. This score artfully captures the cultural nuances of the game’s five major zones. The Fractured Peaks exude Eastern European themes, while the realm of Scosglen draws inspiration from Scotland, and the sandy slopes of Kehjistan transport players with Middle-Eastern sounds reminiscent of Lut Gholein from Diablo 2. Diablo 4’s hauntingly beautiful music perfectly complements its exceptional sound design. Through masterful audio spatialization, the game weaves together a chaotic symphony of sounds that engulfed my senses, transforming each battle into a satisfying auditory spectacle. This attention to detail also adds a tangible presence to every character, enhancing the immersive cinematic cutscenes and dialogue sequences.

    A rogue attacks enemies in Diablo 4.
    Activision Blizzard

    I encountered a few technical glitches caused by a sudden disconnection from Diablo 4’s servers, but I didn’t come across any crashes or glitches that took away from the game’s overall polished feel. It’s a well-executed game in every aspect, and as long as the servers don’t completely fail on the first day, I’m hopeful for a smooth and bug-free launch. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are concerns about Activision-Blizzard’s plans for post-launch support in terms of microtransactions and pay-to-win elements. This review is written with uncertainty regarding how these aspects will be integrated. Although I know a cash shop is set to be introduced when the servers go live next week, I didn’t have the chance to see it firsthand during my review period. Like any other online game, both the company’s practices and the overall gameplay experience are subject to change at any time. Nevertheless, Diablo 4 has made significant improvements to the hack-n-slash ARPG genre, and it offers a tremendous amount of enjoyment.

    Diablo 4 charges forward with a captivating fusion of immersive narrative, captivating gameplay, and cutting-edge audio-visual aesthetics. Consequently, it emerges as a revolutionary entry in the realm of action role-playing games, notwithstanding my lingering reservations regarding its obligatory online multiplayer and potential forthcoming microtransactions.

    The PC version of Diablo 4 underwent a comprehensive evaluation.

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