Diablo 4 review

diablo 4 review 940316

Our Verdict

Within the realms of Diablo 4, one can uncover an abundance of formidable class configurations and thrilling treasures to unearth. However, this darkened realm overshadows its imaginative elements with an excessively desolate atmosphere and constricting endgame structures.

Craving for Knowledge.

Diablo 4 character close-up

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

What exactly is it? An action-packed RPG brimming with treasure in a nightmarish realm.

Unveiling its magic on the enchanting day of June 6th, 2023.

Anticipate shelling out a sum of $70.

Developer Blizzard.

The powerhouse in the gaming industry, Activision Blizzard.

Experienced on the mighty RTX 3080 Ti, accompanied by the powerful i9 12900K and a whopping 32GB RAM.

The Steam Deck, alas, finds itself in the realm of the unsupported.

Connect to the Official Website.

Diablo 4 embarks on a daring quest to immerse us in its shadowy realm of fantasy, only to confront the insurmountable challenge of reconciling it with the ability to summon a mythical two-handed axe from a wolf. The narrative unfolds with the finesse of a blockbuster Marvel movie, captivating us for an extensive duration, yet despite the solemn proclamations of Diablo 4’s melancholic ensemble, we assume the role of a valiant superhero, armed with a vacant inventory yearning to be brimming with treasures.

Concealed beneath the guise of Blizzard’s most recent action RPG lies a surprising revelation: Diablo 4 emerges as a rebirth. Although deemed superfluous, this reboot undertakes a commendable mission – to transform the series’ inherent capabilities into a contemporary live service structure that seamlessly integrates into the bustling lives of gamers, who undoubtedly possess an array of alternative gaming options. After concluding its enthralling campaign, Diablo 4 gradually unveils its magnificent intricacies, yet the burdensome arduousness curbs the imaginative potential within its elaborate RPG mechanics.

Today’s dominant model of live service gaming, as seen in games like Destiny 2, may initially appear to be compatible with Diablo’s co-op gameplay that is known for its replayability. However, implementing this model in Diablo 4 would necessitate a major overhaul. The game begins with a narrative-driven adventure, but the true highlights of the experience only reveal themselves after completing the main campaign. Exciting features such as the Grim Favors quests, inspired by MMOs, and the intense Helltide events with roguelike elements, are deliberately withheld until you have endured a 10-hour storyline. This storyline attempts to shift the excessive tone of Diablo 3, but unfortunately, it goes too far into the realm of grim darkness, without fundamentally altering the essence of what makes a Diablo game unique – the act of annihilating demons.

Misery business

Blizzard’s response to complaints about Diablo 3’s lack of darkness resulted in a suffocating level of bleakness. While the main storyline revolves around the looming threat of Lilith, known as the “Mother of Sanctuary,” the side quests present various shades of anguish. Virtually every character you encounter engages in heinous acts, such as betraying their own kin, entering pacts with demons, or committing murder over trivial disagreements. I’ve assisted countless individuals in locating their deceased loved ones or, in some cases, having to end their lives, to the point where I’ve grown indifferent to the pleas of non-playable characters. Amidst the supposed fight for these people’s well-being, I desperately sought glimpses of joy or hope, only to repeatedly come up empty-handed.

Helltides are the single best argument for Diablo 4’s semi-MMO features.

Diablo 4’s promise of a “return to darkness” or a return to Diablo 2 can only be realized when the horror elements have a meaningful impact on gameplay. One particular dungeon, set in a monastery, took me on a thrilling chase after Lilith. Instead of encountering demons and deceased monks as I had expected, I found myself surrounded by eerily empty corridors. In the distance, I could hear doors slamming shut and the sound of terrified screams. This was not just another dungeon where I mindlessly battled countless foes to reach my objective; instead, I was stealthily pursuing a cunning murderer who always seemed just out of grasp. The silence and the echoing of my own footsteps added to the spine-chilling atmosphere, making this sequence one of the most chilling experiences in Diablo 4.

Rewritten The element of surprise is a rare gem to stumble upon in Diablo 4’s quests. However, most of it is saved for the endgame, specifically in the form of Helltide events. During these events, a part of the map becomes drenched in blood, boosting the power of all demons present. Players have a limited time of one hour to slay as many demons as possible, collecting their Aberrant Cinder drops and unlocking valuable rare item chests. Engaging in these events alone comes with the risk of death and losing half of the collected Cinders, but teaming up with others significantly reduces the challenge. Helltides truly embody Diablo 4’s semi-MMO features, injecting a thrilling sense of urgency and danger into the game’s otherwise comfortable combat. Although the rewards may not be vastly different from running a dungeon, the pushback compels players to approach encounters as survival puzzles rather than mere stepping stones to the next level.

Angelic character hovers above group of adventurers

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

Every class a painting

Embark on a thrilling six-act adventure through Estuar, as you strive to thwart Lilith’s sinister plan of opening a gateway to Hell. Along the way, prepare for epic boss battles that will leave a lasting impact on the unfolding narrative, such as an unexpected showdown with one of Diablo’s notorious lesser evils amidst a raging sandstorm. However, some of these encounters lack the excitement they deserve, with tedious mechanics reminiscent of MMO games where you must constantly evade designated areas on the ground. It is only much later in the campaign that you will face truly formidable foes, requiring both skill and a deep understanding of your chosen class to emerge victorious.

Diablo 4’s campaign, with its frustratingly sluggish tempo and failure to present a clear-cut antagonist with understandable motives, fails to warrant the extensive time investment. It presents minimal unexpected twists, and even when it appears to introduce one, it promptly reverts to the familiar narrative patterns found in its predecessors. The campaign of Diablo 4 proves unable to resolve the ongoing Eternal Conflict between celestial beings and infernal creatures, and its conclusion holds such little significance that I eagerly opt to skip it for all future characters.

After triumphantly completing the campaign of Diablo 4, I found myself unleashed in its expansive realm, teeming with thrilling ventures of treasure-seeking. The dungeons grew increasingly formidable, demanding that I extract every ounce of damage from my chosen class, a deliberate strike on my obsession with constructing the perfect character build. The enduring legacy of playing Blizzard games for years has left an indelible mark. It all began with World of Warcraft and persists ceaselessly with Overwatch 2. This game developer possesses an extraordinary knack for delving into the essence of a genre and extracting its very soul.

Diablo 4’s skill tree single-handedly keeps me from thinking too hard about the treadmill underneath my feet.

Playing Diablo 4 evokes a deeply stimulating experience within me, as I joyfully click on demons and witness loot bursting forth from their defeated forms. It’s both intriguing and humbling to realize that a crucial aspect in action RPGs like this is ensuring that the final foe slain in a group yields valuable rewards, amplifying the thrill of the preceding 30 seconds. This astutely crafted mechanic, though slightly disconcerting, effectively sustains a voracious appetite within the game’s abundant realm. I may indeed be akin to a rat confined in a box, yet that doesn’t hinder my delight while traversing its vast landscapes alone or in the company of others. However, embarking on your initial co-op venture may initially seem effortless, until the later World Tier difficulty options challenge your skills.

Diablo 4’s skill tree serves as a captivating distraction, diverting my attention from the monotonous grind. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a game like Elden Ring that inundates my YouTube recommendations with suggestions to experiment with unconventional strategies or acquire overpowered items before they become scarce. Each of the five classes, namely the Barbarian, Druid, Rogue, Sorceress, and Necromancer, possess distinct playstyles despite belonging to the same hack-and-slash archetype. Drawing inspiration from Diablo 2, their skill trees introduce an intricate system that alters and harmonizes your character’s abilities in such unique ways that there is no consensus on the optimal build—a characteristic that epitomizes the essence of a Diablo game.

Additionally, dungeons yield Legendary aspects which can be extracted from items, allowing players to forge their very own Legendary equipment for skill enhancement. In my early adventures, I stumbled upon a chestpiece that not only granted my Bone Storm ultimate ability but also bestowed a protective barrier. This newfound power allowed me to fearlessly charge into enemy hordes, unleashing a whirlwind of bones, and emerge unharmed. As I progressed beyond level 30, the frequency of rare and Legendary item drops increased significantly, solidifying these aspects as indispensable components of my chosen class.

Diablo 4 Necromancer build

(Image credit: Blizzard)

As soon as you find yourself in the Fractured Peaks, a mere moment passes before you swiftly defeat a pack of wolves, experience a level up, and acquire your inaugural skill point. This exhilarating instant of potentiality continues to be bestowed upon you by the game until you approach the level 100 limit. Skill points, along with their eventual replacement, Paragon Points, act as enticing incentives that compel you to keep clicking for countless hours, even after you have explored every facet of your chosen class. The gratification derived from meticulously devising your character’s progression and judiciously allocating your well-deserved points remains unparalleled.

I embarked on my journey as a Necromancer chauffeur, leading a legion of skeletal warriors who stood unwavering, launching bone spears with unmatched precision as my loyal comrades crushed my adversaries. This strategy proved effective for hours on end, but fueled by an insatiable curiosity, I decided to invest a substantial amount of gold to revolutionize my approach. I transitioned from being the commander of an army of the undead to a deity infused with the essence of my sacrificed demons and overflowing with an abundance of critical strike prowess. I have become a relentless force, fueled by the lifeless bodies of my foes. From their remains, tendrils emerge, forcefully drawing in the demons, who meet their demise by colliding with my bone spears, now infused with unprecedented destructive power. I now only need to cast a few spells, and everything falls to their demise.

What is more Sorceress than having such a mastery of magic that you can blend your spell effects?

Once you conceive an idea on how to approach your class, there is a high probability that the skill tree presents a pathway to achieve it. If your desire is to fully immerse yourself in the power of Bone Spear, you will discover a multitude of abilities that enhance its basic impact or optimize it to unleash astonishing devastation. The acquisition of Legendary aspects, obtained through conquering dungeons or discovering rare items, further amplifies its potential with extraordinary effects. A particular ring of mine intensifies the damage of my Bone Spear by an additional 100% when used against Vulnerable foes. By utilizing the skill of Plagued Corpse Tendrils, any enemy ensnared becomes Vulnerable for a brief period of three seconds, providing just enough opportunity to strike with one or two Bone Spears.

Input: The sheer number of creative options in the skill trees I’ve toyed with has me eager to see what the other classes have tucked away in theirs. Sorceress’, for example, can equip spells as a passive ability. At first glance, you’d assume this lets you double down on the school of magic you’ve chosen to wield, like having a 5% chance to cast a free Ice Armor for your ice build. Not quite. If you put a single point in Fire Bolt and use it in a passive Enchantment Slot, it makes any one of your abilities apply burning damage to their targets. With one skill point, your entire spellbook now benefits from Pyromancy skills, opening the door to a whole world of potential builds. What is more Sorceress than having such a mastery of magic that you can blend your spell effects?The vast array of imaginative choices within the skill trees I’ve experimented with fills me with anticipation to discover the hidden treasures within the skill trees of other classes. Take the Sorceress, for instance, who can employ spells as a passive ability. At a first glance, one might assume this allows you to enhance the specific school of magic you have chosen to specialize in, such as granting a 5% chance of casting a free Ice Armor for your ice-based build. However, it is not quite that simple. By investing a single skill point in Fire Bolt and utilizing it within a passive Enchantment Slot, any of your abilities become imbued with the power to inflict burning damage upon their targets. With just one skill point, your entire spellbook becomes enhanced by the Pyromancy skills, unveiling a multitude of potential character builds. What could exemplify the essence of a Sorceress more than possessing such a profound mastery of magic that allows you to seamlessly blend the effects of your spells?

Live for the grind

Diablo 4 character standing next to bloody river

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

As you delve deeper into Diablo 4, the challenge of altering your playstyle becomes increasingly daunting. This is a direct consequence of discarding Diablo 3’s ingenious rune system, which granted the freedom to effortlessly switch skills at any given moment, in favor of a Diablo 2-style skill tree. Compounding this issue is the crucial role that gear plays in shaping your character. Legendary items possess unique attributes that modify the functionality of your skills, and many of these attributes define your entire build. Should I remove the attribute that generates my Necromancer’s resource when I slow down enemies, I would lack the ability to cast sufficient Bone Spears to survive the treacherous depths of late-game dungeons. The potency of these attributes, coupled with the expense of imbuing them onto rare items, severely limits the opportunities for experimentation unless one dedicates an exorbitant amount of time to farming gold and materials.

At this very moment, the price to reset my skills stands at a whopping 100,000 gold. And as if that wasn’t enough, I’d also have to dig deeper into my pockets to acquire rare materials by salvaging Legendary items just to replace certain elements on my gear. Respecing is not an unattainable feat, but the exorbitant cost associated with it feels more like a deterrent, preventing me from easily switching to a superior build without having to immerse myself in the various resource-grinding methods. All I desire is for Diablo 4 to ease up on the constraints imposed by its live service, allowing the sheer delight of creatively obliterating demons to truly flourish.

It’s so close to channeling the progression-hungry energy that I need in a game about turning the legions of Hell into my precious loot crops.

In a world where respeccing wasn’t a pricey affair, one could envision a scenario where your build transforms for each Nightmare Dungeon or Helltide event, rendering tasks designed to prolong your playtime rather insignificant. Diablo 4, however, takes a different approach by imposing steep penalties for experimenting with crafting items, modifying gear, and resetting skills, transforming itself into a challenging mountain that demands slow and steady ascension. These restrictions on character progression gradually diminish my enthusiasm to tirelessly pursue superior loot. Instead, I find myself yearning to explore alternative classes rather than tirelessly grind through repetitive events in search of marginally upgraded rewards.

In Diablo 4, the seasons and battle pass aim to inject excitement into the usual action RPG cycle by introducing fresh adversaries, captivating events, and engaging story quests. If it follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Diablo 3, each season has the potential to rejuvenate familiar dungeons and events, encouraging players to experiment with different classes and builds. My only desire is for the game to embrace unpredictability and risk, which can sometimes diminish as you progress and become comfortable with your character’s power. Beneath the chaotic narrative and despair-ridden setting lies a captivating Diablo experience, complete with a versatile skill system, loot that defines your build, and exhilarating open world events.

Diablo 4’s live service structure clashes with the exhilaration of transforming your character into an omnipotent deity, as seen in the previous games. However, it does present an opportunity for Blizzard to recognize and embrace the game’s finest elements through seasons or future patches. Currently, most of these elements are concentrated in the latter portion of the game and are hindered by limited resources and rigid enemy level scaling. It comes tantalizingly close to harnessing the insatiable drive for progression that I crave in a game centered around transforming the hordes of Hell into my valuable treasure trove. I yearn for Diablo 4 to treat me as a mature player who willingly embarks on repeated dungeon runs to obtain valuable loot right from the beginning. I yearn for it to foster the kind of ingenuity that its classes truly deserve. Because every moment it fails to do so, its boundless potential remains squandered.

Diablo 4.

Within the realms of Diablo 4, one can uncover an abundance of formidable class configurations and thrilling treasures to unearth. However, this darkened realm overshadows its imaginative elements with an excessively desolate atmosphere and constricting endgame structures.

With over a decade of experience, Tyler has delved into the world of games, exploring games culture and hardware. As the Associate Editor of PC Gamer, he brings a unique perspective to his work. Tyler’s journalistic endeavors have taken him deep into various gaming communities, offering in-depth reporting and critical analysis for esteemed publications like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He has a penchant for the unconventional and captivating aspects of gaming, tirelessly seeking out intriguing stories and engaging with the people behind them. Immersing himself in titles such as Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls, Tyler unravels their inner workings to uncover noteworthy elements worth discussing. Above all, his aim is to portray games in their true form: flawed, exquisite, and extraordinary.

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