Diablo 4 – big step in the right direction?

For an almost 30-year-old franchise in an almost-dead genre, Diablo IV feels like a fresh game.
Diablo's Lillith posing in a menacing way.

The first time I was introduced to a Diablo game was in 1998. I was a kid with a brand-new computer; I tricked my parents into buying me one to help with my homework and school. My 32 MB of RAM and 4 MB video card were ready!

I wanted to play one game that every game magazine talked about. Diablo! I bought the game, installed it, and created a tough-looking warrior. I recall it took me 10 to 15 minutes to give up on the game because it was too scary. I want to remind you all that I was 11 years old. Not to sound like a grandpa, but back in my day, the most graphic thing an 11-year-old could see was probably A Nightmare on Elm Street movie.

Diablo had such a dark atmosphere that it made me quit the game. Of course, I told everyone that I beat the game in 2 days and did not even flinch once at The Butcher boss fight. A few years later, when Diablo II came out I was older, but still, that game had a darker, grittier atmosphere that pushed me to the edge of my seat.

Fast forward to 2012, Diablo III came out. I was a grown man. It did not scare me at all, but I cannot take the full credit for it. It was a lighter game. The completely new game design came with much friendlier-looking dungeons and safe-to-travel cities. Many fans were upset with Blizzard’s new direction for the Diablo series, even though the game was good. Diablo III did not feel like Diablo at all.

Old formula, new ingredients

I had my concerns when Diablo IV was announced, but the open beta eased them. Diablo IV feels like what Diablo III could have been. The game returns to its dark and gritty roots with incredible world design. To me, Diablo is more about the experience than the gameplay, and Blizzard took a step in the right direction this time.

Traditional hack-and-slash games are less popular than they used to be. Limited multiplayer and PVP discourages today’s gamers. Blizzard needed to spice up the game, and boy, they did it pretty well. From class redesigns to the quest system, it is a complete overhaul. Each class has its unique features. I loved that my barbarian was carrying four different weapons, and each ability used a different weapon. I loved that my sorcerer had the power to enchant her spells. Blizzard made an old-school talent tree which feels more rewarding even though it is technically almost the same system as in Diablo III. Talent trees create the illusion of success and becoming more powerful with each point spent, and I am all for it!

Open world? What is this, an MMO?

The open world feels fresh and living. I quite enjoyed running into random players when I was doing world events and bosses. One thing that bugged me was world bosses did not feel like they belonged in the game. Their design was too similar to Starcraft, and the mechanics were right out of World of Warcraft. Of course, it is a Blizzard game, and it is completely okay to bring some elements from its other franchises but hear me out. Diablo, to me, was always about demons and the undead. Ashava, the big bad world boss of the open beta, felt like I was fighting with an overgrown Zergling. It did not have that oomph effect I expected from a Diablo game. But hey, maybe it is just me.

Ashava the Pestilent

Quest system overhaul was much needed. It is less linear than Diablo II and feels more like an MMO game. Once I got out of the “tutorial” stage, the world was all mine. There were class, side, and main quests all over the map. Diablo ultimately becomes a grinding game at the end to get better gear, and the journey to max level feels like a chore from time to time. With more meaningful content added to the game, it feels refreshing. I helped a blacksmith get his hammer back; it felt like an accomplishment. The new system makes the game more immersive, and you feel like you are indeed a part of the world, not just a demon-slaying machine.

Class balance might be an issue

Open-beta was limited to level 25, and most people were concerned about their favorite class underperforming. For example, Druid and Barbarian feel like they are hitting with wet noodles, while Sorcerer and Necromancer feel like gods among peasants. Melee classes tend to become more powerful with higher-level gear, and I expect some underperforming classes to do better in the full release. But that being said, they still need to tweak the power levels of classes before that.

I was looking forward to roll with my Druid in mean streets of Sanctuary but I could not even make it to level 10. It was boring and the spells did not feel powerful at all. It took me forever to kill the first main quest boss. On my Sorcerer and Rogue I had the opposite experience, it was too easy to kill especially with Sorcerer.

Final thoughts

For an almost 30-year-old franchise in an almost-dead genre, Diablo IV feels like a fresh game. Most of the decisions Blizzard made felt right, and I had fun for the limited time in open-beta. It is not a perfect game, not by a mile, but Diablo IV is built on very solid and stable pillars. If Blizzard does not “pull a Blizzard” and listen to the feedback, we might have the best Diablo game yet.

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