I’ve spent 10 hours with Diablo 4 and I’m sold – it’s been worth the wait

I had my doubts. I’ve had questions running through my head since I first played Diablo 4 at BlizzCon 2019 – was it really that long ago? – and I’ve had questions about the need for a big new Diablo. But after 10 hours with it from the start of the game, I can see what shape it’s taking and I like it. I like the tone, I like the mechanics, I like the world. There are some things I can’t see, but overall this is, clearly, the next generation of Diablo.

Surprisingly, it’s the world that really stands out to me the most. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise given that an open world is one of the big new things for Diablo 4, and in every PR beat, Blizzard has shown us how much it wants the world to feel dark, like The previous Diablo. games. Diablo 3 had a more cartoony edge, a Warcrafty sort of color.

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And it’s true, Diablo 4 feels darker, not in the literal lighting sense, but in a more moody sense. It’s bleak and disturbing. He is shy and fed up. It’s a fantasy world that’s always raining and windy – a gray-scale world of mud- and weather-beaten people. A harsh world with harsh realities. I can’t think of a better comparison than Game of Thrones in the North in this regard: a stolid place where people don’t smile much. It feels like this.

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Zoe has also played the preview build. Here’s what she thinks.

Diablo 4, more than any other game in the series, really takes time to root you into. There are flashy cinematics at certain moments that can be quite disturbing, but it’s the in-game cutscenes, where the camera flies down to better frame what you’re seeing, where it’s really coming from. Honestly, I don’t normally pay attention to these in Diablo games. They are mere flavors in the background of mass carnage. But it seems like Diablo 4 wants us to spend a little more time with them here.

One scene that stands out early in the game involved being tricked, drugged, and then carted off by a whistling peasant to a hut where he clearly intended to cut me off and sacrifice me. What struck me was how unhurried he – and he – was. The normality made it all seem twice as disturbing, as if the game was saying hey, this is how it is here – this is the world you’re playing in.

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It’s this unhurried nature that really makes Diablo 4 feel completely different from the last Diablo game, Diablo Immortal. That game was quick to impress you, giving you spectacular encounters and showering you with rewards. Making it so exciting that you couldn’t look away, as a free-to-play game should, before discovering a fight later on.

But Diablo 4 doesn’t do that, it lets things breathe. It lets the world breathe as you’re familiar with it, and it lets you breathe as the world introduces things to you—mechanics, rewards, ways to play the game. There’s no rush here, which I really like, and there’s a great sense of confidence that comes from it, as the game allows things to build gently.

None of this is to say that Diablo 4 is boring – far from it. I’m particularly impressed with how the game manages to make combat feel challenging and exciting right from the start – something that Diablo 3 was hopeless at. This has a lot to do with the new world level difficulty options available. There are two to choose from at the start, and the harder you go, the better your rewards will be. But if you do more, be prepared to die, not all the time but I have died a few times against bosses and some elite groups. (World level levels can be changed in-game from world level statues to cities, by the way. If you’re grouped, the party leader determines the world state.)

However, this is not just a difficult thing. It feels like Diablo 4 has a better understanding of how to make enemy encounters as a whole more exciting and challenging. The enemies themselves have been refreshed or redesigned, or are completely new – my favorites are the Broodlord vampires, who look like flying Nosferatus and teleport around the area in a puff of smoke and bats, making them really hard to beat. achieved. And enemies that knock you down or freeze you, or otherwise make you unable to heal, are a particular danger here.

But there’s also a sense of fun to it all—a sense of when Diablo is at its best. Take the ghosts: they’re messy and unspawnable on their own, so the game throws 15 of them at you at once, so you can smash them all to smithereens and feel like a badass.

Character creation is huge. I especially like the attention to musculature in the different models.

That understanding extends to how Blizzard populates the open world. You’ll find small mini-dungeons for short bursts of action, set alongside larger mini-areas for longer quests. And they’ll be circled areas nearby on the map that represent world events, which are usually a variation of wave-based attacks that you either have to survive, protect someone from, or defeat in a timely manner. limited. And they all increase in difficulty and culminate in a mini-boss, then reward you with a huge loot chest on top of whatever you threw at the enemies. It’s enemies, enemies, enemies, loot, loot, loot. It’s Diablo at its best.

Accompanying this are side quests with exclamation points to take them into the city or out into the world, often leading to a random dungeon of their own, and the main quests of more generous scenarios, with their own cutscenes and cinematics. And it all adds up to a world full of things to do, and one that can keep you distracted for hours at a time. After 10 hours, at level 22, I feel like I’ve barely seen any of them. This place is massive, and you will be here for a very long time.

This is the world, and my only real criticism of it is that there were no mounts available on my build to walk around it, and it feels like it was made for them. Also, I’m not sure I have to restart my steps from dungeons after clearing them, which adds more time – why aren’t there portals at the top again?

The bosses aren’t overly dramatic at first, which gives plenty of room for the spectacle to grow later on. But neither are they harmful or challenging.

Enticing you to explore the world is a new in-game system called Aspects. These are unlocked by a Codex of Power to do things like conquer a dungeon you find somewhere. The aspects themselves are buffed, like you find in legendary items, and once unlocked, can be applied to items in an Occultist – a new type of vendor in the game. Effectively, this means you can make rare (yellow) items into legendary (orange) and gives you more flexibility in customizing character models.

The skill can also be clearly seen in the skill system in the game. It’s much deeper than Diablo 3. It’s based around a skill tree system that slowly opens up as you spend more points on it, but has far more branches and permutations than the capacity of points you’ll have to spend on them, which means you will have to specialize. It’s such a mind-boggling choice that you can even filter it by keyword, and I think the game expects you to keep changing your mind because it offers you respect straight from the tree itself.

As excited as I am by what I’ve played, it’s important to remind you that there are things I haven’t seen in this build that are central to the vision of Diablo 4. Namely, the shared world, which other players they run and play next to you. I only saw a few other players in town while I played, and after making some emotes and trading some elixirs, we went on our way.

Here’s a sneak peek of the barbarian skill trees I was using. You can see in the background how ramified and complex they are. They are attractive. I can lose myself in them for days.

I didn’t see any world bosses either, and those are a big new thing for Diablo. They are like organic raids – big meetings that will act as a magnet to draw people together. I remember seeing one at BlizzCon 2019 and it was quite the spectacle. And while one has been added to this earlier part of the game for us to see (they usually appear later, when you’re nearing the end of the game, around character level 45), it was very rare for me.

I also haven’t tried the Adventure Mode-like Whispers system, or Nightmare Dungeons, or Helltide zones, or Fields of Hatred PvP, all of which will form the endgame in Diablo 4.

However, what I did experience was a safe single player Diablo experience. One where you can see a generational difference between it and the Diablo experiences that have come before. It’s in the look of the game, but also in how the game feels: like it’s a big thing, a big world, and one with big ideas about how people play it cooperatively. There are still questions, but now there are some answers, and perhaps the biggest is whether Diablo 4 is worth the wait, and in this test, yes, absolutely, it is.


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