Diablo IV on PC
In a world that’s been saturated with looter shooter games designed specifically to appeal to one’s lizard brain as you mindlessly kill things in search of better gear, one has to wonder: is there still room for a game like Diablo IV? Thankfully — or, unfortunately, depending on who you ask — the answer is a resounding yes.
Diablo IV marks a true return to form for Blizzard’s storied ARPG series. As a franchise that first made a name for itself as the ultimate video game addiction that sent everyone’s parents into a satanic panic, Diablo IV looks to reclaim its throne by weaving an intricate tapestry of bloody destruction. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it’s a far cry from the comic book candyland sensibilities of Diablo III, and it certainly invokes a lot of early 2000s, grungy Diablo II nostalgia.
And from a gameplay perspective, things haven’t changed all that much. You’re still experiencing the game through a top-down isometric view, you’re still going to be clicking through satisfying menus, moving things around, and spending skill points to upgrade a whole host of abilities that make combat feel even crunchier. What is different is the introduction of the shared open-world, where you can now take part in various world events and take on bosses alongside random players you come across while exploring.
Diablo IV is still very much an enjoyable solo experience, and I even found that trudging through the desolate snows of the Fractured Peaks and the Scosglen swamps had a certain miserable charm to it that would’ve almost certainly been lost on me had I just rampaged through the world in a co-op group. The world is so utterly desolate and unpleasant-looking, and suffice to say, if you’ve been hoping for a proper return to the series’ gritty roots, this won’t disappoint.
The game doesn’t disappoint in the gameplay department either. I completed my first full playthrough as a Necromancer, and while the game does let you level up at a relatively quick pace, it never feels like you’re vastly overpowering all the enemies around you. Each level grants you a skill point, which lets you make more interesting and significant decisions about how you want your character build to look by the end of the game. Never mind the endgame Paragon board; even the regular skill trees for each class can leave you with severe decision paralysis, and that’s a good thing. The amount of build variety you get with each class feels almost staggering. Sure, running around and decimating everything with Bone Splinters is fun and all, but so is the idea of freezing your foes and afflicting them with various status ailments.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is just as satisfying as you’d expect from a big-budget Blizzard game as well. Everything — from smashing barrels to casting an explosive Blood Surge — feels weighty and powerful. There’s a real sense of impact that comes from the simple act of attacking enemies and watching as your abilities connect, causing them to explode into bloody bits.
While the story has never been my main focus in Diablo, I even found myself getting somewhat attached to its recurring characters and main cast. Lorath, in particular, deserves a huge shoutout as the cliched battle-worn old man who’s lost all hope, and is only picking up his spear again because the player character has somehow given him the belief that Lilith can be bested once and for all. His voice actor performance is instantly iconic, with a recognizable gravelly growl that feels both gruff and comforting at once.
Even Lilith, who’s meant to be Diablo IV’s big bad, is compelling in her own right. She comes across like a terrifying presence that’s always looming over you right from the very start of the game, and there’s a sense of tension and unease never lets up for the runtime of the campaign. It’s rare for me to ever feel even the slightest bit invested in the story elements of these looter games, and while the plot of Diablo IV isn’t exactly anything to write home about, the atmospheric tension that Blizzard has created here is palpable, and it really shows through the cinematics and short cutscenes that help add context to what you’re doing.
Whereas most looter games are largely content with throwing loot at you with those classic green arrows pointing up, Diablo IV makes loot seem a little more nuanced than that. As you swiftly approach the level cap, new loot drops become more about prioritizing specific stat sticks that benefit your class and build specifically. Even as I was still progressing through the campaign, I quickly found myself being much pickier with the gear I was picking up and which ones I was choosing to properly invest in.
Diablo IV does exactly what it sets out to do: to trap you in a dangerously addictive farming loop, whether it’s trying to rack up experience points to level up quickly, or to farm dungeons and events for even better gear. Everything about the game feeds into that loop, from the satisfying crunchiness of the combat to the interesting decisions you’re making each moment as you watch that delicious orange glow pop up on your screen when the latest boss you’ve killed drops a new piece of Legendary gear.
The world events themselves are fun on their own, though I did quickly find myself getting bored with them even before the campaign was through. There are only a few events in each zone, and once you’ve played enough of Diablo IV, you’d have seen them all and you’ll likely be tempted to skip them. This is where the shared world aspect comes into play, as clearing events with other players gives you a small experience boost, and they’re definitely worth doing if you intend on farming Obols — a type of currency that lets you purchase even more powerful items and abilities to enhance your build further.
World events aside, Diablo IV also does a good job of surprising the player on occasion. You could be running through a dungeon, minding your own business, when all of a sudden, the Butcher mini-boss decides to show up out of nowhere to give your group a hard time. It’s a fun challenge that throws an unexpected wrench into your plans, while also rewarding you handsomely for overcoming it.
That’s not to say that everything about Diablo IV is peachy of course; there were plenty of little nitpicks from the beta days that persisted in the full game, including how annoying inventory management can be. Your inventory slots are incredibly limited here, and it definitely doesn’t help that you get so many gems during your journey that just fill up your bags so quickly. Given how limited inventory space is, I found myself wishing that gems could’ve just had their own separate space that didn’t interfere with the gear you picked up.
I did also find that the level scaling of the enemies felt just a little overtuned. It’s important to note that the world and enemies level up alongside you, and while I’m not asking Blizzard to make the game appear as though I can vastly overpower everything as I gain more experience, you do feel just a tad bit weaker each time you gain a level. This is likely because most of your stats and power are tied to your gear, but that can cause the leveling process to feel bad at times, just because you don’t get the sense that you’re getting more powerful as you level up, which isn’t great.
At the end of the day, though, these are all just minor complaints that really have very little bearing on what is an incredible looter experience overall. I cannot overstate just how satisfying it is to play Diablo IV on a moment-to-moment basis, and with so much replay value to be had from its various classes and build possibilities within those classes, Diablo IV feels like a true return to form for the series.
World events can feel repetitive.
Enemy scaling feels a bit overtuned in the early hours.