It’s been over a decade since Diablo III gave players the opportunity to jump back into the world of Sanctuary. While being on the receiving end of a somewhat mixed reception at launch, Blizzard Entertainment has spent this time correcting course and refining the core gameplay loop of the series.
A plethora of errors plagued the Diablo III release week, to the point where ‘Error 37’ became a recurring meme over the years – and not just in the Diablo community. Following this, backlash set in after the Real Money Auction House went live, a system that was introduced which allowed players to sell or acquire gear for their characters. After the RMAH was jettisoned into space, and a revamped loot system was designed to accompany the new endgame content, Diablo III’s Reaper of Souls expansion put the franchise back on track.
With Diablo IV, Blizzard has taken those learnings to heart and returned with a vengeance. The developers aren’t repeating those same design mistakes of the past while putting more emphasis on endgame content in this new, dark, and twisted world. The good news is that Diablo is back, and it’s the best we’ve ever seen it.
Diablo IV Key Details
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Platforms: PC via Battle.net, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S
- Release Date: Early Access – June 2, 2023, Standard Release – June 6, 2023
- Cost: $69.99
A New Queen Arrives
After half the population was wiped out preceding the events of Reaper of Souls, Sanctuary hasn’t exactly turned itself around and become this thriving place to live — things appear to have gone in the other direction. While Diablo III was poked fun at for being too colorful, Diablo IV is grim. I recall one particular moment that sticks in my mind when the camera shifted down to overlook a region I’d been exploring. The endless field of brutality before me was shocking and showcased that this was a very different look Blizzard was aiming for.
In the 50 years since our last outing in Sanctuary, Diablo IV has a new big bad in town to fight. Players will be introduced to Lilith, the daughter of Mephisto, who is causing all sorts of chaos after being summoned back to the world. While we’ve had an evil presence or two looming over our shoulders in past Diablo titles, nothing compares to what Lilith delivers here. Every time you get a new cutscene with her, you’re left wanting more.
To try and stop this demon queen, you’ll look to roll a hero from a selection of five characters. For my main playthrough, I went with the Rogue. This melee and ranged mob clearing machine obliterated hordes of enemies that dared to enter within my personal space. Armed with poison and frost traps, monsters in the vicinity would explode after being frozen and hit with a barrage of magic-infused arrows. I found this to be a satisfying combat loop that continued to evolve even after I had spent more than 40 hours crawling my way through dungeons and caves.
Diablo IV’s skill tree allows adventurers to specialize in various playstyles that might fit their combat needs. I didn’t have to go a hybrid of melee and ranged; I could have easily just focused on ranged skills to keep everything that ran towards my way at a distance. This is further amplified by the assortment of gear you’ll obtain throughout the game. Putting on the right armor to boost specific abilities can mean the difference between being victorious in a boss fight or ending up back at a respawn checkpoint — something which I had to do on numerous occasions after being absolutely stomped on.
Hunting for Legendary gear and seeing that gold beam shoot off into the sky when it drops is a dopamine hit I found never got old. There are a multitude of dungeons, side quests, world events, and Strongholds to clear, along with a collection of other tasks sprinkled throughout its enormous map, which allows you to receive a wave of new items to inspect continuously. It was staggering just how large the map of Sanctuary is you can explore, and despite completing the primary campaign, around a quarter of it was still covered for me to go roaming through.
Blizzard has paid a lot of attention to the endgame content for Diablo IV, and it’ll give players much more to do once they’ve made their way through all of the story acts. Helltide is an event that beefs up the local demon residents for a particular area, Whispers of the Dead will see you collecting favors to exchange for Legendary gear, dungeons can be supersized to Nightmare Dungeons for increased rewards, or you can try your hand at the Fields of Hatred and battle other players to unlock cosmetics. There was always something for me to complete, and additional content will be on the way once the season begins to drop following the launch.
While you’re completing all of these additional tasks, you’ll still be powering up your character. Once reaching level 50, you start earning Paragon Points that can be spent on the Paragon Board. It’s a similar system to what was in Diablo III, but this time rather than just increasing specific stat points, now you’re moving along a board of unlocks that will buff up your hero. It’s also not regulated to just stats. Eventually, certain nodes on the Paragon Board can change the behavior of your abilities, which will introduce another layer to customizing how you want your character to build out.
Beyond Diablo IV’s Launch
At this point in time, there are a few unknowns concerning Diablo IV’s launch. There’s the possibility the servers could melt yet again from the onslaught of players attempting to connect. But hopefully, the staggered early access launch period and server slam weekends have helped prepare for the upcoming strain about to be unleashed on these poor pieces of hardware. We also don’t know the exact specifics regarding what to expect from the season content once it begins — roughly a month after launch.
From my experience so far, the servers have been solid from the stress testing Blizzard Entertainment has been doing during the review play sessions. I went the entire time without encountering any bugs or crashes – which is a relief considering the recent quality we’ve had with certain triple-A titles.
As someone who’s played every Diablo game at launch and amassed a ridiculous amount of hours endlessly clicking away at monsters on the screen, Diablo IV is absolutely the most refined and complete experience in the series yet. With a sinister and brutally harsh world to explore, the game is jammed packed with content, while also taking everything we loved about the previous Diablo games and making them even better. Diablo IV has set a new benchmark for the series that players are going to have a sheer nightmare working their way through… in a good way.
Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review. A scored review will go live once Diablo IV has launched.