Diablo IV Closed Beta Impressions
Over the years, the Diablo franchise has had some highs and more than a couple of lows than Blizzard would have liked. Diablo II: Resurrected gained huge hype when it was first announced, but it ultimately failed to win over the fans during its release. Then there’s Diablo Immortal—a game famous for the “do you guys not have any phones?” meme. Needless to say, the microtransaction-heavy title was lambasted by critics and casuals from day one.
Diablo IV is another entry to the series that’s generated a lot of buzz from the media. And based on a lot of people’s experience with the beta so far, there are good parts, bad parts, and meh parts to expect from the lootathon ARPG.
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No Thoughts, Head Empty
Diablo is a grind-playing game. You slay demons, level up your character, and collect loot. Simple as that. I’m not a statistician by any means; I’ve never been the type who loves to min-max my stats to fine-tune characters down to a pat. I just want to kill mobs of enemies and collect items.
I’m happy to report that Diablo IV sates those desires of wanting to kill stuff without the cost of “using” your brain. The game offers limitless capabilities when it comes to grinding, and if you can’t accept that, it’ll be challenging to feel enamored by the idea of the mindlessness of it all.
The combat in Diablo IV is similar to the previous chapters, where it’s essentially an active waiting game for tossing out your clump of abilities and waiting for cooldowns to expire. You could opt to go deep into the intricacies of it all by mixing and matching the active and passive skills, but most of your time will be spent spamming attacks while waiting for your abilities to be up again. This isn’t bad, perse, since the melee and range combat here is simple yet responsive. As a result, Diablo IV makes it easy for newcomers to get into, all while being challenging enough for veterans.
Character Experimentation is Encouraged
The loot in Diablo IV is always worth the trouble, even if the gear you pick up isn’t for your class. If you’ve outgrown some underpowered gear, you can sell it at the armory or salvage it for ores at the blacksmith. This becomes more apparent if you look into the classes. Each class has its own stats, buffs, and equipment. But within those classes are specializations that allow you to make your character unique compared to another player’s.
You might initially complain why only five classes are available, but thanks to being able to experiment with your character, there are numerous possibilities for you to take. Diablo IV makes it easy for anyone to delve into character experimentation due to the easily accessible and inexpensive respec mechanic. Who says you can only become a tanky barbarian? If you play your cards—or in this case, gear and abilities—right, you can turn into an agile barbarian instead.
You can always find ways to swing things up if something isn’t working for you or if you’d take a different approach instead. This aspect in Diablo IV is a godsend; you’re not bound to a particular playstyle once you choose your class. Rather, everything about character customization is about finding the best skills and gear to match how you’d like to play.
Grinding is Worth Your Time
Many argue that grinding is the most tedious aspect when playing MMOs, but thanks to Diablo IV’s loot system, it transforms into something you’d want to keep doing. There’s a rarity system you can get lost in and enough numbers to make your head spin, but getting new gear is a gratifying experience. Just about everything you do—whether that’s completing questlines or facing a hulking goat warrior—involves loot. Loot makes the world go round in Diablo IV, and grinding is the only way to get it.
Now, onto the bad stuff. Unsurprisingly, even the high-profile streamers have enjoyed their time with the open beta despite encountering several bugs. The key pillars of what makes a Diablo game have always been gameplay and atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean that the major gripes for other aspects aren’t worth talking about anymore.
In the official Diablo IV subreddit, a user named GoofyMTG generated a discussion about the game’s choice to swap Diablo’s usual font for a generic Arial lookalike. It might look like a minute thing at first impression, but the thread quickly evolved into a broader critique of the user interface.
According to the players from the subreddit, Diablo’s user interface feels uninspired and inefficient. Pair that with the lack of customization options and a ton of wasted space, it’s safe to say that Blizzard has room for improvement.
For example, while you’re allowed to loot all times from the ground with a click of a button, you don’t get that same treatment when selling all items in parallel. Other grievances from the community include not being able to choose a sorting method despite the franchise being famous for its loot piñata. Moreover, if you’re planning to play the game with a Clan, you may find it difficult to adjust to the game’s chat box in the bottom right corner. With no ability to reposition this chat box to match your preferences, poring through your character sheet while chatting can feel overwhelming.
From my perspective, the UI isn’t horrible, but it certainly doesn’t look great. It looks unfinished and a bit too mobile game-like. If we could see more work done to the icons and the skill tree screen—which leans too heavily into the style of Diablo II, making it feel dated—that would be a great start to getting a better user experience.
Not Much Enemy Diversity
Is it just me, or do I keep running into the same variety of enemies whenever I’m outside the horde segments? The mob clusters offer little to no variations. It was fine during the first five hours, but it is still worth noting. I know there are staples enemies in Diablo’s lore, like the Fallen and the Wraiths, but 95% of what I saw were simply repackaged versions from past games.
Diablo IV is a big game, and I’m sure there’s much more ahead. Considering we only have access to Act I for the open beta, not seeing as much creativity in the first area already gives me red-flag vibes.
Combat is a Mixed Bag, Because of One Thing
Diablo is a hack-and-slash series, and in its latest iteration, movement feels more active and fluid. The simple yet pleasurable click-to-kill shtick it has remains incredibly satisfying after all these years.
So the first thing I did when I booted up Diablo IV was to roll. When you’ve been playing games for decades, you have this intuition that rolling is arguably always faster than walking. Diablo IV’s dodge roll has since turned into an evade action. This was first introduced in Diablo III, so the integration into its sequel doesn’t surprise me as much. But what did egg me was that you couldn’t do so again after evading since it has a cooldown of five seconds.
That’s right—the evade is just like any other active ability now. You can find pieces of gear that give you extra charges to your dodge roll so you can use it multiple times, but otherwise, you’re forced to become a sitting duck most of the time in battle. It’s okay if you’re a barbarian since you’re expected to be tanky, but what about the sorcerer or rogue, with much smaller health bars?
Diablo III initially didn’t have the dodge roll mechanic either. It wasn’t until Blizzard decided to port it to consoles that they did for controller users to survive. The mouse-and-keyboard-wielding PC players have no problem when it comes to moving with precision, but if you’re a controller player, it’s torture. As such, the developers added it to Diablo III. You could move the right analog stick to dodge roll in your desired direction. You could do so as much as you wanted, wherever you wanted.
Nerfting this mechanic in Diablo IV will ultimately have consequences. Unless you turn off a specific option in the settings, your character will constantly yell at you that the skill isn’t ready yet. Another thing is that misfires will be a lot more punishing. Have you experienced instinctively dodging a basic attack from a boss, only to realize that you should’ve saved it for a deadlier AoE attack they’re about the unleash? I sure have.
On a more positive note, the cooldown makes players think more about what they’re doing in the game. The times I could dodge roll felt more impactful, even if the beta kept showering me with healing potions. Instead of spamming it without a thought, it allows me to make tactical decisions. This change isn’t entirely out of place either, as Diablo IV does have a more serious and grim recalibration.