Stay a while and listen…
Unsurprisingly, Diablo IV is online only and features a semi-open world. That said, you can tackle the game completely solo if you wish, following the main story, getting lost inside content and grinding for gear or anything in between. Bungie’s Destiny series is a good point of reference here.
I sense a soul in search of answers
Diablo IV‘s narrative focus is on Lilith and Inarius, a demon and angel whose tryst created the world of Sanctuary. In Act I (the only Act featured in the beta), you’re tasked with pursuing Lilith across the game world. The characters you encounter along the way are heavily reminiscent of the casts of previous Diablo games. With the exception of the shared world component, there’s little new here. Indeed, so far Diablo IV‘s key plot beats are something of a rerun of II and III in particular.
Diablo IV distances itself from the bright, colourful World of Warcraft-inspired look of its direct predecessor. Recalling Bluepoint’s stellar work on the Demon’s Souls remake, each frame is absolutely saturated with detail. In fact, it can look a little too busy at times. Still, based on the beta, we have no qualms whatsoever regarding performance (on Xbox Series X, at least) as the the game sticks doggedly to its 60fps target.
The sanctity of this place has been fouled…
This time around, Blizzard is striving for a darker, more serious tone. Diablo IV features an interesting aesthetic palette where most other colours are muted, but bloody, dark crimson is front and center. This applies both to the UI and game world, the latter of which is positively awash with viscera and vein claret. There’s a clear and concerted effort to bring horror, violence and occult themes back into the Diablo fold, and blood is spilt at every opportunity.
The Druid, Rogue, Wizard, Barbarian and Necromancer all return from previous Diablo titles and play very differently. Diablo II-style skill allow you to purchase abilities from a sizable skill tree. In the beta, respeccing was available at will for a nominal fee.
Diablo IV‘s character customization is a massive step up for the series, with a myriad of hair, tattoo and jewelry options available. Your avatar now features in story scenes. So, you’re no longer stuck surveying them from an isometric viewpoint where such things would go unnoticed.
Too much pain, not enough profit
Healing potions return but are restricted to a set number of charges. You can recharge these in town and charges are also dropped by slain enemies. When fighting more difficult foes, you’ll find yourself doing almost Doom Eternal type resource management, switching focus on fodder enemies to replenish your potion charges. As you go through the game, it is possible to upgrade your potions at the Alchemist. There’s also a dodge move, returning from the console iterations of Diablo III.
One cornerstone Diablo mechanic in particular has been streamlined significantly: none of your loot needs to be identified at all. This saves you the aggravation of having to arbitrarily waste time and resources doing so.
On the subject of difficulty, even on the lowest World Tier level, Diablo IV appears to be significant step up from Diablo III. Not all classes are created equal at the time of writing, but fire and forget this ain’t. Expect to die repeatedly going into high level areas unprepared.
Diablo IV beta final thoughts
I enjoyed my time with the Diablo IV beta. The map size is impressive, and the core combat is as weighty ever. Blizzard is clearly taking heavy inspiration from Diablo II in terms of look and feel. I just hope that Diablo IV is able to forge its own identity when it releases later this summer.
Diablo IV launches on June 6th, 2023, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series Consoles.