Title: Diablo IV
Developer: Acitvision Blizzard
Release Date: June 6, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawler
The concept of Hell, a place where evil resides, existing to solely punish the wicked and corrupt others to sin, has been a concept that stuck around for most of humanity. This has created numerous works of fiction spanning various mediums, so it’s only natural that video games would explore this concept as well.
Diablo is one of the most respected franchises in gaming history and depicts Hell as a separate plane of existence in opposition to Heaven, a plane full of celestial light. This struggle occurs on Sanctuary, a world neutral in the celestial war, but always seems to be dragged into it against the residents’ will. Other times, both devouts call down destruction to Sanctuary in hopes of a better world or a place in the new one.
This time is no different, as Diablo IV attempts to explain more of the creation of Sanctuary, namely, who exactly created it in the first place. The entire plot revolves around the chase for Lillith, a demon summoned to Sanctuary through a portal of blood and flesh. She moves from place to place, corrupting others to get what she wants while offering salvation from the inevitable demise of the world brought out by the war.
Lillith does well filling in this role as a corrupted mother figure, offering salvation to her children as she travels the world. She never forces anybody to do anything, instead opting to speak with them until they eventually do what she wants of their own choice. She is very convincing, and her gentle demeanor turns sinister, especially when you see how persuasive she really is.
The villains of this tale aren’t exactly blameless, as they still worked with Lillith of their own accord but are more sympathetic. So, it’s too bad that most of the story ends up being random fetch quests or reporting to another character so they can send you to another location. These quests are to gather clues to get to Lillith, but it all feels like busy work with moments that, while interesting, could have been utilized better.
Combat is a basic top-down format allowing players to move and attack freely, while skills are mapped to a button press that can only be mapped to a specific type of skill. This ensures players have a well-rounded load out while using different resources for attacks. At the same time, potions are reserved to another button while being able to refill at towns maxing out initially at four, then gaining more as the player explores.
Combat can sometimes feel like a slog with the number of enemies constantly thrown at the player. Usually, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but most enemies don’t have much variety. They will rush the player or stick to the backlines casting magic or shooting arrows.
Each attack utilizes a certain weapon type, like bows or swords, and forces the player to equip that weapon type to use the attack. This limits the player to certain weapon types and helps divide the combat, unlike Diablo III, where any weapon could be used with any attack. The weapons give a flair to each class type and how they operate, something similar would have significantly benefitted the enemies.
The enemy skins change between areas, from demons to goatmen to skeletons, but their tactics remain static. It becomes a test of how long players can keep mashing the basic attack, mixing in other abilities. This is how Diablo III felt as well, where enemies are unable to put much of a dent in your health unless players allow themselves to get surrounded.
This is especially true with having multiple health potions on the character at all times; as long as the player keeps moving, there is no way to die. This was put to the test when I happened to be chasing a rare loot-spawning enemy, dragging me around multiple groups of enemies before I massacred them all. Of course, it was fun in its own right, but this situation should have made me pause to think about the consequences instead of running through and not getting punished for it.
The fix shouldn’t be more enemies that are harder to take down, which, frankly, the game already feels bloated with. Enemies either die too fast to really pose any threat besides forcing players to press a button, or they take too long to go down. So, the only feeling the developers managed to evoke from me was a wave of relief rather than anticipation for the next loot drop.
Having more varied enemies between the different races of foes would do wonders for risk-reward management and how rewarding it feels to take down tougher baddies. This would make it feel closer to Diablo II, which Diablo IV is already trying to get back to in its systems. As it stands, the first playthrough of Diablo IV for most experienced players is going to feel very easy as they have to beat the entire game before being able to select harder difficulties.
These difficulties affect not only enemy difficulty and gold and experience gain but also the rarity of the loot that drops. This loot is the primary reward players will be after, and I hate to say it, but most of it is pretty underwhelming. It’s not readily apparent if any gear will be better for the build players will strive for until equipped.
Even then, most of the abilities are hard to notice in the middle of a fight, excluding any speed-up boon for either attack or movement speed. These effects are the most noticeable and possibly best for any build. These stats directly and noticeably increase your damage output and survivability, so prioritizing gear that has these stats as well as a main damage stat is for the best.
This makes most gear irrelevant to the point that unless something is better by a large margin, say increasing attack power by 20. It’s better to salvage or sell everything that players come across. So, getting gear isn’t as exciting as it should be outside of a few moments when something that dropped was way better than anything I had equipped. These moments are memorable enough to make the long trek worth it. I just wish they happened slightly more often.
Finally, the classes themselves are unique from a flavor standpoint. Each can do either melee or ranged, depending on how players build their characters. The most defining aspect is the skill point system that has been reintroduced from Diablo 2 but remixed in a way.
Each skill has been categorized as either a basic skill, core skill, ultimate skill, etc., and each corresponds to a single button. The button configuration for each skill cannot be changed, meaning players cannot have two core skills or something similar. So this forces players to choose one skill to max out in each category which differs from other players.
So, if your buddy decides they also want to play a rogue, you can choose to be a marksman that stays in the back or blade master dashing in and out of enemies’ range dealing damage. This is a great addition to see back into Diablo IV, with it being slightly remixed so players coming from Diablo III won’t feel too out of their depth.
Even refunding points if a skill doesn’t match your play style is easy and costs a minuscule amount of gold that can be easily reclaimed. So, trying out new builds is easy enough, and it’s fun to switch it up occasionally. Add in the fact that dungeons can reward permanent enchantments to place on weapons and armor that build variety is high and rewards experimentation.
This is where Diablo IV should have spent more time highlighting different builds and how a party full of rogues could be just as relevant as a heavily class-varied party would. The variety of builds is the most fulfilling aspect of Diablo IV and elevates it to the point that replays using different builds are highly viable.
Diablo IV is the spark to rekindle the flames of this series’ greatness. The enemy variety and combat don’t hold up when to its predecessor, but over time I believe this will evolve into the best entry of the series to date. The option to mix up builds with enhancements and skill points adds a high level of customization to the experience and keeps every moment unique. However, we may need this game to cook in hell a bit longer for it to be the Diablo we’ve been waiting for.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.