Diablo IV Review – Not as addicting as previous releases — Explosion Network | Independent Australian Reviews, News, Podcasts, Opinions

Diablo IV Review – Not as addicting as previous releases — Explosion Network | Independent Australian Reviews, News, Podcasts, Opinions

Synopsis:
Embark on the campaign solo or with friends, meeting memorable characters through beautifully dark settings and a gripping story, or go rogue through an expansive End Game and shared world where players will meet in towns to trade, team up to battle World Bosses, or descend into PVP zones to test their skills against other players – no lobbies necessary – with cross-play and cross-progression on all available platforms.

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed on: PC (5800X, 32GB, Nvidia RTX 3070)
Also available for:
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Cast: Caroline Faber, Debra Wilson, Steve Blum, Gabe Kunda, Anthony Howell, Judy Alice Lee, Cherise Boothe, Ralph Ineson

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Game Director: Joe Shely
Production Director: Gavian Whishaw
Art Director: John Mueller
Technical Director: Jason Regier
Creative Director: Sebastian Stepien

Diablo IV is an action RPG and is the latest addition to the franchise, featuring an open world with procedurally generated dungeons and a choice of five playable character classes composed of Barbarian, Druid, Rogue, Sorcerer and Necromancer. Players choose their class and work to guide them through a series of story quests and combat in the world of Sanctuary following the resurrection of the demon Lilith.

Diablo is one of Blizzard’s longest-running series, and after the controversial Diablo Immortal, it has returned to its native space on PC and consoles. Returning to the world of Sanctuary, we see the rise of the Demon Lilith and follow her path of corruption as she pursues a hidden goal. Players are given the choice of five playable classes, each unique in their ability makeup and with divergent and unique play styles that makes each class more unique than the last. Through the game, players level their character to unlock a multitude of abilities and lay the foundations for the optimal character build. I started with the Druid, and after changing my builds on multiple occasions, I found a formation of abilities I was content with. However, I still had to tweak and adjust this build to reach the end game.

Starting with a great cinematic, the players are soon taken to the character-building screen, and there is a ton of choice here. I spent half an hour making my Druid look like I wanted him. Options range from skin tones, tattoos, eye colour, textures, etc. From here, we take control of our character and participate in the game’s first fight. We are in the snow, there are beasts, and we fight to survive the encounter. Surviving this encounter brings us to a small town where we are given our first mission and complete the first dungeon. Upon completing the mission, we are tricked and offered the blood of Lilith, causing our character to be able to see visions; these visions are paramount to the overarching story. Another prisoner saves your character from the town, and together they fight and escape, deciding to travel together. This person leads us to a large township, and from here, we are left to our own devices to explore and try and save Sanctuary.

Fighting cult members and new additions to Lilith’s forces, we discover the link allows us to see visions of what Lilith has been doing. These visions are sometimes huge cinematics, in-game videos and other times, they play out like holograms and lead us through the story. Throughout the world, we meet new people, some royalty, other heathens and even some evangelicals, and all have their quirks and issues, with some being a tad stranger than others. Once the player completes the initial tutorial segment, they can explore the map and the world independently. The player is given free rein on what they want to complete; the world’s level scales with you so players can choose the path they want to follow. I decided to follow the story. Having access to acts one, two, and three, players can start in whatever order they wish, while act four is not unlocked until the three are complete. Clearing the world map slowly and defeating encounters as I travelled, I slowly chipped away at the story finding it exciting and disturbing. Because of the way progress choice is left to the player, I decided to attack any dungeons and forts near my story mission goals. I also started doing side quests similarly, but soon grew bored as doing them is usually a way to acquire more levels to become stronger and make boss, fort, and dungeons easier. However, the only benefit in Diablo IV is unlocking more ability tiers.

Diablo IV has some variations from previous titles, a few too many to name; one of the best is the gamepad controls from the release. I have been using a PS5 controller with the PC version and have found it more accessible than the keyboard and mouse controls. However, switching between the two in the menus made for simpler loot and item management. Diablo IVs story is also a lot darker than its previous titles. Cosmetics can now also be set in town and remain, allowing players to set their character up with the look they desire without having to pop back to town with each new gear equipped. There is a notable amount of accessibility options available for the game, which is fantastic to see. Diablo IV has also learned not to gateway items behind a paywall, instead relying on the tiered drop rate systems seen in many RPGs. From what I can see, the microtransactions have been returned to skins, which is awesome to see. The pricing is similar to many other games. While there are some positives, there were also some negatives, such as including gems instead of a separate inventory tab and the levelling system for enemies being amongst the most notable.

While the progress of the story is left to the player, there is always plenty to do outside of the main story quests, including exploration of the world, un-fogging the map, unlocking townships and fast travel locations, completing dungeons, crypts and cellars as well as competing location side quests, and even participating in boss and fort raids. I met much of my game playing solo, and while it is doable, the game seems to favour working with a team. The game features multiple world tiers that dictate how difficult the combat encounters can be. The new approach to level scaling makes it so players can explore all the portions of the map. While I played the first half of the game in world tier two, I was still finding some of the enemies far too overpowered and chose to finish the story at tier one so that I could enjoy the story without dying to the bosses. The character classes also have needed to be tweaked on multiple occasions via updates to make them more useful when playing solo. Character abilities can be changed on the fly, making it easier to redo your abilities to suit gear, bosses, dungeons etc. Gear is also plentiful and is equally able to be swapped out. This choice benefitted me on my playthrough on multiple occasions as the game drops loot like it is a clumsy treasure goblin.

Diablo IVs visuals have also vastly improved, the game has a crisp look, and the world of gore stands out. This gory world has a very distinct aesthetic. However, not all areas are gore filled. Some parts of the countryside vary from frozen wastes to desert sands. The animation effects are key throughout the game. These visual effects can be seen and impact the look of the various and distinct environments. The world’s visuals still stood out over the two devices I played the game on, even when running at lower resolution and textures. While the vast majority of the game is played out from the top-down and slightly angled view, there are some areas where the character can observe a lookout to see a castle or overlook it in its full glory. The world and creature models are superbly created and fit into the theme’s overall aesthetic. The in-game audio follows this aesthetic and builds into the tension throughout the story. 

I played the game for a period, levelling my character and defeating the main story and several side quests, dungeons, crypts, and cellars. Each has a unique boss or goal to complete and unlock more of the map and achievements. Once I had completed the main story, I sort to clear some more side areas but found it hard to enjoy the endgame content. I waited for season one to release, hoping to jump back in with friends. Unfortunately, most of them have dropped off and won’t be returning at this stage. While there are challenges and goals to complete, the drive to continue the game just doesn’t feel like it is there, doubly so with the slow release of the promised updates and gameplay improvements.

In summary, while Diablo IV has been released with a few annoying issues, the gameplay is enjoyable, and I enjoy the story. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t been able to keep me invested after the story was complete. While there are plenty of things in the endgame, there was little appeal to me. I have enjoyed my time with the title but will likely stop playing once this first season is complete. I hope Diablo IV will keep with the learnings of Diablo III and build on those, and I can only hope that over its life, we see vast improvements that will maintain or allow the return of the audience that was so excited for its release.

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