Review: Diablo IV

Rarely do I stop working my way through my backlog to play a new release. However, there are certain franchises that I simply cannot resist. Diablo is one of those. When I started this website over a decade ago, the Diablo games were some of the first titles that I took the time to review. Diablo III launched shortly after I started this website back in 2012. Now, eleven years later, Diablo IV is finally here and it’s taken the gaming world by storm. I’ve spent the last three weeks diving into everything this game has to offer and I’m finally ready to share my thoughts.

To start with, I want to take a moment to discuss the various ways in which you can play this game. Diablo IV is available on PC, Xbox One/S/X and the Playstation 4/5. The way you experience this title is likely to vary slightly depending on the version that you choose. For example, old school players like myself will naturally gravitate towards the PC version which is primarily controlled using the mouse and keyboard. The console versions on the other hand, are played using a controller. If you’re a longtime fan of the series, and you’re probably wondering how it’s possible to play a game like Diablo with a controller. Well, you might be surprised at how well it works. Even though the PC version defaults to mouse/keyboard, it does include native support for controllers. I tried it, and was impressed at just how functional it actually was. Personally, I still prefer playing with a keyboard and mouse, but if I had no other option, playing with a controller is perfectly acceptable.

The good thing is, no matter what platform you choose to play on, you’ll be able to play with other gamers from any system. That’s right, Diablo IV is completely cross-platform compatible. In fact, when I played this game with my trio of friends, every one of us played on a different system and it worked flawlessly. This is possible thanks to Blizzard’s Battle.net backbone. Not only does Battle.net allow for cross-platform play. But since the game data is synced to Blizzard’s proprietary network, game progression is also cross-platform as well. You can start playing on the PC, then later sit down in front of your Xbox and pick up right where you left off. In the modern age of gaming, this is how it should be! I really hope other companies are taking note and decide to follow in Blizzard’s footsteps.

One final note before I get into the details of the game itself, Diablo IV is available in a Standard, Deluxe, and Ultimate edition. As you might expect, all editions come with the base game. The Deluxe Edition includes a cosmetic mount, cosmetic armor for the mount, and a season one battle pass (more on this later). The Ultimate Edition includes everything from the Deluxe version, plus a special emote and an accelerated battle pass (tier skips). If all you’re interested in is gameplay, the standard edition is probably the way to go. With the exception of the battle pass (which will be available for purchase separately at a later date), all of the extras included in the other editions are purely for bragging rights.

The story for Diablo IV takes place fifty years after the events of the third game. The world of Sanctuary has been plunged into the dark ages. After years of suffering, people are desperate for salvation. Many cling to a religion that worships the fallen angel Inarius. However, whispers about the existence of a dark cult dedicated to Lilith, the Daughter of Hatred, are also commonplace among the people of Sanctuary. The game begins when the main player character is captured by cultists and drugged. Their intention is sacrifice the player as part of a ritual. The player manages to escape, but during their capture they are force fed the blood of Lilith. This event creates a bond between the player and Lilith. I don’t want to give too much away, but what happens next is an epic story that expands on decades of Diablo’s lore. Of all the games in the series, this one really hits the mark in terms of deep storytelling.

Like all of the other games in the Diablo series, Diablo IV is an overhead action game that focuses on exploration, combating waves of enemies, and powering up via levels and equipment. Many of the elements from the previous games are still present in this entry, namely procedurally generated dungeons, power-tiered equipment, and character customization via skill-trees. This time around, there are five classes for players to choose from: Barbarian (also appeared in Diablo II and III), Sorcerer (Diablo I and II), Druid (Diablo II), Rogue (Diablo I), and Necromancer (Diablo II and III). Unlike previous games, players are able to customize their character’s appearance in great detail. Equipment changes are still reflected on the character model. But this time, players are also able to “transmog” their equipment so that it can take on a specific appearance without altering the stats of the gear itself. This leads me to another new feature: the in-game shop.

Diablo IV features a cash shop that allows players to buy items for their character. Unlike the previous cash-shop attempt of Diablo III, this in-game store consists of only cosmetic items (at least so far). Options currently include gear, mounts, armor for mounts, and headstones (markers that appear on the screen when a player dies). Personally, I have no qualms with this type of thing. I don’t feel compelled to spend real money on cosmetic items for this type of game. But I have no issues with anyone that does. What I am curious to see is what happens with the upcoming battle pass that’s supposed to take root once the multiplayer “seasons” start rolling out. In Diablo III, a new season meant starting a character from scratch and trying to complete the game, reach a certain level, or participate in special online events in order to reach a certain goal before the season ends. Doing so would typically award the player with some gear that was exclusive to those who completed that particular “season”. It sounds like this time around, there are going to be different levels that players can reach to unlock various rewards. The Deluxe and Ultimate editions of the game seem to hint that players will be able to pay money to speed up progression. I’m not sure how I feel about that. But I guess we’ll see how it all pans out once it actually goes live.

Like Diablo III, this game is always online. As you progress through the game, you’re bound to come across other players. While it is totally possible to complete the game as a single player, there will certain encounters where the assistance of others is likely to be welcome. The overworld map is not randomly generated and is pretty much a free-for-all. This is where you’ll probably encounter  the bulk of random players. Dungeons, on the other hand, are instanced and procedurally generated. The only way to play with others in a dungeon is to create or join a party with other players and venture in together. Since most of the major story content takes place in dungeons, this prevents random players from rushing ahead of you and ruining your fun. Playing with your friends has never been easier. Battle.net integration allows you to talk to (voice or chat), and group up with your friends regardless of platform. As someone who spends a lot of time playing older games, Diablo IV actually marks the first time I’ve ever played an online game where I’ve actively voice-chatted with friends. Up until now, I’ve always played MMOs where voice-chat wasn’t a native function. I know I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to this, but it is what it is. The big takeaway is – now I get it! Being able to simply talk to your friends while playing a co-op game is a huge game changer for me.

As far as content goes, Diablo IV is filled with it. There’s a MASSIVE overworld map to explore. Only a portion of the locations on the map are actually tied to the main storyline. So even once you complete the game, there’s still plenty of uncharted territory to seek out. Scattered across the map are the various dungeons and cellars. Dungeons are what you’d expect; big procedurally generated maps filled with monsters, treasure, and various objectives. Some are tied to various quests, but others are there simply there to be explored. Completing a dungeon awards the player’s account with various perks and boons that players can use to boost their characters. Cellars are very short (usually one or two room) dungeons that serve as a quick way to earn some gear and battle some powerful enemies.

Upon completion of the game, players are awarded access to a third difficulty tier. This third tier (and the forth one that follows it) is where all of the game’s best loot is available. Of course, as you might expect, these last two tiers are pretty tough. But higher difficulty levels are not the only rewards for completing the main storyline. Endgame content and PVP also becomes available at this point. Certain areas of the overworld map are set aside just for PVP play. This is important because it allows casual players to stay out of areas where they might be killed by other “less friendly” gamers.

Blizzard seems to have done a really good job with this game. I can’t say that I really encountered any major bugs or server issues thus far. The gameplay is well balanced and fun and the multiplayer works flawlessly. As far as “Diabloesque” games go, I really didn’t think there was much room for improvement after Diablo III, but I was wrong. This game improves on almost every aspect of the previous game in every way. If I had to find anything to complain about with this title, it would be the fact that we see very little outside of Sanctuary. Diablo III took players to both Heaven and Hell, there was plenty of otherworldly mysticism in that game. That’s something I find appealing. Yes, there’s a short jaunt to Hell in this game as well, but it was very limited. I personally would have loved to see more of that.

If you enjoy these type of games, then I would urge you not to hesitate. Diablo IV is a great addition to the series and it especially fun with friends. It’s not a perfect game, and some portions of the main storyline do seem to drag on a bit. But overall, I found it to be a blast from start to finish. This is one that’s highly recommended.

Version Reviewed: PC

Difficulty: Varies –  From the very beginning players are able to choose from two different levels of difficulty. The difference between these two is pretty noticeable, but I feel it’s appropriate and well done. Upon completing the game, players can complete a special dungeon that unlocks the third tier. The challenge increase between the second and third difficulty levels is pretty big. But not as big as the jump from third to fourth (which is also unlocked via completion of a special dungeon). The big appeal of the higher difficulty levels is that all of the best gears drops from the third and fourth tier. Of course, if that’s not enough… there’s also Hardcore mode in which if your character dies, they die permanently – instantly negating all of the hard work you’ve put into them. Brutal.

Multiplayer: Yes – Cross-platform Co-op and PVP.

Story:  Probably the best storytelling in the series so far – and that’s really saying something! The main scenario features the bulk to the game’s story. But players who are willing to seek out sidequests and explore many of the game’s dungeons are going to find lots of cool lore and flavor text scattered throughout the game.

Originality: There’s not really anything here that hasn’t been seen in the series thus far. But almost everything is drastically improved on in a major way.

Soundtrack:  The music in this game is fitting and dramatic. But, if I’m being honest, it’s my least favorite in the series. The voice acting on the other hand, is outstanding.

Fun:  If you like other Diablo titles or Diablo-clones, you’re going to love this one as well. In my opinion, the best way to experience this game is with friends. Thanks to cross-play, playing with friends has never been easier. There’s just something about teaming up with several people and storming a dungeon or strategizing on a boss fight that’s extremely exciting.

Graphics:  Diablo IV is by far, the best looking entry in the series and some parts of the game are jaw-dropping. Surprisingly, my two-year old rig can still run this game on the highest settings without any noticeable issues. On the PC, the game features cutting-edge technology like DLSS and DLAA. Since I usually play older games, this was my first chance to really try out some of these new features. The results are nothing short of awesome.

Playcontrol:  As a PC player, I play exclusively with a mouse and keyboard. I found the default controls to be intuitive, but sometimes a bit annoying. Many of the keys you use frequently are located very close to each other on the keyboard. In the heat of the moment, it’s very easy to bump the wrong key and suddenly, you have the map covering the screen in the middle to a tense fight. Thankfully, this is not really an issue for console players. Playing this type of game ona  controller can take some getting used to if you come from the PC. But it’s surprisingly efficient.

Downloadable Content:  In-game cosmetic purchases.

Mature Content: Language, blood/gore, occult imagery.

Value: Diablo IV is both a top-tier and a new title. As such, the price tag is a bit steep. The base game sells for $70. Add another $10 for each step up and this puts the Ultimate Edition at a whopping $100! Pricey? Yes. – I personally purchased the Ultimate Edition because… I’m an idiot. Trust me the base game is all you really need. You’re not missing out on anything. Even $70 is a bit steep for a game. But in my opinion, Diablo IV is worth every penny.

Overall score (1-100): 95 – I have nothing but high praise for this game right out of the gate. I can only wonder how my opinion might change as time goes on. Even if the seasonal content falls flat on its face, the game that already exists exceeded any expectation I had. This is one that I recommend to nearly any gamer.

Original System: PC, Xbox One/S/X, PS 4/5

Available today on: PC, Xbox One/S/X, PS 4/5 – (Updated as of Summer 2023)

Best Experience:  PC    – (Updated as of Summer 2023)

Other Reviews In This Series:

Diablo – Diablo II  (Resurrected) –  Diablo III  –  Reaper of Souls  – Diablo IV

Old Game Hermit

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