Diablo IV Preview
Activision Blizzard’s highly anticipated isometric ARPG Diablo IV will finally release in just a few short weeks, and I am excited! I decided to skip the previous beta event for the game (back in late March), knowing that changes would be made before release. Fortunately, Blizzard Entertainment gave the public another chance to jump into Diablo IV prior to launch day as part of the “Server Slam” beta event.
From the moment I fired up Diablo IV, I could tell it was going to be far better than Diablo III ever was (in my mind Diablo Immortal never happened!). Right from the beginning, you are introduced to some new features, such as being able to customise your character's appearance — I cannot tell you how much I despised Diablo III for not having this modern-day element when it was released in 2012. The level of customisation is nothing grand, but it is a huge improvement from nothing at all. Players can choose their hero’s gender, face preset, hair, facial hair, makeup, jewellery, and tattoos (those last three can be changed after starting).
Now that you’ve designed your hero by picking their class (Barbarian, Druid, Necromancer, Rogue, or Sorcerer), body type, and customisation options, it is time to begin. In-game cinematics are featured in Diablo IV, which adds to how stories can be told and creates a further sense of immersion. For example, rather than a prologue screen telling you about events at the start of the game — or a CGI cinematic — you instead get to watch your hero get lost in a blizzard and bunker down inside a cave. I appreciate this so much! After a few hours, the player awakens and can explore the immediate area, however, many of the roads are blocked due to snowfall — this directs the player toward their objective — but further in the story, things will open up considerably.
I won’t spoil any of the story, that being said — in your first few hours — you will discover many locations, including the city of Kyovashad, and smaller hamlets like Nevesk, Margrave, Menestad, Nostrava, and Bear Tribe Refuge.
The world of Sanctuary feels far more alive than it has in past games. Not only do you have NPCs to talk to, but you also have side quests, merchants, neutral animals (foxes, deer, rats, and birds), as well as real people all over the place. I cannot tell you how much I loved seeing other players in the towns and cities or even out in the wild — oh, and there is a day-and-night cycle too!
Having other players allows you to join in with them to conquer world events that you will come across. Completing events offers you rewards such as gear, experience, renown, and some odd currency called “Murmuring Obols”; these Obols can be traded at specific merchants known as a “Purveyor of Curiosities”. Be careful around these shady merchants, though, as trading them your Obols may not necessarily provide you with anything good in return (it's a gamble).
Players will be able to collect resources during their travels; these items can be found in the wilderness or acquired by salvaging gear at a blacksmith. Once you have enough resources, they can then be used in crafting (gems and elixirs) or upgrading your equipment. I will also mention that certain upgrades require you to have a high enough level or enough renown with the various regions to purchase them — so don’t skip events or side quests!
You may be wondering if Diablo IV is closer to an MMORPG rather than just an RPG. There is a case to be made here: just like in an MMO, you can interact with and meet players out in the world, but they cannot follow you into an instanced zone, such as a dungeon or cellar, unless you party up with them. Where the biggest difference between the genres can be found is in the narrative. Diablo IV has an end to its story — whereas MMOs are seemingly endless due to constant expansions of content.
You can also change the difficulty of the world, which you cannot do in an MMO. There are several difficulty options available to pick from in Diablo IV; when you first make your character, you get the option to turn on Hardcore Mode — this will enable perma-death for your character. Beyond this option are four difficulty settings that can be changed in-game when visiting a city — Adventurer, Veteran, Nightmare, and Torment. For my part, I decided not to turn on Hardcore Mode and went with Veteran difficulty. I feel this was a good choice because the combat felt balanced and I could cut my way through hordes of enemies — while still getting my arse handed to me if I was not careful.
Like in the previous franchise entry, Diablo IV features voiced character lines as well as a transmog system for your gear. However, unlike Diablo III, Diablo IV includes controller support for PC, something I can only imagine was excluded from Diablo III due to sheer laziness. Heck, Blizzard knew this was so essential that they even included it when making Diablo II: Resurrected. Playing with a controller makes movement and combat feel far more fluid, but navigating the menu system is easier with a mouse and keyboard — so you are gonna have to make a choice here.
I want to take a moment and discuss the absolutely gorgeous graphics Diablo IV has going for it. Effects such as footprints in the snow and light bouncing off of ice really won me over, and the little bits of attention to detail also impressed me, such as seeing some crows pecking at corpses after a battle. Things looked amazing when I was in that aforementioned snowstorm your character gets stuck in. Physics and character animations are also present, making for great player interactions (yes, there is an emote wheel). While playing on high settings, my FPS (frames per second) remained nearly constant at 120, though I did suffer some drops occasionally. It is my belief that those drops were from the server being strained (slammed) for a moment or two due to a high population. I also noticed that cinematics seem to be locked at 30 FPS; this was not a big deal, however, as I would not have noticed at all if I did not have my FPS checker turned on.
Diablo IV is shaping up to be one of the best games Blizzard Entertainment has made in a long time — everything just feels right about it. I know players have been disappointed by the removal of the overlay map system — a staple for the series — however, if I am honest, I would rather not have it. As when I did, I never turned it off, and I missed how beautiful these games really were behind it. Except for the spiders, they are not something I want to look at, period! And no, Diablo IV does not let you enable an arachnophobia setting.
The full release of Diablo IV is set for the 6th of June on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Are you as excited about it as I am? Let us know how pumped you are in the comments section!