Diablo 4 Review: A Vast World that Lacks Immersion and Surprises

May 31, 2023
4 mins read
Diablo IV Review
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When I chatted with Warren Spector, the illustrious creator of Deus Ex, some years ago, he dreamt of a game that encapsulated an entire universe within a single city block. His words echoed in my mind as I traversed the sprawling world of Diablo 4, Blizzard’s latest foray into the world of Sanctuary. I found myself torn, admiring the scope and scale but yearning for a deeper, more intimately interactive experience.

Diablo 4 picks up its narrative baton a few decades after the apocalyptic ending of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, with Sanctuary still grappling with its consequences. In the shadow of Mephisto, the diabolical antagonist of Diablo II, our new nemesis is Lilith, his nefarious offspring, stirring the same dread but with a fresh menace.

Diablo IV Review

If you’ve had a rendezvous with Diablo IV during its open beta phase, you’ve glimpsed the vast open world’s promise, but also the monotony of its quests. It was rather frustrating to find recycled quests, like safeguarding villagers under carts in the Fractured Peaks and then again in Scosglen, the game’s subsequent zone. Optional dungeons pepper the landscape, yet often rehash similar layouts and objectives. On rare occasions, you stumble upon an intriguing bit of lore or a named adversary, but those surprises are frustratingly sparse.

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The open world of Diablo 4 is an absolute spectacle, brought alive by some of Blizzard’s most vividly intricate and imaginative design work to date. Accompanied by a soundtrack that beautifully haunts your journey, Diablo 4’s world is a sight to behold, if only it held more immersive interactions within.

Diablo IV Review

There’s a noticeable effort in customization and player agency within Diablo IV. The option to tailor your hero’s appearance and the addition of the transmog system offers a tremendous variety of visual customization. No two druids, barbarians, sorcerers, rogues, or necromancers will look alike, adding a very personal touch to your gaming experience.

Diablo 4 introduces the Aspects system, providing unique flexibility in customizing your character’s skills and abilities. It’s an appealing feature that allows you to collect item affixes, which can significantly alter your character’s abilities, making each gameplay unique and exciting.

Diablo IV Review

However, it’s crucial to note that beneath the mesmerizing artistry and compelling gameplay, there’s a lingering sense of repetition and predictability. The world of Diablo 4 begs for more immersive content rather than a constant grind against endless hordes of monsters.

The version I played didn’t feature any microtransactions that the final game will inevitably include. Blizzard has outlined their monetization plans to be centered around an in-game shop and seasonal passes, promising no direct gameplay advantages tied to purchased items, only cosmetic ones.

Another aspect I need to highlight is the game’s combat dynamics. Blizzard has always excelled in creating exciting combat mechanics, and Diablo 4 is no exception. However, the combat, too, gets repetitive over time, echoing the same monotony that plagues the quests.

Diablo IV Review

The skills of each character class are meticulously designed and incredibly fun to use, and finding the right synergy between your gear and skills is genuinely satisfying. You’ll discover a variety of playstyles within each class, thanks to the innovative Aspects system, which allows you to modify your skills based on legendary items you find during your journey. Yet, I longed for the challenge and surprise that a more diverse enemy roster might have offered.

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My first encounter with the Butcher, a notorious boss from the Diablo universe, came as an unexpected surprise during one of my dungeon explorations. Despite the brief and tragic end to my barbarian at his hands, this encounter was one of the game’s highlights. It’s these instances of spontaneity and unexpected encounters that I craved more of in Diablo 4.

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An aspect that has generated considerable debate among the Diablo community is the introduction of in-game purchases and a seasonal pass in a full-priced game. While the developers have promised these transactions to be purely cosmetic and not influencing the gameplay, I understand the apprehension that some players might have.

Nevertheless, Diablo 4 is a testament to Blizzard’s continued commitment to evolving the world of Sanctuary while preserving its core essence. The game retains a lot of what made the franchise so beloved while attempting to inject a dose of novelty.

Despite its expansiveness and visual grandeur, Diablo 4 appears to succumb to the trap of favoring scale over depth. As Warren Spector once eloquently put it, the simulation is at a level of an inch per mile. Blizzard has created a wide world, rich in lore and fascinating in its aesthetic. However, a more profound sense of interactivity, both in the world and in combat, could have made Diablo IV a more immersive and enriching experience.

Riveting storyline and compelling antagonistRepetitive quests and limited variety
Extensive visual customization for charactersLack of deep world interactions
Intuitive and flexible Aspects systemMicrotransactions may be off-putting for some
Immersive open-world design and stunning soundtrackLimited enemy diversity
Balanced in-game purchases
Exciting combat mechanics

The Verdict

Diablo 4 is an ambitious installment that shines in its narrative depth and visual brilliance. Its sprawling world is a testament to Blizzard’s creativity and technical prowess. The extensive character customization options and the Aspects system add a layer of personalization to the game, making your character feel genuinely unique.

However, the game could have benefitted from a greater emphasis on engaging content and combat diversity. The repetitive nature of quests and combat encounters can be tedious, hindering what is otherwise an immersive gaming experience.

At its core, Diablo 4 is a commendable sequel to a cherished franchise and a remarkable achievement for Blizzard. While the game might not be flawless, its grandeur, narrative depth, and intricate customization offer an immersive and enjoyable experience for both veterans and newcomers of the Diablo franchise.

Looking forward, I’m excited to see how Blizzard continues to evolve this world and address these concerns in future updates and expansions. Diablo IV is undoubtedly a game worth experiencing, and its potential is as vast as its sprawling open world.

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