So, it is finally here – the fourth entry in Blizzard’s seminal Diablo series. I guess the big question that everyone wants to know the answer to is this – has the wait for Diablo IV been worth it? Well, in short, the answer is yes, you should go out and buy it, and the world will be a better place. Thank you and good night.
It turns out that the editor wants a few more words to explain why this is the case and so I’ll ramble on for a little bit longer.
Let’s begin with the story of Diablo IV and why we are having to kill all of these monsters. You see, it appears that the demon Lillith, known as the Daughter of Hatred and the Mother of Sanctuary (Sanctuary being the world that Diablo IV is set on) was banished for being a naughty demon. Now though she is back, and ready to cause trouble. She starts out small, knocking people’s bins over and such, but soon moves onto corrupting whole settlements. It is in one of these settlements where we first cross paths with her. I’m not going to go into too much detail as to how the story of Diablo IV plays out, but suffice it to say that we have a full supporting cast of angels and demons, with us squishy mortals in the middle trying to set things right. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, not the presentation of Diablo IV, that is for sure. That’s not to say I haven’t seen a few graphical oddities, mainly in story related cutscenes, with odd flashes of light and certain bits of scenery flickering in and out of existence, but usually, when you are exploring and fighting (or attempting the two at the same time) then you are simply too busy trying to stay alive to even notice any little impairment.
The design of the various parts of the map are all great as well, ranging from snow covered forest to blood soaked desert, including many subterranean dungeons to explore. The landscapes and backdrops all look great. The enemies filling these areas are equally as good looking – at least when they aren’t trying to remove your head. With more spell effects and projectiles flying about than you can shake a stick at, everything in the graphical garden is rosy.
Sound is also very good, with the fully voiced parts of the story well acted, and even the NPCs who give the side missions out being convincingly portrayed. The battle sounds are immense, and all in all, when the music is added in too, the presentation of Diablo IV is almost bang on.
So, what about the actual game itself then, how does that play out? Well, if you ever played any of the big ARPGs, such as Path of Exile or even Diablo 3, you’ll be right at home here.
When you first start a game, your first big choice concerns the class you wish to run. Sadly, Demon Hunter, my best class from Diablo 3, is no longer an option, and you have the choice of Necromancer, Druid, Barbarian, Rogue and Enchanter. I went, for my first run through with the Necromancer class, figuring that if an enemy could get through my army of skeletons, it would be a good idea to run away.
Each of the characters that you choose allows access to a skill tree that expands the further you get into the game. As you spend skill points, accrued by levelling up, in addition to new skills, they open up new nodes on the skill tree, allowing you to respec your character almost as often as you wish. You can spend and refund skill points however you like (although refunding does cost gold, there is plenty lying about in the game) and so you can reinvent yourself as many times as you wish.
The choice of levelling and powers isn’t restricted to this tree, however, as the gear that you find will often have special abilities attached to it. For example, one of the first legendaries I found was an amulet that allows me to summon an extra three skeleton warriors, and this has been a game changer. With seven skeleton warriors, three skeleton mages and a golem on my team, I don’t often have to dirty my hands with actual fighting, instead hanging back and supporting my undead army with pools of blight and an attack that makes the enemies vulnerable.
Finding loot, evaluating, equipping, selling or storing things you don’t want soon becomes all encompassing, and the cries from my teammates saying their inventory was full and they were going back to town, usually before a boss, soon became commonplace.
There is so much to Diablo IV that I could probably ramble on for hours, but I’m hoping to try and narrow the focus of the review to the things that are truly great about the game. And to be honest, I think the greatest thing is the sheer freedom that it gives you. If you want to blaze through the story solo, you can. If you and your mates want to explore the map, seeing what is every little corner and trying to complete all the dungeons and strongholds, you can. If you are some sort of masochist and want to engage in some PvP battles, you can even do this too. While I hate the very idea, Blizzard clearly believed that people would like it, as there is an achievement tied to this mode. I’d rather stick my hand in a wasp’s nest, to be honest, but each to their own.
Just bimbling about and getting as many side quests done as I could seemed to stand me in good stead, as I was more than level 50 before I hit the end of the fourth Act. It all fits in with a Fallout playstyle, where the story missions are the last ones to be done.
With all things considered, Diablo IV is a blinder. The story, the visuals (without the glitchy bits, obviously) and the sheer freedom to go and do whatever you want, whenever you fancy it, all add up to make a game that is an essential play. Solo, with friends or even against them, Diablo IV demands to be played. When you consider the amount of depth to be found in the skill trees and equipment setups, there is enough here to keep you playing for a long time yet.