I don’t know about you guys, but I was pretty underwhelmed by the release of Diablo II: Resurrected. However, I loved Diablo III, buying it multiple times across Xbox 360 and as it re-released on Xbox One, but now it’s time to look forward and so when the opportunity to play the beta of Diablo IV was presented to me, you’d better believe I grabbed it with both hands.
Now, obviously, this is merely an opinion piece based on the many hours I have spent with the Diablo IV beta, but what I hope to present to you here is a look at the things that the beta got so very right; the reasons to be cheerful and why you should be excited for Diablo IV. Of course, there may well have been some missteps, but feel free to come to Sanctuary again, and let’s have a look at what I found.
First off and it must be said – Diablo IV looks amazing. The way the landscape is presented through the various different biomes, from snowy mountains, to thick forests, to deep caves and mines was very good to see. The camera angle is fixed, as is usual for the Diablo games, in an isometric top-down kind of view, but this doesn’t matter. It excels, from the amazing opening cutscene showing the rebirth of Lillith – Diablo IV’s big bad – to the character generator, as everything feels amazingly polished and worked extremely well. The most impressive part of what the graphics engine is doing is that even when playing as a magic user, slinging lightning bolts everywhere into a room full of monsters, there has been no slow down, no graphical issues of any kind. Diablo IV stayed looking and playing brilliantly all the way through. Deeply, deeply impressive stuff.
The sound hasn’t been forgotten either and this is no more true than the fully voice acted conversations that you take part in being of extremely high quality too. The voicing of Lillith is perfect as the menacing Daughter of Hatred, with a control in her voice that is quite disturbing. That folds into the music, the sounds of the monsters and the attacks too, and pretty much everything about the way this beta was presented has been very, very good indeed. If this is the first beta, I’m very excited to see what the full release of Diabo IV will bring.
But how did the beta play out and what action was on offer? Well, as you’d expect, the choice of characters was a little restricted, with some of the classes not available yet, and while I’d have liked to have taken the Necromancer for a test drive, the Sorcerer was my next choice. Being the sort of person who feels that if peril absolutely has to happen, it should happen as far away from my person as possible, the thought of throwing spells at distant foes was pretty appealing. Obviously, this is a double edged sword, as if the enemies do manage to close up with you, then they tend to tear you a new one in short order!
One thing I noticed immediately is that the dodge move that had full use in Diablo III now has a cooldown, which makes fighting some of the bigger bosses a lot more interesting. Another change is found with the health potions, as now they aren’t available to buy in town and instead you have a number of “charges” that you can use; once they are gone, you are pretty stuck. Luckily, damaging foes can cause them to drop extra charades that you can pick up, and so with a bit of careful kiting and dodging, you should be able to keep yourself alive. Interestingly, the health potion can also be upgraded, adding to its potency, and this reminds a lot of the Estus Flask in the Dark Souls games. Otherwise, this is very much business as usual, and shooting foes from afar, and then switching to close up magic when needed saw me make decent progress through the part of the story we were allowed to play.
The loot and upgrade cycle is fully present in this beta too, and the chance to get your hot little hands on new gear is still as exciting as ever. I even managed to grab a legendary wand for my sorcerer, and the little “ping” when it dropped and the orange line that came off it made me very happy indeed, the same feeling I had when it happened in the previous games. You can also upgrade the gear you find at the blacksmith in the various towns that you find, and while it does cost a lot of gold to do, you will find it helps immeasurably.
While talking about upgrading, the skill tree has also been available to check out in this beta, and boy is it a big one. The sorcerer’s skill tree lets you choose which path to go down, with points available as you level up put into lightning, fire and other attacks. I went down the lightning route, with a long range lightning bolt that started to branch off and shock other enemies, turning my girl into a mobile shock unit. Then, for up close and personal moments, I used an Arc Lash spell, sweeping an area around you with lightning that can cause paralysis. I also added a sneaky ice bolt spell, great for slowing down the pesky fast enemies, and with this loadout, I felt prepared to face whatever Sanctuary could throw at me. And I was, right up until the end of a mine section where the boss pounded me into the ground in short order.
Other things I noticed with Diablo IV? Well, the fact that you can see other people running about in the world was a big change, and teaming up with a bunch of strangers to deal with what is, in effect, a public event is very cool indeed. You can see these events on the map, and wandering over there will see you battling some truly horrible creatures, including one where we had to fight what was dubbed a “World Boss”; blimey, was that thing tough. These events, and seeing people in the towns as you explore help to make the game feel more alive than the previous entries in the series.
All in all then, I am very, very happy with the progress that Blizzard have made towards release of Diabo IV, extremely excited for full release in June 2023. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must head back to that mine and try to get past that boss…
Diablo IV releases on June 6th 2023 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC. Unless you decide to pre-order the Digital Deluxe Edition (£89.99) or Ultimate Edition (£99.99) from the likes of the Xbox Store – they will both give you four days early access on the standard street date.