It’s been almost 12 years since Diablo III released on PCs. That’s over a decade of demon slaying, gear farming, multiplayer fun, and cringy dialogue, and we’re finally less than three months away from the release of its successor, Diablo IV. For me, Diablo III committed the heinous crime of being addictively fun, and consequently took hundreds of hours of my life. After playing through the Diablo IV beta, it’s clear that I’m about to lose a ton more.
Diablo IV takes place thirty years after the events of Diablo III, where millions of people died thanks to the ongoing feud between the high heavens and the burning hells. That’s mostly all you need to know about Diablo’s story, which, while vast and full of lore, is also very silly and out there. In Diablo IV, Lilith is positioned as the main antagonist, while the player is an unnamed hero who has to put a stop to all the culty, demonic behavior. Lilith, who is known as the Queen of the Succubi, is the creator of Sanctuary, daughter of Mephisto, Lord of Hatred, and the sister of Lucion. There’s alot more to her lore that I won’t get into here, but suffice to say that she’s one of the best characters in the often goofy Diablo universe. It’s possible that the story in Diablo IV will be great, but it’s more likely that it’ll be superficial, silly, and entertaining, which is part of the allure of the series.
Visually, Diablo IV is subtly gorgeous. The beta kicked off with a stunning cinematic that involves gruesome monsters, webs of living blood and Lilith in all her glory, and it’s one of the best looking cinematics I’ve ever seen. From there, the game transitions to the standard, top-down gameplay that we’ve come to expect from the Diablo series, but with an extra layer of polish and environmental effects that make it especially immersive. Players who are new to the Diablo series may be initially disappointed by the series’ isometric perspective, especially compared to the opening cinematic, but I’d be surprised if they feel that way after a couple hours.
The lighting, sound, and atmosphere were all stellar throughout the beta. From the moment you’re thrust into the cold tundra, Diablo IV immerses you with billowing snow, eerie winds, and the sound of nearby enemies. That immersion never dissipated throughout my time with the beta, regardless of whether I was exploring the cold tundra, luminous caves, or dark dungeons. Simply put, the world of Diablo IV seems purposefully bleak, but beautiful.
Diablo IV features a solid, if unspectacular character creator, with skin tone, body type, hair style, and accessory options. I was able to create an angsty scene, kid-type protagonist with long green hair, chunky earrings and demonic body tattoos, as well as a powerhouse Barbarian with flaming red hair and runes of blood etched across their body. And hey, what more can you ask for in a character creator in a Diablo game?
All that said, the most important part of any Diablo game is of course the combat, and Diablo IV’s is both familiar and satisfying. It continues to strike the fine line between tactical, split-second decision-making and chaotic button-masher. The moment-to-moment combat feels like a streamlined version of Diablo III’s, but with more precise inputs and flashier combos. Activision Blizzard have said in the past that they are aiming to make Diablo IV‘s combat more grounded, and there is a noticeable improvement in clarity, especially when fighting through hordes of enemies. The button-mashing fun is still there, but with an additional sense of purpose that bodes well for the final product.
The beta featured five classes: Barbarian, Sorceress, Druid, Rogue, and Necromancer. I was able to play as the Barbarian and Rogue, and they both were fun and familiar in their own ways. The Rogue is my Diablo go-to, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change in Diablo IV. It has a nice combination of quickfire long-range attacks, to furious close-range stabs that feel like a chaotic dance. My time with the Barbarian was less fun, as the brute force combat is less precise and more button-mashy, but it’s in line with how the class has felt in previous games. I’m looking forward to giving the other classes a try once the game actually launches, even though there’s a 99% chance I’ll still stick to my good ol’ Rogue.
Last but not least, the multiplayer aspect of Diablo IV looks to be off to a good start. While I did experience some connection issues in the initial closed beta (and a bit of pop-in) the experience was mostly smooth and stable. There’s no series that nails the ‘run around and kill enemies with friends’ style multiplayer better, and it’s alive and well in the beta. The MMO-lite elements work exceptionally well, as you randomly run into players throughout the game. It adds an extra layer of immersion to the overall experience and makes the world feel more dynamic.
So far, Diablo IV looks and plays promisingly. It’s easily the prettiest Diablo game to date and the subtle changes to combat along with the classic story silliness combine to make it a truly exciting title that I’m looking forward to.
Diablo IV will launch on June 6, 2023 for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC, and the Xbox Series X bundle for it will appear that same day.