My review copy of Diablo IV arrived quite late, just in time for the early access that kicked off right before the weekend. As a result, I must confess that I am still far from completing my journey in Sanctuary, even though I’ve managed to play about 25 hours this weekend. Nevertheless, Diablo IV presents a dark, gruesome, challenging, raw, and vast gaming experience. The game world is expansive, demanding considerable time to explore every nook and cranny. However, I do have reservations about the amount of time it takes to acquire a horse. It wasn’t until I surpassed level 35 that I finally obtained one, and I must declare that this is the game’s most significant flaw. Navigating the map becomes a sluggish affair, with every inch teeming with enemies, events, and various encounters. While I appreciate the immersive nature of these elements, the fact that enemies scale with your character means that each battle takes longer than necessary. Consequently, it somewhat diminishes the sense of overpowering might. I believe the constant combat across the entire map without a horse may prove frustrating for some players. I have mixed feelings because the combat mechanics are exceptional, but over time, the repetitive act of carving blood-soaked paths to every destination may become tiresome. One thing is undeniable, though – Diablo IV compels players to slay demons and all sorts of creatures in such vast quantities that one can’t help but wonder just how many exist in this dark realm.

Fortunately, teleportation remains a reliable method of travel in Diablo IV. Players can conveniently teleport between Waypoints, although they may be sparsely scattered throughout the game world. Additionally, the classic Town Portal magic allows for instant transportation to towns, offering a convenient way to restock and regroup. A significant improvement from previous installments is the introduction of a new teleportation magic that creates an orange portal, providing direct access to the entrance of a cave from the outside. This addition enhances the gameplay experience, granting players greater flexibility and ease in navigating the treacherous depths of the game’s world.

Story & design

Diablo IV places a stronger emphasis on its story, lore, and narrative this time around. While it may not win any Oscars, I personally love this aspect. I’ve always been somewhat obsessed with the world-building itself, and it takes center stage here. Who are the creators of Sanctuary, and how was the world brought into existence? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching YouTube clips featuring the voice actor behind the character Lorath Nahr. Our new Horadrim companion provides an abundance of information, both during and outside of the adventure. He serves as a replacement for Deckard Cain, and I quite like him. His grizzled voice adds a professional touch that fits perfectly.

The undersigned has been running as a druid since the start.

The villain, Lilith, truly surpasses Belial and Azmodan. She is unsettling, sympathetic, and chilling in her demeanor. The same can be said for the opposing archangel, Inarius, whose tormented and fragmented ego doesn’t make him particularly kind. They aren’t twirling their mustaches and revealing their evil plans. This time, they are much better-written characters. I would go so far as to say they are even more developed than we typically see in the series.

The design, artistry, and world-building in Diablo IV are truly phenomenal. Swamps, steppes, deserts, mountain landscapes, and snowy villages await you. Wherever you look, there are caves, secrets, and other discoveries to be made. The constant loop of battling monsters, earning rewards, and selling in towns remains intact and functions incredibly well in this cohesive world. It’s thanks to the increased focus on storytelling and bringing the world to life that the game truly shines. Whether I’m attempting to conquer a fortress, stumbling upon an event, or simply encountering something peculiar in the wilderness, there’s always a background to it all. This structure has always worked for me. Drowning a grand ruin in blood and having a wise storyteller recount the origins of time and the reasons for its existence, both before and after, adds an extra layer of immersion.

Grahpics & audio

The visual elements in Diablo IV elevate every activity you undertake. The game boasts stunning visuals, with features like mud, snow, and reflective puddles that add a captivating touch. The overall gothic aesthetic truly captures the essence of a desolate, scarred, and gritty world. Initially, I had concerns about the graphics’ longevity when playing the beta, but I’m relieved to see that the final product looks impressive, even for a high-budget game in 2023. The weapon and magic effects are also skillfully executed, contributing to the immersive experience.

However, it’ i’s the combination of sound and music that truly amplifies the gameplay. The sound effects pack a punch, especially when kicking open a door and witnessing the settling dust. Each environment has its unique acoustic signature, lending authenticity to the locations. Furthermore, the revamped classic sound effects, such as the jingle of gold, the clinking of health potions, and the creaking of chests, sound better than ever before. The importance of sound effects cannot be understated, as they contribute significantly to the overall immersion. The music in Diablo IV, as expected, is exceptional. It not only sounds great but also blends seamlessly with the gameplay, creating an immersive audio experience. For the best auditory experience, I highly recommend playing the game with a good pair of headphones to fully capture the intricacies of the sound design.

End game

For both long-time fans of the series and beginners wondering what to do once they’ve completed the campaign, Diablo IV offers an endgame experience. Paragon levels make a return, albeit with some modifications. This leveling system unlocks once you reach level 50 and allows for meaningful improvements to your abilities. In addition to that, there are World Tiers (difficulty levels), Nightmare Dungeons, PvP, world bosses, and content tied to seasons. Personally, I particularly enjoy Nightmare Dungeons and world bosses. To access Nightmare Dungeons, you need to reach World Tier 3 and find seals, special items that allow you to transform an existing cave into a significantly more challenging version. This provides an opportunity to discover more rare equipment.

Early verdict

After delving into Diablo IV this weekend, I can confidently say that it offers an amazing adventure through the world of Sanctuary. The game embraces a darker storyline and atmosphere, reminiscent of the beloved Diablo II. The music and sound effects create a gripping ambiance, perfectly complementing the visuals that paint a desolate and doomed world. While I had concerns about potential online issues in the full release, the review version ran smoothly without any crashes or disruptive bugs.

One aspect that impressed me is how Diablo IV manages to cater to both seasoned players and newcomers. Meanwhile, long-time fans will appreciate the subtle nods, character insights, and references to past events. The available classes in the game are diverse and well-balanced, and while we await the inevitable arrival of the holy warrior class, the current lineup offers a satisfying variety of playstyles.

Diablo IV excels in delivering an immersive experience, offering stunning visuals, addictive gameplay, and a captivatingly dark tone that fans have been craving. Whether you’re exploring the intricate details of the world, engaging in thrilling battles, or uncovering hidden secrets, the game keeps you hooked and hungry for more. Diablo IV is a promising addition to the franchise, that I can highly recommend.