Diablo IV Preview
One of my all-time favorite, top 10, go-to games was Diablo II. It set the bar for hack-and-slash games and although prettier titles came along, nothing quite clicked the same way. Including, sadly, Diablo III. But now Diablo IV is on the near horizon, and hot damn, playing it brings back all the addictive joy of Diablo II. Like many of those who pre-ordered the game, I’ve been playing the open beta this weekend. Color me impressed, obsessed, and as addicted as I can be, knowing my time with the beta is short.
Nobody Does It Better
Diablo IV kicks things off with one of Blizzard’s eye-watering cinematics, reminding us that no developer does those with more skill and virtuosity. The game itself is gorgeous, with an immense amount of detail, stellar lighting effects, and incredibly smooth character animations. There is a lot of story, told through cut scenes and in-game engine cinematics. I was impressed with the small details of the animation that brought those isometric characters to life. This includes lip-syncing which is much better than many action games, and effectively melodramatic voice acting. Everything looked so good I just wanted to take my time and take in the sights.
Composer Matt Uelmen has scored the Diablo games with memorable music and themes that range from demonic to melancholic. He’s outdone himself this time around, with a doleful string quartet that underscores the hub city and excellent, understated music for the dungeons and outdoor areas. Spells, battle sounds, and creature audio effects are all punchy and immersive. Overall, like the visuals, the music and sound design couldn’t be more impressive.
The Heart of the Beast
The dopamine drip of exploration and combat remains the core pleasure of Diablo IV. Over time, the series has added original mechanics and borrowed good ideas from other ARPGs. Public events and Stronghold dungeons, world bosses, a deep skill tree, and a detailed character creator are just the tip of a very substantial iceberg. I’ve been playing a mage specializing in pyromancies and arcs of lightning and several hours in, have barely breached the multi-branching spell and upgrade tree. The spell effects are wonderfully effective, and with multiple enemy animations, their reactions and deaths never get repetitive.
Although the game’s dungeons and underground lairs are visually impressive, they are procedurally generated. This means that now and then, dead ends, empty rooms, and repeating tiles take away some of the hand-crafted feel. On the other hand, the action is so devilishly frantic, it’s hard to notice.
If you’d skipped every other dungeon crawler since Diablo II, you’d be amazed at how much the genre has matured. The story, main quests, and multiple side quests come together coherently. The ability to craft and customize a character goes far beyond just dumping points into a few basic stats. While the Diablo II Resurrected edition brought the classic game some much-needed mechanical updates, Diablo IV takes what once felt like a perfect experience and makes it even better.
Stop the World, I Want to Play
We don’t need to recount all of Blizzard’s creative missteps and genuinely troubling practices. They’re real and they certainly cast a bit of doubt on Diablo IV. Could it somehow bring back fans after the debacle that was Diablo Immortal? The very good news is that Diablo IV is the best game in the franchise since Diablo II. It looks stunning, but more critically, it’s addictive as hell. There are dozens of hours ahead of me, and I can’t wait to put my life on hold when Diablo IV finally arrives on June 6.
Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.