More Diablo II than III
It has been known for a while now that the style that Blizzard has followed with Diablo this time looks back more to the Diablo II game than to the newer Diablo III. For hardcore Diablo fans, the second game in the series has often stood as the best in the series.
Personally, I enjoyed my many hours in the company of Diablo II, but I preferred, all things being equal, the somewhat darker and gritty tone that was in Diablo II.
That style and tone is very much back with Diablo IV, which is a darker and grimmer version of Santuary. It is clear throughout both the cutscenes and the in-game part of the game itself.
Lots of Beta content
The entire first Act of the game was included in the Beta test over the weekend, and you had access to four of the total five characters you can play when the game lands. You could choose between barbarian, Sorcerer and Rogue. Each of these characters could be played up to level 25.
Purely in terms of content, you ended up reaching your level limit MUCH faster than you reached the limit for content, just in the first part of the game. I played a lot on Saturday and a little during Sunday. During that time I ended up with a Barbarian at around level 23. However, I still felt like I only scratched the surface of the very large map that was available.
There are LOTS of dungeons, side quests, class quests and generally just story elements that fill out the beautiful, albeit dark, world well.
There wasn't really anything that I encountered in my hours with the game that felt like filler. Everything seemed to have a really good root in both the story and the world in which you play.
At the same time, there is also LOTS of loot, of course. After all, we are playing Diablo. It was actually right before a short transition that I felt like cool loot was dropping TOO fast. I had just gotten to be happy with a special piece of armor or a nice weapon, and then something that was better dropped, but in a slightly different way.
Fortunately, however, I discovered that it was possible, via the crafting system, to take properties from one piece of equipment and transfer it to another. Great option that takes some of the randomness out of finding an armor or weapon setup that compliments the skill build you've chosen for your character.
It simply requires that you find equipment with characteristics or boosts that you want to carry on, and then that you collect the resources that it takes to move things to another piece of gear.
It creates a very fluid system, which you have a great influence on, being able to adapt as you like.
The same also applies to the appearance of your equipment. It is possible to change the appearance of your gear, so you can get just the badass look you want. It just requires that you have found equipment with that look, and put together the "recipe" for your collection.
In the same way as with your equipment, there are also really good opportunities to adapt your skills. Each character has a HUGE skilltree to choose from, and your choices can have a pretty big impact on how it feels to play your character. It is so distinct that two Barbarians at the same level can have VERY different playstyles, depending on how they have filled out their skill tree.
Up to level 15, it was free to make a respec on your character, and you could freely get some or all of your skill points back and redistribute them. That way, it was easy to switch around and try new things if you wanted to, or perhaps needed a different approach to a particularly tough boss fight.
Even after level 15 the cost of making a respec was so low that it wasn't a hindrance. A nice detail that, if carried over into the full game, will surely mean that it's easier to keep playing the same character and find it interesting.
I found a build I was quite satisfied with, but just like with the rest of the content, I felt after a weekend in the company of my Barbarian that I had only just scratched the surface, in relation to the possibilities with skills and equipment .
One is good but more is more fun
Diablo IV can easily be played by yourself, but it becomes a little more entertaining when there are more of you together. The approach in the new game is more of an Open World, and even if there are several of you in a group, you are not bound to have to run up and down each other, but can run around freely. However, the story is tied to the leader of the group, so it makes good sense to follow.
If you are not in a group with someone, you can easily find someone in the game. All the cities in the game are hub zones where you can run into other players. It helps to make the big world feel more alive, and it also means that you can team up with other players "on the fly".
On the whole, the social part of the game works really well. It's easy to quickly join your friends who may already be playing when you log in. A few quick clicks and you're in.
Scattered around the world there are also several open events, which are events that other players can appear in. These are elements that you know from other games. online games, like Destiny etc. It works really well here too, and again helps the world feel more alive.
All in all, Blizzard has taken elements from many other online games and spiced up the Diablo experience with them in a good way. So far anyway, because we have to remember that it is still a Beta.
Beautiful and well done on PC
Diablo IV looks damn good on PC, and ran pretty much my entire Beta weekend without any major issues for me. I played on a Ryzen based system with an RTX 4070Ti graphics card and a 4K 120Hz monitor.
Blizzard has managed to create a world that is simultaneously dark and "ugly," but still damn beautiful. Good crisp textures and animations are combined with good lighting and effects, along with a super effective soundtrack.
I occasionally experienced rather massive framedrops and quite a few texture pop ins, but fortunately these were rather short episodes, and not the general picture.
I didn't experience any real bugs over the weekend, and no or any episodes where the game crashed. My friend, who had come by a Diablo IV Beta LAN party, did however experience a few caches, on a slightly less beefy AMD Ryzen based system, with an RTX 2070 graphics card. However, it was limited to about four cashes, in a whole afternoon and evening game.
Very good waiting
I have been a super fan of the Diablo series since the first game landed way back. My time with this round of Beta access has left me wanting a lot more. Considering that it was a Beta test and that there are still three months until the full game lands, that's very promising.
The part of the game that we were able to play here this weekend was very well done and, at least for my part, largely without problems.
With another three months to fine-tune and tweak, I'm looking forward to throwing myself into the full game and all that Santuary has to offer.
The beta test continues this coming weekend, where it is an Open Beta with access for everyone, including console players. At the same time, the last two characters, the Necromancer and the Druid, will also be opened up.
If you are a Diablo fan and curious about the new game, then I would definitely recommend you to jump on the Open Beta part this weekend and get a taste of the game.
I'll definitely see if I can find some time to start up a Necromancer.
If Blizzard continues the same style as they have done in the beta here, then I have high hopes for the game. There hasn't been the shadow of the pay to win elements that many feared would creep in from a game like Diablo Immortal. Let's hope it lasts and that Blizzard can once again earn the respect of the fans.