Often regarded as one of the best action RPG series in the world, the Diablo series serves as a fleeting reminder that top-down triple-A games still have a ton of bite and immersive elements to them. For the uninitiated, such as myself, starting your journey from the fourth game in the series is acceptable. Few things bring as much joy as wiping out an entire mob in a single blow. It’s as therapeutic as walking on dried leaves. Just bring your fiendish friends along so you don’t get bored of bombing corpses.
Diablo IV review
Do you want to do a side mission?
The main story picks up from the previous games but if you’re new to Diablo then a quick YouTube recap should bring you up to speed with the lore. It’s not rocket science. Just a bleak and gothic world with a lot of names that end with ‘o’ and ‘rim’, and a bit of name-dropping of angels and demons. Oh, and everyone sounds like Leonard Cohen.
You start your journey in Sanctuary, a place made by a demon named Lilith and an angel named Inarius Pretty cool? Yes. Forbidden? Very! However, things go sideways and their relationship ended sourly. Like all vengeful exes, Lilith (the daughter of Hatred) is back and she’s scheming to a point where you and a group of people known as the Horadrim must stop her.
Although I described it in toddler terms, there's a proper story here but it often falls victim to its unimaginative boss fights. Aside from two or three good boss battles, the story lacks the wow factor for its campaign bosses. Only in the Act 5 and 6 the game starts to get creative with its bosses and missions. However, after 10 hours in, you know that you have to defeat a mob of smaller enemies while dealing damage to a 20 feet tall boss. That said, the fleshed-out cutscenes and proper voice acting feed curiosity. After playing Diablo IV, I want to play the old games as well and much of that is credited to its addictive build system.
Many Diablo players skip through any and all cutscenes and conversations, and jump into the hack-and-slash bits. These mob munchers spend time increasing the damage numbers and completing every single task. If you’re one of those then it’s better to find like-minded people to play co-op with otherwise you’ll be stuck hearing words of hatred from real-life friends and not from the Daughter of Hatred.
The Barbarian, Sorcerer, Rogue, Necromancer and Druid are the five character classes that you can pick at the start of the game. Each class is unique with abilities and move sets. I started a solo campaign with Druid which was more brutish with slow but powerful elemental attacks and a bit of shapeshifting. After reaching level 16, I joined a friend with a fresh start and this time with a Necromancer class. The Necromancer is the most passive of the lot. You summon minions who do your dirty work and you can control magic spells that buff your minions and debuff enemies.
If you’re looking for a fistfight, picking the Rogue and Barbarian is the best way to do so. My friend picked Rogue and critically damaged mobs at exceptionally high speed. The Rogue, due to its close combat move set, was the first to get punished if bosses dished out pancake-making blows and debuffs. However, as a Necromancer, my minions can soak up the debuff the boss throws and that opens a way for the Rogue to step in and deal heavy damage.
Yes, you can play the game solo but from my experience, I would highly recommend jumping in with a friend because much of what you’re doing in the game is repetition and steamrolling over mobs of enemies. Finding a build to mix and match your abilities with a friend really adds a tactical layer to its hack-and-slash power fantasy.
You’ll also need to spend some time in the inventory to increase the damage numbers. Diablo IV’s build system is thorough and it brings a ton of freedom to create your own unique build even if you choose to do the same character class in your second playthrough. As a Necromancer, I have the option of completely removing the minions and going close range as well. The skill tree is not limited to a particular way of playing your build. There’s a surprising amount of depth which shapes how you approach combat. I can sacrifice my Necromancer’s minions for more damage stats and have a Thorn build which inflicts damage to enemies every time I am attacked. This completely spins my current passive Necromancer build on its head and I am sure I’ll be playing more Diablo IV this year just to tinker with the character build system.
Diablo’s loot system is clever and diverse enough to make you spend hours just creating the perfect build. I had a build which focused on increasing the speed of my minions’ attacks and then I added an Aspect that increased the speed even further when there were seven minions alive. Matching your weapons and gear with your own abilities is as serious as slaying demons.
Weapons, armour and items have unique stat bonuses depending on their rarity level. Legendary items bring in special bonuses called Aspects. You can move these stats around with the right resources and money. So yes, you’ll be spending time going back and forth with merchants and blacksmiths changing and tweaking builds till you’re satisfied. Funny thing about Diablo IV is that you’re never satisfied and that’s the most compelling reason to play the game. It always gives you that one sliver of ‘what if’ question as you plough through mobs.
Here’s a tip to horde legendary items. Run to the random golden circles on the map that are world events and complete the task. It almost always involves killing hordes of enemies. Once you do so, the event will give you Murmuring Obols. It’s a currency that only works with a unique vendor (Purveyor of Curiosities) that lets you roll for random tier items. I had immense luck finding legendary items by (clears throat)... gambling. Jokes aside, there are many ways to craft a perfect build and whether you watch a YouTube video and make one or do it yourself, the joy of watching your build pulverise enemies is unrivaled.
The world is littered with mobs of enemies to squash and peasants that need your help. Side missions mostly send you inside one of the many procedurally generated dungeons. These side missions are the fastest way to get distracted in Diablo IV but it’s not a bad thing. Some dungeons offer Aspects at the end of the boss fight.
Don’t spend your early time in creating a build because the map is massive and you will almost certainly find something better around the corner soon. The game takes you through gloomy snowy peaks, daunting deserts, snake infested forests and even murky marshland. Each with unique enemy types and stunning visuals. Enemies and side missions vary from region and exploring everything on foot might seem very tedious. You’ll only get a horse after completing Act IV and that mostly happens in the late game stage. It seems deliberate though. Blizzard wants you to wander around on foot so you can find hidden treasures and shrines. Honestly, with such a pretty-looking world, I have no complaints. Well, it’s pretty in the gothic, wet and sad atmosphere way. Ramshackle cottages, and dilapidated monuments along dark and dingy dungeons. Think of Game of Thrones and you’re close to what Blizzard has done with Diablo IV’s map.
We played the game on our reference Nvidia RTX 4080 and it works flawlessly. It supports Nvidia’s Frame Generation with DLSS 3 so if you have the 40-series GPUs, there are more frames you can squeeze out of this game. Even on 4K resolution on a Sony A80L telly and the Samsung Odyssey G8 OLED ultra-wide monitor, the game scales and works wonderfully. It also runs smoothly on smaller systems with Nvidia GTX 1050Ti and mobile GPUs as well. It’s one of the few PC games in 2023 that is not buggy at launch.
Polished, thoughtfully designed and thoroughly entertaining. Diablo IV checks all the boxes that make it special. The co-op progress is saved for every party member so you don’t have to redo missions separately and you can even find other players roaming about in the world just like Diablo Immortal. The character builds are nuanced and detailed enough to attribute to more than just a singular fight style. All of these things make it a very compelling co-op game and with cinematic cutscenes and properly voiced dialogues, Diablo IV brings depth to its meandering slaughter fest.
If you find yourself bored by the endlessly smashing demons to a pulp then it’s better to bring a friend to the Sanctuary. If you’re a veteran Diablo player then this is a must-have and if you’re someone who is looking to dip their toes for the first time in the Diablo series then it’s a great place to start as well.
Diablo IV is bloody good action RPG!