It’s been over 10 years since the last Diablo. Nuts, right? Diablo IV arrives on June 6, 2023, and while Diablo III enjoyed a long, active life, it’s certainly time for something new. Diablo III’s move to console shortly after the PC release brought the legendary action role playing game series from Blizzard to an entirely new audience, but fans of the series, new and old, have been waiting for something new and fresh for a long time.
Diablo IV could very well provide that, and with its launch date around the corner, reviews are starting to pour in. Diablo IV brings with it many changes: an open world, an attempt to fuse Diablo II and III’s polar opposite tone and progression systems, and, perhaps most controversially, a live service format with ways for you to spend your money on microtransactions and battle passes.
Unfortunately, that last element cannot be reviewed until the June 6 launch, as press access has none of the microtransactions and seasonal systems active or viewable. There’s valid reason to raise some eyebrows over Diablo IV’s monetization for sure, but if it’s not too intrusive, it could be okay. Reviews are painting a picture of a solid action RPG that does just enough right and just enough different—though perhaps it could’ve used some more innovation for those looking for something more revolutionary.
Push Square, giving the game a 9/10, praised the build options, describing Diablo IV as a “true successor to the bad old days of action RPGs,” while highlighting the structure of the world as satisfyingly varied and versatile.
The first three Acts of [Diablo IV] can be addressed in any order you like, provided you’re willing to do a little grinding (and let’s be honest, if you aren’t, you must be lost to get this far). With each located in far-flung and geographically diverse corners of the map, this structure makes the prospect of playing again as other characters more appealing. For those without that kind of free time, beating the Campaign with a single character thankfully gives you the option to skip it with the next.
Forbes said that Diablo IV’s attempts to fuse progression systems of previous games “mostly succeeds,” but its atmosphere in particular should be a treat for fans of Diablo II.
We are back to the bleak, gothic horror of the second game. I think [Diablo III] got unfairly maligned in that regard but yes, this is pure [Diablo II]. Washed-out, bloody, but still in many areas, grotesquely gorgeous. At worst, a bit muddy in a few zones. Fresh detail has been put into your hero specifically, between the character creator and some really beautiful work on the armor and weapons this time around that will greet you each time you log into the game. I’ve already had a blast going through transmog with my limited farmed selection of gear.
Windows Central’s glowing review praised the gameplay’s versatility, with wide customization options, but did note that the dungeons might begin to feel too samey for some—even if that might be par for the course.
By virtue of its format alone, [Diablo IV] is a tad limited with what it can really do to push the complexity of its dungeon diving, probably — but I feel even in this case, there’s more that could have been done. There are no puzzles to work out, most of the later bosses are variants, and it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a reward for straying from the main path.
GameSpot gave Diablo IV an 8 out of 10, and spoke to the strengths of the game’s respec flexibility, which gets more restrictive at higher levels but remains surprisingly versatile.
Experimentation is further encouraged by Diablo IV’s low cost to respec, and unlimited chances to do so. Unlike the more punishing approach in Diablo II, you can completely redefine your build at any time for a small fee of in-game gold, approaching your skill tree with a different idea in mind or just making some small changes to adjust for a difficult fight. This freedom is empowering in a similar way to that of Diablo III’s fluid build system, but still requires you to engage meaningfully with synergies to make your builds viable. It feels like the culmination of all the ways previous games in the series have allowed you to play while catering to as many playstyles as possible, but without many of the critical compromises from the last time out. The cost for a respec does naturally increase the higher your level, but it never got to a point where I felt it was too expensive in relation to the amount of gold I was earning at the time.
Bloody Disgusting gave Diablo IV a 4 out of 5 and said that while the game feels extremely polished, it might disappoint those who were hoping for a more revolutionary entry since the more-than-decade it’s been since Diablo III.
Diablo IV’s biggest issue is the lack of innovation. Every gameplay improvement and feature is built upon lessons learned from previous entries. Though it’s polished to the brightest of sheens, in no way does it feel like a massive improvement upon the preceding games. Remember how I said the Diablo games have always felt like paradigm shifts in their genre whenever one releases? The disappointing part of Diablo IV is that it doesn’t feel like that. Setting the game in a massive open world isn’t enough and though it’s exciting to explore, at times the only element I feel it adds to core Diablo is that there is no loading in between hubs anymore and players can now travel there on foot. It’s been 11 years since the last game and I’ll be damned to determine what exactly Diablo IV does far better than Diablo III: Reaper of Souls when it reached the end of development.
Videogames Chronicle awarded Diablo IV a full 5 stars, and highlighted the excellent pacing of steady power leveling.
First is the faultless rhythm at which the game is paced, so that every few minutes you’re either hitting a new level, finding a new weapon, discovering a new location, or being sent on a new mission. It feels almost scientifically measured to make sure that you don’t go more than a few minutes without a small treat.
Diablo 4 is an isometric action RPG. It’s all about incrementally gaining loot and shaping your character in whatever way you’d like, within the limitations of their class.
PC Gamer’s review is still in progress, but laments the series’ shift to live service with this new entry.
So far, nothing has convinced me the endgame is so brilliant that it’s worth stripping everything out of the initial leveling process. The thin storytelling doesn’t help either—thankfully you can skip it on subsequent characters. Diablo 4 is a live service game that puts an insulting amount of effort into trying to convince you it’s not. It’s backwards; trying to build up to the most robust part of itself instead of starting with it. The moment entering a fresh dungeon feels more like a chore than a ride is the moment Diablo loses me, and I’ve been worryingly close to that feeling in my time with it so far.
GamesRadar awarded the game a full 5 stars, saying that while the game can be a giant cycle of “thoughtless, thunderous demon slaying,” it demands attention of the player’s position and stat investment.
Oftentimes, your ability to succeed in any given encounter will come down to how well you’re controlling your character, or managing cooldowns and the unique class-specific resource pools which replace Diablo 3's universal mana. The precision Blizzard has injected into handling is felt most keenly in battles with Boss, Champion, Elite, and Super Unique ranked enemies, instances which demand precise movement and quick reactions. Every class now has a dodge roll as standard, and agility can be greatly enhanced by investing in movement abilities such as Dash, Leap, or Teleport, allowing you an opportunity to more deftly weave through domineering attacks with strict invincibility frames.
As critics, IGN found the game fun to play, with a 9 out of 10. Build options were described as satisfyingly versatile, while the story might’ve been more forgettable in its later acts.
Polygon praised the virtually endless cycle of “regenerating doors and gates and chests to be opened and crushed,” but felt the open world structure deprives the series of its previous horror.
But in stretching the intimate, deliberate claustrophobia of Diablo’s original one-town scope to fit a whole world, it’s lost that taut sense of terror that so beautifully defined the series’ smaller and more vulnerable spaces. There’s now a fixed overworld map for the continent of Estuar, and it’s enormous. The procedurally generated dungeons don’t vary much in layout and feel like missed opportunities to have fun with randomized architecture — and no, adding more dungeon to a dungeon doesn’t necessarily make it better or more interesting. Capstone dungeons — multi-stage trials that function as gear/level checks between difficulty tiers — feel like a non-solution from a sadistic bureaucracy instead of an invitation to get rich or die trying.
DualShockers gave the game an 8.5 out of 10, and specifically highlighted the way the Diablo IV actually invests you in the story for once.
Despite the nearly three decades worth of robust lore, the Diablo series has always struggled with delivering the main story in a compelling way. Sure the cutscenes are always cool, but the classic tale of good vs evil is always played out through two-dimensional villains who have no real motivation for their actions other than “that is what the bad guys are supposed to do.” In Diablo 4, Lilith could not be more the opposite. Unlike the Lords of Hell, Lilith feels like a real character. She has a compelling backstory, complex motivations, and is relentless in the pursuit of her ideals. For the first time in the series, I can actually sympathize with why the antagonist is doing the things she is doing, a vital ingredient in the making of a great villain. The same three-dimensionality also extends to many of the other characters in the game. Although there was plenty of loss and hardship in the prior games, it feels much more heart-wrenching and sinister in Diablo 4, making the story and characters quite possibly the best improvement the game brings to the series.
Destructoid gave Diablo IV an 8 out of 10, praising the engaging and active gameplay, but cautioned potential players to consider the live service format before buying.
Live service games require a foundation of trust, as meaningful updates ostensibly justify these inconveniences. Before you buy Diablo 4, ask yourself if you trust Blizzard to deliver an experience that will only get better into the foreseeable future. Otherwise, you’ll need to be content knowing that Diablo 4 could change at any moment, either for better or for worse.
Wccftech gave Diablo IV an 8.5 out of 10 and praised the combat, but lamented how it centers too much on damage dealing.
Another way I wish the developers would have strayed a bit from the hack and slash basics is the near impossibility of performing a role different than DPS (damage per second). While you can apply crowd control effects like stuns or conditions like vulnerable that can be exploited by everyone, there’s no way to create a fully dedicated support character right now. That also means you may be standing near another player, whether you’re in a party for a dungeon or you’re just fighting a world boss alongside a group of randoms, but there’s not much in the way of actual teamwork due to lacking mechanics.
Siliconera gave Diablo an 8 out of 10, and specifically praised the game’s antagonist as one of the best in the series thus far.
What Blizzard has succeeded in is creating one of its most compelling characters within its catalog of games. Lilith, the central antagonist of Diablo IV and mother of Sanctuary, is without one of the best additions to the Diablo series by far, with this only amplified by Caroline Faber’s performance. While she is no doubt driving Sanctuary to the brink of madness, there is something human about Lilith that makes her the most interesting antagonist in the series to date. However, despite Diablo IV introducing a new antagonist and even a new cast of characters, it is a narrative determined to retread old ground. Homages and even references to prior Diablo games, specifically Diablo II, feel as though they are reassuring players this is not Diablo III, for better or worse. This hinders what new ideas Diablo IV presents, as the narrative seems caught up in trying to tell the same story as its predecessors.
Ars Technica said that Diablo IV’s endgame launches in very healthy statement and that the microtransactions and live service elements (which were not active during the review period) might be ignorable enough:
But as annoying as the shop is, it doesn’t ruin the design of the game like the real-money auction house did in Diablo 3. The game offers a wealth of high-quality content, and speaking from experience, there’s no need to touch the store at all to enjoy it. Diablo 4 is categorically not Diablo Immortal. It’s a real AAA game with an optional shop. If you love the genre, I have no doubt that you’ll get your money’s worth, even if you never play a season or roll a second character.
Thus far, Diablo IV is shaping up to be an engaging, rewarding action RPG. Opinions may diverge on changes to the world structure and format, and there’s palpable anxiety about the live service element that is to come, but overall, Diablo IV promises a memorable story set in a massive world with dozens and dozens of power paths to chase.