Diablo IV

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: June 6, 2023


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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Diablo IV'

by Cody Medellin on March 23, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Diablo IV draws players into a grim story line and gives them the freedom to explore and forge their own path across the most expansive and intense vision of the world of Sanctuary—a bleak and shattered hellscape bereft of hope and beset by demons.

Diablo III was released in the Spring of 2012, and it quickly became a hit by selling millions of copies in the first 24 hours. It was also a game that was plagued with issues, such as the need for constant online connectivity that caused the infamous error 37 that caused a myriad of gameplay maladies. Except for the always-online requirement, the game received constant fixes and was not only praised by both critics and players alike afterward, but it also got console releases to expand the fan base to those who never got to experience those growing pains. A little over 11 years later, the mainline series returns with Diablo IV, now a simultaneous multi-platform release. The hype train to release starts with the closed beta that happened this past weekend.

Despite the amount of time that has passed since Diablo III's release, the opening moments of the beta on the first day are a stark reminder of what that launch day was like. After downloading and installing the 80GB file, players were greeted with a queue time that ranged between one to two hours. Get past that, and you'll finally reach the character selection and creation screen. However, those early hours were also plagued with Error 300008 and a few other codes that prevent you from entering the game. Retrying several times in one session creates multiple copies of your chosen character.

The first day of the closed beta also saw several in-game sessions end prematurely due to server disconnects that only got resolved after a game reboot. While your actual character stats and inventory get saved, you still need to traverse some areas again to get to where you were before the server kick. While this can be attributed to server stress and it is something that has been solved during the closed beta's second day, it is amazing to see that after so many launches, this kind of thing hasn't been solved yet. It will paint a poor picture of the game if people have to go through this for the umpteenth time with a Blizzard launch, especially since it doesn't look like the online requirement is going away.

The good news is that you're getting a character creation system that matches a good deal of action-RPG offerings. From the sex to the facial features, hair, and markings, you can change up the look of your selected class. The closed beta featured three that feel like tweaked versions of past Diablo classes. The Rogue is essentially the Demon Hunter with their use of bows and crossbows, but they also have some melee capabilities that let them take care of things in close quarters. The Barbarian is a standard brawling class that can take and dish out punishment up close. The Sorcerer can control all sorts of elemental abilities, like fire and water, with equal measure. Although the Necromancer and Druid are on the character selection screen, players won't be able to try out either until the Open Beta weekend.

The core gameplay loop is essentially the same as previous entries. Take a few steps in the overworld, kill some monsters, grab the loot, and keep going until you reach a dungeon to repeat the process. For many, loot means getting better armor and swapping out your current stash for ones with higher numbers or buffs that better fit your next battle or play style. Others look at loot as a means to get materials for better cosmetics or to strengthen current gear instead of going for something new. Everything increases in this loop, as better gear sconces from more difficult monsters. The combat remains crisp, and the loot is constant to where you're never going too long without seeing something interesting that makes you want to grab it and inspect it later.

Give it a little more time, and you'll see a litany of changes that go a long way to improving the loop. That starts with the environments, which are appropriately dark despite the first chapter taking place in a wintery mountain. Those hoping for a throwback to the older titles will get it here, with ornate dungeons and ruins with pale sunlight coming through. Some places even feature pulsating branches and organs to give things a horror movie vibe. The game takes place in more of an open world, with transitions between dungeons and other similar places being almost instantaneous to the point where you'll be surprised to see a loading screen.

The game adds context-sensitive traversal, where you'll climb down walls, take small leaps across chasms, or duck low branches with the press of a button. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is a nice thing to have. Another addition are horses, which can be ridden in the overworld and customized to your liking. The closed beta's level was easily traversable on foot to reach the story-specific quests, but the larger world map suggests that the horse is a nice compromise for those who want to reach key places faster but don't want to teleport and miss out on random monster mobs.

Another change that might be the most impressive so far has to do with the inventory system. We haven't run into anything that takes up multiple slots, so you aren't trying to manage your inventory like a puzzle game to fit everything. It's a nice change, but what's even nicer is the fact that your inventory is categorized, and everything slots neatly into those given categories. They're also compartmentalized so you end up with loads more space than before, but you'll still want to be a little discerning so your pockets aren't full when something really good drops. Overall, it's something people have been clamoring for, and it is nice to finally see it happen.

Taking a page from Diablo II: Resurrected, Diablo IV supports the use of a controller on PC alongside keyboard/mouse. While the die-hards will stick with the more traditional controls, those who don't want to get tired from clicking the mouse endlessly or have converted their gaming PC for living room use will find that the controller support is perfect, especially since you can bind whatever ability you want to any number of possible buttons. True cross-play is finally here; playing on the PC with a combination of Xbox Series X and PS5 players showed no signs of lag or any other anomalies. The only thing that PC players were missing out on is couch co-op, which would be a very nice thing to have since console players get that.

The presentation maintains the same quality as the previous title in some places while amplifying things in others. For sound, the voice work maintains the solid level of quality that most Blizzard titles have exhibited, while the soundtrack maintains the kind of mood that makes this less of an adventure and more of a horror game. Graphically, the level of polish on the monster and human character models is almost tangible. Blizzard is now confident enough to do more detailed in-game cut scenes rather than relying on CG cinematics. The animation is mostly good, and the game doesn't buckle when there are tons of particles and enemies on-screen. It runs as well as expected on a Ryzen 7 5800X with 32GB RAM and a GeForce RTX 4090 on 4K with everything maxed out, but it also hits high frame rates on an Intel Core i5 6500 with 32GB RAM and a Radeon RX 580 running at everything maxed on 1440p with a high refresh rate, ensuring that a wide range of machines that can run this and barely miss out on the details.

The closed beta for Diablo IV shows that the game still has that magic formula that made the previous titles so replayable. The kill, loot, repeat, gameplay loop remains appealing. Everything else that accompanies it, from the combat to the leveling system, keeps things fun. The graphics have gotten a large amount of polish so far, and the various other gameplay changes keep fans of all types feeling like the game has improved. Provided there are no more delays, we can't wait for the summer to dive in deep with Diablo IV.

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