As a kid, Diablo was one of the very computer franchises I got into. Sure, I had Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Duke Nukem 3D before it, but shooters never quite clicked with me the way dungeon crawlers did. It was everything that held my interest in tabletop RPGs without any of the tedium of reading and having to use that pesky imagination to pretend something cool was happening.
Instead, I was able to tear demons to shreds with quick successive clicks and crawl my way down the spiraling abyss. When Diablo II launched, I was confident that no matter what Blizzard did, they’d never top this as their pinnacle of achievement.
To my surprise they released the extremely terrific Lord of Destruction expansion to put a cherry on top of the delicious demon gut sundae I’d been chomping down for the year before it – but unlike Hellfire’s fairly forgettable addition, Lord of Destruction made a splash that made Diablo II untouchable for over a decade.
A decade went by and many people had already forgotten all about slaying the dark lord and farming for unique rune words, but then Blizzard released Diablo III to mixed reactions, only to fix it later. Now, the long-awaited fourth entry has arrived. How does Diablo IV stand up? Does it redeem the franchise? Read our review to find out!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PS4, PS5 (Reviewed)
Release Date: June 6, 2023
Price: $69.99 USD
Diablo III’s real money auction house had turned a lot of fans off, and it took Blizzard about two years and a new expansion, Reaper of Souls, to finally salvage the reputation of Diablo III turning it from a once ostracized black sheep into a beloved yet markedly different take on culling the Burning Hells.
Three years after that, Blizzard gave us the Rise of the Necromancer expansion which added the Necromancer back to the playable classes, but ultimately felt like very little more than a cash grab. Still, eventually people gave in and picked it up on sale and it was enjoyed by the player base.
Diablo’s woes wouldn’t stop there as fans clamored for Diablo IV news, they were given the news of a famously panned mobile game. Despite the criticism, there are fans of Diablo Immortal, but in order to get people to play it, it felt like Blizzard opted to remaster Diablo II as a gesture of goodwill to help take some of the heat off their misstep. Luckily for Blizzard, Diablo Immortal succeeded based on Diablo’s name alone.
With the pay-to-win concerns of Diablo Immortal, people were concerned that Diablo IV would follow the same path, fearing its Battle Pass would give players who were willing to pay unfair advantages as Diablo IV doesn’t have an offline mode, unlike its predecessors. After 60ish hours with the game, I can confidently say that while Diablo IV isn’t Diablo II or even Diablo III, it most certainly isn’t Diablo Immortal either.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t cautious going into my Diablo IV review experience. We were essentially given a beta test that had the full campaign unlocked instead of being able to play a live copy of the full retail game, which means all players will start on equal footing when Early Access starts on June 2nd.
This does mean that some of the features weren’t available for me to test during the review period, including the Battle Pass, but according to the information provided to us, every reward in the Battle Pass appears to be cosmetic only. Now we got the elephant in the room out of the way, let’s talk about the campaign.
Diablo IV tells the story of Lilith’s reawakening and her eventual quest to seal away the Prime Evils permanently in order to rule everything without any challenge. Unlucky for her, that’s where we come in and we ain’t about to let this evil Harpy take over all of creation without a fight.
The campaign itself is a fun ride, featuring some incredible-looking cutscenes, excellent voice acting, all the while letting the player become reacquainted with some familiar friends and foes along the way.
I never thought I’d see Meshif from Diablo II again, but here he was in Diablo IV reminding me that he’s still a drunk who can steer a ship. There’s also the return of a few familiar bosses that both come with new tricks that make re-learning these fights just as much fun as they were the first time you encountered them.
I could go more in-depth, but part of the trip is the journey, and while Diablo IV isn’t neatly wrapped up at its conclusion like the previous games were, somehow it makes sense that this one is a bit more open-ended leaving room for online events and DLC options down the road.
I’ll be very interested to see how or if Seasons come to Diablo IV given the way this game functions being always online, but if the Seasons continue the story, it could be a lot of fun to watch it play out.
Post-game is where things start picking up, as I was around level 46 or so when I completed the campaign and you’re dropped into a world that’s lit up like an Ubisoft map with a bunch of little icons all over it.
If I had to complain about anything, it’s that the replacement for Diablo III‘s bounty system makes better sense lore-wise but still feels pretty braindead and repetitive. In Diablo IV, you’re tasked with collecting Whispers of the Dead for the Tree of Whispers.
Collecting ten whispers will allow you to trade them into the Tree for a cache of items (you’re given three choices) and loot drops can range from anywhere between common and legendary, unique, or sacred depending on which World Tier you’re playing on.
Items with a higher tier than legendary really do feel powerful and it’s a thrill these pinkish colors drop after years of chomping at orange and greens. You’ll also find that post-game you’ll have access to roll new characters who can opt to completely skip the campaign.
This lets the player start fresh in the new world with all of the side quests available and you can quickly level up just by running around doing world events or collecting whispers. This helps to alleviate some of the tedium that was completing the campaign in order to get to higher difficulties.
Also of note, world bosses don’t show up on the map until after you clear the campaign as well, so you won’t fight Ashava until somewhere later on down the line as you start your journey throughout Sanctuary. If you get tired of leveling the old-fashioned way, swing over to the PVP zones and fight some fellow players for blood shards.
My biggest complaint about the entire experience is that bosses feel like damage sponges, often using their different checkpoints as little more than DPS litmus checks. I’d love to see the boss bars burn a little quicker instead of feeling like they’re just stalling between phases on the higher World Tiers.
The fights themselves are interesting, but some battles are far less fun than others. There’s a really fun fight in Act II, but you don’t reach it until after you’ve cleared a fight that’s terrible and feels awfully unbalanced. I reported this feedback during my review testing, so we’ll hope that it’s a bit more ironed out once the final release arrives.
One major caveat aside, as a whole, I’d be hard-pressed to find anything that stops me from saying that the best thing Diablo IV does is its return to form. It looks, sounds, and most importantly feels like Diablo should feel. It’s traded a bit of the gimmicky stuff that Diablo III had for a little more refinement with some additions that’ll appease the World of Warcraft players in the PVP red zones.
Everything feels gritty, dark, and gloriously macabre, the way Diablo is meant to be. It ain’t the perfect formula, but it’s a very satisfying mashup taking some elements from Diablo II, Diablo III, and even from Diablo Immortal (mainly the bosses dropping health at checkpoints). Diablo IV is a terrific entry that I think both new players and old school veterans will enjoy alongside each other.
It ain’t perfect, but provided they continue the course Diablo IV is currently on, this might be the game that bridges the gap and makes Diablo the most accessible and ultimately the most fun it has ever been to players from any background.
Diablo IV was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a beta build provided to Niche Gamer by Blizzard Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Diablo IV releases for Windows PC, (via Battle.net), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on June 6th, 2023.