Not much needs to be said about the Diablo series at this point. The legendary hack-and-slash looting franchise has always paved the way for this genre across the entire industry. This series isn’t a stranger to development troubles, with Diablo III being famously rebooted and Diablo IV going through its series of ups and downs during its creation. Thankfully, the hard work and delays were worth it, as Diablo IV elevates the genre again with an excellent story, great gameplay mechanics, and a deep day-one looting experience.
Story: Bow to the Queen
Diablo IV’s story picks up a few years after Diablo III’s ending and features Lilith’s return. She is the daughter of the Lord of Hated, Mephisto, and returns after being summoned by a mysterious man, Elias. What follows is the most mature and well-developed stories in any Diablo game.
We won’t talk about specifics beyond the first act, but one thing I can talk about is the nature of the story. Diablo has followed a strict format since its inception. Complete an act, get a fantastic piece of CG, move to a new area, rinse, and repeat until you beat the game. Diablo IV has made strides in its format and presentation, and those changes are echoed in storytelling.
Instead of hanging out in a small town with the same couple of NPCs, Sanctuary is a vast open world full of places to visit, monsters to slay, and, more importantly, people to meet. The story of Diablo IV will take you through this world and in it. Your custom-created character is voiced and is present in the story, not a silent protagonist. Your hero’s interaction with the cast and the world around them helps ground and elevate this story’s direction.
It’s dark, it’s mature, and it’s evolved. Characters will mature, change, and grow, and fans of the series will love the lore directly implemented in the game rather than codex entries or a story you must read outside the game.
Gameplay: Hack and Slash
Now, gameplay-wise, at its core, not too much has changed from Diablo III to IV. The game is played from an isometric perspective, and you can equip a handful of skills as you slash, cast, or bash your way through creatures, demons, and just about everything in between. This is essential to the genre and core to Diablo’s moment-to-moment combat, and while it hasn’t evolved, so to speak, everything enforcing the gameplay loop certainly has.
Players can select one of five classes. The Barbarian, Druid, Rogue, Sorcerer, and the fan-favorite Necromancer. Each class can be fully customized. Each class features distinct skill trees that feature old and new skills and abilities. Right away, the amount of control over each class and set of skills is far deeper than what Diablo III offered, which goes hand in hand with itemization. Much of Diablo III’s late-game Torment antics felt like your build choice didn’t matter so much as the actual gear you picked up. Later on, functions like Kunais Cube allowed for a bit more flexibility, but much of Diablo III’s grind felt pretty rigid., especially at launch.
Diablo IV has learned the lessons from its previous games and its peers that have come to reach success in the ten-year gap between these installments. It features a far smoother ramp through its leveling experience, and the idea of World Tiers is integrated directly into the experience from the jump as I climbed through the levels and hit World Tier 3.
Of course, 50 to 100 hours will only tell part of the story of a long-running ARPG, and it plans to remain a game as a service with seasons and continued updates. Still, the initial foundation is far more thorough and well-designed than any other game in the history of this genre. Our Diablo IV review let us play a bit of endgame, but of course, time will tell how long-term balance is handled.
Graphics/Audio: Pretty Grim Things
One look at any trailer, screenshot, or for those who played the beta, one thing is clear, Diablo IV is a beautiful title. It matches the grim and dark atmosphere once promised by its predecessor, and every inch of Sanctuary is detailed with extreme levels of care. Each character class comes to life with their skills, with the Druid and Sorcerer stealing the show. Each spell, attack, and explosion are well-animated, and it’s just as satisfying to slay your 1,000th demon as your first.
Special attention must also be paid to the score. Consistently through our Diablo IV review period, we couldn’t help but take notice of the orchestration and music layered in the background and then erupted to life during big story moments and boss battles. It’s memorable, sinister, and gothic, soaking the visuals with an extra dose of atmosphere you can’t obtain with graphics alone.
Each character also comes to life with excellent voice work. Since the storyline features a much more cinematic approach, these characters are often rendered up close for extended moments. The detail given to facial animation during poignant moments pushes Diablo IV into another league with its presentation.
Conclusion: A Hell of a Time
During our Diablo IV review sessions, we were consistently impressed by the sheer depth and quality of its story and gameplay. The online functions were great, and we tested out co-op and cross-play without having a single problem. The game ran great on PC, and I never had to stop and think about technical issues or bugs through the entire 100 hours of gameplay. For players who have been waiting to sink their teeth into a dark, unforgiving world, Diablo IV is for you. For those wanting the following great co-op action RPG, you’re also in luck.
Diablo IV will be on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. It’s available June 2 for the Deluxe or Ultimate owners or June 6 for the standard release.