While I didn’t really get into the Diablo franchise until Diablo III, I’ve been a huge fan of it since then and can’t get enough of it. So it goes without saying that I had to play the early beta and open beta of the latest entry, Diablo IV, which has its good and not so good elements I’ll go into.
I’ve read a lot of previewers say the same thing, but I’ve got to say it too…Diablo IV looks freaking amazing. I don’t think I’m exaggerating any when I say these are the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a Blizzard title, as though you’re playing the game using the same engine they make their legendary cutscenes with.
Every spot on the screen is dripping with detail, from slimy and bloody walls and floors, to seeing the sweat and pores on your character’s skin, or seeing every piece of fabric or gleaming metal on your armor, the devil is truly in the details here.
Once you’re blown away by that, you get to make your character with some decent creation options (here’s hoping for more in the full release though). The early beta only let you select the Barbarian, Rogue, and Sorcerer classes, while the recently ended open beta allowed all five by adding the Necromancer and Druid.
From here you’re thrown into the world of Diablo where you start off trying to escape the cold elements and find shelter. When you do, you’re tasked with helping some people fight off some evil creatures near their town, which gives you a nice introduction into learning how to use your attacks, dodge, and apply skill points to unlock and upgrade new abilities on your skill tree when you level up.
As you grow stronger and advance through the world, you’ll come across bigger dangers that might be difficult to handle alone, and this is where both the good and bad part of Diablo IV always requiring you to be online comes into play. I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan at first as I’m used to Diablo III’s way of playing online but it not being required, so if the internet of Blizzard’s server goes down, you can still play.
That’s not the case anymore as now this is more like a live service title/MMORPG than an ARPG. The good news is that you’ll more often than not come across other players slaying stuff around you that you can follow or join, and even better is that Diablo IV is cross-platform. So you’ll see everyone no matter what platform they’re playing on, whether it’s PC, PlayStation or Xbox. You can also open a chat window and type to them, or use simple chat/emoji-like actions (Thanks, Cheer, Hello, etc) from a chat wheel as well.
And of course since it was the beta and everyone wanted to play, the first day of both betas was rough as servers would crash, boot/disconnect players, and place you back in an already long queue ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to two or more hours. Another sad thing I would frequently encounter was terrible bouts of lag, especially when you first enter a bustling town as my character would rubberband like crazy when I tried to move.
This is made even worse on the PC version of the game, which suffers from really bad optimization thanks to Diablo IV trying to consume all of your PC’s resources, no matter how big or powerful your rig is. So if you have 32GB of RAM, expect the game to eat 80% of it, and 90%+ of your video card’s memory at the same time, leading to random framerate drops, studders and hiccups. Couple those with the lag, and the game truly felt like a hellish experience.
Thankfully I was able to play on both PC and the PlayStation 5, where the latter ran smooth as butter and tended to load faster as well. The occasional lag would worm its way into my gameplay here and there, causing my character to slightly rubberband some, but nowhere as bad as the PC version.
When everything was working as intended, I had a great time slaying monsters, picking up quests (though some side ones tended to be a bit bleh), growing more powerful with better abilities, and advancing through the story, especially when the cutscenes look amazing and your character has more of a say in them now instead of just sitting back and letting others talk.
All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing how Diablo IV shapes up once it fully releases in June as I can’t wait to experience the whole story. Here’s hoping they optimize the PC version better, smooth out their servers, and keep the hell into fighting demons and not battling the game itself.