To be fair, Diablo IV was never really on my backlog. As soon as I purchased it, I immediately jumped into the game. I mean, I have a long-standing relationship with the Diablo series. However, after the first week, I put it aside and got distracted by other games such as Borderlands for the Nintendo Switch, a few various PS5 VR2 games, and life in general. So, I felt I should jump back into it and give it a proper review, preventing it from being added to my backlog.
A Tale as Old As Time
As mentioned, I have a long history with Diablo, well, pretty much all of Blizzard. It began with the first Diablo when my friends and I would hook up our ragtag bunch of PCs in whichever kitchen we were in during a sleepover and play throughout the night until it was time to get ready for school. We would load up on Mountain Dew, Doritos, and anything else I'd love to eat/drink right now, without the retribution of looking at the scale tomorrow morning.
Diablo was remarkable; it was random, almost procedurally generated like Minecraft, years before. Co-op worked flawlessly, and you always hoped you would find rare spells, swords, etc., and you'd quake in fear from hearing The Butcher. Overall, it was probably one of my favorite LAN games. Heck, it was one of the first games that I learned how to No-CD crack since we couldn't all afford a legit copy at that point in life (don't worry, I have since rectified that, and all copies have been legally procured).
Next came Diablo II, which wasn't long after we started playing the first Diablo. Diablo II was remarkable. With multiple disks and the expansion pack, it introduced my favorite character, the Necromancer. I loved controlling a squad, running across the desert with a skeleton minion army, wiping away any beast that dared to get in front of us. Plus, I loved the freedom of Diablo II. My Necromancer, who would have traditionally used a wand, was instead a strength build wielding a maul. Sure, my skeletons would have benefited from other stats; however, I loved running around in cool skeleton-themed armor with a giant hammer, laying out baddies. Diablo II was perfection. I replayed it so many times that it wore out the Play Disc.
I jumped right into Diablo III, and I can understand the initial disapproval of the game. I mean, growing up, I never had internet, so Diablo and Diablo II offered me this randomized, procedurally generated-ish world that almost felt like an MMORPG that I could play along with my limited infrastructure. Diablo III requiring the internet seemed like a new phase for the series, and I wasn't sure about it. Fortunately, Blizzard supported the game with fixes, new seasons, and plenty of things to do for years upon years, without the need for microtransactions, which was pretty awesome. I would say Diablo III was my least played; however, near the end, I respected what it had become. Was it different? Absolutely. Did it feel like a Diablo game? Not so much; however, it was a decent ARPG.
Time passed, and I was able to try out Hellfire, the odd Diablo expansion pack made by a third-party developer. I played the bootleg Diablo that was never released for the Gameboy and then finally started Diablo II Remastered (which basically died on my backlog since I preferred playing Diablo II on an old retro PC with a CRT—memories). But now the time has come, Diablo IV has been released, and it's time to review it.
Diablo IV is gorgeous, plain and simple. There is so much going on all the time that it just looks beautiful. I'm not going to say it's perfect though; there are things I would have loved to see. First, the camera seems too close. Diablo and Diablo II had a good distance from the character, and Diablo III felt far too close. Diablo IV doesn't seem as close as Diablo III; however, it's still closer than I would like. When you get on your mount (yes, there are mounts), the camera shifts back, and that's about the distance I would have preferred to see.
Next, as I mentioned, there is so much to see, and I almost think there is too much to see. There are tons of times that I miss boxes, chests, and breakables because they blend so well into the backgrounds or the other things in the game. Often, I spend my time just strafing my mouse until a piece of text pops up letting me know that there is a breakable item.
Overall, though, Diablo IV has the darkness of Diablo II, the building/dungeon layout of Diablo, and some of the worlds from Diablo III. It's a nice balance, and it seems they took things from all games, rather than starting fresh. It runs very well, and it draws you into the environment. I would say if you are squeamish over gore, then you should probably be aware that this is by far the goriest Diablo game. The movies are very graphic, and the sound effects play well with the scenes, which leads us to our next part: audio.
Diablo IV has a lot of callbacks to Diablo and Diablo II regarding audio. The sounds, the soundtrack, and the voices have a similar feeling about them, and it's certainly welcome. Everything meshes well, and there is a ton of dialogue from main quests to secondary folk running around towns. I've tried to turn down the audio to hear a show in the background; however, every time a movie kicks on, I find myself muting the show and turning the volume back up because they've done such a great job with it. The music is new; however, there are notes of previous games, and it's a nice nod to the classics.
Overall, this game sticks with the classic Diablo keysets, with some added keys such as mounts, various menus, and other commands here and there; however, everything is remappable, and the default controls work well. I'm not sure if there are control schemes for controllers; however, since Diablo IV is also out on consoles, I would assume so. Though the thought of playing Diablo on a console seems sacrilegious. Granted, I have Diablo II: Remastered on the Nintendo Switch, and I've owned a copy of Diablo for the Sony PlayStation, so perhaps it's not so bad.
Overall, the control schemes work well. I will say that I do get a glitch from time to time. You can progress dialogue by clicking the mouse buttons; however, sometimes the option to skip doesn't appear. I found a helpful article on Reddit that said if you Alt-Tab or use the Windows key to exit the game, it resets that function, and you can then skip it. I can confirm that it works perfectly, and I'm sure Blizzard will offer a fix in the future.
I have only played single-player so far; however, it's online, so you see other human players. But my interaction with others has been limited to me saying Hello through the gesture system, and that's about it. Traditionally, I play at odd hours, or I just want to zone out and focus on gameplay and not communication. My work tends to involve a lot of meetings and required communication, and as an introvert who also displays signs of Asperger's, it's exhausting, and I don't want my games to add to it.
Single-player has been fun, though. Many of the quests are the same, and side-quests tend to be "go here, clear this out," "go here and collect this," "go here and do XYZ," etc. But then again, it's an ARPG, so there is only a limited number of new and ingenious things you can do. I will play devil's advocate and say the same can be said regarding RTS games, and in Starcraft II, the mission variety was remarkable. I still have fond memories of the "survive the night" and "destroy the zombie encampments during the day" mission. Such a fun mission, and one I'd repeat multiple times.
Nonetheless, the gameplay is your standard Diablo game, which is nice. They didn't try to make it seem way different. Diablo III was such a variant from Diablo II, and with Diablo IV, they played it safe and smart, creating a new game/world that feels familiar yet fresh. Mmm... fresh meat!
Diablo IV does have cross-play; however, I doubt I will use it much. There is one issue I have with it, though: no Mac OS/M1 functionality (partially wrong here). What an absolute waste. It seems odd how developers/studios are treating M1 Macs. Some Blizzard games work great, others get no support, and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason. I am fortunate that I have both systems; however, I would have loved to pick up an additional copy for my M1 so that my wife and I could play it together. But perhaps in the future, support will be provided.
The campaign is where this game shines. Yes, the side quests are repetitive; however, the main campaign with Lilith is phenomenal. It's movie-grade quality, and I highly recommend watching the cutscenes as they are done so well (though, as mentioned, if you get squirmy around gore, you might have a few of those moments).
In the end, Diablo IV seems like the original Diablo III, and Diablo III was more like the console Diablo variant we had always wanted. Diablo IV seems like the true successor, and I think that's great. The game has microtransactions, and currently, they are all cosmetic, and I hope they stay that way. Honestly, I love when games have microtransactions for cosmetics. It's like buying a t-shirt and a hat at a baseball game. You don't need to do it to enjoy the game, but if you want to show a little pride in your team, then go for it. Pay-to-win microtransactions are absolutely awful and need to be removed from all games.
I will admit I am guilty of picking up a few Diablo IV cosmetics already. I mean, my Necromancer now looks like one of the ghost soldiers from LOTR. Is it needed? Absolutely not. The in-game free gear looks awesome too, and their dying system has been greatly improved. However, I fricken glow blue, and that's awesome.
Overall, I recommend Diablo IV for anyone who enjoyed Diablo or II, or even III. It has pieces of all three and balances them well, while creating a new game/world that feels familiar yet fresh. Speaking of fresh…