Blizzard has taken a long, winding path to finally bring gamers a taste of what’s to come for Diablo 4. Here at Console Creatures, we had a chance to jump into the close beta, the first of two weekends available before the game’s June launch.
I had some experience playing solo and alongside our editor Bobby Pashalidis. While I didn’t experience everything that Diablo 4 had to offer, there was enough in those 8-10 hours that had me not only excited but wanting more! It all begins with an epic, classic Blizzard cinematic that shows us how Lilith is unleashed on the world. The nine-minute video can be seen below, before the game then allows you to create your character and get to the demon slaying.
Setting The Table For Hell
After venturing into a snowy town and stumbling across some townsfolk, the story picks up and weaves an interesting web of deception that kicks off a twisted series of events. I’m not here to spoil the story, but I will say that Blizzard seems to be backing up their claims that the tale they’re telling in Diablo 4 is far more intricate and interesting than we’ve seen in previous games.
Predecessors have had deep lore and dozens of characters, but let’s be honest, it was a click-click-click-on to the next quest type of approach. I mean, I remember Deckard Cain telling me I need to “stay a while, and listen,” but did I? Clearly not enough.
It was a refreshing change to not just be a hero that shows up to simply create a bloody mess of demon corpses. It appears as though your character is connected to the burning hells and what Lilith has planned. There are a couple of impressive in-engine cutscenes that set a dark and blood-spilled table. They’re quite impressive and really create a seriously dark tone.
Hell’s Hordes Be Damned!
Now down to the core of Diablo 4 and what this series has to offer: the talents and abilities, the battles, and the loot. If you’re reading this you’ve likely played a Diablo game before. But even if you haven’t, the gameplay is still somewhat familiar. You have a bar at the bottom of your screen that houses a number of abilities, an experience bar, and your health and mana or energy pools. It’s easy to follow and understand, but filling out that ability bar takes some time.
I was able to play up to 17 with a Sorcerer, and a Rogue to 14. This allowed me to experiment with four different abilities that ranged from a Sorcerer casting a burning hydra to fight alongside me, to a Rogue who dashed forward and backstabbed an enemy, leaving them in a vulnerable state. Each and every time I was able to choose something new or upgrade a previous talent, it was fun and exciting. Plus, if you want to re-spec anything, you can on the fly. A welcome addition and quality of life improvement many games like this have adopted since Diablo 3 was released.
Gaining experience in Diablo 4 is all about slaying demons and hellish creatures. There are a ton of opportunities to do this within the opening moments and following hours of the game. The beta allows you to play through the first act of the game, which gave me a number of chances to experiment and explore.
The large map and your quests will always point you towards your main-line quests, but even in the early stages of Diablo 4, stumbling across dungeons, side quests, and live instances or events seemed easy and natural. Sunday night, Bobby and I went dungeon diving and looting in a massive area that not only took a good 30-40 minutes to clear out but included a ton of great fights, including a boss battle that dropped some rewarding loot. As with previous Diablo titles, there are a lot of repetitive enemies throughout. Literally hundreds of minion baddies running at you, alongside a few more powerful ones that will drop some sweet loot if you defeat them.
A noticeable change for both of us as we teamed up as a Rogue and Barbarian, was the variety in weapons and how each of them work with our individual classes. The Rogue had a bow or crossbow, along with some hand daggers in the back pocket for close or sneaky combat. The Barbarian, in their bombastic style, swung massive swords and hammers while buffing the team and frightening enemies. Weapons and class abilities also worked hand-in-hand, creating room for experimentation and incentive to change up your style and loadout.
I spent my weekend with the PC build of Diablo 4 and played with both the keyboard and mouse, and an Xbox Series controller. I don’t know what I prefer thus far, but I will say they both work very well. And regardless of what platform you play on, the game is not here to have you button mash or passively make your way through the hordes. Even though most of the time it didn’t feel all that difficult if you’re not managing your positioning, cooldowns, and health pool, you’ll be wondering how those little minions crush you under their tiny red feet.
Aside from a 15-20 minute queue to get into the beta in the first place on Friday evening, I personally had an easy time playing. The game did have a few hiccups with a crash once, and a major lag spike that saw my character suddenly portal back to town. Sure, it was frustrating, but after all, it’s a beta. There were also a number of reports (from Bobby included), that an error message would appear when logging in, not allowing you to go any further. A reboot (or two, or three), and the glitch was overcome. Cross-platform play in my experience was also flawless. No extra lag or technical issues seemed to have popped up in the 3+ hours.
Time just melted away while playing the closed beta of Diablo 4 in all the right ways. It’s going to be easy to lose more hours in the open beta weekend that begins on March 24th, and again for what’s likely dozens more on launch. If you’re on the fence about giving Diablo 4 a go for the open beta, I say try to set aside 2-4 hours and get a taste of what’s in store. I didn’t need a whole lot of convincing, but I’m also confident that most of what’s offered in the beta will have even the most hesitant gamer wanting more from Lilith and her band of evil-doers.
Hi all, Bobby here! I’m jumping into Dave’s preview and impressions for Diablo IV to add my own experience and some things I noticed while playing through the closed beta this weekend.
While I agree with a lot of what Dave’s said so far, I also have a few of my quarrels and issues.
Let’s start with what works and what has me excited about Diablo IV. The starting class I focused on this week was the Barbarian and I am torn about the class during the beta period but hopeful for the tweaks Blizzard is implementing.
Starting at a Barbarian is a bit daunting because it’s weak at low levels, especially compared to the Rogue or Sorceress. I hit level 15 by beta’s end and had some decent skills to deal with swarms of enemies but the biggest issue is that I felt like my character barely made a dent against mobs Being a melee-focused class, I would assume you want your shield to dispatch enemies so the other can focus on the bigger and more powerful enemies.
I did enjoy that the skills are far more important and you have to actively pay attention to where you’re inputting your skill points this time. You can build something specific to cater to a situation and can even respec for a small amount of gold. I appreciate the versatility this brings to Diablo IV.
I adore the world and exploring it with a friend or two. I loved finding the random dungeons splayed out across each region and that they offer a decent challenge with some great rewards for those engage with them.
Some of the things I didn’t enjoy is the map overlay was done away with and I’m a bit disappointed. Being able to toggle the map on and off on a whim to get a sense of where I am and where I need to go is sorely missed here. If we could even zoom into the map a bit, I’d be a bit less apprehensive about this all but we don’t even get that.
The open world activities are fun but they don’t seem to offer much other than a static experience. Sure, I like that these offer some rewards and loot but they seem run of the mill and there to distract the player. It feels like the Bountry system Diablo III had and not much else.
There’s also something to be said about the story cutscenes, which I appreciate and think add a lot to the storytelling. I didn’t enjoy Diablo III’s campaign but I’m cautiously optimisitc that Blizzard has improved in its narrative beats even if its far too soon to tell.
We’ll be back to talk more Diablo IV and you can hear Steve, Dave, and myself talk about the beta on Creature Cast.