Continuing on my small trend of testing out games that have yet to fully release, I tried out the Diablo 4 Beta while it was open for testing in March. For a couple weekends last month players who pre-purchased the game were able to experience both the Early Access and Open Beta phases of the test, and I was among them. While there were some hiccups namely with lag and initially long queue times, those issues didn’t stop me from dedicating both weekends to playing Diablo 4. It’s safe to say that, at least for me, I enjoyed the parts of the game that were open for testing and I can’t wait for more.
The Lore and Questing
I went into this game not knowing quite what to expect in terms of story and theme. The only game I had played in the Diablo series up until now was Diablo 3, and while I loved the game I wasn’t sure if its sequel would be similar or go for something new. But after playing through Act 1 of the story twice, I get the sense that Diablo 4 is a return to its dark and demonic roots while still having lots of new things to offer. Diablo 4 has a better focus on storytelling than its predecessor; cinematics are abundant and way more lore is packed into every quest. So far there have only been a few books or journals I’ve picked up while exploring though, which could just be because they haven’t been added in yet. That’s one thing that really gave Diablo 3 some extra flavor when it came to learning about the world in bite-sized segments of lore. Overall, I love the direction Diablo 4 is going with its story and how both Inarius and Lilith have been incorporated thus far. A big part of the story revolves around their conflict and I had assumed they would be distant and/or removed from the story, reserved until the final act’s conclusion. Both characters have been present, at least in the first act, and it has been fun learning about their past simply through playing the game.
The Leveling Experience
There are so many ways to gain experience even before hitting max level and participating in endgame activities. Besides completing main quests that contribute towards Act 1 progress, players can find side-quests while hanging out in a town hub or by exploring the many dungeons sprinkled throughout the map. More still, there are random events players can run into such as defending a caravan from demons or encountering a mini boss or wave after wave of monsters. There’s so much to do and to explore just in the section of the map that the beta limits us to.
Multiplayer was generally well done, with the occasional bouts of disconnections but generally it was a lot of fun to explore the game and its dungeons in a group. It did have a weird quirk where if you weren’t on the same exact quest when you partied up, only the party leader would be progressing the story and members wouldn’t gain extra experience or receive quest rewards. Once disbanding, a member in the party would still be at whatever point in the story they left off in before grouping up. I hope this is addressed for the full release to help ensure multiplayer is as seamless as possible.
The Gameplay and Classes
During the course of the beta, I leveled and completed Act 1 on both the Rogue and Sorcerer and tried out the Druid for a little while. While I need to play the Druid more to get more of an idea on if I enjoy the class, I spent way more time playing both the Rogue and Sorcerer. The winner for me so far is Sorcerer (lightning magic was insanely powerful in the beta) but Rogue is next best. I typically prefer ranged classes, and the Rogue’s melee abilities paired with Marksman talents were the perfect blend of both. Druid will probably be similar to Rogue in terms of melee/ranged blend, but Rogue felt more zippy and fun to play.
While Diablo 3 had a simple approach to its talent system in the form of customizing learned spells with runes, Diablo 4 has a much more involved talent tree system. I’m not sure yet if I’m a fan, or overwhelmed by all the choices. This is generally my opinion with any talent tree system, however, and not targeted directly at Diablo 4. Talent trees give the illusion of more choices while making the experience altogether too complicated and I would much rather use a talent system that reflects how fun the rest of the game is. That being said, I’ve mostly locked down my preferences when it comes to Rogue and Sorcerer talents, so it becomes less daunting every time I level up. Otherwise, controls and UI are similar to the rest of the Diablo series and there are no big surprises other than the minimap. The minimap currently takes up the top-right corner of the screen and it seemly slightly too big. To my knowledge there isn’t a way to resize or re-position the minimap, but I hope an option is added in the future.
The biggest surprise for me so far are the MMO-lite aspects of the game. When idling in the main town hub, Kyovashad, in between quests, other PC and console players (Diablo 4 is cross-platform) are visible as well. This is also true when doing certain events or world bosses on the map. While there have been a couple instances of seeing other players while just roaming around an area, I don’t think the game is supposed to show other players unless you’re in a town or doing world events (besides grouping up with other players.) I’m torn on if I like this new feature; while the idea of a Diablo MMO is really exciting for the future of the game, the Diablo series has been built around a single player experience and I’m not sure that MMO features add to the game. Whatever ends up happening, I’m looking forward to the game’s release in June and theorizing on the prospects of a future Diablo MMO.