Diablo Immortal Review
Diablo Immortal, The game will be available for both Android and iOS on June 2nd.
Diablo Immortal is a brand-new instalment in the iconic Diablo franchise, which has long been a fixture in the gaming industry. The original 1997 title ignited the gaming community (pun intended) – selling massively well around the world while critics lauded it to the point where the game is now regarded as one of the most seminal action RPG titles of all time.
What followed was a string of successful releases that saw Blizzard grow into one of the largest and most influential game companies in the world. The newest game in the series, Diablo Immortal, is a game specifically designed for the mobile platform, making it one of the most intriguing entries in the franchise.
Although it is clear that Immortal was always intended to be a mobile title, it is also available on PC and allows players to cross-progress. With Diablo Immortal being the franchise's first foray into the mobile game arena (or dungeon, in this case), does it stand on its own two feet as a solid action-RPG offering, or does it pale in comparison to previous games in the series?
Diablo Immortal – A Good Starting Point for Newcomers to the Franchise
To be honest, I've never fully played a Diablo game before, except for a couple of times when I was 10 years old and felt brave enough to try out Diablo II. To me, the series had always been home to games that I couldn't quite grasp, and that made me feel intimidated. Dungeon crawlers and RPGs had always come naturally to me, but Diablo had always felt foreign and obtuse to me for some inexplicable reason.
Good news for fellow Diablo newcomers: Immortal isn't at all obtuse; in fact, it does an excellent job of teaching its simple-but-effective mechanics in a way that doesn't overwhelm players. The tutorial level lasts about 30 minutes and gives players a solid rundown of the mechanics while also providing a solid start to the narrative, setting up plot beats, and establishing the story.
It's clear from the start that Diablo wants players to take their time with the game, getting acquainted with its inventory, combat, and, most importantly, exploration and movement systems. Touch controls are extremely well tuned, and a cleverly designed HUD makes things very comfortable for the players.
I expected to be bombarded with dialogue boxes, annoying tutorials, and obtuse items whose usage I wouldn't understand until Level 20. Surprisingly, the game does none of these things; instead, it keeps things simple and guides players step by step until they're annihilating enemies and switching loadouts on the fly.
Instead of the aforementioned barrage of obtuseness, the game surprised me with its incredibly detailed customization. I can confidently say that I have only played a few mobile games with as much customization as Diablo Immortal's. The game allows players to customise almost every aspect of their character's appearance and craft each aspect of their appearance.
The most surprising aspect of Diablo Immortal was the intense focus on storytelling and bombastic presentation. In contrast to the majority of mobile action game offerings, Diablo Immortal focuses on telling a fairly interesting (if slightly cliched) story while also providing a plethora of interesting combat scenarios in dungeons and lairs.
After several hours of playing Diablo Immortal, I can confidently say that I am looking forward to playing the rest of the Diablo games on PC. This effectively makes Immortal a good starting point for those unfamiliar with the franchise – a wise move by Blizzard in the run-up to the release of Diablo IV.
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Diablo Immortal – An Ambitious Attempt at a Solid Narrative-Focused Mobile MMORPG Experience
Diablo Immortal was first revealed in 2018, and its reveal has since become a major gaming pop-culture meme. The deafening silence in the crowd when the game was first revealed at Blizzcon spoke volumes about the fanbase's excitement for a mobile Diablo game. The franchise has been known for producing high-quality action RPGs for PC, and the idea of the formula being diluted to appeal to the mobile game crowd felt almost blasphemous to the community.
While I cannot comment on any dilution of the formula because Immortal was my first experience with the franchise, I found myself enjoying the fast-paced RPG more than most other mobile games. Diablo Immortal feels like a solid, AAA experience that upholds the series' reputation for fast-paced combat while also providing an experience rarely found on mobile.
For the most part, mobile gaming has been dominated by multiplayer shooters that do not prioritise storytelling. In stark contrast, Diablo Immortal stands out because the story feels like a major focus for the development team. The game begins with a bombastic intro that introduces players to the Diablo world and the dire situation they must navigate.
For the most part, mobile gaming has been dominated by multiplayer shooters that don't really care about storytelling. In stark contrast, Diablo Immortal's story feels like a major focus for the development team. The game begins with a bombastic intro that introduces players to the world of Diablo and the dire situation they must navigate.
The game places players in the shoes of an adventurer tasked with tracking down demonic entities and putting an end to the looming threat of destruction. While this may appear to be a cliched fantasy RPG action story, the level of polish and sincerity behind it is what makes it work spectacularly.
Managing expectations is critical here, as players should not enter this expecting to grapple with complex moral questions or poignant story moments. The story is adequate at best, but the presentation and the narrative's laser-beam focus make the player's time feel valuable. If anything, Immortal's story and dialogue do an excellent job of setting up the stakes of the main quest and really driving home the motivations of the world's various factions, villains, and heroes. It also helps that the player character is fully voiced, as standing around looking extremely brooding does not make for a particularly likeable protagonist.
Combat, Progression, and Exploration
Now comes the meat and potatoes of Diablo Immortal, the combat. One could argue that if the combat was a winner, Diablo Immortal would still be a good-to-great game. The good news for anyone who was unsure whether an action-RPG MMO would work on mobile is that it does, for the most part.
Diablo Immortal provided some of the most enjoyable hours of gameplay I've had on mobile, thanks to the fast-paced combat and fluid movement controls. The game is extremely rewarding to play, and removing enemies from an area never gets old. While the game's design makes concessions, such as areas being much smaller than in previous games in the series, it is all in the service of the player.
The top-down isometric perspective is a trademark of the franchise, and I must say that it works flawlessly on mobile. The isometric perspective aids the fast and brutal nature of the combat by keeping the entire playing field in view and making combat feel more tactical rather than mindless button-mashing.
Diablo Immortal's basics are straightforward: clear out enemies and move from checkpoint to checkpoint while gathering loot and progressing in both player and equipment levels. The game world is divided into several open-ended hubs populated by enemy hoards and dungeons.
These dungeons are Immortal's bread and butter, and players can team up with friends to tackle these difficult sub-areas. When taking on higher-level dungeons, joining matchmaking is a good idea, and the game does a good job of providing a level cap so that players don't accidentally enter a dungeon severely underpowered and get pummelling into the ground by a Stone Golemn.
There is also a PvP mode, "The Cycle of Strife," which is unlocked once players reach the "endgame" stage of the game. This is an extremely difficult mode reserved for those looking for a more brutal experience taking on other players. The co-op works flawlessly, and tackling dungeons with friends is extremely rewarding – just like the rest of the game's combat.
Players can choose from six different character classes in the game: Barbarian, Necromancer, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter, and Crusader. Each class employs various weapons and specialises in various combat styles. The type of enemy loot drops also depends on the class chosen – and thankfully, players can effectively switch classes without losing progress thanks to a pretty rewarding class fluidity system.
Players can start allocating points in different class systems to accommodate different playing styles. Sticking to one class, on the other hand, is ultimately more rewarding because players can assist them in gaining mastery and reaching higher skill levels. Players can choose up to five classes separately, but each class requires them to start from scratch. If players want to play PvP later, having different class characters allows them to easily switch characters to adapt their playstyle to opposing players' characters.
Class fluidity is important to RPG players, and the fact that there is a small penalty for being as fluid as possible is a good way to encourage players to stay with their class. The classes themselves are distinct enough in terms of gameplay and personality.
Each class specialises in a different type of combat; for example, Demon Hunters excel at ranged combat, so their weaponry encourages players to keep their distance. On the other hand, the Barbarian prefers to get up close and personal, resulting in interesting player choices throughout the game. It was also cool that each Class has a distinct personality and distinct voice lines that help them stand out from the crowd. The player-character will occasionally mention their background and speak of their past, and each class will have a different story to tell, adding layers to the class system.
Typically, mobile gaming sessions are shorter than those on console and PC, which explains why clearing out enemies in one area and jumping right into the next feels so much faster. The fact that enemies drop loot frequently and XP is practically given out in abundance at every corner also helps the pace. This causes player progression to feel extremely fast-paced, which can lead to fatigue sooner than expected.
While the fast-paced combat is extremely enjoyable, and the quick progression can feel extremely rewarding, it also means that the player may feel they've experienced a lot in one go. During my time with the game, I found myself having to push past the 1-hour mark because you can easily blitz through the levels and be satisfied with an hour's work.
Spending time in the map's small towns that are "Safe" and free of enemy encounters alleviates fatigue. You can spend time here talking to the various village folk and allies, as well as upgrading or salvaging old equipment at the Blacksmith's.
This brings me to my next major complaint, which is similar to the one I had with Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. Simply put, there are far too many loot drops in the game. This means that players are constantly swapping out armour and weapons for more powerful variants every 5 minutes. This is not an exaggeration; I once timed myself in terms of how frequently I swap out old armour for new – and discovered that I held onto my Tanned Breeches for only 1m 34s before replacing them with a new armour piece I found.
I was mildly disappointed with the drab surroundings I found myself in when the game first started, and despite having a lot of fun with the combat, the environment left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, once the player progresses past the tutorial stage, the world opens up to reveal wonderfully intricate and devilishly beautiful surroundings crafted with painstakingly great detail.
The dungeons are appropriately macabre, and the villages reflect the demonic threat they face, providing a sense of place that I have rarely seen in mobile games. Areas like the bridge overlooking the shipyard in Westmarch were massively impressive and organically fleshed out the world.
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As previously stated, the world is built in such a way that it appears much larger than it is. Rather than a single large map, Diablo Immortal's world is made up of several smaller hub worlds connected by portals that can be used to travel to and from said areas. This greatly simplifies exploration, as a large open world can often be more problematic and overwhelming than impressive.
The placement of dungeons and loot is also quite impressive, with a risk versus reward element to the dungeons scattered throughout the world. The randomly generated enemy types and placement also contribute significantly to replayability. Experiencing these dungeons solo versus in co-op is a vastly different experience, as is switching classes.
Performance, Controls, and Presentation
My biggest fear coming into Diablo Immortal after Apex Legends Mobile was that the controls wouldn't be strong enough to support the game's combat mechanics. The game gracefully avoids a cluttered HUD by providing players with a clean UI that focuses the player's attention on more pressing matters at hand, such as the giant Skeleton Wizard ready to sever your head.
The screen is clear enough for players to get a good look at the on-screen combat and make informed decisions about how to approach certain dungeons. The game occasionally deviates into bullet-hell gameplay, with bosses and sub-bosses employing attacks that send various projectiles crawling across the screen.
Thankfully, this bullet-hell does not result in UX-hell, as the HUD is carefully tucked into a neat corner and does not overwhelm players with icons and dialogue boxes. The HUD only shows the most important options, such as the skill wheel, health, and mini-map. The rest, like Inventory and Skill Allocation, are restricted to other sub-menus that players can access at their leisure. Because using these sub-menus does not pause the game, players may not want to use them in the middle of a battle.
As previously stated, the game's art style and visual design are massively impressive and do an excellent job of conveying a sense of place. However, the game's best presentation feature has to be its excellent sound design and music. One of the main reasons you'll keep coming back to the game is the punchy sound effects as you mow down hellspawn and eviscerate bosses.
Furthermore, the game includes a handy "Device Load" indicator in the Settings Menu to assist players in tweaking settings and finding the right combination that does not turn their phone into a small oven. In terms of performance stability, it felt solid enough for the most part, except when you enabled "throttled download," which increases download speed for resources (bundles and the like) at the expense of game performance. Even with the device load set to "Low" and the throttle download turned off, I experienced frame-rate drops and even freezes, which can be dangerous in PvP.
Aside from these issues, Diablo Immortal ran smoothly and looked good on my iPhone XR, which isn't the most powerful smartphone on the market right now.
Diablo Immortal – Final Verdict
Diablo Immortal is many things: ambitious, smooth, rewarding, and, most importantly, enjoyable. What it isn't is the sloppy cash grab that many in the community feared it would be. That is not to say it is free of the usual cash-grab tendencies, as the game is jam-packed with microtransactions.
Thankfully, the game's various microtransactions are neatly tucked behind the Store menu and are not plastered across the main menu or various game screens. Microtransactions in the game aren't limited to cosmetics; they can also offer bundles of powerful items that can make the game much easier. These can potentially lead to a dreadful pay-to-win situation in PvP, but thankfully, the mode is only available to players who have already reached a certain high threshold and have endgame-level items.
Regardless, the presence of these microtransactions in a game that does so many things so well feels slightly off-putting. This, however, comes with the territory. After all, the game is free to play, and this is the only way for it to generate any kind of revenue unless you want an ad in the menu and loading screen.
Diablo Immortal is a polished, fast-paced action RPG that has the potential to become home to a fantastic MMO community in the near future. The sky is the limit for Diablo Immortal with regular updates and content additions, and it may be time for the gaming community at large to recognise mobile gaming as the frontier for innovation and quality gaming that it has evolved into.