Early Access Provided By: Activision Blizzard
Played On: PS5
It has been over 10 years since the initial release of Diablo III on the PC with the console versions releasing in the years after and it has been quite a wild ride. From the early network issues, to the Auction House controversies and the long-awaited redemption with the Reaper of Souls expansion. Diablo III has been going strong with the latest season in progress but since the initial announcement, fans have been eagerly waiting to see what the next iteration in the Diablo series will shape up to be.
Thanks to Activision Blizzard we were granted an opportunity to join the Early Access beta this past weekend and I just wanted to share a few things from my experience with it.
The first big change is the character customization options found in Diablo IV. For this Early Access beta there were only 3 hero types available (Barbarian, Sorceror & Rogue) and after selecting the hero of your choice, players will get to choose the gender and either pick a preset template of how your hero will look or tinker with it more with the face & body, hair, and accessories options available. It isn’t as in depth as some other character customization available in other games (so no alien looking heroes) but its involved enough to give some personalization for each player. Once you are done with that then you can also select if this character will be in the normal or hardcore mode (where death is permanent), name your character and away you go.
Another major change instantly recognizable is how the world in Diablo IV is more serious, grim and dark compared to the bright colours from Diablo III. This is punctuated by how fantastic the opening sequence is to really drive home how the series has moved into a more mature cinematic direction. Lilith is instantly memorable as the new villain and throughout the Prologue and Act One her presence and presentation have been nothing but spot on especially with the new addition of in game cutscenes with a shifting cinematic camera angle to really bring a new level of investment from me as a player. She is immensely charismatic and every scene she is in encapsulates the true horror of what she brings to this game. I must admit for the first time in the franchise I am quite deeply invested in seeing how the story plays out.
For long time fans and newcomers, the core gameplay loop of Diablo IV is both familiar yet has some new changes (for better or worse) that seems tailor made to making build experimentation quick and painless. There are item slots for weapons and armor with easy comparison and switching. The new skill tree is akin to Path of Exile with an expanding tree for active and passive abilities to be unlocked. Depending on the heroes as well there is an additional specialization tab (unlocked via a quest line) each hero will gain access to such as the Expertise tab for the Barbarian where the more the weapon type is being used, the better passives it will offer and with the Rogue gaining access to combo points to increase the effectiveness of active skills. One change I really didn’t particularly like was the ability to dodge is now locked behind a timer and even though you can get more charges later on it does suck that I cant roll around as generously as Diablo III allowed me to. This also can make any tough encounter more difficult.
One of the bigger changes in Diablo IV is also after reaching the town of Kyovashad, you will start to see other players roaming around the world. Its particularly interesting as they can jump in and out to eliminate tough enemies or help you complete Events effortlessly. Form a bond and you can also team up with these players. Local couch co-op was also quite effortless with my wife just needing a Battle.net account and she can hop in and out of my session whenever she felt like playing.
The area afforded to players in the beta, Fractured Peaks is also incredibly massive and full of activities. There is the Priority Quests to advance the story, tons of Side Quests in each town visited or even the open world, dungeons to unlock Aspects, there are mini-Events in each zone, or the massive World Events where during a set time all players in the same session (local or online) can band together to take down the massive World Boss for excellent loot.
With all being said I really had a great time with the Early Access beta and enjoyed trying out all three classes. I am looking forward to next weekend to try the Necromancer and Druid classes as well to see how well balanced they are. So far, the Rogue and Sorceror class feel powerful and well balanced but the Barbarian (at least for this stage where you are capped to lvl 25) can feel somewhat underwhelming unless by some miracle (or fantastic luck grind) you managed to find a ton of legendary loot to optimise your build.
Diablo IV is incredibly addicting. After the initial wave of connection issues trying to log in, I just could not stop playing the game as it was just too good exploring, discovering, destroying, and searching for sweet loot to try and have a sense of each hero’s potentials. There were a lot of quality of life improvements as well that show the devs were listening to the community feedback but there is more to come. I mean I was already excited to try out this beta and it has done a fantastic job of really making the anticipation of the full game sky high for me. If you have been on the fence so far do jump in this coming weekend and try it out for yourself. Diablo IV is really shaping up to be something exceptional.