Can Blizzard Deliver On Diablo IV?
So the open beta has closed, I’m ready to give my unbiased review on what little we have seen so far, and if you’re looking for an unbiased review, then I feel as though I’m probably the right person to do it. I’ve been openly critical of not only both Diablo’s recent predecessors, but of the genre as a whole generally of late. While Diablo may have pioneered the ARPG, it’s certainly no longer unique. Truth be told, I had previously considered pretty much anything post Blizzard North, void of the passion and creativity of the likes of Matt Uelman, Kenneth Williams, Chris Metzen, David Brevik and co, Activision Blizzard simply were incapable of delivering anything akin to Blizzard past. Of course, not withstanding the myriad of controversies that has plagued the company, from Blitzchung to Warcraft Refunded, after the Activision acquisition the Blizzard of today is sadly not the Blizzard most of us we remember from our childhood, and as such, you could forgive me for not exactly being massively excited for the new release.
But it does appear that at very least artistically, Diablo 4 is moving in the right direction, it does appear as though Blizzard have embraced what the players expect aesthetically from the world of Sanctuary, and that is a Dark, Bland colour palette of Doom and foreboding – precisely the tone you want to set for what is at its heart a Dark Gothic Fantasy. Aesthetically, Diablo Immortal or 3, this game is not, and from my perspective this is perhaps the most important thing so far. It looks and feels like a Slasher flick, not PG13 Disney film, which is a change most long time players will appreciate. Blizzard have apparently let the dark side shine in this instalment which they should be commended for. Pixilated as they may have been, the original Diablo and indeed Diablo 2 and its DLC Lord Of Darkness were no strangers to gore, with players often coming across scenes of torcher and mutilated corpses. Perhaps because of my pessimistic presuppositions, I found the first 30 to 40 minutes of the game somewhat underwhelming. But I pushed on, gave the game as big a chance as I could, and to my utter astonishment, within an hour something happened I once thought impossible…
…I found myself enjoying the game.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves here, there is a LOT that can go wrong between now and release, but if Blizzard to manage a release a game removed from ‘Error 37’s’ and the controversy’s that have plagued not just Diablo but other IP’s, based purely on the content we had access to, Diablo 4 may just actually be a release worth looking forward to this Winter.
A Whole new world.
Possibly the biggest change is the world itself. No longer confined to just pre-set locations or Dungeons, Sanctuary is a large uninterrupted world where players will encounter other players, and distances are so large between locations the addition of mounts in Diablo is something that appears simultaneously essential, and yet, confronting somehow to an old school Diablo player such as myself. While I’m not at all against the idea, in fact I think its wise for Blizzard to want to push Diablo forward, it is a reminder that while attempting to stay true to its roots at least narratively and aesthetically, this is a fresh new take on Sanctuary. I respect the ambition, and the scale.
While not universal I have to admit I have found some reviews online that have categorised the combat as ‘repetitive’ but given that we’re talking about Diablo, I kind of find this observation akin to critiquing Fortnight for being too colourful. If you haven’t got permanent RSI issues from playing Diablo 2 you weren’t doing it right. Beyond this criticism, there isn’t a lot I can complain about here. There are of course problems, but being a Beta, this is to be expected, bugs will be ironed out in timeframes measured in years. I’m not talking about balance here, singularly, I’m just talking about how the combat felt. And the preliminary verdict is, combat felt pretty good.
Similarly the health system was something I grew to really enjoy. It keeps the game moving at a fast pace, without compromising on the mechanic itself. – The new system often forces players onto a certain area of the map, rather than just allowing players to rush into dungeons with a bag full of potions and macros. I really like this idea it forces players to move around and at times it felt more like Rocket League as I tried to manoeuvre around the map to hit the boost. In addition there is also a mechanic that will stop you from being able to execute actions momentarily altogether, which again is both a brave and wise decision in my opinion on the dev teams behalf. The safest thing to do here is just stick with the same old formula, but Blizzard is daring to push the game forward here, gameplay wise etc, while at the same time clearly still at least attempting to give what the faithful have been come to expect from the franchise.
Obviously, it would be silly to give D4 too much critical acclaim before release, especially Blizzards ability to find ways to fail, however, the initial impressions of this OG Diablo player is that it appears the game is trending in the right direction. Again I wouldn’t jump to pre ordering the game, but so long as they can bring it home Blizzard may just actually surprise us come June.