Diablo IV Is Weird
I’ve played — let’s call it a “ridiculous” amount of Diablo III over the last ten plus years across every platform it was released on. I’ve clocked in well over 1,000 hours in that game, and I’ve picked that number without checking on the real number that I know is actually much higher so I can obfuscate the absurdity.
Diablo IV is therefore one of my most anticipated games of the year. Or at least, it was until I played a bunch of this past weekend’s pre-order beta. I’m still going to play through the whole thing when it launches, but man…what a weird game.
It truly feels like a game that spent almost a decade in development and got stuck in an identity crisis as a result. It draws in stuff from III as well as the earlier titles, seemingly at random, bashing it all together with lessons learned from modern indie RPG hits and other big franchises like Dark Souls.
Diablo III was a huge hit on the back of its accessibility and precisely tuned action gameplay. You can pick it up and learn it in a few minutes and keep playing basically forever thanks to a combination of fun random generation, tons of additional difficulty levels to work through, and new gear drops and builds to try out. Last year’s Diablo Immortal was a super safe follow-up, bringing that same sort of action and gentle difficulty treadmill to mobile platforms and PC. It refined the formula while also filling it with free-to-play stuff, and I’m still surprised it hasn’t hit consoles.
Early on in Diablo IV’s development there were rumors that it was going to be more of a Soulslike, with a third person behind-the-back camera and tougher stamina-based combat. I can totally see the echoes of that idea in this beta build. You start the game picking from one of several highly detailed character models in a limited creator, which at first glance seems weird considering the high isometric camera of Diablo.
Well, turns out that character model is important for the many low angle cutscenes in the game’s campaign. Diablo IV regularly swoops out of its standard view to get right in characters’ faces and show you their grimacing grief. These cutscenes look nice but they feel weirdly out of place compared to the rest of the game, and they slow the pace down to the point…