Diablo IV Review [Open Beta]

Maybe you need to be careful who you trust.

The open beta tests of the last two weekends have enabled people who preordered the game and individuals who didn’t to have a chance to see what Blizzard Entertainment have been working on with the latest Diablo game in the series. Is it another Diablo Immortal? or more like Diablo III?

The game takes place in the lands of Sanctuary and carries on the story from the aftermath of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. A cult has summoned Lilith, the daughter of the main antagonist Mephisto.

Lilith and the angel Inarius created the Sanctuary as a refuge for people to escape the eternal conflict between Heaven and Hell. The race of Nephalem that you are part of was born from this reunion. You’re neither Anger nor Demon. Eventually, Inarus banished Lilith to the void as she wanted to stop the killing of the Nepahelm.

The open beta starts from the beginning and contains what I could tell most of Act I. You will meet the key characters and gain special powers after being poisoned by cultists.

You don’t need to know the above to enjoy the game. The story is presented in cutscenes, conversations with characters, and environmentally through books and objects.

The story is interesting to learn more about but not the main focus of the gameplay. The developers are going for a more grounded story in this one. While there are angels and demons, it isn’t shoved down your throat from the beginning.

Sanctuary has five regions: Scosglen, Fractured Peaks, Dry Steppes, Hawezar, and Kehjistan. In the beta, only the Fractured Peaks areas are visitable. The map can be brought up and examined, showing a region probably a lot larger than the areas of the previous games.

Cinematics often use the in-game engine.

Each region has renown that can be earned. Similar mechanics are present in Grim Dawn. You gain this renown by completing various tasks such as discovering new areas, finishing side quests, clearing dungeons, and deactivating the Altars of Lilith. Once enough is earned, you get a reward, such as more potion-carrying capacity.

In Diablo IV, your main goal is gradually becoming more powerful, finding Legendary items, and fighting increasingly stronger enemies. Class skills are customised by equipment and talent trees. These change how you fight enemies, your skills, and the items you can equip.

Five character classes in the game are available: Barbarian, Sorceress, Druid, Necromancer, and Rogue. In the beta, I only played as the Druid class, the antiquity-era-inspired one, as they looked the best. They remind me of human-sized dwarfs, and I made mine look like Varric Tethras, the dwarf from Dragon Age II. How I remembered him looking anyway.

Some people said this class was the weakest in the game, and maybe that is true, but I didn’t mind or notice. The power of a character class only matters in PvP, so it might be something for Blizzard to look into?

Diablo IV is trying to be a more open world than in previous games. Early on, the map is filled with different icon shapes and activists to do: From world events with other online players to dungeons and side quests. You can see they have learned from other games in the genre. They have copied the online component from Path of Exile and the reputation system from Grim Dawn. There are other little things they have taken inspiration from scattered throughout.

The online-only component is still a problem, from long queue times to weird hitches occasionally when loading in and out of towns. Whether this is: a game or network problem is debatable. I am glad they have put more effort into the online systems of the game, as now it makes sense the need to be online. However, I would like to have the option to play offline. Of course, this won’t happen now, as once you go online, that is it. At least actual load times through the different areas are fast.

The map is large. It even has space for expansion down south.

Regarding being online, seeing other players running around often breaks the immersion and storytelling. It is hard to feel like the chosen one when five other players are chaotically bashing the same poor goon’s head in together. This wouldn’t be a problem if they built this natively into the gameplay and story. It feels like you are playing an MMORPG where the world doesn’t acknowledge the other players.

Early in the game, you arrive at the town of Kyovashad and the hub of the beta. Here there are many different amenities available. There are merchants, a storage chest, an appearance-changing wardrobe, stables for mounts, a potion maker, an occultist for enchants, a blacksmith for salvaging and repairing, a healer, and much more.

There is also a tiered changing structure where you can change the world tier. This changes the difficulty of the enemies and the rewards you receive. Finally, a merchant sells items for Obols, one of the three currencies in the game, along with Gold and Red Dust (from PvP). I never got anything adequate with Obols.

Other settlements in the game offer services but usually only a few of the ones mentioned. Most offer a portal which enables you to fast travel to various locations on the map. You can also teleport out of dungeons with a button or by clicking on the door icon on the map. Also, the return to town portal returns.

There are various types of dungeons in the game. Most end when you defeat a boss. Often you will come to a locked door and need to either collect two items, press two buttons, or kill all the enemies to unlock it. Even in the beta, this felt repetitive. More variety better arrive later.

I played the beta on the Xbox Series X, but I believe the progress is cross-platform, so you can mix and match. The game can also be played cross-platform, so the world will hopefully not feel empty after a few weeks. There is also couch co-op available, but I didn’t try it, and it seemed like it would be more effort than just pressing the start button on the second controller.

Traversal options have been added to the game.

Even though I have played similar games on consoles before, the controls were responsive, and the buttons were well-mapped. I occasionally got muddled up trying to get to menus when a mouse and keyboard would have made it much easier and quicker.

It is hard to feel like the chosen one when five other players are chaotically bashing the same poor goon’s head in together.

Combat is engaging and fun, with enough variety in the skills and equipment available to offer different play styles. That makes unique combinations possible in the future. I focused on the storm and electricity path for the druid and was glad I could specialise. This is made quicker with the keyword searcher in the talent tree. 

Higher quality items will often give you skills you haven’t specialised in, meaning you will have more tools in combat. Throw in some Elixirs, gems and enchants, and you feel more in control of your character builds.

I was surprised to prefer playing the game with a controller as I didn’t get the usual hack-and-slash fatigue from playing a game like this with a mouse.

Even on the console, the game looks great. The first region is covered with various levels of snow. Fresh snow will leave prints and marks from you, enemies, and other friendly creatures, like deer, rabbits, and goats. They could have easily not been bothered with this but decided to include it, a commendable addition.

The game often reminded mef how Diablo III looked, but I haven’t looked back and compared it. It seems to have a similar engine, but Diablo IV has more impressive effects and 3D objects that hide what I assume isn’t much different in core graphical capability. I remember the third game looking brighter and more colourful, which can sometimes make a game look inferior.

It is still fun to find better gear and get legendaries.

Towns and people have a suitable downtrodden medieval look. Again some areas are covered in mud, and you will leave footprints as you travel around. There are breakable objects around that make the world fill more alive, and they sometimes serve as gameplay roles, such as blocking areas or being used by enemies as a defence.

Traversal and height are more focused in this version of the game. You can cross chasms with ropes, climb cliffs and duck under fallen beams.

Each player’s character can be customised by quite an extensive selection of options. You can change gender, face shape, and skin, eye and hair colours. You can also add various accessories like makeup, tattoos, and earrings. While it feels pointless to change appearance as most will be covered by items. In cutscenes, player characters sometimes unequip their helmet and weapon, showing their glorious face.

There is a day and night cycle in the game I wished linked to the actual real-world clock, but it doesn’t. You see a real-world time in the top right corner of the screen to remind you not to stay up all night. Something I think more games should include.

Diablo IVs audio is well done. There isn’t much music if much that I remember. The atmospheric sounds are great by themselves. You will often feel a dread caused by the low ghostly track running in the background.

Most of the time, screams, sounds of battle, grunts, and abilities making a racket will be the soundtrack. Thankfully they aren’t cheap sounding, so they won’t hurt your ears or get annoying.

All the dialogue in the game is voiced and sounds suitable grim for the setting. Even minor characters’ dialogue doesn’t sound too terrible. Unfortunately, I did find myself buttoning through the text periodically, as you can read quicker than they speak.

Seeing other players is a blessing and a curse.

Each class and gender speak with different voices for dialogue, so you feel more involved. Even if it often makes your character seem like they are an idiot or have no free will.

You can voice chat in the game if you want, or you can use the various emotes available. While these are easy to use, only a few have animations associated with them, which is a shame.

The Diablo IV open beta is ongoing as I write this and will probably be over by the time you read it. I doubt they will do any more before the game comes out in June. Therefore if you don’t try now, you will have to wait for the game to come out.

The open beta offered all five classes to try, the first act and loads more. I didn’t have enough time to experience it all and stopped at level 20. It was good of them to not set a short time limit, but I would have preferred a permanent demo even if it was more limited.

While I haven’t preordered Diablo IV and only tried it because it was free for everyone, I am glad I did. Even though most people will know that this isn’t much of a beta in the real sense, as most of what is in place won’t change, it is a good indicator that they are confident the game won’t be a complete dumpster fire on release.

Diablo IV seems like it will be a screaming success for Blizzard Entertainment and help to mend the reputation they have lost in the previous years. They don’t appear to be wanting to milk their customers’ cash in Diablo IV and have a plan to keep the game alive for many years in the future.

I am tempted to get the game when it comes out because of this open beta. Yet, I don’t want to commit myself to a game that requires a lot of time to get the most out of it. Nevertheless, If you are looking for that type of experience, Diablo IV will offer its full attention for a long time.


Developer: Blizzard Entertainment.

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment.

Platform: Xbox Series X.

System: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStaion 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X.

Release: 24th March 2023.

Score: A (83/99)