Hands-on: Diablo IV delivers a visceral PvE experience

The anticipated Diablo IV made an appearance at BlizzCon this year. I fear what would have happened if there were not a cinematic reveal at BlizzCon this year in the wake of what happened last year with the announcement of Diablo Immortal.

While Diablo Immortal is not a bad game (you can read up on my initial thoughts about it last year here) it was certainly not what the BlizzCon community wanted and Blizzard felt the backlash from the fans.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the Diablo IV experience.

Combating Evil

To begin, I was not able to play the PvP elements of Diablo IV. They were not available in the press area.

I had the chance to play both the Barbarian and Sorceress class while at BlizzCon and observed a few other people playing the Druid.

Each class demo was a 15-minute experience that allowed you to complete somewhere between one to three quests, depending on how fast you were.

On my first run as the Sorceress I was tasked with clearing out an entire dungeon rife with hordes of enemies. The gameplay feels much more visceral than Diablo III. This is partially due to the angle you play the game at, where you’re much closer to your character. This change alone makes you feel much closer to the character you’re playing and is a welcome change.

It’s also readily apparent why Blizzard put up signs Thursday night telling fans that the content of Diablo IV may not be appropriate for young children. While the reveal trailer is chilling in its brutality, the demo also featured small in-game cinematics including one where your character crawls through a tight crevice and ends up in a pool of bloody water with a long-dead, half-decomposed, skinless human. Oh, and you also crawl out of a grave like something out of a zombie movie.

The gameplay was very fluid throughout the demo. Compared to Diablo III, the combat was much slower. No longer are you frantically clicking every second like you’re an aspiring StarCraft pro trying to up your APM. Instead, you need to deliberately look at your spell rotations and combo them in order to defeat the packs of mobs. Between rotations, you’re constantly moving around to corral mobs into a group so you can hit as many of them as possible.

When I wasn’t comboing properly, enemies would get the better of me and the fights would take much longer, though I was never in any real danger of dying. Mana and ability management will be a huge part of playing the Sorceress, at least at the lower levels.

Whereas with the Sorceress you had to be very deliberate with your actions, the Barbarian let you go all out.

Everything from the Barbarian Leap to going into Berserker mode felt primal. Additionally, there were small details added in that made the experience even more fun. When you rend an enemy, you can see the Barbarian reach into their gut and pull back with their weapon with visible blood splatter that accompanies it.

The rest of the Diablo IV experience felt pretty normal compared to Diablo III. There are small tweaks to the gear system: instead of gems you can augment gear with runes and there are now ledges and cliffs than you can climb up and down. While the runes don’t feel too different from the gem system of Diablo III, the verticality of the game could open some interesting interactions for the PvP side of Diablo IV.

Other Additions

Talents and skill points have also made their way into the game, though we were unable to mess with them in the demos. These talent and skill trees will allow you to customize your own style of gameplay.

It should be noted that in an interview with Venture Beat, Blizzard stated the talent tree can be redone, but the skill system is permanent.

Other things to note: gold is picked up automatically, but you are still required to pick up gear and swapping gear in and out is exactly the same as Diablo III.

All in all, Diablo IV was an immense amount of fun to experience and Blizzard definitely wasn’t joking when they said there were going back to the games darker roots.

No release date has been announced for Diablo IV.