After more than a decade of waiting, the legendary dungeon-crawling franchise has returned with Diablo IV. Developer Blizzard Entertainment has taken all the lessons learned from other games in the series and delivered its best dance with the devil yet. Featuring an engaging story, addictive combat, and incredibly well-designed character-building mechanics, it’s a game that is hard to put down. While it doesn’t break the mold with the “Diablo formula,” it does deliver one of the best and most refined action RPGs I’ve ever played. Let’s delve into the ninth layer of hell and explore what makes Diablo IV so special.

Diablo IV Details

Platform(s): PlayStation 5PS4 and Xbox Series X|S
Developer(s): Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher (s): Activision
Genre: Action RPG
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer 
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 

Diablo IV swings open the gates of hell

The Diablo series is best known for its addictive combat loop and character building, thankfully Blizzard still took the time to craft a great story. Your journey begins as a lone adventurer who answers the pleas for help from a small village plagued by demonic creatures. Playing the role of hero, you slay the beasts and save the villagers. The “thanks” you get in return is being drugged and then offered up as a ritual sacrifice to the game’s antagonist, Lilith. She is one of the prime evils of hell, looking to build an army and destroy your world.

Before you become a victim in the blood ritual, a mysterious stranger saves you. The uncomfortable brush with Lilith’s worshippers leaves you linked to her, able to see visions of her evil intentions. Realizing the gravity of Lilith’s return, you engage in a quest to stop her at all costs. The storyline unfolds over 6 acts, packed with optional side quests and random encounters. Even after the credits roll on your first playthrough there is still so much to explore in the endgame. No spoilers, but the story really sets up things well for whatever events or new adventures are in the works.

Friends in a dark place

The Diablo series has never been a very solitary experience, offering ways to play with others online. If you decide to tackle the game solo, you’ll even notice there is even more reliance on CPU controlled companions in the quest line than ever before. Their decisions, big and small play an interictal part in some of the best parts of the story. When it comes to Diablo, this is the best story yet, with layered and complex characters. Even your main foil, Lilith, has an interesting story to tell offering up her perspective which you can’t help empathizing with at points. In previous games in the series, CG cutscenes would be relied upon for big story developments. While many are still present in Diablo IV, and the production values incredible, a lot more of the story comes from in-game cutscenes.

Diablo IV’s gameplay shines in a dark and gory realm

The biggest standout in Diablo IV is its superb gameplay and character-building mechanics. 

In your quest to stop the legions of hell, you get a lot of choice in how you develop your champion. There are 5 different classes to choose from: rogue, sorcerer, necromancer, barbarian, and druid. Each class you can choose from is more diverse than ever, they all offer a vastly different combat experience. The rogue is a fast paced and agile, where the sorcerer uses powerful magical abilities to tame waves of enemies. If the dark arts are more your thing the Necromancer class raises corpses of fallen enemies to do your bidding. If you are looking for more of a “whirlwind of destruction” in your approach, the Barbarian uses brawn and brute force to smash through enemies. Finally, the Druid can morph into animals and pulverize hell’s forces. I personally went with the Barbarian as my first build, it’s the class I’ve primarily used since Diablo II. No matter which you choose, there are plenty of ways to build your character to better suit your playstyle.

Diablo IV encourages you to experiment in battle

No matter which class of warrior you pick, there is an incredible amount of choice in how you can build them. Blizzard took lessons learned from previous entries in the series and used these to craft a near perfect build experience in Diablo IV. Character building is no longer linear like it was in Diablo III, now you can experiment with your character’s abilities. Each time you level you are granted a single point to use in branching skill tree. As you invest more in each area it will create a new path to more skills and perks. The game really encourages you to experiment with your build as you can “re-spec,” or reset your previously used points into the skill tree. This will only cost you a small amount of in-game gold then you can re-assign everything to your liking. In Diablo II, it was incredibly rigid to change your character’s skill tree, this time around, Diablo IV encourages you to experiment.

Frantic, but fluid combat

In the moment-to-moment gameplay you almost immediately feel these changes in your skill tree. You can have 6 active abilities at a time and assign them as you wish. I played on both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and the game feels great on consoles. The series began as a “PC-only” experience, but it feels great with a controller or a keyboard. In terms of enemy encounters, it would be great to see a little more variety in random encounters. The bosses are more creatively constructed and much more memorable, but after awhile the battles get a little to “samey.” It’s a minor critique and was never bad enough to quell my desire to play more Diablo IV.

The depths of hell look great

Diablo looks more stunning than ever going from the early days of spite-based characters to fully realized 3-D models and environments. There are a range of stunning, very macabre biomes to explore. From sprawling cities, small villages, foreboding dungeons, and massive open areas there is plenty to see and do in Diablo IV. The “top down” view looks great, and the action remains smooth even with dozens of hell’s legions on-screen. There are parts in the story where the camera zooms in for storytelling segments and the characters don’t have much detail. Outside of that, this is the best looking the series has ever been in its over 26-year history.

Diablo IV’s sound design

The audio experience in Diablo IV is fantastic from incredible voice acting, rich classical scores to the inclusion of iconic sound design elements. When it comes to sound design Diablo IV sounds excellent, balancing retro sounds with incredible new scores and superb voice acting. Lilith’s character portrayed by Caroline Faber offers an incredible performance, that really pulls you into the story. The same goes for many of your companions and other characters you meet, dialogue is skillfully delivered and keeps you grounded in the experience. Many of the iconic sound effects like the smashing of objects, weapon/armour drops, and potion refills return. I love the fact they kept a lot of this as it helps to return a lot the series DNA and offers a lot of nostalgic feels but also feels entirely new.

Final thoughts on Diablo IV

Diablo IV marks the return of one of the best action RPGs out there, and a game of the year contender. It offers many devilishly delightful hooks in character and gear building and allows you to experiment. The immersive narrative, great graphics, and deep character-building mechanics make it an addictive experience that is hard to put down. The superb gameplay, coupled with its excellent sound design and voice acting, create a rich and immersive world that is both familiar and entirely new. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer to the franchise, Diablo IV offers a satisfying blend of challenge, exploration, and replayability. It’s more than just a return to form for the series; it’s a testament to Blizzard Entertainment’s commitment to quality and innovation. Diablo IV is a devilishly good experience, one that will keep you coming back for more.

+Best looking Diablo experience yet
+Great story with interesting characters
+Endgame is designed to keep players engaged for dozens of hours

-Enemy encounters are very repetitive
-Persistent online connection can hurt the experience 

OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF DIABLO IV

Gameplay: 4.5/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Sound: 4.5/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5

Overall Rating 4.5/5 (90%)

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Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things tech related since the start of the digital era. He shares his passion for technology in his day job as a teacher and via multiple media platforms. As a long-time veteran of the video game and tech industry, he's covered interactive entertainment and esports on the web, in video series, podcasts, and on international television. You can follow Matthew's tech-venture filled lifestyle on twitter, instagram @dapper_tux.

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