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Diablo 4 Review – The Best Diablo Has Ever Been

Diablo 4 character classes

RIP Volker, the Barbarian. We knew our time was going to be cut short, but the days we spent together were sometimes challenging but always wildly entertaining. We travelled across Sanctuary, made new friends (and enemies), and helped those in need when we could. After our work was done, we even ventured into a Helltide or two, just for fun. And the Tree of Whispers, creepy as it may be, kept us on our toes, coercing us to continue exploring the nooks and crannies of the world that we hadn’t yet stepped foot in. Needless to say, we’ll remember our time with you, dear Volker, fondly. But it speaks volumes that we’re now more excited than ever to jump into Diablo 4 proper, with a character that won’t be deleted after just over a week of play.

While we enjoyed our time with Diablo 3 at launch, now over ten years ago, it can’t be denied that it had some serious issues. Most were fixed over time, of course, and it eventually became one of our most-played games of the decade. But forget about that now: Diablo 4 is here, and it’s strong right off the bat. It’s clear that lessons have been learnt, and this time Blizzard is hoping to right some wrongs and bridge the gap between Diablo 2 and 3 while also moving the series forward. After spending 60+ hours with Diablo 4, we can say with confidence that it’s done a bloody good job of it – and that might be an understatement.

“A world that is dark and uncompromising at every turn”

One criticism aimed at Diablo 3 by series fans was that it just wasn’t dark enough. Well, they have their wish with Diablo 4. “Bleak” simply doesn’t cut it. This is a world that is dark and uncompromising at every turn. Everything has more of a grounded, realistic look, making encountering scenes such as a demon gleefully crushing the head of an innocent NPC with a large mace suitably shocking. And it’s not just the visuals – the story of Diablo 4 is grim, too. Its twist opening sets the tone, and while we can’t (and don’t really want to) go into further story details in this review, it’s safe to say that the story of Diablo 4 isn’t exactly filled with happy endings.

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What’s really surprising about Diablo 4’s story is how much it had us invested in its characters. In previous games, the story has been largely passable – the campaign just a prelude to the main event that is the endgame. Here, you’ll quite possibly be sad when it’s all over. Blizzard has done a great job creating interesting lore, and assembling a cast of characters that you’ll come to care about pretty quickly. It also helps that there are far more cinematic story scenes, most of which are created in-engine thanks to its improved visuals. You get a sense of what drives Lilith as she travels across Sanctuary, unleashing evil wherever she goes, as well as Lorath, one of the last Horadrim, who is hell-bent on stopping her.

Related: Diablo Games and Expansions Ranked From Worst to Best

“A game that will truly consume your life if you let it”

Completing the campaign of Diablo 4 is likely to take players at least 35 hours, making it by far the largest one yet. Alongside that, there are hundreds of side quests to tackle, multiple enemy strongholds to locate and overcome, a wealth of events to stumble across, and much, much more. This is a game that will truly consume your life if you let it. As a series, it’s always been one to distract you with random occurrences, such as the discovery of a dungeon, the sighting of a treasure goblin or the unexpected encounter of an elite foe, but now everything is amplified by a wonderfully-realised open world.

On foot, or on the back of a mount unlocked in the later stages of the game’s story, you’ll enjoy simply venturing into uncharted territory, uncovering what further opportunities it has for you in regards to slaughtering hell-beasts and collecting loot. Sometimes there’s nothing but a rather picturesque clearing that seems a little too out of the ordinary to be so hidden away. Other times, you might encounter a rare enemy that’s troublesome to put down but rewards you with an item that completely changes how you play. And that’s the wonder of Diablo 4: it’s so unpredictable.

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Enticing endgame offerings

This thankfully continues into the Diablo 4’s endgame. The Tree of Whispers basically expands on Diablo 3’s bounty system, providing a range of tasks to do across the map that reward players with Grim Favors when completed. Collect enough of these Grim Favors and you can then return to the tree to turn them in and claim a cache of your liking. It’s a great way of making use of the vast world of Sanctuary, with bounties available in numerous regions at all times. And the rewards are great, too, with plenty of experience up for grabs, as well as materials and the possibility of decent items for a slot of your choice.

For those that want more options when the campaign is finished, completing a challenging Capstone dungeon and moving up to World Tier 3 unlocks yet more enticing endgame offerings. Helltide events are essentially Diablo 4’s equivalent to Diablo 2’s Terror Zones, temporarily making areas of the map even more hellish but more lucrative to players seeking out grand rewards. Enter an area affected with Helltide and you’ll find that it rains blood and meteors, while tortured souls writhe in agony as you explore. The enemies you encounter are multiple levels higher than you, too, making them formidable to face off against, especially if they also have damage resistance auras that begin to get added into the mix.

If you can survive in these Helltide affected areas, the rewards can be great. Against the clock, you need to collect Abberant Shards and locate evil-looking treasure chests. Each one of these will have loot focused on a particular slot, but will require a set number of Abberant Shards to open. If you don’t use your shards before the Helltide subsides and the area returns to normal, they’re simply lost, rendering your efforts all for naught. Unique materials can be found during Helltides as well, making them something that Diablo 4 players will certainly want to engage with.

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As if these endgame activities aren’t enough, players can also level up dungeons, turning them into Nightmare Dungeons providing they’re lucky enough to obtain Sigils randomly dropped by enemies. And those that aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with other players can enter the Fields of Hatred. These are particularly interesting, tasking players with cutting down powerful enemies and collecting seeds. But for these seeds to be useful they need to be cleansed at altars spread across the area. It’s a process that takes a little while, and so there’s a chance that opposing players could swoop in and cut you down, stealing your seeds in the process.

“Everything you do in Diablo 4 is in pursuit of growing ever stronger”

Of course, pretty much everything you do in Diablo 4 is in pursuit of growing ever stronger and perfecting your build. When it comes to skills, a balance is struck between the carefully considered point allocation of Diablo 2, and the freedom to change them at will in Diablo 3. With skill points doled out at each level up, as well as for reaching set renown levels in each area, you slowly gain access to a varied range of abilities, allowing you to appreciate the extra options they bring to you over time without everything being overwhelming. But the great thing is that you can respec at any time, allowing you to try out new builds or refine one that’s mostly working for you with minimal fuss.

Early into a character’s life the respec option is free, allowing you to find your feet with a basic and core skill combination that works for you. And these are perhaps your most important skills, generating resource and spending it to cause increased damage respectively. Eventually it requires gold to respec, however, rendering the process something you won’t want to do willy-nilly. But we’re glad it’s always an option should you find yourself at an impasse, or if you get your hands on one or more items with legendary powers the present new build opportunities.

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Itemisation is another way in which Diablo 4 is notably different from its predecessors. Set items are completely absent, which is great after how reliant effective endgame builds were on them in Diablo 3. Also, Legendaries are no longer the be-all and end-all. Uniques are the best items here, but they’re genuinely rare, making getting your hands on one a reason to celebrate. For the most part, Legendaries are now simply useful for the unique powers that they come adorned with, which you can remove and transfer to another item at a later date. Playing mostly as a Barbarian, we found a Legendary that caused Ground Stomp to create a damaging earthquake when used, for example. And not only that, if we stood in the earthquake, we also got a buff to our damage.

Collecting and making use of these powers is how you’ll create a build in Diablo 4 that allows you decimate huge groups of enemies with ease, but you’ll have to put the work in. You see, while you can unlock many powers that you can imprint on items by completing dungeons all across Sanctuary, many of the best can only be found on items. So, that Ground Stomp altering power we obtained? We could remove it from the Legendary, but the item would be destroyed in the process. And unlike the powers collected in the Codex, if we then added that power to a newer, more powerful Rare or Legendary weapon, we couldn’t use it again unless finding another Legendary with that exact same power.

“Diablo 4 creates an opportunity for you to really make your character unique”

Along with other ways of tweaking your loadout, such as enchanting your items to switch out an unwanted affix, visiting a Blacksmith or Jeweller to upgrade them, or socketing them with gems, Diablo 4 creates an opportunity for you to really make your character unique. And while it’s hard to tell for definite at this stage, it does seem like there’s much more viable build variety than ever before. It also helps that the available affixes have been expanded and tweaked. You won’t want to be simply stacking your primary stat on every item, as well as critical hit chance and increased attack speed. They’re still good affixes, sure, but they’re not as prevalent and there are arguably more beneficial ones available.

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One aspect of Diablo 4 that we’re really excited about exploring further is Paragon Boards. Opened up at level 50, these are what we expect will really allow character builds to shine. Four Paragon Points are available at each level from 50 onwards, doled out over the course of the next level rather than all four at the end. These points can then be placed on a board, providing a range of stat bonuses and more. Initially, for example, your options might just be to gain five points to strength or willpower. But by forming a chain of nodes, you might eventually be able to gain a 20% bonus to physical damage, or even connect to a Glyph slot that allows you to choose a special effect that can be powered up depending on other nodes you’ve activated within range.

Reach the end node on a Paragon Board and you can then select a new board to begin from a range, each having a number of powerful nodes that could potentially change or empower your build. Needless to say, there’s a hell of a lot to consider and take in, making Diablo 4 a game that you’re not likely to master within a couple of hundred hours. The options here truly are bewildering, and perhaps even a little daunting. But that’s what Diablo is all about. And once you’ve mastered one character you can start on another, getting to grips with new skills, powers, affixes and Paragon Boards. Each class we’ve tried feels remarkably unique.

We had high expectations for Diablo 4, and we’re so happy to say that Blizzard has smashed them. This is a title that takes Diablo 3’s meaningful quality-of-life improvements and expands upon them with aplomb, while also bringing back the much-loved look and feel of Diablo 2. All the while, it’s not too focused on the past, taking the series into open world territory and making it more story-led than ever before. And what a story it tells: we never expected to be so invested. But more importantly, we can’t wait to start a new character and jump once again into the endgame. Diablo 4 is devilishly good – the best Diablo game yet, in fact – and it only stands to get better.

Diablo 4 Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Diablo 4 is based on the PC version, with access to the game granted by Blizzard. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!