In all things earnest, I was skeptical at first about picking up the Diablo IV Open Beta, this is in due part to my previous experience with its predecessor Diablo III. The experience unfortunately for me, was less than stellar, the endgame grind did not feel rewarding to play, and by that time, most of my friends have already moved on to different loot-based titles.
However as the Open Beta was made available I decided to once again venture to Sanctuary.
Lo to my surprise, playing Diablo IV Open Beta felt like riding a bicycle: coming back to it felt both familiar and different as there was many new content and gameplay mechanics that were added in but with a familiar feel to them.
Death is Temporary
Diablo IV’s narrative takes place following the aftermath of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.
While the Open Beta did not allude to the events of Diablo III ( perhaps due to the limited story events of the Open Beta ). Diablo as a franchise has never felt disjointed to play. For example, I jumped into Diablo III without any prior knowledge of Diablo II, and yet it still manages to stand on its own and was easy enough to pick up.
The Diablo franchise to me always felt like they could be separated from each other although taking place within the same universe, and that has not changed with Diablo IV.
The new art style, is very much a breath of fresh air and definitely what Diablo needed to get me back into it. I was never a fan of the cartoon-ish style of Diablo III which has now been replaced with a more darker and realistic tone returning to Sanctuary which I very much appreciate.
The feeling of poverty and misery could all be felt throughout my time in Sanctuary and villagers would often look grief stricken as the world around them is turned into a wasteland by monsters and demons.
Speaking of monsters, familiar monsters make a return as well including the Diablo II Sinker Clans, Diablo III dead and exploding demons as well as skeleton archers all of which received major texture updates and facelifts to make them look more menacing and befitting of Lilith’s world.
While the Open Beta is limited to the First Act of Diablo IVs overall narrative, there is already a lot of things to do that would keep you occupied.
Capping players at level 25, there is still a plethora of side quests, map events, dungeons available during this Open Beta and each one brings a new unique encounter.
Blizzard has implemented a different aspect to the combat in the form of Specialization Quests, that once completed, would bestow upon your character a powerful new skill to play with.
I personally chose the Rogue and the new Specialization mechanic felt so great, dishing out huge combos and chaining different skills together to unleash a ton of damage felt very satisfying.
It also looked like there were more specializations to unlock at higher levels which pique my interest on seeing how the final specializations actually play and feel. Its important to take note that when building your character skills, it is best to decide the best combination that works for you and just stick with it, this is due to the part that resetting skills cost gold and the higher your level, the more gold it will cost.
On the topic of combat in Diablo IV, it feels more involved because now your character has the ability to dodge, this is not class specific and each character has their own which is on a 5 second cooldown.
I can say with certainty that within my time in the Open Beta, facing multiple enemies and encounters never felt boring as they were in Diablo III which simply had me putting all my skills into cooldown and waiting for them to come back up. Here in Diablo IV I had to actively attempt to dodge and weave my way through the hordes of Hell as I pelt them with a shower of arrows.
Couple that with the new Dynamic Scaling mechanic implemented in the game, and the gameplay becomes more reliant on skills rather than simply a level check which adds a whole new dimension on how I would approach an encounter in Diablo IV. Its not just about out-leveling the monsters now.
The potions mechanic has also been revamped as it now follows the Diablo Immortal system which I am a huge fan of. It actually acts as a double-edged sword because on one hand it really ups the need to play more skillfully due to the lack of potions in your inventory, but that also makes it slightly difficult especially against the huge world bosses where if I was not careful I would end up dead and buried.
Luckily this can be remedied by upgrading the potions to increase the amount of health replenished and this reduces the need to horde potions to the brim in your inventory.
Not only that, maps feel more expansive now and a greater emphasis is given on exploring Sanctuary and its surrounding areas.
With this, I have not seen all what Sanctuary has to offer as there is much ground to cover in Diablo IV and it definitely does not help that the mount option is not available.
Not only that, character Creation unfortunately is not as in-depth as I would like as all the options are basically presets for the individual parts such as Hair Color, Hair Style, Pupil Color, Skin color etc.
However, because of its rigid character creation, the in-game cutscenes that has your character in them do look good and play out naturally as your character was essentially tailor-made to suit the overall look and aesthetic of the game.
Weapon and Equipment
The loot system in Diablo IV has also been tweaked, with the introduction of a new system called Codex of Power Aspects.
The Codex of Power Aspects become available to players once you complete a dungeon, you can then put them on a Rare (Yellow) or Legendary (Orange) item to change their effect. These can be put on piece of gear that you want as long as its compatible with your class.
Obtaining these Codex of Power Aspects act in a way similar to that of Elden Ring, where different dungeons reward different Codex of Power Aspects. This for me represents a good change to the issue in Diablo III, whereby endless hours would be spent grinding random maps and dungeons in hopes of that Legendary gear drop and end up either getting useless loot or no loot at all. With this new system in place I can pinpoint the exact dungeons I would need to grind and focus specifically on the build that I would like to create.
It is important to note that attaching a Codex of Power Aspect skill on a piece of gear, will remove the original special abilities of that gear, but maintain the base stats bonuses of that particular gear. This for me improves the loot system overall as it cuts down on the amount of loot you would need to hoard by giving you the ability to essentially customize your equipment to best suit your need making more useful Legendaries rather than praying you will get a good one.
This generally feels like a step in the right direction because I never got the feeling of obtaining a useless Legendary from Diablo IV, which was a huge problem that I had with Diablo III. This makes Legendary items unique and actually deserving of the Rarity Tier.
It is also worth noting that you can find an upgraded version of the Codex of Power Aspect that you have tied to different loot, which could be extracted but will result in that piece of gear being destroyed.
Codex of Power Aspect that are not compatible with your class are not wasted and can be used on your sub-characters in your account once they visit an Occultist.
Weapons and Accessories can also be upgraded this time around but is capped based on rarity, +3 for Rare (Yellow) and +4 and above for Legendary.
With the addition of the old gameplay mechanics that are well received in older titles having brought forward and even improved in some regards, such as Dynamic Leveling, Skill Tree System and an-ever accumulating system of equipment affixes it seems Diablo IV has greatly improved gameplay-wise for me.
The brand new gameplay mechanics such as the Codex of Power Aspects and Liberating Towns that were added to its usual core gameplay loop definitely helped broke the monotony of grinding for me which is definitely a major aspect as to why I could not continue on with Diablo III. The grind has been refined in such a way that the game gets fun even without having full legendary set equipment.
If you are a fan of the Diablo series, this is one that you definitely have to check out which you can once the Free Open Beta starts this weekend at 9AM (PT) March 24th till 26th. To find out more details visit the official website.