Time played: 15 hours
Hell’s legions are endless, constantly streaming through the breach in search of fresh blood to drag back to their overlord. Hanging their new catches upside down, these fiends will slowly suck their victims up over long hours and painful days. Then, when there is nothing left, the poor doomed souls will be thrown out, because they – or more precisely, their wallets – have nothing left to give. Diablo Immortal also has a lot of demons, but they’re sort of the lesser “prime evil” in the latest entry to the series.
For the first time since Sierra cleared the Diablo: Hellfire expansion in 1997, Blizzard has let someone else play a major role in making a Diablo game. Diablo Immortal, co-developed by both Blizzard and Netease, shows flashes of the experience the former has with the action-RPG series and the latter with mobile platforms. But layered on those positive contributions are piles of baggage, as Diablo Immortal is saddled with a group of features that represent the absolute worst of the mobile gaming market.
Diablo Immortal Essentials
- What is it? A massively multiplayer gothic fantasy action RPG.
- Publication date? Out now
- What can I play it on? PC and mobile (iOS and Android)
A demon by another name
The original Diablo spawned a new genre — a genre I once fondly referred to as the “mystery shopping game,” referring to the pleasure I had looking at new blue, yellow, and gold items every time I hit a loot piñata. The gameplay was once simpler, but over time aRPGs like Path of Exile and Diablo 3 have made choosing your skills and controlling your character varied and tactically appealing. So now I can expect a hail of arrows, teleport and run across the battlefield, and slow time around my characters – all as standard features.
What’s new with Diablo Immortal is an aRPG that looks good on a smartphone and is also easy to play in the hands, without the need for a serious controller. Within just an hour or two I was used to Diablo Immortal, and up to speed to have my monk do flying kicks in the faces of both skeletons and demons. Avoiding enemy attacks, grouping enemies together to defeat them, choosing the skills to build, and sucking up explosions of color-coded equipment from fallen enemies are all old-fashioned now, but they’re staples that work just as well as always thanks to a precise control schedule. I was often impatient for the cooldowns of my skills simply because I wanted to zoom across the battlefield like a kick-powered missile again.
Blizzard has always been at its best when it perfects through polishing: borrowing and adapting elements from other games to fit its own themes, refining features until we take them for granted, and running them through the DNA of entire genres. see it swinging. Diablo Immortal borrows a lot, but it borrows the same way Diablo 3 did, and there hasn’t been much refinement since then.
Come to think of it, Diablo Immortal has clearly confused itself with a wedding, because it brought something new, something old, something borrowed and something that turns the player base blue.
Melancholy of infinite microtransactions
There’s no way to talk about Diablo Immortal without confronting the 55-ton demon in the room, who takes the form of a cash shop, rampaging throughout the game. This abomination of microtransactions slows down his trail of destruction to shove full features into his mouth and gobble up critical portions of Diablo Immortal. Simply put, the microtransactions have compromised some of the key elements of a Diablo game.
Every drop in an aRPG is sacred to me. Each new colorfully glowing addition to my inventory of treasure chests and defeated enemies represents the potential for a surprise. Each could have a weird bonus that sparks interest in building my character differently, or just a major stat upgrade of my weapon with the wrong colored sockets, making me wonder if it’s worth the change. These little stories draw me to an aRPG, and each item is normally a new roll of the dice in a new story.
In recent times, aRPGs have made item drops more common – away from the days when I would excitedly jump out of my chair when an unidentified rare or unique item bubbled out of a defeated boss’s dying body. But Diablo Immortal not only floods me with a lot of items, it also found a few new ways to rob me of my excitement. By moving most of the power and progression to Legendary Gems (items that go into sockets on my equipment to provide massive stat bonuses and unique passive abilities), Diablo Immortal downplayed my interest in my equipment.
Normally, the passage of time would indicate that Legendary Gems were just the latest in a long line of ‘Macguffins’ gear: the new thing to chase at the top of the gear pyramid. But by making it nearly impossible to get the five-star Legendary gems that form the gateway to the endgame – and by charging an absurd amount of money and/or gravel to rank them, even if I have them – Diablo Immortal has set itself got the knees. Why do I care about my cool new pants, when I have to? spend an absurd amount of money on the legendary gemstone (opens in new tab) need to get the most out of it?
Dumpster diving for ham remains
I feel weird about the time I spent with Diablo Immortal. It’s one of the better mobile games I’ve played when I was just running around doing quests and hitting puny demons in their melon-like heads. But like the chewing gum I buy at the checkout, I’m ready to spit it out by the time I get to the car, and all that’s left is the lingering taste that leaves me hungry for a good meal.
I have spent a total of $5 on the Diablo Immortal battle pass since I was told there is a great experience in Diablo Immortal for under $10† I don’t regret my purchase, as I did enjoy myself, even though I’m not going to buy much from it. I enjoyed hanging out with Deckard Cain and finding out what Charsi (the blacksmith from Diablo 2) was up to, crushing a few demons and the ease of controlling my phone in addition to tweaks like car navigation for daily quests. At no point in my quest through the story did I feel like Diablo Immortal was holding me back from moving forward.
Instead, Diablo Immortal lingered like a specter of doom over my pleasure – it didn’t completely crush it, but waited to surface every time I had to interact with the unnecessarily complex (and insulting) machinery of its currency and tinkering systems. stiches. Constant reminders of every subsystem and menu I had to interact with in order to get my daily amount of hilts, crests, orbs, essences, coins, pretzels, and samoflanges slowly diminished my ability to seal myself off with the expertly executed parts of Diablo Immortal.
Finally, I had to put down my phone and distance myself from Diablo Immortal, which had worn me down to the six-piece chicken body I am today. All that’s left of my time with it is the faint smell of sulfur and brimstone, the vague feeling that I need to make sure I still have my wallet, and the hunger for Diablo 4.