I’m no stranger to games that demand a hardcore grind, but generally, I am usually quick to experience burnout from unrelenting torrents of enemies, dungeons, and general chaos. Despite being prone to serial game abandonment due to this, Diablo 4 has me completely and utterly enthralled.
As I made my way through the world of Sanctuary, all the while gaining power and trying to stop corrupted beasts, cultists, and demons from taking over, I was astounded by just how much there was to do and how each new quest and location that came across my lap felt exciting and fresh. During my time playing Diablo 4, I’ve had my eyes opened to the joy of grinding my way to the end of a campaign and going far beyond.
Set thirty years after the events of Diablo 3, the new instalment sees the return of Lilith, Daughter of Hatred and Mother of Sanctuary. Her return ushers in a new era of misery and fear for the inhabitants of the world, as those within her presence are compelled to act on baser instincts and their deepest desires. Cultists ravage the struggling towns and herald her return, and you’re tasked with bringing peace to the world once more.
Combat and classes
During my time within Sanctuary, I tested out three classes, prioritising the Necromancer while dabbling with the Druid and the Sorcerer. All three provide vastly different experiences – both the Druid and Sorcerer classes are slow to come into their own in comparison to the Necromancer, which is deadly and powerful from the start. The ability to summon your own skeletal militia makes encounters with endless mobs of enemies all the easier to handle, as opposed to the Sorcerer, where I found myself struggling to keep up at times with the hordes sent after me during the early stages of the game.
Despite the slower pace of the other two classes I tried, the multiplayer aspect of Diablo 4 means that this doesn’t doom you to constantly succumbing to larger threats as you struggle to keep up should you team up with friends.
And despite the wide variety of class and ability options, as well as the potential for any number of combinations to create high synergy builds through min-maxing (thinking intently about pairing well-suited active and passive abilities into your ability kit), it’s equally as simple to ‘plug and play’ in Diablo 4, so to speak. In our experience, almost every ability was viable in some way, allowing those who want to kill things but spend less time on the strategy and statistics to still deal plenty of damage.
Combat itself feels as fast-paced and desperate as the world itself, and even on the easiest settings, I found it to pose enough of a challenge to keep me engaged in the action, without the odds seeming insurmountable – although I will admit some boss battles did lead to needing to take a breather after multiple attempts. The varying buffs and rarity levels of items and ability to upgrade and repair your gear adds another layer to the strategy of Diablo 4, and makes delving into strongholds of enemies outside of the main questline worthwhile in an absolutely massive game where it can seem easy to get tunnel vision.
An ever-changing world
While a sizeable chunk of Diablo 4 is dedicated to mowing down waves of enemies, from undead hordes to hellish beasts, the perpetual bloodshed is punctuated by a variety of different quests and objectives that help to alleviate the feeling of slogging through endless bodies. Walking through the icy oblasts and dense forests, the world is brought to life and continues to absorb you through random encounters with overwhelmed NPCs that need protecting, fortified marauder bases, and infernal infestations.
This sense of a world that lives on beyond combat encounters is fostered through to the towns you visit through your journey, full of desperate survivors of the horror wrought upon them. Bustling villages and smaller outposts are home to a host of characters that all have their own goals and fears, and while some have more depth than others, they all add to the dark overall atmosphere of the quest. Side missions are often quite simple, but nonetheless enjoyable and varied beyond the bread-and-butter fetch quests, and I found myself hellbent on hearing out every inhabitant of Sanctuary just to see what they would ask of me.
More than a slogfest
The storyline of Diablo 4 itself is equally captivating, with main characters well fleshed-out, and the cinematics visceral in their visual and sound design in a way that at times made my skin crawl, amping up the feeling of fear and urgency in bringing the world to equilibrium once more. Neyrelle is a standout character, and I was pleasantly surprised to see such careful characterisation of many of the key players in the story.
The storyline carries through the hours of playtime well and holds its own, although whether you find the payoff to be satisfying in the endgame is likely to rely on how much you’ve interacted with the Diablo series previously. Endgame content that expands beyond the main campaign is equally as enjoyable, so finishing the main story doesn’t feel like an end to the tale, nor the end of new ways to engage with the world. Blizzard also has Battle Pass content planned, which we didn’t experience as part of the review process.
Unfortunately, aspects that do falter in keeping up the appearance of a unique and diverse world are the procedurally generated dungeons and enemy outposts. While many of them boast gorgeous environs with interesting dungeon designs, some dungeon-crawling sessions did start to become visually repetitive when delving particularly deep, with the procedural building blocks becoming all too familiar and layouts repeating themselves. In the instances that this did pull me out of the game world however, it wasn’t long before the unrelenting enemy attacks snapped me right back into grind mode.
Diablo 4 is a behemoth of a game, boasting a gothic world that goes beyond the engaging hack-and-slash gameplay loop, and brings Sanctuary well and truly to life. With the joy of constantly discovering new and exciting little details, quests, and locations on my journey, Diablo 4 might’ve converted me from game abandoner to completionist.
Four Stars: ★★★★
The PC version of Diablo 4 was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.